Hands-on Gear Review

Spire Mindfulness & Activity Tracker Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $130 List | $113.75 at Amazon
Pros:  Good step counting, workable breath monitoring, and clever integration with guided meditation via the associated app
Cons:  Easy to lose from the waist belt clip
Bottom line:  This is a clever device that counts steps and uses the accelerometer to track breath and assist with guided meditations. Beware the insecure clip.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
Battery Life:  7 days
% Inaccuracy:  5.6
Tracks Distance in addition to steps?:  No
Manufacturer:   Spire

Our Verdict

"Wearable," "quantified life" electronics are ever evolving and refining. The venerable pedometer is expanding in scope and utility. The Spire represents one direction that trend is taking. At its most basic, the Spire is your typical step counter. It uses accelerometer technology to count strides. It also uses that accelerometer, to limited effect, to monitor your breathing. All this data is tracked and recorded in an associated phone app. The phone app further parses that data, mainly the breathing data, to estimate your mood and stress level.

Finally, the app can work with the breathing information to provide a sort of guided meditation. While the device itself isn't anything special, it is the specialized data processing and inspiration that the app provides that sets it apart. Execution isn't perfect, but the idea is great and the function sound enough to earn our Top Pick award alongside the also quite specialized Bellabeat Leaf and the super-simple CSX Simple Walking 3D.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter

Last Updated:
Monday
August 14, 2017

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The Spire takes the back door into our review. While it is serviceable as a pedometer, it is branded and marketed as a breath tracker. Ironically, in that capacity, we found it somewhat limited but found the pedometer function to be useful. It is the only non-gender-specific breath tracker on the market that we know of. For anyone looking to track action and breathing, and have prompts for mindfulness and sleep exercises, the Spire is a truly unique product.

The Spire device and iPhone. The app monitors in real time what you are doing. To get it to say "You're in Motion" we had to move it and then immediately set it down for this photo.
The Spire device and iPhone. The app monitors in real time what you are doing. To get it to say "You're in Motion" we had to move it and then immediately set it down for this photo.

Performance Comparison


As a pedometer, the Spire is almost exactly average. Some products are far more refined in their pedometer and activity tracking attributes. However, as a breath tracker and in the way the device and app work together to help the user improve his or her mindfulness and practice of meditation, the Spire is in a class of its own. For this reason, despite the mediocre overall score, we granted the Spire a Top Pick award and hope that folks will consider it for their mindfulness practice and for tracking daily activity.

Depth of Data


The Spire is a fairly holistic device, especially with the associated app. In addition to the ubiquitous step count, the Spire can be used to approximate one's sleep quality, breathing rate, and calories consumed. On the app, the user can also enter and therefore record, over time, his or her mood and a general sense of well-being.


The Spire is similar to the other Top Pick Bellabeat Leaf regarding depth of data. Both do things differently than the typical pedometer. Both count steps and track sleep, but so does the Jawbone UP Move. All the Fitbit devices also allow one to enter their daily food consumption on the app. The Leaf allows a woman to enter her menstrual cycle information on the app and then correlates that against movement information gathered by the device itself.

The Spire is similar to the Leaf in that it integrates other health information with the movement data. With the Spire, that other information is on breathing and mindfulness. The device senses your breath both for mood sensing and for structuring, with the app, dedicated meditation sessions. At its most basic, the app and Spire device work together to visually represent your breathing as a focal point of a mediation session. Then, other features of the app cleverly integrate the Spire device and its sensors into a whole host of guided meditation exercises.

The most basic of the mindfulness features of the Spire is this visual representation and feedback on your breathing rate.
The most basic of the mindfulness features of the Spire is this visual representation and feedback on your breathing rate.

Data Management


The Spire uses what has become a sort of classic data management strategy. The device itself holds a battery, accelerometer, and Bluetooth antenna. There is no display on the apparatus. The raw data collected by the Spire is sent, via Bluetooth, to your smartphone where the dedicated app processes this information for your use. The one issue we had with the data management of the Spire is that the device only holds 6 hours of data on it. If your phone is turned off, distant, with the app closed, or with Bluetooth turned off, data beyond six hours will be lost. While we became accustomed to this fact, we lost a fair amount of Spire movement data.


The overall Data management style of the Spire is quite similar to that of the Bellabeat Leaf, Fitbit Zip Wireless, and Jawbone UP Move. All these products have limited, if any, data displayed on the device itself, instead relying on a synced smartphone app for most of your information. The Striiv Smart syncs with your computer. However, the Striiv has a screen that displays a fair amount of information. Think of the Spire as a sensor that collects and delivers information for viewing on your smartphone. You never need to look at the Spire. Even if you could, you would see no information there.
A day's summary in the Spire app.
A day's summary in the Spire app.

Accuracy


The accuracy of step count is what we objectively assessed in this category. Since we are testing step-counting pedometers, to compare the accuracy of the other functions is irrelevant. Nonetheless, we can anecdotally report on the apparent accuracy of the other data collected. In neither way did the Spire deliver impressive performance. First, in our objective step count test, repeatable and repeated over years of iterations now, the Spire was less accurate than most. The good news, as with all the relatively inaccurate step counters we have tested, is that absolute accuracy doesn't matter.


Given the way step count is deduced, with an algorithmic interpretation of movement, provided you wear the device in the same place each day and are at least roughly consistent with your non-exercise movement patterns, the relative step counts from one day to the next are perfectly correlated with your actual activity. That the Spire records an average of almost 6% more steps than you take in normal, straight-line walking is unimportant. Similarly, the breath tracking seems often out of sync with what is happening with your breath and mood, but it does provide comparative measures to guide your activity and stress management. Like anything, enough rough data can be parsed to give valuable insights, regardless of the actual accuracy of the individual data points.

We have seen a relatively wide range of precision scores from pedometers, in our testing. The Top Pick CSX Simple Walking 3D, for instance, has a nearly perfect .4% error rate, while the former Top Pick Striiv Smart exhibited over 10% error. The Spire compares favorably, in step count accuracy, with the Bellabeat Leaf.

Ease of Use


The Spire is easy enough to use. Modern consumer electronics have come a long way in the last decade or so. Like many others, the Spire simply needs to be charged, synced with the phone app, and then the app walks you through the initial set up and offers tutorials on how to use it. We found it intuitive and simple, much like the other products like it. Of course, the simplest products are those that do not require syncing with your smartphone. These offer less robust data management systems but are far easier to use. Next, regarding ease of use, it is sometimes helpful to have at least a little data displayed on the device itself. The Spire has no such feature, so all you can ever see is the data in the smartphone app.


The Spire and its complete reliance on a smartphone app are the same as the Bellabeat Leaf and Fitbit Zip Wireless. The Striiv Smart offers at least rudimentary on-device data viewing. The absolute easiest to use product we tested is another Top Pick winner. The CSX Simple Walking 3D is a standalone device that tallies up a continuous step count until you reset it. The numbers are large, and there is just one "reset" button. You decide the reset interval, and you deduce things like distance and calories burned. For ease of use, nothing beats the CSX.
The wireless charging pad and the Spire device.
The wireless charging pad and the Spire device.

Portability


The Spire is about average in bulk. This is just one part of the portability assessment. However, the Spire is unique in that it captures breathing information; to do this, it must be clipped in one of two specific areas, according to the manufacturer. One can clip it to a waistband or bra strap. If placed anywhere else, you won't capture your breathing information with any accuracy. Since it is the breath tracking that sets the Spire apart, we followed the manufacturer's instructions in our testing. For step counting, we are confident that the Spire could be carried in a regular pants pocket. The construction is robust, and the clip seems relatively secure; however, we lost one of our test samples in routine use, which is a rather unsatisfactory state of affairs, and significantly affects our assessment of the portability and value of the Spire.


No other product we tested is as limited in how you can carry it, as is the Spire. Basically, because of the breath tracking feature, you cannot place the Spire in your pants pocket. All the others can be clipped on or carried loose in your pants pocket. This is a relatively significant difference. Our lead test editor, at least, far and away prefers carrying a pedometer in his pants pocket. Clipped carry seems vulnerable and a little dorky. Disregarding the dork-factor, the clipped carry of the Spire did indeed fulfill his worst expectations and fell off somewhere in a routine day of walking around.
The Spire clipped in the manufacturer recommended belt location.
The Spire clipped in the manufacturer recommended belt location.

Best Applications


For breath tracking and assisting with mindfulness exercises, nothing beats the Spire.

Value


For specialized applications like the Spire performs, we expect to pay at least a little more. In that way, the Spire offers value similar to the Bellabeat Leaf. Their prices are roughly competitive, based on features and appeal. However, a significant variable in the value of the Spire is that we lost our first test sample. To replace an expensive piece of electronics like this is undesirable, to put it mildly. We wish the clip were more secure or that there were other options for attaching the Spire.

Conclusion


As a truly unique breath tracker, the Spire is a great pedometer for specialized applications. The ease with which the device comes detached from one's waist band is alarming, but perhaps Spire can address this in a subsequent iteration.
Jediah Porter

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Most recent review: August 14, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
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