I’ve had the Fitbit One for some months. When I started with it, I used it for keeping track of running. I was interested to know how well its basic pedometer correlated with more sophisticated GPS units for measuring distance. More recently I’ve had a couple of injuries which have stopped me running as much as I’d like, and I have been using it to track general movement during each day.
Reading Riyad’s long term review of the Nike+ FuelBand made me think that a similar long term look at the FitBit One was in order. So here it is.
First and foremost, all the Fitbit devices are pedometers, and that means they have all the downsides a pedometer offers. The Fitbit One is only as accurate in its distance measurement as your stride is even and predictable. In general stride is nowhere near even. When I use the Fitbit for running my stride can be pretty even if I am on roads, but that’s rare. At other times, whether walking or running, my stride can vary quite a bit.
I had rather cheated when using the Fitbit One for running, actually, and calibrated its stride length units by working backwards from what my GPS told me I was doing in terms of distance. That meant the information at the web site bore a close relationship to my running activity, and its averaging out was not too bad. That isn’t the way Fitbit wants you to work, and since my running has been curtailed I’ve been using it as a general approximate tool for measuring all my walking. The point to be aware of is that no pedometer is ever going to be as accurate as a GPS.
Like any running or activity measurement gizmo you buy today, the web site is crucial. Fitbit data is uploaded wirelessly, and different Fitbit devices provide different amounts of data. The lower cost Fitbit Zip I reviewed back in November collects rather less information than the One. With the One you get measurements of steps taken, floors climbed, distance traveled and calories burned. You can also set the device up to monitor your sleep patterns and the One includes a vibrating alarm so you can wake yourself up without disturbing whoever else is there with you. And the Fitbit web site can connect with wireless scales to track your weight.
I don’t like the sleep tracker which relies on a wrist band I don’t find comfortable. I’m looking forward to the wrist work Fitbit Flex, which I think I will find a much better solution for me when it comes to sleep monitoring.
Whatever Fitbit device you use, you automatically collect badges that help give you a boost, and they’re visible for you when you log in to the home page. You can also view your total lifetime stats, and can share information with other Fitbit users. One of the reasons the Fitbit is so popular is precisely because of all this counting, adding up and sharing and the site makes it all really easy to do. You don’t even have to log in to the web site to see your achievements. There are smartphone apps, and you can get a weekly status email too. Heck it’ll even alert you when you are getting close to a goal to spur you on.
There’s no doubt that my more than two million lifetime steps would be a lot higher if I used the Fitbit One every day, and doing that is really easy. The Fitbit One is powered by an internal battery that lasts between five and seven days. You charge it via a USB dongle. Unfortunately if you are travelling you have to carry this dongle as its cupped shape is unique to the Fitbit One, but the One’s good battery life means you can easily get away with a long weekend away without carrying it.
The One is very small and neat – and that makes it easy to carry and easy to forget about. I’ve actually left it in the pocket of my joggers a couple of times and it’s survived the terrors of the washing machine unscathed. Most of the time it sits in a pocket but if you’d rather you can use the provided clip to hook it to your jeans or bra. I’ve found the jeans clip a bit hit and miss – it can work its way off there and I almost lost it a couple of times, so I avoid that method nowadays.
The Fitbit One is really easy to use. Initial setup requires entering some basic information into the web site – stride length and info about your age, height and weight. Women can tell it if they are pregnant or nursing and that’s all taken into account when the One does its calculations of calories burned. It counts the calories you expend just living – breathing, thinking, sitting – and adds these to what you expend during exercise or general movement. So the calorie expenditure information is matched with any food intake data you enter to the web site to allow you to work on weight management.
Just like distance measurement, calorie counting is not a hundred percent accurate. But its figures will tell you if you’ve burned more today than yesterday, and if you are trying to drop some weight, the general guidance is useful.
A small button on the front of the Fitbit One toggles you between readouts of steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, floors climbed, a clock and a flower. A flower? Yes, that’s your activity monitor. It gets taller as you get more active, shrinks as you are inactive.
What’s really interesting about the Fitbit One is how good it is at providing motivation. I’m not generally spurred to action by the kind of ‘gamification’ the One offers – the badges and that flower concept for example. Yet I find myself checking the flower to see if it is tall or short, looking at how far it says I’ve travelled in any one day, and checking the calorie count. I can feel good when these are high, bad when they are low, and can even be encouraged to put in an evening activity spurt just to get things going in the right direction.
And that is entirely the point of the Fitbit One and the rest of the Fitbit products.
It won’t help you get fit in any athlete’s understanding of that term. But it will let you set goals and march towards them. And when those badges pop up it can be a pleasant surprise.
If you are looking at the Fitbit One and the £50 Fitbit Zip and trying to work out whether the One is worth the extra cost the answer is a resounding yes. Better made, easier to use and with more features, it’s a no brainer.
If you are wondering if the Fitbit One is going to do anything for your general fitness, well that rather depends on your attitude and what you want to achieve. For running fitness you should go for a computer that can measure distance accurately via a GPS, and ideally include a heart rate monitor too. But if you want to go from couch potato to someone who walks regularly, want to see the real difference between walking the stairs and riding the escalator, or between getting off the bus or tube a stop early and walking, then the Fitbit One is a great helper, and the ease of use and simplicity make it very easy to recommend.
- Small and light
- Great battery life
- Easy to use
- Good web based info
- Smartphone apps
- Regular progress emails
- So small and light it is easy to leave in pockets
- Belt clip not very secure
- Non standard USB charger