Spree Fitness Monitor review

Planting a heart-rate sensor square on your forehead might get it off your chest, but it brings its own set of problems.
Planting a heart-rate sensor square on your forehead might get it off your chest, but it brings its own set of problems.
Planting a heart-rate sensor square on your forehead might get it off your chest, but it brings its own set of problems.

Highs

  • Records body temperature
  • Light weight
  • Easy to put on
  • Quality iOS app
  • Works with Runtastic, Runkeeper, and MapMyRun

Lows

  • Looks really nerdy
  • Difficult to wear with helmet and glasses
  • No audio feedback from the app
  • No Android Spree app, yet

DT Editors' Rating

Not all athletes enjoy the bound-up feeling of heart-rate monitors wrapped around their torsos. Some find the chest straps restrictive and uncomfortable. Spree Sports has a solution that not only eliminates the chest strap, it also adds body-temperature tracking to the mix of fitness metrics.

The Spree Sports monitor places the sensor right in the middle of the user’s forehead by integrating it into a headband that would make Bjorn Borg, Snooki, and Jane Fonda jealous. Not only can the Spree headband monitor fitness, it can also keep hair out of your face, and even reroute sweat away from your eyes all while counting heartbeats and measuring body temperature.

Features and design

The Spree system is made up of three parts: The Spree module for collecting biometric data, a silicone and elastic headband that hold it to your forehead, and an app for iOS that uses the phone’s GPS to track and record distance and routes. A lattice of small, overlapping hexagons allow air to move through the band, while at the same time keeping the inch-and-a-half-long biometric module firmly planted.

Spree sports headband

Two features differentiate the Spree from other heart rate monitors. One, it isn’t what Spree calls an “uncomfortable and awkward heart-rate monitor chest strap.” It is a headband that places the heart-rate monitoring directly in the middle of the forehead. And two, the Spree monitors body temperature. By adding body temperature, Spree says their device can not only help users more easily know when they are warmed up or getting too hot, but it also allows the Spree iOS app to more accurately calculate calorie burn. More importantly, a body temperature increase can be a signal that an athlete is not properly hydrating, and figuring out you need water in time to rehydrate is important.

While the Spree body temperature tracking only works with its own iOS app, the heart rate monitoring is compatible with other iOS and Android apps like Runtastic, Runkeeper, and MapMyRun.

Performance and use

The first question you’ll have to ask yourself before buying the Spree is whether you’re OK being seen in public with a black, silicone headband around your dome. This is not a Lebron James sweatband, or a Taylor Swift fashion headband. It is a futuristic-looking, black rubber, cyberlicious headband with two strap adjusters (one on each side). From the back, it looks like you’re wearing a nerd strap on a pair of glasses, and from the front you look like an extra from The Edge of Tommorrow. Yes, for those not into the Terminator jock look, it can be embarrassing.

The only way to check our body temperature, heart rate, or distance metrics was to pull the phone out and look at it.

Trying to fit the Spree between a cycling helmet and glasses, while possible, was not at all functional for us. There just wasn’t enough room between the Spree headband and our helmet. Were we really going to wear the Spree out running on the beach? Absolutely not. We improvised by tucking the entire Spree unit and with the headband under a trucker hat adjusted to its largest size. Apparently, we aren’t the only ones who didn’t enjoy the headband look, because Spree now offers a “smartcap,” which is a running hat with a Spree module integrated right up front.

With the Spree planted smack dab in the middle of your forehead, and the strap adjusters digging into your scalp, it’s hard not to wonder what was so bad about chest straps to begin with. We wear heart rate monitors nearly every day and have never had any problems with them. They are not uncomfortable, nor do we have trouble putting them on. And the nice thing about chest straps is that they go under your clothes where no one can see them.

Once we resigned ourselves to wearing the headband (while running), planning a workout on the Spree software was a breeze. We started by choosing an activity. The Spree app includes six options: running, walking, cycling, gym, skiing, or other. We selected Running and pressed the green save button at the bottom. Next we selected goals in four metrics: distance, duration, average speed, and calories. Then we set a Mark and could choose between Maintanance/Wear up, Fitness/Fatburn, Cardio Training/Edurance, Hardcore Training, and V02 Max.

Based on these choices, the Spree app creates a plan that will guide the user to the desired goals. By hitting a yellow “begin workout” button at the bottom of the screen, the Spree app will display the metrics it is tracking on a colored-coded, quick-look dashboard . An upper dial shows body temperature range, while a lower shows heart rate. For those who would rather have the hard numbers, Spree provides another data page that shows time elapsed, distance traveled, current heart rate, speed, and calories burned.

With no audio feedback from the app, aside from Bluetooth disconnection notices, the only way to check our body temperature, heart rate, or distance metrics was to pull the phone out and look at it. This isn’t that much of a problem while working out in a gym or walking, but it can be annoying while running and downright dangerous while riding a bike. If users set a distance goal, it would be nice to be notified if that goal is reached. When we reached our goal we expected some kind of notification, however, we ran right past without being reminded of anything.

Conclusion

While Spree’s fitness tracker cleverly addresses some people’s issues with heart-rate monitoring straps, we kept wishing we could move the tracker from our forehead to somewhere else on our body. And that, obviously, is missing the point entirely.

The Spree will appeal to a very narrow niche: Those who find chest straps annoying, like knowing their active body temperature during workouts, and don’t mind wearing a headband or hat every time they exercise. The headband stays in place, the software is easy to use and has smart features, and the heart-rate data seems consistent. The hurdle we just couldn’t clear was the headband itself. Because the Spree doesn’t function well with cycling helmets, nor hats in general, it will not replace a chest-strap monitor for us. And while knowing our body temperature was an interesting data point, it was not compelling enough to make up for the Spree’s downsides.

Highs

  • Records body temperature
  • Light weight
  • Easy to put on
  • Quality iOS app
  • Works with Runtastic, Runkeeper, and MapMyRun

Lows

  • Looks really nerdy
  • Difficult to wear with helmet and glasses
  • No audio feedback from the app
  • No Android Spree app, yet
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