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Pivotal Living hopes you'll pay $12 a year to use its fitness tracker

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Fitness trackers come a dime a dozen and worse, they all seem to do the same thing: monitor your step count, calorie burn and sleep quality. As it happens, the Life Tracker 1, the first device from a startup called Pivotal Living, does all these things, and not much more. But it's not what the product does or how it looks that has the potential to distinguish it -- it's how you pay for it. Whereas most health trackers cost somewhere around $100, and work with a free companion app, Pivotal Living is charging $12 a year for access to its Android and iOS apps. For the money, you also get the hardware, a simple plastic band with an OLED screen for showing your daily step and calorie count. Every time the company introduces a new iteration, you can renew or extend your subscription for $12 and in so doing, get the latest piece of kit. If you ever cancel, you can keep the band and continue to view your daily stats on the device; you just won't have access to the app, or any of your big-picture data.

Gallery: Pivotal Living Life Tracker 1 hands-on | 32 Photos

Basically, it's like the fitness equivalent of a subsidized phone: In exchange for long-term service fees, you pay less for the hardware than you normally would. Except in this case, the math might actually work in the consumer's favor. To equal the cost of Jawbone's $130 Up24 band, for instance, you'd have to pay $12 a year for more than 10 years, and keep the same device that whole time. That's just not happening, though. I mean, first of all, a device won't last nearly that long. Even Jawbone's bands, which are somewhat ruggedized, have just a one-year warranty. And besides, there comes a point when you want to keep up with the technology. Imagine how the owners of the older Up band felt when Jawbone finally came out with one that could sync wirelessly. Then imagine putting up with that sort of thing for a whole decade. Yeah, like I said: not happening.

In theory, then, the $12-a-year deal could be worth it -- if, of course, the device works well and the user experience is good. I'll be the first to admit, I haven't used the Life Tracker 1 beyond a few minutes of hands-on time, so I can't tell you how accurate the calorie and step read-outs are. But from what I've seen, the app seems well-designed and easy to use. From the app, you can drill down to get more information on your weight, how well you slept, how many calories you've burned, how active you've been and how well hydrated you are. Throughout, the app is color-coded, so it's especially easy to know if you've left the calorie section and entered the sleep graph. And hey, who doesn't love a rainbow color palette?

Gallery: Pivotal Living Life Tracker 1 | 5 Photos

I also like how easy it is to enter information in the app. If you want to adjust your current weight for instance, or indicate how much water you've had to drink, you can do so by moving your finger over a sliding scale; no text input necessary. In fact, it's for that reason that the current app doesn't include a food-logging feature -- CEO David Donovick says there's just no convenient way to do it. (Jawbone might beg to differ.) Also, in the event that some of your friends use the app too, you get granular control over exactly which stats certain people and groups can see.

All told, the one thing that gives me pause is that the device doesn't automatically sync; you have to do it manually by swiping down in the app to refresh. I suppose this could be beneficial to battery life (the device is rated for five to seven days of runtime), but that's also not how people expect fitness trackers to work. Speaking of battery life, the device charges over USB, and takes a little under an hour to reach 100 percent.

The device is up for pre-order now, and is expected to ship the first or second week of December. Will we review it? Hopefully! In the meantime, would any of you do a subscription deal like this? Sound off in the comments.

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