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    LARRI2010   59,894
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NEW! SparkPeople Spark Activity Tracker

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

My pedometer had disappeared the day I received the offer to try out the new SparkPeople Activity Tracker. I most likely would not have ordered the Spark had I still had the pedometer – why would I need two devices?

I ordered the Spark on a Thursday, and it arrived the next day. It turns out it shipped from a town in my state about an hour and a half away, and not from Ohio, which is on the return address. (I think the return address might reflect the actual corporate address of SparkPeople, while there may be warehouses around the United States. [And, alas, I hear the device is currently available only in the US].)

The device came in a plastic cube, much the way watches are packaged. This would make for easy wrapping of it as a gift. Inside the cube was the Spark Activity Tracker (which we’ve started calling the Spark), SyncPoint (the dongle that goes into the USB port of a computer), and an extra battery. One battery is already installed in the Spark.

Setup was easy. The invoice included the URL (web address) for the software you need to download, and I found it seamless to install. It searched for the SyncPoint, which I had not yet installed into one of the USB ports of my laptop (I was waiting for the prompts to tell me to plug it in – some devices are picky about the order you do things, but this one doesn’t seem to care). Once I did that, the software completed the setup for me. I just had to follow the prompts on the screen and tap the Spark when the directions called for it.

Instructions on how to wear the device were on the tutorial, and I also got some instructions emailed to me upon setup. For optimal tracking, the device should be worn on one’s shoe, but I can see myself stepping into a puddle and ruining it irreparably (though the tracker is supposed to be waterproof up to 100 feet, and I could wear it swimming, if I didn’t swim like a rock). Other options for good tracking include: clipped to one’s bra (not as crazy as it sounds, as the device is barely larger than a US quarter), a belt, or a pocket. I don’t know about IN a pocket – perhaps it blocks the signals, though some users have reported that the Spark has worked well tucked into a sock. It’s worth experimenting and finding something that works well with your clothing and lifestyle.

In the setup process, the software told me the serial numbers of the tracker and SyncPoint. I jotted them down onto the invoice in case I ever need them and can’t access the software. There is also a serial number printed on the back of the Spark, and there are numbers engraved on the SyncPoint, but they are tiny and hard to read without a magnifying glass. It could be worth it to me to have the numbers written elsewhere (if I don’t lose the paper they are written on).

The setup process ended with signing into SparkPeople. A new tracking page opened in my browser with stats from that day (all zeros, because I hadn’t done anything yet). If you leave the SyncPoint in the USB port, the Spark will send updates periodically through your computer to SparkPeople. Ideally, one should leave the SyncPoint in the computer, as that will help prevent loss (though with the cordless mouse dongle in one port and the Spark dongle in another, I have only one free port left on my laptop for anything else I want to plug in) and allow it to sync data any time you are near your computer. Additionally, I have been told that if you walk by a friend’s computer with a SyncPoint installed, your Spark will update to your SparkPeople account. How cool is that?

I was also automatically enrolled in the Spark Activity Owner SparkTeam. They may have changed the settings so they automatically send an email to new members of the team, but I discovered this by accident when I went to my list of SparkTeams to look for another team I am on.

When it updates, the Spark Activity Tracker page tells you how many steps you took and how many activity minutes you did. It tells you how close you are to your daily goal. The Activity Tracker also tells how many calories you have burned from workouts and how many workouts over 10 minutes you did (I think you might be able to change the length of workout you must do, but I haven’t explored this).

One problem with the 10-minute workout is that you need to keep moving for the entire 10 minutes, or it will not count that as a workout. I took a 20 minute walk one day, but the Spark did not count that as a workout. I had stopped to take photographs along the way and I had to wait for traffic before crossing streets (drivers around here don’t know what “stop for pedestrians in crosswalks” means). The Spark still counts minutes, but it doesn’t count them as workout minutes.

If you go someplace off the grid, your Spark is supposed to store about 2 weeks’ worth of data, though I think it’s possible this could be less than a week, if you do a lot of activities. At some point, there is supposed to be a smartphone app made for the Spark Activity Tracker, but I don’t think it will be able to upload data from the Spark (maybe one day this will be able to happen, but this is wishful thinking on my part, as it doesn’t appear to be on the agenda in the near future).

A few days after I got the Spark, I found my pedometer. I was able to do a side-by-side comparison. It seems the Spark isn’t as sensitive to movement as the pedometer is. The pedometer recorded 415 to 2750 more steps than did the Spark (the average was a difference of 1268 steps). The pedometer recorded 0.28 to 1.33 miles more than the Spark did (the average difference was 0.65 miles). The mileage can be calibrated, but the steps are whatever the device records.

I like that the Spark syncs directly with SparkPeople. I no longer have to enter manually my mileage and steps, something I tend to forget to do with my pedometer. I still have access to my regular tracker, though, so I can add other activities not captured by the Spark.

I also like that there is no yearly membership fee. Once you buy the device, you can upload data for free to SparkPeople. As I understand it, some electronic devices charge for the convenience of automatic uploading of data to a web site.

I don’t like that there is a large discrepancy between the pedometer and the Spark. If I continue to wear two devices, though, I can allow the Spark to upload data automatically, and then manually record the difference between the two devices so I get full credit for the walking I do.

Edit: Disclaimer: I did not receive the Spark for free, though I did get a discount and was able to try it out earlier than the public release date of September 30, 2013. As far as I know, there was no expectation that I write a review - I did that on my own. No one offered to pay me to write a review, and I don't expect any future compensation. I hope my review helps others to decide whether they want to purchase the device. And others should feel free to post links to my blog entry.
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KSTAR514 5/19/2014 7:58PM

    Thank you for your review. It was very informative. I am seriously thinking of getting one.

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_CYNDY55_ 11/10/2013 1:55AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
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SHERRYLHBB 10/21/2013 12:11PM

    Thanks so much for responding to my question. You've shared some very useful information that will surely help many to make the decision as to whether the SparkPeople Activity Tracker is right for them.

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CATLOVER110 10/16/2013 9:31PM

    Thanks for all the details in your review!

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ALIDOSHA 10/15/2013 5:01PM

    emoticon

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ANNE-ELIZ 10/15/2013 10:55AM

    I enjoyed reading this review!

It was rich in information that will be helpful to others who are making the decision to try it.

Thank you! emoticon

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SNOWYOGA 10/14/2013 8:55PM

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COOKINGSTARS 10/14/2013 12:22PM

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SOKKERNUT 10/7/2013 12:46PM

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TPETRIE 10/6/2013 6:34PM

  Good review ordered mine today. Now I am really anxious for it to come in. Hopefully it is here by Fri. or Sat. Thanks for sharing.

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PT.JEFFGIRL 10/6/2013 6:13PM

    Good review. Thanks for sharing. emoticon

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XENA1956 10/6/2013 5:57PM

    Thanks for the great review. Like you I was able to order the device early. I am not very good with computers, even my own laptop, so I did not feel comfortable uploading the SyncPoint without help from my husband. Unfortunately he has been working nonstop for a number of weeks, so has not been home to help me out. I only have 2 inputs on my laptop, so I wondered if I took it off my computer to use my camera would I have to reload the SyncPoint? I still don't know for sure about that question. Now I am even more excited to get my Sparks tracker set up. Thanks once again for all your input. emoticon

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DONNELDA22 10/6/2013 10:58AM

    Thank you for taking the time to write this review. You brought up some points which we would not have known if we had gone out and purchased it without seeing a review. emoticon

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SIMPLELIFE101 10/5/2013 11:00PM

    The discrepancy with pedometers turned me off using one. Thanks for the review of the Spark monitor - it's not ready for me yet. Thanks!0

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FRABBIT 10/5/2013 3:05PM

  I really appreciated your review

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DCGAL9 10/5/2013 2:57PM

  Great review - thank you! emoticon

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ADAPTINGANNIE 10/5/2013 11:55AM

    Thanks for the review. Good to know the pros and cons when contemplating a purchase.

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RUNNERRACHEL 10/5/2013 5:19AM

    emoticon

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WRITERWANNAB 10/5/2013 1:55AM

    Thanks for the review. That helps! emoticon

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BLUEJEAN99 10/5/2013 12:42AM

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MAYBER 10/4/2013 11:12PM

    Thank you for the great review
Pros and Cons
One day at a time
Love Prayers Peace

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SASSYTHING52 10/4/2013 11:07PM

    my daughter got something like that she seems to like it i really hope i can get money for this

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JAMER123 10/4/2013 10:48PM

    Very good! i have had mine up and going for 48 hrs now. Really like it!! For those that hesitate due to money, I understand as I felt the same but I realize it is half the price of the FitBit so gave it a try and it will be with me for a long time.
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RED_DEVIL_APRIL 10/4/2013 9:51PM

    Thanks for the review. I have debating between this & a fitbit. Would love to see a side by side comparison I'd the two.
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JERICHO1991 10/4/2013 9:20PM

    Thanks for sharing.

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ARTISTGATOGIRL 10/4/2013 8:26PM

    I appreciate the review. I purchased a Fitbit recently, so will probably stick with that for now. emoticon

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MCFITZ2 10/4/2013 7:54PM

    Thanks for your blog. I appreciate it not being tech heavy.

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DIANNEMT 10/4/2013 7:12PM

    Nice review.

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SUPERSYLPH 10/4/2013 7:07PM

    Thank you for the review. I've been looking into getting this myself, and it'll help in my decision-making.

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LISA_FRAME 10/4/2013 6:54PM

  emoticon

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BLUEANGELLK 10/4/2013 5:31PM

    Thanks for a great review. I am really thinking about getting one of these.

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JACKIE542 10/4/2013 5:13PM

    Thank you! emoticon

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HOLLYM48 10/4/2013 5:07PM

    Thanks for the info, I am thinking about getting one for my husband since I have a fitbit and I love it.

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COOKINGSTARS 10/4/2013 4:55PM

    emoticon

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EMMACORY 10/4/2013 4:50PM

    You answered a lot of questions for me. Thank you! emoticon

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SDEHNKE 10/4/2013 4:28PM

    Now I need one... emoticon

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MARYJEANSL 10/4/2013 3:59PM

  Well, I am still not sure if I want to get it. It is very expensive, at least for me, and I am a technology dinosaur, so, just reading this, I have no clue how to get it to work. But I do kind of like the idea, so maybe...

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WALLAHALLA 10/4/2013 2:58PM

    Thanks for the info. When my fitbit quits, I may switch over.

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CHERYLSBUTT 10/4/2013 2:47PM

    Just before the release I replaced my Fitbit....I wish SP had let me know I would have
tried this....now I will just wait til my fitbit dies:-)


Happy trails!!!

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MASTERCARE 10/4/2013 2:34PM

    Thank you for taking the time to share...LOVE THIS! need to save money for this....hoping to get this by JanuarY!

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TALLYFL 10/4/2013 1:21PM

    I'm on day three with my spark. The first day it did not seem to pick up my 25 minutes on the elliptical as exercise, so I added manually. Day two, it did count the 20 minutes, after a slight delay, but counted it as walking. I'm sure the advertising said it knew the difference in the type of workout you do.

It did not pick up my Tai Chi class as exercise or, hardly as activity either. Probably because it is slow, graceful and continuous movement. Nevertheless, it causes one to break a sweat and raises the heartbeat! I enter it manually, also.

All in all, I am satisfied. emoticon

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PENOWOK 10/4/2013 1:09PM

    Thanks for your input! I think it's great that you are using the Spark and getting results that transfer automatically!!

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4KWALK 10/4/2013 12:57PM

    Maybe I would like to try it based on your review but unfortunately it cannot be purchased in Canada. I will get another Fitbit.
thanks for the complete well written review. It answered many of the unspoken questions I had about the Spark Activity tracker. emoticon

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KROLES55 10/4/2013 12:21PM

    Thanks for the detailed review!

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JOANNHUNT 10/4/2013 11:55AM

    THANK YOU FOR THE KNOWLEDGABLE BLOG. WISH I COULD GET SPARK STUFF WHERE I LIVE IN ONTARIO, CANADA. I KEEP HOPING THAT THEY WILL GET STUFF HERE FROM SPARKS AT ONE OF THE WALMARTS OR TARGET STORES.

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GWINNER1 10/4/2013 11:44AM

    Thanks for an objectional review

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LCRUMLEY81 10/4/2013 11:34AM

  just wish i had the money for it

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SAINTBETH 10/4/2013 11:15AM

    Good to know.

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IDLETYME 10/4/2013 11:14AM

    emoticon Thanks for the review - helps a lot! emoticon

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SHOAPIE 10/4/2013 10:44AM

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