On August 23rd, to reward myself for a job well done on a work presentation at my internship, I bought myself a Fitbit Flex. Almost two months later, here’s my review of the product so far.
Originally, I was planning on purchasing a Jawbone UP which, in my opinion, has a better look, and a handful of superior features (ideal nap alarm and syncing by headphone jack). My brother persuaded me to get the Fitbit instead, and upon unboxing it, I was happy with my purchase. After charging the tracker, and inserting the dongle into my Desktop PC, I was met with a message indicating the device driver was not installed correctly. I tried the dongle on my laptop, and the driver installed fine, which had me confused. I later contacted Fitbit support who responded (on a Friday evening, and through the weekend), and sent me a new dongle in under a week (which didn’t work at first either, but spontaneously started working the following night). They suggested I recycle the defective dongle, but since it works just fine on my laptop, I am fortunate enough to have a dongle for each now. After the month I spent hardly using my Fitbit due to the dongle mishap, I’ve been using it daily. The step counter seems to be pretty accurate, the online dashboard is incredibly informative, and it has been really helpful in changing my habits. The device also plays really well with other online services. I have the Fitbit service connected to MyFitnessPal, and MyFitnessPal connected to RunKeeper, so I track my daily food intake through MyFitnessPal, and any cardio exercise I do through RunKeeper, which all gets synced to my Fitbit (although through a decentralized series of programs).
I do have a handful of problems with the Fitbit Flex, however. First, the clasp is both hard to connect with one hand (it is two plastic ridges that snap into the other end of the rubber bracelet) and occasionally gets painfully caught on arm hair. The dashboard, while informative, is occasionally hard to navigate (it took me nearly twenty minutes of hunting and Googling to figure out how to change my steps goal, because the goal number and goal method are in different locations on the website), and the desktop software isn’t very helpful (it has three options – set up a new Fitbit device, sync Fitbit device, or go to the Fitbit website). I think I would be much happier with the product if I had a Bluetooth 4 enabled phone (phones without Bluetooth 4 cannot sync with the device; they have a list of supported devices on their website). And finally, sleeping and setting alarms on the Fitbit are clunky. To set alarms, you have to use the online dashboard, so you can’t do it right before bed like you would with a cell phone or alarm clock, and to put the device into sleep tracking mode, you have to tap the device, which is also how you show your progress toward your daily goal. So it occasionally takes several minutes of tapping the device to finally get it to go to sleep. The device will also go into sleep mode while I’m biking or clapping which is a definite letdown.
Just this week, Fitbit announced the Fitbit Force, which includes a superior screen (the Flex’s screen consists of 5 dots, which light up in a couple of patterns to display information) that displays time, and your progress. It also appears to have one button, which lets you cycle through displays. Here is a brief review of some of the new features from Gizmodo. The Force does not seem to a fix a number of concerns I had about the Flex, however, which is unfortunate.
If I were to purchase a new device today, it would either be the Jawbone UP or the Fitbit Force. Although fitness devices are going through rapid changes at the moment, and I believe unless you really want one this minute, you’ll be better of waiting a year or two for drastically superior models. Fortunately, if you do want a device now, they only cost between $100-$150, which is worth the utility and the amount of time you’ll be using the device.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer or discuss.
As a side-note, another thing that would really make this purchase better would be a Fitbit Aria Smart Scale (or a Withings Wireless Scale), which would add a really useful dimension to fitness tracking and automating the whole process.