Review: Waist-watching with the Samsung-funded smart belt
When you think of fitness trackers, you probably picture a wrist-worn device from a company like Fitbit. But Welt, a product incubated in Samsung's Creative Lab (C-Lab), moves the tracker to the waist. Read on for New Atlas' Welt smart belt review.
Welt is the brainchild of CEO Sean G. Kang, a medical doctor who tells me he was instrumental in adding heart-rate sensors to Samsung flagship smartphones. He saw an opportunity to raise awareness of a key health predictor, and Samsung's C-Lab (along with some crowdfunding) helped make it happen.
While Welt can track your daily steps, along with estimating distance traveled, sitting time and calories burned, this isn't the product's bread-and-butter. A wrist-based tracker will show more steps taken (Welt doesn't start logging steps until it counts 20 or more in one session), while giving you live stats with just a glance at your wrist. With Welt, you need to open the companion smartphone app to see your fitness logs.
Where the product springs into relevance is with waist measurements. When you put on the belt, magnetic sensors detect the size of your waist and track any changes over time.
Reputable studies have pointed to waist size having a correlation with numerous medical conditions. A larger waist (i.e. more abdominal fat) can make you, statistically, more likely to have heart disease, diabetes or an early death. It's a key health predictor, and one of the most important fitness factors to track.
When I first started using Welt nearly three weeks ago, my waist measured 37 inches (I wear size 32 pants, but I learned from this product that clothing companies don't use real measurements). After watching my diet and exercise, Welt now has my waist at 36 inches. I can't give all the credit to Welt (I was due for post-holiday weight loss anyway) but keeping constant tabs on my waist size certainly boosted my motivation.
Much like a Fitbit can help you get in more daily steps simply by raising your awareness, Welt can encourage you to keep your waist on track. Perhaps most importantly, it can make you aware of the first signs of movement in the wrong direction, giving you a chance to reverse course.
The app has a beta feature that tries to sense when you've had a big meal (more pressure applied against the sensors). It worked fairly well, with no false positives; though it did log a couple times when I had average amounts of food along with a few drinks (the belt can't differentiate between solid and liquid stomach bulges). On the other hand, alcohol can add to your gut just as much as food can, so perhaps this is a good thing.
Of course instead of paying US$149 for Welt, you could just as easily grab a flexible tape measure to keep regular tabs on your midsection. But I find that wearable tech products – and their companion apps that you'll regularly notice while using your smartphone – make me more likely to stay on top of whatever data they're tracking.
The product itself is comfortable and stylish, and offers few physical hints that it's anything but a standard leather belt: About the only clues are an extra section of the buckle that hides behind the leather strap and its microUSB port, which faces downward (where nobody will see it) while wearing it.
Welt offers a variety of styles, and you can cut the band to better fit your waist (I had to cut mine, as it ships in a very large size). The app gives you instructions on cutting the strap in a way that allows the belt to continue getting accurate measurements.
Battery life is listed at four weeks. That may, however, be a conservative estimate: I last charged Welt to 100 percent over a week ago, and it's still at 84 percent.
There is room for improvement. The app (currently available for Android, coming soon for iOS) is very basic, as there isn't any way to drill down to see more stat details: There's just a panel for daily stats and another for weekly stats. It would also be nice to get notifications if you've had a big meal or waist-size change, rather than having to open the app and check manually.
Welt is a niche wearable tech product; not everyone is going to want to pay $150 to keep tabs on their waist size. But if you want greater awareness of one of the most important health predictors – and will be motivated to take appropriate action when you see something you don't like – then perhaps that isn't such a small price to pay.
The Welt smart belt is up for pre-order now, from the product's Kickstarter page. You can read more at the product page below.
Product page: Welt