FitBit currently have a range of three next generation pedometers, although they have hinted that a new product will be launched at some point in 2014. Whilst there are many other pedometers and trackers on the market at the moment, including products by Nike and Samsung, FitBit is amongst the forerunners. They are manufacturers of numerous different products, including torso based pedometers, wrist-watch style pedometers, sleep trackers and advanced scales.
Apps and trackers make the entire range compatible. This complete system makes tracking fitness, activity level and calories in and out of your body much easier and accurate than simply guessing. Because it automatically syncs to your laptop or smartphone, it takes much of the manual element out of weight loss and fitness recording efforts, as well as improving accuracy compared to guesswork.
How Does FitBit Work?
Attach one of the FitBit pedometers to your clothing or wrist (depending upon the model), and just go through your day as normal. The tracker follows your movements and steps to work out the distance travelled, calories burnt, and numerous other measurements. FitBit products can all wirelessly sync to a selection of Bluetooth 4.0 enabled phones, as well as computers and other enabled technology, such as Ipads. Once the information is updated, the FitBit app shows in chart form how well you are doing in relation to the goals you set yourself.
To track your diet, data can be entered manually using the app, or data can be imported from a select number of other diet tracking apps. This capability means that you can find an app to suit your exact requirements, and combine the data with activity data. When using the diet tracking element of FitBit, the charts include stats such as the difference between calories burnt and calories consumed per day, making it ideal for those who are watching their weight.
The FitBit Flex band is the latest product to be (successfully) launched by the company. In late 2013 an upgraded version, the FitBit Force, was launched, but it was recalled in February 2014 following a large number of customers reporting allergic reactions to the band’s material.
The FitBit Flex is worn on the wrist, which has several advantages over standard pedometer which attaches to clothing on the torso. The wristband is light and compact, making it easy to get used to wearing on a daily basis. It is also convenient for wearing continually, as a two hour charge provides around seven to ten days of battery life. This means that users are far more likely to use the product continually, as they do not have to remember to attach it to clothing each day, and the product is much less likely to be lost compared to a clip-on alternative.
The device comes in two parts, the tracker itself, and a strap. There are several different colours available, and the strap is replaceable, making it a great way to personalise the device visually.
The FitBit Flex comes with a large number of features, and tracks far more than simply steps taken per day. The band comes with a sleep tracker capability. When the sleep tracker is activated before the user goes to bed, the Flex tracks the amount of sleep a person has had, as well as how restless the user was during their sleep. This information is sent to the app, allowing a picture of long-term sleep patterns to develop. Some reviews have stated that this sleep tracker is still relatively unreliable, but, as updates are released this reliability is sure to improve. Unfortunately, the sleep mode does have to be manually activated and deactivated each night and morning, making it likely that some people will forget to use this function. The FitBit Flex also has a silent alarm that vibrates rather than making any noise to wake the user up. This is a more gentle way to wake up, and has the added benefit of not waking up a partner who does not have to get up at the same time.
In addition to counting steps taken, the FitBit Flex also calculates the distance covered and calories burned. Users are encouraged to set goals using the app, and the LED display shows basic feedback indicating how close you are to achieving those goals per day. Each of the five LED lights represents 20% of your daily goal being achieved.
Flex is also sweat, rain and splash proof, making it fairly durable compared to some older products.
The FitBit range offers a set of high tech scales that track not only your weight, but also your body fat percentage and BMI. Whilst many other “high-tech” scales will simply tell you this information, the Aria scales actually sync this information via wi-fi, allowing a long term, accurate picture of your weight and progress to build up over time.
All of this information can be seen on the FitBit app, alongside the information provided by any of the pedometers. The scales can store the profile information for up to 8 users, by name, meaning that everyone in the family can accurately track their weight. The results for each individual user are not accessible by other users, meaning that your weight is as private as you want it to be.
Traditional style Pedometers – One and Zip
FitBit has two traditional style pedometers, which fix to clothing on the torso to track your movements throughout the day. These are the FitBit One and FitBit Zip. The FitBit Zip is the cheaper of the two products, but is also simpler, as it has fewer functions available for the user. The Zip does still track steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned, but lacks sleep tracking functions and the silent alarm. Unlike other FitBit products, the Zip uses a replaceable watch battery instead of being rechargeable. However, its battery life is therefore much longer than in the FitBit One and Flex, which both need recharging weekly.
The FitBit One, on the other hand, carries more features. When placed in the arm-band, the sleep tracking mode can be used, as can the silent alarm function. It also features a function that counts the number of floors climbed. This function is missing from the FitBit Flex and Zip. Both the Zip and One are splash, sweat and rain proof, and can sync wirelessly with smartphones that have Bluetooth 4.0 capability.
As mentioned above, different coloured bands can be purchased for the FitBit flex. However, there are also other accessories available through the official website. Bands are available in single packs, for £12.99, as well as in three packs, for £24.99. For the fashion conscious, this is the best value available. The FitBit Flex also comes with a band in the colour of your choice, and so these extra bands are for variety, or to replace a damaged band. The clips for both the FitBit One and Zip are also available separately in a variety of colours.
Sleep wristbands are also available for the FitBit One, so that the sleep tracking function can be used properly. This is not required for the FitBit Flex, as it is already attached to the wrist. Replacement chargers and wireless sync dongles are also available, meaning that should individual elements break, the entire system does not need to be replaced.
Diet Tracking App
FitBit provides an app, which is accessible via smartphones and PCs using the Internet. This app is where all of the information collected by FitBit products is turned into charts and graphs to make it easy to understand. The app also features a diet tracking section, in which the user can manually input the food they have eaten in a day. The app tracks calories, as well as other dietary information based upon the foods entered. The official website describes the food database on the app as “extensive” and notes that;
The Fitbit app can set a calorie intake plan that is personalised to your profile and daily activities. Unlike other calorie apps, your calorie plan will automatically adjust based on how active you are throughout the day.
This makes the goal setting much more versatile than other apps available on your phone, as it provides much more accurate calorie goals compared to estimating your calorie requirements based upon estimated activity levels.
Wireless Syncing and Compatibility
The current range of FitBit pedometers and activity trackers can sync via Bluetooth 4.0 with compatible smart phones. The list of compatible phones is short, but increasing constantly, as Bluetooth 4.0 is a relatively new technology. The full list of compatible phones and devices is available here.
Each product also comes with a dongle that allows the FitBit range to sync with computers and laptops. The FitBit products will sync to phones via Bluetooth throughout the day, provided the Bluetooth is enabled and the two devices are within range of each other. Syncing with laptops and computers is not quite as versatile, but is still effective.
Cost and Availability
FitBit products vary between 50 and 100 pounds and are available directly through the official website, but also through numerous other retailers, both online and in store. It is possible to shop around for a deal, saving on the RRP. The official FitBit website sells all of its products at the RRP, and so is not necessarily the cheapest place to purchase their products from. However, the official website does feature some exclusive colours, which could be a deciding factor for some customers.
The prices (as of April 2014) on the official website are £79.99 for the FitBit Flex and the FitBit One, £49.99 for the FitBit Zip, and £99.99 for the Aria Smart Scales. The FitBit is free, but there is also a premium membership option that provides more in-depth feedback, acting more as a personal trainer and nutritionist, according to the website. These are not necessary for the average user, especially as the charge is an annual fee of £39.99.
Additional Motivation-goals, Badges and Competition Tables
The FitBit Flex features a goal setting function, allowing you to set customised goals rather than just recording your activity.
To cheer you on, the Fitbit App sends push notifications when you’re nearing your goals and when you’ve achieved them.
These can be sent to your phone. There is also a weekly email summary of your activity. By looking on the app, it is also possible to look at long term trends, helping you to identify when you are most active, and therefore how to improve upon previous stats. If this isn’t enough motivation, the app also features badges that are awarded at certain milestones of achievement.
There is also a competition leader board that is updated throughout the day. Users can therefore compete and compare their performance to friends who also use FitBit. For people who are fitness enthusiasts, (with fitness enthusiast friends), this sense of competition seems to be enough motivation to slightly increase activity levels each day.
Our Verdict on FitBit
Overall, it seems that the FitBit range may be the answer to many people’s desire to accurately track both their activity and diet. Because sleep is also an important factor in maintaining health, the sleep tracker in the FitBit Flex and FitBit One is useful, even if they are not 100% accurate yet. Whilst the products in the FitBit range may seem expensive, compared to some other comparable products, they are actually fairly cheap. For example, the Nike+ Fuelband retails for around £130, but in reviews it is comparable to the FitBit Flex.
There is an added benefit to choosing to use a pedometer as well. Not only are you more aware of how much activity you do, but this awareness may cause you to move more. A 2007 study from researchers at Stanford found that people who wore a pedometer walked about 2,100 more steps a day than people who did not use a pedometer.
Some people may argue that using a cheaper, and more basic pedometer, in combination with a food diary, is sufficient for tracking both diet and fitness. However, the FitBit app provides so much extra information in the form of graphs and charts, that measuring diet and activity separately seems pointless, and much harder than necessary.