The $99 Fitbit Ultra Wireless Tracker really kicked off the biggest sports gadget trend--connecting to social media and the Web for a more expansive workout experience, and to brag to your friends, of course. Can this little clip-on device collect the right data to give you an insightful view into your daily activities and your diet? Read on to see how the Fitbit Tracker compares to devices such as the Nike FuelBand.
Click to EnlargeMeasuring 2.1 x 0.8 x 0.6 inches and weighing 0.4 ounces, the Fitbit is smaller and lighter than a pack of gum. Its cliplike shape allows it to attach tightly to clothes as thin as a cotton T-shirt or the thick band of yoga pants. We found that the Fitbit was a lot less invasive than other fitness accessories we've tested, such as the Nike Fuelband and the BodyMedia Fit Link, since it can easily be stashed in your pocket.
Covered with a black soft-touch texture on the outside, the inside of the Fitbit comes in two colors, blue and plum. A Tic Tac-size button activates a blue OLED display that lights up under the soft-touch layer, and it shows steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, clock, stopwatch, greeting, the Flower and chatter. The amount of information shown on the Fitbit can be modified using the Web interface.
The Fitbit also comes with a sleep wristband, a base station that syncs and charges the Fitbit and a belt holster. The wristband is made from a stretchy piece of fabric about 2 inches wide, and was comfortable to wear overnight.
The Fitbit is not waterproof and the manufacturer warns against exposure to large amounts of sweat.
Click to EnlargeWe went online and created a free Fitbit account by entering an email address and setting up a password. We then entered our sex, age, weight, and height. If you have a specific goal in mind, such as the amount of steps you want to take per day, or losing a specific amount of weight, you can set that up here (pictured).
You can also create a personalized diet plan by typing in the amount of weight you want to lose, and how long you want it to take to lose it. From there, the Web portal will automatically populate a calorie limit and exercise goal for you. Unlike the BodyMedia Fit Link, all of the features are free with the Fitbit Tracker.
Click to EnlargeThe mobile app, available for Android and iOS devices, keeps track of your diet (pictured), the amount of water you drank, your activities and your weight. The app is very user-friendly and the interface well-designed; it syncs the information to the website so that you can look at your progress.
Unlike the FuelBand and the BodyMedia Fit Link, the Fitbit does not have Bluetooth, which means it can't sync directly with the mobile app and vice versa. In order to sync it with with the desktop app, Web or mobile app, you must use the base station, which itself needs to be plugged into an Internet-connected computer running the Fitbit application. Data is then uploaded to the Web, and sent to the mobile app. If the Fitbit is with 15 feet of the base station, you can sync it wirelessly, or you can plug it into the base station, which also recharges the device.
Click to EnlargeThe Fitbit's OLED display is even more basic than the Nike FuelBand, but still presented plenty of information. If the Fitbit is left unattended, it will present an inspirational message on its display, which you can customize using the desktop app. While fun, this feature doesn't have much functionality.
Another little neat detail is the Flower feature (pictured). Reminiscent of a Tamagochi, the flower's height changes with the amount of activity it senses. If you are sedentary for a while, the flower will shrink. We found it to be a very helpful reminder of how long we had been sitting at our desks.
After a few days of walking around and tracking our daily activity, we synced the Fitbit to our account for a visualized readout. When compared with the distance we traveled using Google Maps, we found the difference to be less than a tenth of a mile.
Click to EnlargeWe went online to set up a diet goal and weight-loss plan, and that's the easy part. The hard part was remembering to type in the portions of our meals and snacks online or on our mobile device. If you are someone who regularly tracks your diet anyway, this tool makes tracking very easy.
As we typed in our meals, Fitbit offfered suggestions of what we ate and the calories included. But everything can be done manually to ensure a precise measurement. We like that we could choose how intense we wanted the diet plan to be, which will make using this device less intimidating for beginners.
We compared our workouts with our Fitbits-toting friends by logging in with Facebook, and we also had the option of logging into Twitter and finding friends by their email address.
The sleep tracker on the Fitbit was not as convenient as we had hoped--in fact, it took us a couple of tries to capture an accurate sleep reading. That's because the device doesn't automatically know when you're getting shut-eye; you have to activate the sleep tracker manually by holding down the button on the Fitbit. The first night, sleep snuck up on us before we had a chance to worry about the Fitbit, and the second night, we forgot to turn it off in the morning. Fortunately, you can use the apps to enter in the time you went to bed and woke up, which was a lot easier than remembering to start and stop the timer.
When we finally captured the correct sleep time, Fitbit gave us insightful data on the quality of our sleep. It showed how long it took for us to fall asleep, how many times we woke up during the night, how long we were in bed and actual sleep time. It then calculated how efficient our sleep was.
We tested the Fitbit for 2 weeks, and the battery lasted on average of five days for us -- which is true to the manufacturer's claim. Like the FuelBand, the battery meter only shows up when it is plugged into the docking station, and is not visible otherwise.
The $99 Fitbit Tracker is a small, nonintrusive device that easily clips to your shirt or pants, and provides nearly as much information about your physical activity as devices that are $50 to $100 more expensive. While it would be nice if it had Bluetooth for wireless syncing, Fitbit's ease of use and wide range of features will satisfy anyone from couch potatoes to gym rats.