I’ve had a Fitbit device since before they launched in the UK and have, in fact, used both the original and Ultra models. Recently I was sent the Fitbit Zip to try. This is one of two products recently launched by Fitbit, and is the less expensive and less well featured of the two. The other product, the fitbit One, I also have and will look at soon.

The fitbit Zip does what all the other Fitbit devices do – it measures the distance you travel by acting as a pedometer, and uses information about your age and weight along with the pedometer info to help it calculate calories burned. It can sync this information with a computer to give a regular report on your activity.

The Fitbit Zip comes in a range of colours and I was sent a white one to test. Whatever colour you opt for you get two elements -the unit itself and a silicone chassis which incorporates a little clip.

This chassis is meant to let you hook the Zip onto clothing, for example on a belt or round the rim of a pocket. I found it wasn’t all that secure and if I had a Zip full time I wouldn’t be entirely happy that it wouldn’t slip off my clothing and get lost. The old Ultra I have been using has a much more secure ‘clothes peg’ stile fitting system that I prefer.


The Fitbit Zip is powered by a standard 3v coin style battery that should keep it going for up to six months. All the other Fitbit devices require regular recharging of internal batteries, so this internal battery option might be seen by some as a step forward.

The other big step forward for the Fitibit Zip is that it synchronises data with the FitBit web site wirelessly via Bluetooth 4.0. Gone is the need to permanently connect a stand to your computer via a USB slot. Instead you just drop the dongle into an available slot and leave it there. I appreciated both the desktop clutter reduction and the disappearance of the need to physically put my Fitbit onto its synch stand.

This is all good stuff, as is the fact that the Zip is the least expensive Fitbit device yet at just £50. However to reach this low price some features have disappeared, and the Fitbit retains a key problem that all the Fitbit range share.

Let’s deal with that problem first. For all its big talk, the Fitbit is basically a pedometer. It counts steps taken and uses what you’ve told it is your stride length to calculate how far you’ve travelled. You can edit the stride length at the Fitbit web site, and tell it your walking and running stride length. Fair enough, but how many of us really always stride the same length?

When walking I sometimes stroll and sometimes need to go faster. My stride length varies. When I’m running my stride length varies a fair bit too. I do a lot of running off road on tracks and trails where a variable stride is pretty much the norm. Compared to the accuracy I get from a GPS the Fitbit only ever gives an approximation of distance travelled.

So, what about those disappeared features? Well the Fitibit Zip doesn’t calculate stairs ascended or track sleep pattern like the Ultra and new Fitibit One does. It offers instead the same basic features as the original Fitibit and all the others in the range – steps, distance, calories burned. There’s also a smiley face that gives an indication of your recent activity level.

This data is displayed on a tiny LCD whose dots you can clearly see. It’s a very low tech approach and in some lighting conditions you’ll need to squint at it to see the readout. It isn’t backlit so you can’t check it in the dark.

To get between screens of data (steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, smiley showing how well you are performing today) you tap the screen. Responsiveness isn’t great, but it does work.

Whatever Fitbit device you have the web site is the same and it is the web site that gives the Fitbit its USP. It totals your distances travelled, lets you set goals, monitor your eating, track your weight and share data with friends. You get given badges if you pass certain milestones. There are smartphone apps for Android and iOS so you can see data when you’re out and about.

Conclusion

Everything works as it should here, but still, the Fitbit Zip is my least favourite of the Fitbit range. Its features are basic, its screen not that easy to see, and I didn’t find the tapping to change screen views very responsive. Yes, it’s the least expensive of the range, but unless you are really strapped for cash I’d suggest saving more money and going for the much better Fitbit One.

Pros:

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Long battery life
  • Wireless synch

 

 Cons:

  • Lacking in features
  • Hard to see the screen at times
  • Screen very small

 Score: 7/10

 Manufacturer:  Fitbit www.fitbit.com

MSRP: £50