Quite of few of the people I follow on Twitter have recently been asking about Fitbit Flex, and since I’ve just got one through work, and had it a week, I thought I’d post up some initial findings.
A few caveats to start with though – I’m no pedometer specialist. In fact, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t own one if this inter-department competition at work wasn’t happening. But it is, and I am. The only thing I’ve got in comparison to the FitBit Flex is something called the Fitlinxx Pebble, which doesn’t seem to be particularly mainstream – it appears to be an offering by a company who supply IT solutions to gyms – and I assume that it might be an add-on to gym memberships rather than something for purchase on the high-street. (The reason I’ve used the Pebble is because originally work were going with that solution for the competition, but then things changed, and we’re now with FitBit).
FitBit Flex – What Do I Get?
From memory, out the box you get:
- The FitBix tracking device (About 2-3 cms in length, see picture below comparing size to an iPod Shuffle cable).
- Two wristbands (small and large). I’ve got very small wrists and I’m on the last clasp of the large band. The tracking part slots easily into the wristband.
- A USB charger cable to charge the FitBit tracker
- A USB ‘syncing’ device that you put into your Computer to wirelessly upload your step data
Easy to Set-up?
Very simple. You get guided through it. In fact, there are no instructions in the box that the Flex comes with – just a web address to go to. You can also install apps on various phones that allow you to sync that way as well, and see basic step data on your phone.
The Online Dashboard
So you’ve got the Flex charged, now where to see your data. Head over to FitBit.com and log in (the option to automatically log in exists so you don’t need to every time).
The site gives detailed breakdown of information on various aspects. See the screenshots below:
I’m sure there are other things you can see, but this is out-the-box from the best of my knowledge – I’ve certainly not changed anything. (Note – normally there are different colours to indicate progress towards daily targets – targets that you can configure (I altered the default of 10,000 steps per day to 18,000 for example) – this is towards the end of the day, and I’ve just got back from a 12 miles run – hence the green everywhere!)
The sleep widget is an interesting one, but I’ll come back to that.
Omitted from the screenshot is a leaderboard of your friends on FitBit. It shows the average steps over the past 7 days – a good thing in that someone can’t get so far ahead that its demotivating. This ensures continuous activity and competition. You can also message, taunt and encourage people from here.
The Phone Dashboard
The phone in comparison is quite limited, but very good in other ways. It’ll show you your numbers as above, but is also able to do this in real-time, so you can see your step count go up as you walk about. You can also see the friend leaderboard.
The FitBit Flex Itself
You don’t really notice you have it on. The main attraction for me in opting for this model, rather than perhaps more typical clip-on pedometers is not needing to remember to take-it-off, put it on, switch it between shoes / trainers. I don’t wear charity rubber wristbands, but I suspect that’s the closest comparison I could make.
I charged the battery last week and its still going strong (to the best of my knowledge!). I believe the blurb stated the battery would need to be charged every 5 days or so.
The other functionality it has is if you tap the device twice it shows 5 lights, each representing 20% of your daily step target – so if you’re not near your phone or computer you can get an indication of how you’re getting along.
If you tap the device multiple times quickly it enters sleep/activity mode.
Sleep / Activity Mode
This is the bit that has impressed me. Just before going to sleep I tap the device multiple times to enter Sleep/Activity mode. It seems to work out how long it takes me to fall asleep, how often I wake, and how often I’m restless. I’ve not gone into these figures in any great detail, but think I will when I get a bit more time. To end sleep mode, when I wake, I tap the device multiple times. If you forget, there is a way to backwards set it on the website.
Activity mode works in the same way. Before heading off for a run, I tap the device multiple times and it records the start time – and then tap multiple times and it records the end time. When visiting the website you then get a really detailed view of the ‘activity’ – see screenshot below:
I’m not that fussed by this, in that I run / swim / cycle with a Garmin that gives more data for me to look it, but its nice all the same.
Other FitBit Stuff
On the dashboard online you can also start doing a food tracker. I’ve not used it as I’m already signed up to MyFitnessPal. You can however link MyFitnessPal and FitBit – and the calories to use in MyFitnessPal suddenly becomes much more accurate. I’ve been impressed by this.
There also seems to be quite an activity community – with groups for various challenges. I’ve not explored these (since we’ve got the group through work) but may do in the future. If I was a lone user, this I suspect would be where most inspiration would come from.
Is It Accurate?
As said before, I’m no pedometer expert. But comparing the Pebble (a traditional pedometer worn on trainers) and the Flex, they don’t appear to be a million miles apart. The Flex does appear to be marginally higher though and I would imagine this is due to it being worn on the wrist – and hence getting some false positives throughout the day.
When it comes to running though, both seem to match. Both the Pebble and Flex appear to give about 1 step count per metre – so a 5k comes out pretty much on 5,000 steps. Indeed the 12 mile run I did earlier comes out at 19.3km, and the Flex gave me 20,700 steps. The distance is off slightly with Flex giving 18.9km, but that’s pretty impressive considering it doesn’t have a GPS. I’m not sure if you can calibrate it though, its not something I’ve investigated.
The pebble however could be used for swimming, and worked fairly well. I’ve seen mixed reports for the Flex and swimming and as such I’m not risking wearing mine in the water (I believe its stated it shouldn’t be worn for swimming – its fine in the shower though!). As for cycling, it seems to pick up the cycling rotation (I put the device bit in my sock). I’ve only briefly tested this – cycling has taken a back seat in my training at the moment. (The other downside of cycling and pedometers is its just a cadence monitor effectively – if you’re cycling at 90rpm, you’ll get 5,400 steps per hour, regardless of gear, hills and speed…)
Will it make a difference to my life? Probably not, but I suspect I’m not the primary target audience. Its been interesting to see how many steps I take (and especially how few I take when being lazy / on rest days).
The sleep, linking MyFitnessPal and syncing with the phone is impressive though.
With the group / work competition it may also encourage me to go an extra mile on a training run to overtake someone, but without this element I’m not sure what extra commitment I’d get out of it.
All-in-all an impressive bit of kit. I’m not sure how much it retails for (a quick Amazon check suggests £60-£90) – which seems reasonable value for money. It wouldn’t be top of my list though, but that’s probably because I’m not in the market for a pedometer. As far as pedometers go, it does seem to be a fairly complete solution.