The small networked pedometer uploads your steps to a web interface and calculates a handful of statistics based on those steps and the information you give it, such as height and weight. The little black and blue widget never felt well made and eventually started showing the wear and tear of a device that is worn all day, every day.
It wasn’t long until I fell out of the habit of wearing it and the Fitbit found it’s way into a drawer never to be heard from again…
Hardly. Around October of this year I came across it and decided to give it another go. This time I was more diligent about wearing it, even using it to track my sleep at night. Some of my coworkers took noticed and purchased their own. By now the company had introduced an updated, follow-up to the original called the Fitbit Ultra, adding a sensor that gave it the ability to count stairs.
Your web profile has a short stack of social features that make using the little guy with a few friends rewarding, adding a competitive game component to the mundane task of walking. The incentive to one up a coworker was enough to get the device to stick, and it ended up back on my hip. My outdated device was missing the features of it’s sibling and I found myself with pedometer envy. Of course, counting the number of flights of stairs is not enough of an incentive to drop another $100 on a new one, so I made do with 1.0.
Being on my hip again, old trusty found itself under some stress and eventually gave out over Thanksgiving. This was just what I needed to justify the Ultra, but I thought an email to the Fitbit support folks explaining my loyalty and the unfortunate situation I was in would be worth a go.
To my surprise, the support team offered to replace my device, free of charge. I own a ton of techno-gadgets and I’ve never been offered a free replacement for wearing a device out. Anyway, I was told to expect the replacement in the next few weeks, and the Fitbit team took the ranks among Apple and a few others as a company that truly cares about it’s customers.
When the new one came I was in for another pleasant surprise; they had upgraded me to the Ultra.
So how does the upgraded Fitbit stack up against the original? As it turns out there aren’t a whole lot of changes to be seen. While the fitness gadget now comes in two colors and offers said stair counting abilities, it looks identical. The software hasn’t changed either, which is ok in my book. The build quality seems to have improved as well. I’ve had this one on my hip for over a month and it looks like it just came out of the box.
They’ve also put some effort into improving their iPhone app, which was nonexistent when I picked up the first one. It offers an overview of your days stats, but oddly historical data seems to be missing. It also offers a convenient way to enter the meals you eat each day. Unfortunately, the meal tracking features of the website, and subsequently the mobile app, leave a bit to be desired.
One of the more interesting things that the company offers, and I am anxious to try, is a premiumservice. Among a laundry list of boring-but-useful features, a few stand out. A “personal trainer” lets you set a weight goal with associated daily calorie burning goals, and veiw them as a weekly overview. The most interesting of the features allows you to visualize how you stack up in steps, stairs and sleep quality among your peers. While these features do sound appealing, the $50 a year price tag does not.
In early January Fitbit announced that it would be expanding it’s product line to include an internet connected scale named the Aria that uploads all the data it can grab about your weight, bmi and fat to the online service. It’s competing head to head with the Withings body scale that offers a similar service, minus the digital pedometer. While the Fitbit tracks your activity throughout the day, the Aria monitors changes in your physical self. It seems the two will complement one another quiet well, offering users of both a complete snapshot of their body at a given time. This kind of data could probably give someone like myself the tools and motivation needed to make positive lifestyle changes.
If you’re a fitnessy person, or someone who likes to see random metrics about your day-to-day life plotted out online (me), I’d recommend dropping the $99 on the little guy and seeing where it takes you. If you are fortunate enough to know someone who already has one, you’re ahead of the curve. I can’t say that wearing a Fitbit has made me a healthier person, but it’s definitely given me some motivation to continue working out, and hopefully surpassing some people in the process.