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lifetrak zoom h r v on wrist

Previously, I was never a huge fan of activity trackers. They simply weren’t good enough for athletes.

Sure, they were high-tech devices. But as far as information provided, they were very basic, beginner devices. (I’ll take a Garmin Forerunner thank you very much!)

Finally, one of these new wearables caught my eye – the Lifetrak Zoom HRV. It’s just a little black pod on a little black wristband, but what it captures is powerful!

The Zoom HRV is designed to track and record biometric heart rate insights that will revolutionize how you train – and how you recover.

This device monitors all physical movements, auto-detects sleep, continuously measures heart rate intensity, calculates calories burned, and is able to detect heart rate variability (HRV) to measure your recovery level before and after workouts.

Never heard of it? HRV is a high-tech indicator of overtraining. It’s more telling than just your resting heart rate (although you get that here, too). The Lifetrak Zoom HRV senses this and tells you – each day – if you’re rested and ready to workout, worn out, or potentially overtrained.

Additionally, it can even track workouts. It counts laps in the pool, steps on the trail, and cadence on a bike. The Zoom HRV can be worn on your upper arm, lower arm, wrist, or ankle, is water resistant, and provides biofeedback for up to five days on a single charge.

If it lives up to its promises, this $140 device might make people thing twice before buying an Apple Watch Series 2 (which is more than twice as expensive)!

It has the features. But does it work? Let’s take a closer look…

Unboxing the Zoom HRV

Unboxing is very easy. Lifetrak did a great job with the simple packaging and how easy it is to open.

lifetrak zoom unboxing

All you have to do is open the box and remove some clear plastic film. Then you’re done!

The device looks like a cross between a FitBit and a Jawbone and a watch.

lifetrak zoom device out of the box

It’s sporty rather than sleek and fashionable, but it’s not obnoxious or gaudy like an actual sports watch could be.

getting the lifetrak zoom ready to use

Getting started

The Zoom includes a fold-out instructions sheet, which will get you started, but this only covers the basics. Check your email for the full 57-page instruction manual in PDF format. (Or you can find it online at that link.)

On a rainy day, I sat down and read through the whole thing, and I found it very helpful! I spent hours reading and taking notes!

Seriously, plan to spend a few hours reading and messing around to learn the functionality. Because 1) there is a ton of functionality, and 2) there is nothing similar I’m aware of where you’d already know and understand the interface without all this reading.

The website’s FAQ section is good, too. (Don’t watch the Youtube video, though – it’s mostly a sales pitch.)

Charge it up

Before you can do much with the device, the pod needs charged.

lifetrak zoom h r v pod on charging dock

It’s fairly simple. Plug the cable into the charging dock, and plug the cable into the wall (needs a USB outlet or adapter). Then place the pod into the dock, being sure to align the three connector pins.

The lights will show you the battery charging status. When fully charged, you get one green light on top (12 o’clock position). The initial charge, powered by my laptop computer, took under two hours (but I didn’t time it).

Setting up the app

Getting the app is easy – download it from the Apple app store or Google play. Just search “zoom hrv” in either marketplace. (Note: you want the Zoom HRV app, not the Lifetrak app.)

When you open the app, you must fill out your profile and set up an account.

setting up account in lifetrak zoom app

So far, so good!

Pairing the device

The potentially tricky part is when you have to pair your Zoom to the app. You’ll need to access your phone’s Bluetooth settings, use the Zoom pod itself, and check settings within the app. It worked out for me in the end, but it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

pairing the zoom to my iphone

As there isn’t much of a user interface (it’s a mix of beeps, vibrations, and LEDs), the instruction manual will come in handy here! It did for me.

Upgrading firmware

Once pairing is complete, you need to upgrade the device’s firmware. This.. was a nightmare! After much fighting and troubleshooting, I discovered that you can’t upgrade firmware while it’s on the charger!

Once the battery was charged, and it was off the charger, I could finally connect the device to my phone and update the firmware.

And yes it does take some time!

Using the app

Check out the dashboard. There is a lot going on! You can see an overview of today’s activities at a glance, and you can tap on each one to see more history.

You’ll also want to go to the settings. If something seems off, you can calibrate the device to be better suited for you.

For example, if you step heavily, or if you’re very light on your feet, there is an option for that (choose between default, light, and heavy).

For the most part, the device just works, but if the data seems weird, you can go in and adjust the configuration and then hopefully you get better data. (It’s pretty advanced, though, so you may even end up in a situation where configuring a power meter might take less work!)

Syncing data between the device and the app

Once everything is functioning and data is being gathered, you can sync to the app anytime. This does not happen automatically, though.

In order to send data to the app, you must open the Zoom HRV app and then rapidly press the Zoom button 3x in a row. It’s probably good to do this once or twice per day – if you’re actively using the data to make decisions.

While you’re at it, go into the app settings and enable Cloud Sync. If cloud sync is enabled, your Zoom data will be saved to the cloud every time you sync your Zoom data to your smartphone. (It’s free, so why not?)

Update 6/30/2018: The Zoom HRV App will no longer store your synced data in the cloud. They say this is “to eliminate the potential threat of data hacking.” Now, you must ensure you’re using the latest version of the app and keep backups locally.

Integrating with Apple Health and other apps

Zoom HRV is compatible with 3rd party apps that openly accept Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) and/or ANT+ heart rate and cadence profiles.

You’ll probably want to connect it to your Apple Health or Google Fit app. This will pull the Zoom’s data into your main health app. I can confirm it’s compatible with Apple Health – works perfectly.

And it’s super cool that it transmits via ANT+ wireless. They say it connects to top bike computers, so it should send HR and cadence data to a Garmin Edge head unit!

Does it live up to the claims?

You’ve seen the list of everything this can do. But what’s it like in real life?

Tracking my activity

The essential activity tracker functionality is there. It records my number of steps as well as my distance traveled, and if I’m not moving very much, it vibrates a few times to remind me to get off my butt!

While I didn’t verify the accuracy or precision, it certainly matches up with days where I’m very active and days where I’m a lazy bum. So it’s consistent, and that’s good enough.

[If you’re not familiar with activity trackers, read this.]

This will also calculate caloric burn, and it’s based on a variety of factors including workout intensity, but there’s no good way to really see how accurate this is. Still, it’s nice to record this as a data point and watch it over time. You can use it in conjunction with body weight (tracked with something else) to guide you if you’re wondering if you need to be more active!

Apparently you can check your progress toward your daily activity goals by tapping on the pod (not the button, the actual pod) when the time is visible. But that’s too confusing, so I don’t use it.

Sleep tracking

I was really excited about this. I mean, I’ve often written about why sleep is extremely important for athletes, so that shouldn’t be a surprise!

The Zoom will automatically start and stop sleep tracking, which is great. It’s much more convenient than having to tell it that you’re going to bed (yeah, some apps or devices require that!)

The Zoom HRV monitors your sleep quality based on heart rate, motion, arm posture, ambient light, and “advanced wrist-off detection” (whatever that means). It does a great job determining when I have fallen asleep and when I have woken up. Unfortunately, it does get carried away sometimes, and says that I’m asleep when I’m not.

Once I took the Zoom off my wrist while I was doing car repairs. It was sitting on a shelf, out of reach. It tracked that time period as an afternoon nap! (So much for the “advanced wrist-off detection,” am I right?)

Also, if you’re lounging on the couch watching a movie, with your arm around someone (and pretty sedentary), that might get tracked as sleep. It should certainly be tracked as inactivity, but not as sleep!

Still, overall, the data is useful for looking at trends over long periods of time.

Too bad I don’t like wearing the Zoom HRV while I sleep.

First off, who wants to wear a watch to bed?

Second, wearing the Zoom to bed could be part of a guide titled “how to annoy your spouse!” It’s part of how the watch function (i.e. time of day) works.

During the day, when I turn my wrist to view the time, I can’t always count on it lighting up. But then at night, in bed, any little motion of my arm results in this thing lighting up to show the time! And the light shines out like a beacon! (Seemingly always directed into your significant other’s eyes!)

It’s annoying enough that it makes me want to switch to the Sleepbot app. Unfortunately, if you want a good estimate of your recovery and workout-readiness, you have to wear the Zoom all the time – especially at night so it can gather that sleep data.

The intelligent alarm clock

My favorite feature of the Zeo alarm clock (which is no longer made) was the smart alarm where it would wake you up during a period of light sleep, so that you would wake up feeling fresh rather than groggy. It worked wonders!

Lucky me – this Zoom HRV device offers something similar called the “Intelligent Wake-Up” smart alarm system. It’s the same concept.

You choose your wake up time, and then set a time range of how many minutes before your wake up time Intelligent Wake-Up should be active. During this window, if you come out of deep sleep, Intelligent Wake-Up gently wakes you with a vibrating alarm.

At first, I didn’t like the vibration alarm, but I’ve come to like it.

The Zoom doesn’t always get it right, though, so I wouldn’t rely on it as your only alarm clock. At least not until you’ve tested it a while.

Light tracking

I’m well aware of the benefits of sun exposure during the day (good to get vitamin D, good for circadian rhythms, good to get to sleep at night), as well as the issues of getting too much blue light when you are getting ready for bed (because that can lead to poor sleep).

So I was really excited about how the Zoom uses an advanced light spectrum sensor and algorithms to monitor both your overall light and blue light exposure levels. It sounds great in theory. But in practice, it rarely works.

Wearing a long sleeve shirt? You’re effectively in the dark.

Watching the TV before bed? This thing won’t know you’re being exposed to blue light if it’s covered up by a blanket!

The graphs are still sort of cool, but I don’t really pay attention to this data.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Let’s talk HRV – the real bread and butter of this device!

Before this test, I had never monitored my HRV. There simply aren’t many ways to do that. That’s what makes this activity tracker so valuable. With this, I can track heart rate variability just as easily as I can track resting heart rate!

As far as I know, the Lifetrak Zoom was the first wearable to track HRV. I think there are now other choices – the Fitbit Charge 2 and Garmin Vivosmart 3, and the Whoop. But I haven’t tested those yet.

What’s the point?

HRV is a good measurement to track if you are someone who lives a hectic/stressful life, or maybe you get stressed easily. (Dealing with stress is necessary for health and weight loss!)

The 1994 Framingham Heart Study identified increased heart rate variability (HRV) as the only common factor that was found in all healthy individuals. (Source.)

And it’s very, very easy to monitor. There are only two things you need to do, and both of them involve lying down! One is to wear the device while you sleep, because that is when the Zoom records HRV measurements and calculates your VScore™. The other is to run a VScan™ each morning (it’s a quick 3-minute bio-scan to measure real-time HRV).

The VScore represents your overall fitness condition (the higher, the better) and translates to exertion recommendations for your next workout. The ‘recommendations’ are rather generic, but I do find that the VScore number directly correlates to how I feel!

Say it’s a day I’m feeling really run down and tired. The Zoom is right on point, showing my VScore in the yellow range. Or if I feel great, my VScore is going to be in the green, maybe even up above 90. I could tell that anyway, but it’s nice to have the confirmation.

The most useful might be when you think you’re kinda worn out (but can push through it), but you get a VScore down in the red range, and that makes you realize it’s not a day to push yourself at all!

Recording workouts

While this was not a real concern for me, I wanted to be able to record workouts with the Zoom.

My real workouts are recorded primarily with a Garmin Edge. But for hikes, quick runs, swims, and other activities that I normally wouldn’t record at all, it’s sweet to be able to record them easily using a small device that’s already on my wrist!

And it can actually replace a heart rate + cadence kit when worn during your bike workouts!

Yep. When you wear this on your ankle (you do need to buy the ankle strap), it will record both HR and cadence data! It will even transmit that data to a Garmin Edge head unit via the ANT+ wireless protocol!

(Certainly more convenient than manually counting your cadence!)

If you’re skinny, the the regular wrist band is probably big enough to wrap around your ankle, but the ankle band is far more comfortable, so it’s worth buying if you’ll use this often for biking.

There are a few hassles though:

You don’t just push a button to start and stop. I’m used to just one button push to start and one button push to stop a workout. Not here. It’s different types of button pushes and cycling through icons I’m not used to. It’s kind of a pain!

The HR zone vibration alerts are hard to interpret! You have to make sense of different numbers of vibrations to signify if you’re going up or down a zone. It’s challenging. And quite frankly, it’s annoying. I ended up disabling those alerts! (If heart rate zone training is important to you, use a different device!)

You need your phone to monitor your workout in real time. While the device itself is great for recording and storing your workout data (so that you don’t need to carry your cell phone with you), you can’t really keep track of your workout without your phone. The lights and vibrations don’t cut it.

It works underwater

The device is claimed water resistant down to 50 meters. I haven’t gone more than one or two meters underwater with it, but I’ve worn it in the pool and in open water. And I wear it in the shower daily.

Not only has it not complained, it happily records my heart rate the whole time. Yes, it records your heart rate underwater.

That’s the one feature that makes this awesome for triathletes!

Battery life is quite good

Lifetrak claims a battery life of up to five days on a single charge. (Other activity trackers often have a battery life of two days!)

With light use, yeah, it will indeed last 5 days. The battery is surprisingly good.

But don’t tempt it. I’ve never gotten more than 5 full days.

I try to get on a schedule where I charge it twice per week, and I don’t start recording a workout with a low battery. (Recording a workout, especially if you’re also transmitting data elsewhere, will drain the battery quickly.)

The only problem is that you don’t just connect a USB cable to it. You need the special charging dock. And you won’t want to carry that dock around with you all the time. So you need to figure out a plan that works for you.

It doesn’t make sense to charge it at home, because you want to wear the device at night (for sleep tracking). And if you’re not sleeping, you’re probably being active, and thus you’d want to wear the device.

So the best time for me to charge it is at a slow, sedentary time during the workday. Thing is, I started leaving the dock on my desk at work, only to have the battery die on the weekends! So I have to remember to give it a full charge on Friday!

Don’t want to wear anything on your wrist?

One thing that’s cool is that you can wear this on your ankle, regardless of whether or not you’re riding your bike. Go ahead and wear it on your ankle all day.

You could wear it on your ankle, under your dress socks, beneath your pants. No one will know!

You don’t have to wear it on your wrist and advertise it. Wear a classy, office-appropriate wristwatch and hide this on your ankle! No problem.


After six months of testing, the pod is still going!

Rough mountain bike trails, chlorinated swimming pools, murky lakes, even an infrared sauna. No problem.

The rubber wrist band is starting to break apart though. Crap! Lifetrak has replacements, but you have to contact customer service and place a special order.

I can’t be too mad, because I definitely exposed this thing to sunscreen and bug spray, and they specifically say NEVER expose the device to harmful chemicals, household cleaning solvents, insect repellent, or sunscreen.

Realistically though, if it can’t hold up to that sort of stuff, how can you use it to record workouts?!

Technical difficulties

While the device has proved tough enough, it’s still an electronic device, and will face the same issues as a computer or smartphone.

There were numerous little things. Like this:

That screen would show up and I’d have no idea why.

And then I’d just be browsing my data and the app decides it needs to set up something, indifferent to the fact that I’m in the middle of something.

There can be bigger problems, too. In my case, the pod decided to quit charging. I had to reset the device by inserting a pin into a tiny hole on the charging dock.

Fortunately, my Zoom HRV pod was able to charge again. Unfortunately, it now shows a battery level of 39% remaining, no matter what. If I leave it on the charger overnight, it will say 39%. Two days later, using the Zoom the whole time, it still says 39%.

So I have to guess the actual battery level!

What’s it missing?

The last thing you want to do is spend over $100 for a device that doesn’t offer what you need. So I want to take some time and talk about what the Lifetrak Zoom HRV does not offer.

There is no GPS

Activity trackers in general don’t have GPS capabilities. However, your smartphone does have GPS, and the Zoom HRV app runs on your smartphone, so that integrates with the GPS, right? Nope.

I think that some devices do integrate the phone’s GPS with the app, which is a great idea. But the Zoom does not.

So if you want GPS, you’ll need to carry your phone, and use (at least) the Zoom HRV device, the Zoom HRV app, and the Strava app.

This is NOT a replacement for a Garmin Edge

In case you scrolled past my notes about this earlier, the Zoom is a device that can be used in addition to a Garmin Edge. It is not a replacement for a Garmin Edge or Garmin Forerunner.

It doesn’t fully track your bike or run workouts – assuming that course and elevation data are metrics that you track. But now that Strava is a thing, most people require that stuff!

The user interface is such a pain

It took me probably two full months to finally accept the Zoom as a part of my life. I’d take it off at night, then forget all about it the next day. It was a chore to stick with it.

Why? It was just such a pain to figure it out. I’d read the manual and accomplish something once, but the next time I went to do it, I’d forget how.

Just look at these workout icons for example. This is one menu:

deciphering the workout icons on lifetrak zoom hrv interface

I’m picky because I work in user experience and design in my day job, so when I’m faced with a user interface this complicated, I shake my head. But I think that anyone that’s used to the ease of use that comes with something like the Apple iPhone, is going to be let down by the Zoom HRV.

There’s not much of a user base or community

This is a relatively new device, so on top of bugs in the software (I swear the first three months I used this was just error after error), you won’t have many resources available when things go wrong.

Case in point:

One morning in July, I went to record a VScan. Normally there would be no issue, but this day, the app won’t log into my account, saying it’s active on a different cell phone. Ugh. I only have one cell phone!

Of course, the “forgot password?” feature does not work! I guess I have to create a new account then. Nope, it won’t let me create a new account, either!

That night, I was finally able to get back in. After performing some type of server update, things went back to normal.

It turns out there was some server error on their end, which locked out Zoom HRV users. But I couldn’t find any information about this, because there aren’t many other users to talk to. It’s hard to find other people with the same issue you are having. (I eventually found one single forum thread about this problem.)

You can’t export data files

While Lifetrak has never lost my data, it was effectively lost (i.e. I could not access it) when they had that server issue. That prompted me to find a way to export my data so I could save it (and perhaps back it up with Backblaze).

But, aside from the connection to my Apple Health app and transmission to a Garmin Edge head unit (which allows me to export data), I’m out of luck. How do I back up my HRV data? I don’t think I can. What happens if the company shuts down?

Do I copy everything over into my pen and paper training log binders?!

Customer service is a little slow

Lifetrak offers up an email address for customer service. When you email them, it creates a ticket in their system, and they follow up with a confirmation that your request has been received and you can expect a response within three business days.

When it comes to something you use every day, it would be nice to have some type of live chat, or at least a 24-hour response time.

My final verdict is…

The Lifetrak Zoom HRV is a great rest and recovery tracker and provides useful guidance. I love all the data it collects! This is important stuff to pay attention to. Not like, it will win me a race; rather, as in, I should pay attention to my overall health so I can live a healthy life where I can continue riding my bike and having adventures into old age!

If you’re looking for a way to collect lifestyle data in addition to your workout data, this is a good way to do that.

The glaring problem is the clunky user interface, not to mention the time commitment to get used to it. It led to many instances of frustration, especially the very limited customer service! Don’t buy it unless you’re willing to work with it. The user experience needs refined before I can up my rating.

Official website: www.LifetrakUSA.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: Lifetrak
Product: Lifetrak Zoom HRV
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2017-12-02
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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  1. What’s this email I’m getting from Lifetrak telling me I need to update my app or LOSE ALL MY DATA?!

    • @Bill

      Ha, I got the same email! And I had already had the new app on my phone for a while, so if you pay attention to that sort of thing, you’re probably safe.

  2. Great review. I’ve had the Zoom for about 1.5 years now and I seriously ONLY wanted it (and still want it) for the status update on my fatigue levels (recovery, off, go for it status), not that my muscles or energy levels necessarily agree with the feedback…lol. I’ve never even used it for the other things it can do (well, except the “approximate time” it gives me with twist of arm. Thanks and keep the rubber side down!

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