In Review: Fitbit

A few months ago, I made the decision to invest in a FitBit and start tracking my daily walking habits. I knew for a long time that I wasn’t getting enough walking done in a day….I just needed to have it confirmed with tangible evidence. I’m a hard numbers guy so I needed proof! I’ve been wanting to do a review for this thing for a while and I feel like I’ve experienced this little gadget enough to have a say in it. So…without further delay, here’s Fitbit in review!

The Pros:

The first thing that struck me was the size. While I was expecting something small and portable, I think the ladies and gents at @fitbit got the size and shape of this thing SPOT ON! It clips, it hangs, it snaps, it does everything you would want a “clothing accessory” to do. And I say clothing accessory because that’s really what it has become to me. I snap it on the inside of my pants’ front pocket on the daily! Additionally, the materials used in manufacture feel solid and high quality. No crappy, plasticky, insta-shatter issues here.

The screen, which can be accessed by pressing the single button available on the FitBit, gives plenty of at-a-glance information to the end user, from number of steps accumulated in your day (shown above), to daily mileage walked, calories burned, flights of stairs climbed, your local time, and a “flower-power” type image that gives you an idea of how “fit-minded” you behaved that day. The images are simple and to the point, and they are pretty to look at. Having one button ensures that there is no confusion on how this thing operates!

In the box, you get a USB cable and a simple dock that you can connect your Fitbit for recharging and syncing purposes. The dock HAS to be connected to a computer for your Fitbit to sync and charge. No wall charger. They say the battery can last up to 5 days, which is MORE than enough for my uses (I generally plug it in every 2 days for syncing and battery recharging). The real power of this little gadget comes with the online analytics tools that the FitBit provides. All things trackable (steps, distance, stairs, calories, even SLEEP) are displayed in graphic format for your analysis. You can look at data by day, week, month and YTD; all in an easy-to-use, beautiful-looking format.

Thought the step tracking was cool? How about sleep tracking? While I’m still not quite sure how accurate something like the FitBit can be (as someone put it, it measures what it THINKS is sleep), any extra piece of information is good information in my opinion. And yes, the picture below describes a LOOOONG night in graduate school…you can thank SDSU for that one :).

Throughout my experiences with the FitBit in the last few months, I have noticed my activity level go up (I’m starting to choose stairs over elevators just so I can add to my # of floors climbed), and I’ve slowly gotten to a point where putting on the FitBit is just like putting on my watch, or grabbing my wallet from the table. I’ll have to admit that the first few days were hard! I had to walk back to the apartment many-a-times to pick up the little investment after walking out the door in a rush! For those of you skeptics, or if you think you may have a hard time implementing this into your daily life….trust me…its easy! If I could do it, so can you.

The Cons

Well, the first big con that comes to mind is THE PRICE. While I don’t regret the purchase, and I’d probably do it again if I had to, I may have adopted this earlier if the price were just a tad lower. At a $99 price tag, it’s hard to defend a device that is simply an evolution of the good old pedometer. If they can get the manufacturing price down, or get some government subsidy (yeah right), I think this cool piece of tech could get into the hands of a LOT more people needing data to drive their behavior change. And yes, there is research being done with the FitBit (locally in San Diego)!

Secondly, there are still wires involved. Need to sync? You have to plug in a USB before anything happens. For people with laptops (such as myself), it gets awkward with tangled wires, the base, then the fitbit. If you had a desktop, it might not be an issue. At $99, I would expect some sort of Bluetooth connectivity with Smartphones (ie. update locally on smartphone via BT, then smartphone can connect to server and update your stats online).

While the little messages that the FitBit writes to me when I pick it up are cute, they really aren’t helpful in motivating me to walk more, run more, climb more stairs, eat less, sleep better etc. Since none of my friends from Facebook are using this, I also can’t “compete” with them. A better incentive system needs to be implemented. Maybe I’m seeing this thing for more than it is (I see behavior change agent, while right now it’s only behavior analysis). Proof of that is that I have yet to fulfill the default weekly # of steps (70,000). Yes…I feel bad for it!

Conclusion

All in all, and considering the other options available on the market, I have to say that the FitBit is a great option for quantified self newbies, health junkies and fitness freaks alike. It’s a great “gateway drug” to living a more active life and who knows, maybe one day FitBit will implement some interventions among its user base (hey FitBit…if you need some help on that, I’m graduating next year ;)). If you’re looking to quantify and increase your daily activity, this is a good product to investigate.

Up for next time’s review….the Nike+ Fuelband. The lovely people at Mobile Health 2012 & Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab were gracious enough to lend me one of their testers to try out for a week before the MH2012 conference! I’ll let you know my thoughts in the coming weeks.

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