Fitbit is the pedometer of the future…and the future is now. Obligatory sad story: The Fitbit Ultra was one of my favorite product reviews to date, one day my memorable relationship with the Ultra came to an end when it was unwillingly donated to the dry cleaner. Here I am less than a year later reviewing the FitBit Zip, the more affordable brother that features a new design, iPhone and iPad Syncing, a water-resistant design, and a battery capable of lasting 6 months.
Fitbit is a device, a web service, and an app for recording, organizing, monitoring, and improving your activity and overall health. It encourages you and turns exercising and practicing healthy habits into a game of sorts. It’s essentially a souped up pedometer complemented by some really nice software. There’s now a few different versions of the device itself. All are tiny and clip to your clothes. In real-time you can monitor your steps, mileage, calories burned, and overall activity meter.
The Fitbit Zip is a newly designed addition to the Fitbit family. Instead of the traditional rectangular shape, it’s pebble shaped and comes with a removable silicone/metal clip. Inside of the device is an accelerometer that logs steps and distance more accurately than a traditional pedometer. There’s no more button on Fitbit Zip, instead touching the dime-sized display toggles between steps, distance, calories burned, clock, and wellness meter.
Fitbit no longer needs to be charged every few days, rather it takes a watch battery that can last six months. It’s not backlit but features an always-on LCD display that matches the color of the device. One of the best upgrades to the Zip is its ability to sync directly with an iOS or Android device over Bluetooth. With previous models you had to go home if you wanted to sync. This used to be frustrating at 12:01am if you wanted to review your day’s activity. It’s also compatible with Mac and Windows.
The syncing process is a almost a non-existent process, it requires no effort after the additional setup. The Fitbit Zip is even one if the few devices to make use of (Smart) Bluetooth 4.0, which automatically pairs the device to your phone from the Fitbit app. iPhone 5 we didn’t even have to go to the Bluetooth settings menu.
There’s only a couple features that the Fitbit Zip is missing. The FitBit Ultra, and the soon-to-be Fitbit one, have an altitude meter that calculates floors climbed. They also come with arm bands that help Fitbit monitor sleep.
The initial pairing process requires you to install software on your computer and setup Fitbit, after that everything is web or app based. Though the mobile app sticks to the basics, there’s still a lot of capability including meal, water, and weight logging, social networking integration, and also the ability to view your activity history. When you open the app it will automatically pair with the Fitbit and almost instantaneously syncs the Zip and uploads your activity. Online, there are a lot more options and a much larger dashboard. All of the metrics are very visual, so you can view your daily/weekly/monthly progress in charts and graphs. On the side you’ll see all of your badges and achievements. If you want to take advantage of everything Fitbit has to offer you can also log everything from your activities to your heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose.
For tracking steps, Fitbit is pretty spot on. Of course everyone’s favorite way to greet Fitbit is by putting it to the test, one step (or fake step) at a time. It’s not easily fooled. It even seems to be impervious to restless leg syndrome. Dancing would count as steps, as it should. The distance meter is a rough estimate. After a 3.6 mile run, FitBit only logged 3.2 miles. Even though it knows my weight and height, it might be miscalculating my strides while running. Either way, the metrics are relative, you can set a 5 Mile/Day Goal for yourself this month and a 6 Mile goal for next month. Apparently FitBit users average 43% more steps each day and it’s not surprising; it’s hard to not feel guilty about hitting the default goal of 10,000 steps per day (and 70,000 steps per week). You soon realize it doesn’t take a lot to hit 10k steps, and it can easily be exceeded if you have a bit of time or change up your commuting habits. While I don’t like to publicize my activity to the social networking world, I still have fun earning badges and setting new achievements with Fitbit. There’s a leaderboard that can stack your steps against your friends much like FourSquare does with weekly check-in points.
We were pretty impressed with Fitbit’s ability to play nice with other apps. Aside from the Facebook integration, Fitbit has an entire portal of compatible apps where you can either import data into the Fitbit dashboard, or export Fitbit data into 3rd party apps.
FitBit is a fun and potentially eye-opening method of improving your daily activity and thus improving your overall health. Even if you fancy yourself a fitness buff, it’s a fun and insightful gauge to calculate how your daily bathroom breaks and photocopy visits translate into distance walked. Most people haven’t a clue how much they walk in a given day: a mile? 5 miles? Once you do figure it out, you can aim to exceed it and announce it to the world. At just $59.95, the FitBit Zip is an amazing addition to the lineup. It doesn’t take long at all for the purchase to be completely justified. The FitBit Zip is available in five colors: Blue, Magenta, White, Charcoal, and Lime. It’s currently available from FitBit.com or Amazon.com.
The Good: Small, 6-Month battery life, great clip, wireless syncing with Android/iOS/PC/Mac, smart Bluetooth 4.0, mobile App, compatible with 3rd party apps, affordable, and great at encouraging healthy habits.
The Bad: Not Backlit, touch isn’t as effective as button, no altitude meter, no sleep gauge and mileage is off.