I’ve had my Fitbit over 6 months now so it’s time for a second review. Is it going to stay the course?
Gadget Fun Factor: Is the Fitbit fun to own?
You bet! It’s fun to look around a room and see who else has a Fitbit and chat with them about it. It’s fun to see how your friends are doing and cheer them on, or challenge them to a competition. And I love having all the personal stats on my wrist, like my heart rate, steps taken and distance walked!
Productivity and Utility / Meeting Goals: Does the Fitbit do what it’s supposed to do?
The Fitbit is good at continuously tracking heart rate, steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, and distance travelled. I think that Steps Taken is the perfect measure for people who are new to being active, or who are in a maintenance phase. I look at steps as the base level – have I got up off my ass today? 🙂 I always have a good sense of whether I have been active each day and whether I get my heart rate up regularly. When I exercise, it tells me whether I am in their fat-burning, cardio, or peak heart rate zone. This is my favourite feature, now that I am fit, because it encourages me to step it up and work out harder.
Since I bought the Fitbit, a new feature has been added. I used to press a button at the beginning and end of a workout to log it. Then I would fill in what type of activity it was. Now the Fitbit can recognize many types of activities and track them automatically. For example, whenever I walk for more than 15 minutes continuously, it logs the session as a walk.
If I enter a weight goal and log my weight regularly, the app/web site tells me how many calories I should be able to consume each day to meet my goal. It gives me a baseline level of calories (about 1200) and then keeps adding to it the more I am active throughout the day.
Accuracy and Misses
The Fitbit is designed to count steps from walking, jogging, running and stair climbing. All of its other activity tracking is iffy. For example, it can recognize and log elliptical machine workouts, but I don’t feel the tracking is accurate. I have the option to override the Fitbit data and enter my own values.
Here is an example of 5 actual 30-minute workouts and the automatic data from the Fitbit:
- Walk / 185 calories burned / 3636 steps / heart rate 115 bpm
- Elliptical / 152 calories burned / 1869 steps / heart rate 127 bpm
- Skating / 115 calories burned / 1963 steps / heart rate 99 bpm
- Snow shovelling / 117 calories burned / 1695 steps / heart rate 107 bpm
- 30-Minute Shred DVD /142 calories burned / 998 steps / heart rate 134 bpm
Based on this, you would think walking is the best exercise for weight loss since it presumably burns the most calories. In my opinion, ALL of the other activities require much more effort and contribute a lot more to my fitness. If I want to, I can input my own data instead. If I look up the same exercises in MyFitnessPal and enter my weight, I come up with the following calories burned:
Walking 155 / Elliptical 280 / Skating 187 / Snow shovelling 193 / Circuit training 272
Big difference! As a result, the nutrition side of things didn’t work out. It didn’t allot me enough calories based on my activity level, and it “told” me every single day that I was overeating, even though I was losing weight! I had set a goal of maintaining, and even after my weight dipped, the program didn’t increase my calorie limit or encourage me to set a new goal. I had to work out a proper calorie level on my own.
That being said, Fitbit’s food database is really good, and I was able to select Canadian and regional brand names. Strangely, it is harder to look up real food: if you look up apples, for example, it will display a lot of apple-flavoured products and it can be quite difficult to actually select an apple. This is true both in the app and on the website. The workaround is to save them as a favourite when they do randomly appear, or enter them manually. Another drawback is that it doesn’t allow the entry of homemade recipes. I might want to enter all the ingredients in my favourite stew which makes 6 servings, and track that I had one serving, but Fitbit doesn’t accommodate that.
I appreciate the sleep tracking feature. It is 100% accurate on my bedtime, any times I get up out of bed in the night, and when I get up in the morning. It judges my sleep restfulness based on tossing and turning, which is not always accurate if I stay still and try to fall back asleep! I would say the sleep tracking is one of the most useful features for me because I know I need more sleep and it helps me to see the hard evidence of that, and plan more early nights. Also, I love the alarm feature – I know I could put my phone on vibrate under my pillow, but a tingle on the wrist is much better!
Design: Device / App / Website
I love the colourful design and layout of both the app and the web site and I check them several times a day. Of course I like seeing days, weeks and months of my stats. I love that they say, “Your data belongs to you” and it allows me to download them as csv or xls files. Bravo!
I did a free trial of the Premium version which provides more stats, and I assumed I would love it, but actually found the extra content kinda meh. The Trainer feature encouraged me to set a goal of calories burned per day through fitness activities, not just through everyday life, so that was OK. The Premium version emphasizes you can download your own stats but that is already a free feature in the basic version of Fitbit.
As for the design of the Fitbit Charge HR itself, it takes some getting used to. The band has a flat (not curved) area where the heart rate sensor is located, and it feels odd to wear a watch or bracelet with a flat side that doesn’t conform to your wrist. Otherwise, I really like the somewhat tech/industrial style of the device. I wear it 24/7 except in the shower or when it’s charging.
When I first got the Fitbit, I pinched my wrist with the clasp a few times, but soon learned to fasten it less tightly and avoid rashes. If you have never worn a watch regularly, it might be an adjustment.
Quality / Durability / Charging: Does the Fitbit stand up to everyday use?
My Fitbit crashed after 3.5 months. I called Customer Service and allowed them to access my account. From that, they diagnosed the problem and sent me a new Fitbit in overnight delivery. The phone service was respectful, efficient and had a good outcome. The replacement Fitbit has a band that is harder and less supple than the original. The screen also seems to scratch more easily. I’m not sure if these are the specs for all new Fitbits, or only replacements. I have had it for another 3 months and it is working fine.
I have to give the Fitbit a full charge about twice a week and the battery life has not decreased at all. It also fares well if I just charge it for 20-30 minutes each morning as I get ready for work.
The Fitbit has a lot of pros and cons. I’m unable to compare it to any competitors’ products. It has been a tremendous boost for me in wanting to be active every day, to meet my own goals and to get to bed at a reasonable hour. For me that is a big win, and I am glad I bought it. I enjoy the look of the device and the fun of wearing it and checking on stuff and using it for motivation.
I am very curious about how long my replacement Fitbit will last. I am guessing I’ll get the rest of the year out of it and maybe it will fail when the warranty is up. I don’t like the idea of buying electronics with a high rate of built-in obsolescence. Of course my thoughts will then turn to an upgrade – they have just introduced two more products to their lineup. I think my fitness lifestyle may be entrenched enough that I’m not dependent on the device, but it is inspiring. I am not sure I need a fitness tracker forever, or that I will always need the latest model, but it has been a worthy experiment and I have no regrets.
I would recommend it to everyone who needs help to form new habits, to become active or to keep going – and if you are a statistics geek, it’s a must!
Any Fitbitters out there, how long have you been using it? Pros and cons? Have you ever purchased an electronic device which you thought would be perfect for you, but you lost interest quickly?
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