Fitbit review

The wife and I got Fitbit One trackers and started tracking our activity levels. Essentially the Fitbit One is just a small battery powered device that you attach to your person to monitor your activity and sleep. No GPS tracking, no heart rate monitoring, just an accelerometer attached to a microprocessor powered by a lithium battery running embedded software.

Bottom line up front, it works. It will track number of steps and how well you sleep and the software will track those metrics so if you have specific fitness goals you can monitor how well you are doing. I haven’t used any of the nutrition or calorie tracking features of the software, but maybe in the future.

The software is “cloud based” so you access your data through a web browser, this makes it possible to compare your stats with the stats of other people also using Fitbit devices. This also means that the Fitbit database is filled with the potentially valuable marketing data for thousands upon thousands of people who may begin to experience higher levels of directed marketing advertisements for fitness products at some point in the future. It also means that the data you generate really isn’t your own, but for a device designed to sync with a computer or smartphone, a cloud based solution means that you do have access to your records whenever you have a device with web browsing capabilities and an internet connection and you don’t lose your history with a device crash. So while I don’t always cloud solutions from a big data security perspective, it is sensible and even desirable from a user experience perspective and the value of your activity level isn’t yet tied to some insurance company tracking compliance on your fitness (although I expect that it will come to that at some point).

Things I’ve learned, a 2.5 mile run won’t give me the recommended 10,000 steps despite being a 2.5 mile run. Things my wife has learned,the place where you wear the Fitbit on your body affects how accurately it tracks movement, if she keeps the Fitbit clipped to her sports bra the tracking is less accurate than when it is clipped into her waistband, by about 5 to 10% more accurate in terms of mileage calculated.

Battery life is good, with about 40% discharge over the course of a normal week. I like to “shallow cycle” devices with lithium batteries to maximize battery life, so it’s simple to plug it in for a few hours once a week.

The downsides, the Fitbit One isn’t a watch style, so you can’t just set it on your wrist and forget about it (when changing from workout clothes to normal clothes it’s easy to forget to transfer the device if you aren’t mindful). No wireless recharging so you do have to remember to plug it in periodically. The cost isn’t insignificant, around 75 dollars at any store that will price match Amazon, but still much less than other fitness devices with the same ease of use and quality. No heart rate monitoring might be a deal breaker for some, especially since you can get a Suunto Smart Sensor for only a little bit more.

Conclusion, the Fitbit One isn’t the right device for athletes seeking to maximize their performance. The Fitbit One is a good device for normal people looking to decrease their body mass index and get into better shape through doing more walking/running and staying active daily. The data privacy concerns are not going to go away, and this is true of ANY fitness tracking device (Fitbit tracking data has been used in at least two court cases that I am aware of).

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