Pivotal Living Smart Scale Review

Of all the times Pivotal Living could've launched its body-fat measuring Smart Scale, the gluttonous period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is probably the most painful. Still, minimal sticker shock does at least temper some of the discomfort of seeing the results of your excess writ large across your smartphone display.

Body fat monitoring scales aren't new: they figure out the percentage of your body that's fat versus everything else by passing an imperceivable current through you and measuring the resistance. Neither are connected scales, with models from Fitbit and Withings already promising to figure out your BMI and log that information on your phone.

What Pivotal Living does differently is pricing. Where Fitbit's Aria has an RRP of $129.95, and Withings' WS-50 is even more expensive at $149.95, the Pivotal Living Smart Scale is $39.95.

That's about $10-15 more than you can find a non-connected fat-measuring scale for, but those are intended for standalone use. Pivotal Living's model is closely integrated with its existing activity and sleep tracking band, with both devices feeding your data into the same mobile app.

While the brand might not be as well known as Jawbone, Fitbit, and others, Pivotal Living's business model is arguably more interesting. The fitness band – which launched in December 2014 – costs just $12, but in reality you're paying for a year's subscription to the company's app.

After twelve months, you pay another $12 to keep using the app for a further year, and Pivotal Living sends you the latest version of its band hardware. The idea is to get fitness trackers onto the wrists of more people – particularly those who might be unwilling or unable to pay the higher upfront but subscription-free amount for a traditional health wearable.

In comparison, the Smart Scale is a little more traditional and there's no such subscription plan. Even after a year, you can keep tracking weight and body fat percentage in the app, though if you've also been using the band to track things like steps, distance moved, and sleep, then once your 365 days is up you'll have to pay another $12.

Pivotal Living's design shouldn't look out of place in most bathrooms. A 12.8-inch square, topped with white glass, it's studded with four metal pads for the body fat measurements, and has a monochrome display. Underneath there are four small feet with rubber tips – Pivotal Living supplies covers to improve performance on carpet, too – and a battery compartment for the four supplied AAAs.

There are no physical controls, and the scale wakes automatically when you stand on it. Prior to pairing it with the companion iOS and Android app, it'll only tell you your weight in pounds.

Once you've paired it, however – which involves setting up a Pivotal Living account, and giving details like age, gender, and height – any time you step on the scale in future it'll show you both weight and body fat percentage. That's useful for guests or occasional users.

What it won't do on its own is store those records. If you want to log your weight and fat percentage, you need to have your phone to hand. When you hit the "sync" button in the app it links up to the scale, tells you to stand on it, and then sucks the data into your account.

Up to sixteen different users – each with a different Bluetooth-connected device – can be saved with each scale, and the whole process takes less than a minute to activate the connection, take the reading, and transfer the results. All the same, it means you have to remember to keep your phone nearby since without it there's no way to manually retrieve the last reading.

Pivotal Living's latest app release has added nutrition and water logging, though they're both handled manually. For water that's fairly straightforward, dragging across a slider to add an amount in ounces every time you chug a glass. With food, though, it involves knowing how many ounces of grains, fruits, dairy, vegetables, and protein you're consuming at each meal.

It's simpler, certainly, than rival food logging systems that include vast databases of foods that must be searched through, but it also demands that you know just what your meal was made up of, which I'd wager is more than most could claim to understand.

It's worth noting that the Smart Scale itself – unlike some body analysis scales out there – can't calculate your current hydration level while it figures out your fat percentage.

What it does give you is a BMI calculation, though the app also gives the appropriate disclaimer that "body mass index" isn't an accurate measure for everybody. Since it doesn't take into account how much of a person's weight is muscle, athletes could be classified as overweight or even obese in BMI terms, even though they're actually healthy.

Unfortunately once your data is in the Pivotal Living app, there's no way to extract it. The company lacks Apple HealthKit integration, for instance, so even if you're religious about logging your weight and body fat percentage every day, your iPhone won't know about it. You can't export data to Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, or RunKeeper either.

It also means you're dependent on what advice Pivotal Living gives to actually improve your fitness, which right now is fairly minimal. There are in-app goals for food and hydration tracking, as well as target weights and body fat amounts for use with the Smart Scale.

You also get movement goals if you have the band, too, though the app can tap into basic steps tracked by iOS and Android devices. Pivotal Living warns me that since you might not be carrying your phone all the time, the step count probably won't be as accurate as from the wearable, and of course you don't get sleep tracking from it.

Where Jawbone's UP platform will make behavioral change suggestions, though, the most Pivotal Living will do is periodically remind you to get up and move if you're wearing the band.

Even if you tell it the details of every morsel that passes your lips, the app won't coach you into eating more healthily or moving more effectively. Instead, you're left to come to those conclusions from the mass of data alone.

Still, it's hard not to be impressed by what Pivotal Living is offering with the Smart Scale. At under $40 it's affordable but doesn't look or feel cheap, and it's straightforward to use, too.

My big complaint is the absence of data exports to HealthKit and other platforms, but if you're looking for a self-contained way to monitor your physical health then you can't argue with the price. Maybe just wait until after the holidays if you don't want body fat shock when you first stand on the Smart Scale.