Best FitBit Fitness Tracker Review 2016: Which FitBit is Right For You?
The Fitness Tracker industry may still be in it’s infancy, but that hasn’t stopped it’s competitiveness. There are more than a dozen companies vying for that real estate on your wrist and they will sell more than 247 million devices this year. Yet, one of them has already emerged as the acknowledged market leader . . .
In this mega article we you will discover everything you ever wanted to know about the FitBit. You’ll discover why you should prefer the this brand. Then we’ll look in depth at each of its product and provide a thorough review so that you can compare the features and benefits of each model.
What is a FitBit?
A FitBit is an activity tracker. Some of them can be worn on the wrist, while others attach to your belt or sit in your pocket. The wrist trackers look like a wristwatch and, indeed, many brands do display the time. However, the key functions of the device are to record and display measures of the user’s . . .
- Distance traveled in steps
- Calorie consumption
- Heart beat
- Sleep activity
- Steps Climbed
Fitness Trackers are remotely connected to an App which provides for detailed analysis of the collected health and fitness data. There is also social media connectivity, which provides for challenges and competition with friends.
Does FitBit Monitor Heart Rate?
Some of them do, but not all. If you are wanting to monitor your heart rate, you’ll need one of the following :
FitBt is the brainchild of a couple of ordinary guys, James Park and Eric Friedman, who back in 2007, were overwhelmed by the advances in wireless and sensor technology. They were among the first to connect these innovations with the world of health and fitness. As a result, they set about creating a portable product that would transform the way people moved and exercised.
Six months later, the brand was born. The first prototype was shown at “TechCrunch 50” on September 9th, 2008. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive with reviewers impressed by the device’s wearability, price and lack of subscription requirement.
The first device was designed to be clipped onto clothing. It tracked steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, and sleep.In 2011, a new version of the device, the FitBit Ultra was released onto the market. It featured the following extra features . . .
- An altimeter to allow measurement of floors climbed
- A digital clock
- A stopwatch
- Different color options
Powered by a lithium polymer battery, the Ultra was still a clip on device. The shape of the tracker had to narrowing towards the top, which proved to create problems with the plastic shell. The attachment process created tension which caused cracking of the plastic at this weak end of the device.
New versions of the brand over the next couple of years brought such advances as better digital display, a wireless sync dongle and Bluetooth 4 technology with the FitBit One. The FitBit Zip, which is a mini tracker, incorporated the first disposable battery on an activity tracker.
Its first wrist worn activity tracker appeared in 2013; the FitBit Flex. The Flex remains the most water resistant of all the FitBit trackers.
The brand has introduced new products to its range every few months over the last several years. Scroll down to read more about each version.
The newest member of the family is the new Fitbit Blaze in 2016.
Is FitBit the Best Fitness Tracker?
There are a number of very high quality fitness tracker companies in the marketplace including Garmin, Jawbone, Misfit. So, what is it that makes FitBit stand out?
The brand was the original Fitness Tracker innovators. Since 2007, they have remained the leaders in tracker innovation. They were the first to introduce automatic wireless synchronization, the first to provide an open API, the most advanced GPS sensor, the lightest and most stylish devices. FitBit trackers also have the longest battery life of any devices in the market.
In a recent survey that focused on inaccuracies among popular fitness trackers, its products had the lowest inaccuracy rates of any brands tested.
They also allow for advanced social connectivity. You are able to easily plug into your social media support group for the support and encouragement that can make all the difference.
FitBit fitness trackers are easy to wear and they look minimalistically stylish on your wrist. The apps that support the FitBit are solid, reliable and feature packed. In addition, they offer price points that will cater to every need.
With all of these factors in mind, it is our humble opinion that, yes, indeed, these devices provide the best quality, style and price of fitness tracker devices on the market today.
FitBit Fitness Tracker Reviews 2016
The Surge is the most premium offering in this brand's portfolio. It’s been called a super watch or a super fitness tracker. The design is quite beefy in terms of its size, which make it look more like a watch than any other trackers in the range. However it does have fitness friendly qualities such as a textured rubber strap which is available in different colors and sizes. The strap is adjustable and is pretty comfortable.
The touch sensitive display is effective. However it only has a monochrome screen with backlighting. It is still very visible outdoors, though. Buttons are on the side of the unit. A single button on the left allows you to scroll through the various modes. On the right, there are two buttons which allow you to perform specific functions with the interface.
On the underside of the unit you have the heart rate sensor and the proprietary charging port. The heart rate monitor is always on, meaning that your heart rate is constantly being monitored. This is great when you’re exercising, as you’ll probably want to know what your heart rate is consistently. However, it does tend to churn through the battery power.
The interface is pretty straight forward. You simply swipe through the displays with your finger. The functions available are time, date, steps taken, heart rate, floors climbed, distance covered, and calories burned. When you push the left button, you can access the fitness modes. This allows you to select different types of exercises, including specific variants of an exercise. For example, from running you could do free running, treadmill running, or lap running. You can also select such options as weight lifting, elliptical training or spinning. This will allow you to gear the heart rate sensor toward those specific exercises.
It’s good that you can access all of the information that is collected directly on the unit. However, you only have access to the current day’s results, not the previous days. The Smartwatch functionality of the Surge is pretty light. You can get text message notifications but there is no access to weather information, or the ability to make calls.
The companion app allows for an in-depth analysis of your data. The Surge has built-in GPS. This means that you can actually track, and see on a map, your route when you’re running. In addition, the heart rate sensor will measure your resting heart over a period of time. This can provide you with some interesting analysis by way of graphs on the app.
For a stand alone fitness tracker it does a great job. It’s great for working out, it will constantly measure your heart rate, it has a very good battery and it also has automatic sleep mode. Just don’t expect it to replace your Smart Watch.
The FitBit Flex has a simple and minimalistic design. At its core is a rubberised band. However, the heart of the unit is the small module inside of the band. This device is easily removable and is about the size of a small USB stick. Inside this device are all the components that run the FitBit Flex.
The Flex has 5 LED lights on the front, an internal battery, and a proprietary charging port on one end. The Flex will measure your steps taken , calories burned, distance traveled and even your sleep quality.
The battery life of the Flex is about 7 days, with the device taking 1-2 hours to charge. To charge the Flex you have to plug it into a proprietary charger. There is no button to push with this device. Rather, you tap the screen below the LED display to move between functions.
The Flex gathers all of the necessary data. To view it, it is synced to your computer or mobile app.
The FitBit Flex is water resistant, rather than water proof. That means that it will be ok in the rain or occasionally in the shower. However, you wouldn’t want to go swimming with the Flex on your wrist.
FitBit Flex PROS
- Very easy snap on, snap off. No inconveniently loosening a strap, and no Velcro that gets dirty over time.
- The screen on the Flex uses a 5-dot system to show you how many steps you have. Though it’s very simple, it’s effective and you get a pretty good idea of how many you have.
- The small screen may seem annoying to some people, but I think it’s worth it for the small space.
- When walking, the step count is fairly accurate. It’s not always 1 for 1, but it’s close.
- The app is very easy to use.
- You can set a silent alarm, which will vibrate at a certain time to wake you up. Is it effective? Depends on the person. It usually wakes me right up, but it may not wake up very heavy sleepers.
- You can get it to monitor your sleep, which is very neat. It shows you when in the night you were awake and how well you slept.
- The app sends you achievement messages of day-records or how far you’ve walked since you first started using the device.
The One is a small, compact device that comes in a silicone case. The unit is about the size of a USB stick. It’s design is sleek and stylish. It comes with a USB dongle that allows you to charge the tracker in your computer.
The device also comes with a velcro band to allow you to wear the tracker on your wrist. This allows you to wear it at night in order to track your sleep. The tracker also comes with a small black receiver which you plug into a USB port on your computer. This acts as a receiver to allow you to sync the data from the tracker to your computer.
The One will display the times, steps taken, the floors climbed, the distance traveled and calories consumed. This unit is easy to use and compact. It can easily fit into your pocket. Your data can be accessed through various means, including an app which you can download to your iPhone. It connects with your computer via Bluetooth. It also connects with the MyFitnessPal app.
As well as recording your data, the FitBit One gives some impressive analysis. For example, it will analyse when you are most active during the day. It will then present the information in chart or graph form to give a visual representation of your physical day.
The One holds a good battery charge. The sleep tracker, which you operate by wearing the device inside of the arm band sleeve at night, will tell you how many times you woke during the night, and will assess the quality of your sleep.
Overall, the FitBit One is highly functional compact fitness tracker that offers a full range of capability at a very competitive price point.
The Zip is a clip-on as opposed to a wrist worn activity tracker. The package comes with the actual FitBit Zip device, a clip-on carry case, and a small black receiver, similar to the FitBit One. This is to sync the device to your computer.
The Zip has Bluetooth functionality to allow you to connect it to your SmartPhone. You simply tap the device once the app is open to synchronize between the tracker and SmartPhone.
The device will tell you how many steps you have walked, how many miles you have covered, the number of active minutes, and how many calories you have burned.
The battery should last about six months. However, it is not a rechargeable battery and you will have to purchase a new one when the current one runs dies.
The Blaze is an activity tracker, sleep tracker, heart rate monitor, fitness watch, Smart watch, and fashion accessory all in one. The Blaze is extremely lightweight and comfortable. It looks very stylish on the wrist. You can style the unit even more by purchasing separate watch bands - leather, and metal bands are available.
The Blaze comes in small, large or extra large and in three colors (black, chrome, blue). The band is made from a very soft, textured silicone material. It provides a good balance between looking good and working well while working out.
The actual fitness module is detachable from the wrist band housing. The detachability allows you to upgrade to the leather or metal bands. It also allows you to place the unit in a charger that comes with the package. The battery life on the Blaze is around five days, but this clearly depends on how often you use it.
The display of the Blaze is very impressive. It is extremely clear, uses great colors and the touch screen is responsive. The unit has an in-built ambient light sensor which automatically adjusts the display’s brightness.
The Blaze is also fitted with a gyroscope. This means that if you flip your tracker to reference the watch, the display immediately turns on so you can see the time. This saves battery life.
The FitBit Blaze is not water proof. This means that you should not submerge it or swim with it. It is just rated for sweat, and light water exposure.
If you turn the watch over, you’ll find an optical wrist based heart rate sensor. This works well for traditional cardio exercise like running and cycling and has improved its accuracy with plyometric and high intensity interval training. However, when it comes to exercises that involve a lot of muscle flexion and contraction, such as weight training, the Blaze will not give you a terribly accurate heart rate report. It will not be as accurate as a heart rate sensor.
The Blaze does not connect with any external heart rate sensors.
The Blaze records your number of steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, active minutes, floors climbed and your heart rate. It also automatically monitors your sleep. All of this information will be synced to your FitBit profile via Bluetooth. You are given a daily goal. This is set to steps by default. However, you can manually change this.
In terms of being a fitness watch, the FitBit Blaze does not have GPS or GLONASS. But it is able to utilize the GPS information from your Smartphone. So, if you go on a run, the Blaze will display the distance, pace and speed information that your watch is collecting. It will work with Android, iOS and Windows phone applications.
The Blaze tracks all sorts of workouts beyond running and cycling. It monitors your treadmill workout, weights sessions, circuit training program, yoga and much more. You can change which sports profiles are loaded onto the device. The Blaze automatically recognizes certain activities such as running and cycling.
There are three pre-loaded Fitstar exercise routines loaded on the Blaze. You get a warm up regimen, a seven minute workout and a ten minute abs circuit. The tracker will monitor all of your fitness details throughout the workout. It will also walk you through each exercise, showing you an avatar of what you should be doing.
The Smart features of the Blaze allow you to see your film notifications, text messages, calls, calendar and reminders - so long as you are within 20-30 feet of your phone. It does not give you email notifications.
You can also control music playback on your Blaze. It works well for both stored and streamed music.
Using the Blaze is a satisfying experience. It will provide you with all of the features you need to keep on top of your workouts, while also integrating with your other technology and looking very stylish while it does it.
The Charge comes in three sizes. You can get it in small, large and extra large. If buying in-store you can actually check your wrist size against the box to find the right size for your wrist. You can get between 7-10 days battery life from the Charge. It takes about two hours to recharge.
The Charge is water resistant. It is not water-proof. This means that water still has a chance of getting inside the mechanism. So, it would pay to take it off before showering.
The band itself is made from a very flexible, durable material that is used in many Smart watches and bands. It has a stainless steel clasp of high quality. The screen is extremely bright and vibrant. That’s because it uses a OLED display.
In terms of syncing the Charge, this is very easy to do. It either syncs to your computer via Bluetooth or your Smartphone. You get seven days of tracking with the device. So, if you don’t sync it within seven days, you will lose the stored data.
The step calculator on the Charge is very good at counting steps when you’re taking the steps. However, the steps calculated when you are doing other things, like driving or sitting at a computer, are not that accurate. To overcome this, you can manually input the type of activity you are doing.
On the display panel of the FitBit Charge you will be able to see the time, the steps you have taken, distance traveled, floors climbed, calories burned and your active minutes (the times you were actually working out). The active minutes feature, however, is not overly accurate, especially if you are doing weight training.
The Charge also has a built-in stop-watch. It also has an automatic sleep tracking feature. With the FitBit Flex you have to tap the unit a number of times to activate the sleep function. You don’t have to do that with the FitBit Charge. It will track when you fall asleep, when you’re restless and when you wake up in the night.
You can set up goals through the FitBit app. These may be to lose weight, build muscle or they may revolve around the activities that you do to get in shape. The app also has a water tracking feature to allow you to stay on top of your H20 consumption. There is also a social media function where you can compete against your social media contacts.
If you are doing a lot of activity, this band may not give you what you need. You will be doing too much activity and not getting the challenge you need. The FitBit Charge is ideal for people who are trying to lose weight or trying to get achieve a basic fitness goal. It will provide you with the motivation and the self awareness to be able to achieve your goals.
The Charge HR is the most popular fitness tracker out there. It is an activity and sleep tracker and all day heart rate monitor. It is designed to do the following two things:
- Catalog your daily activity markers
- Motivate you to do more physical activity
The Charge HR is not fully water-proof, so you can’t swim with it. It is sleek and stylish, coming in a number of color profiles and sizes. It is so comfortable that you may well forget that you are wearing it. It has an efficient monochrome LED display. You can double tap on the face of the unit to illuminate the display. You can also use the wrist turnover feature to illuminate the display.
The Charge HR is very ease to use. It has just one button to control all the functions. Bluetooth is built in to wirelessly and automatically sync your data to your technology. It has iOS, Android and Windows compatibility. It will give you access to your phone calls.
On the underside of the device is a wireless heart rate sensor. This runs 24/ 7, including during your workouts. It’s pretty accurate for aerobic steady state moves like running and cycling. However, it’s not that accurate for dynamic moves such as weightlifting and boxing. To get the most accurate results when exercising, wrist positioning is critical. You should place your band one to two finger widths above your wrist bone. When you aren’t exercising just make sure that it is snug enough on your wrist that the heart rate sensor can make contact with your skin.
The constant running of the heart rate monitor does affect your battery life. You can expect to get 4-5 days charge out of the battery. When you plug it in for recharge, it requires a proprietary cable.
Rather than wearing the FitBit Charge HR all day long, you should take it off for a couple of hours each day to let it, and you wrist, breathe.
The Charge HR tracks steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed, active minutes, sleep and heart rate. The default goal is steps, but this can be changed to focus on any of the other metrics. There are no move reminders on this device. A move reminder is a prompt to get active when you have been doing nothing for too long.
The Charge HR works in conjunction with the FitBit Aria scale. This allows you to track your weight, body mass index, lean mass and body fat percentage. It displays weight statistics and progress trends in easy to read charts and graphs. The statistics are synced wirelessly to your fitness trackers and your FitBit app.
The Alta is a simple device that features an activity and sleep tracker. It is designed to keep health and fitness front and center. It does this by keeping you motivated and on track as it quantifies your life. There is also a big emphasis on style with this device. They want you to be able to wear it in every situation. As a result, this unit is a lot more stylish than many other models out there.
The Alta features a range of Smartphone features in addition to automatically logging your all day steps, calories burned, distance traveled, active minutes, steps climbed and sleep. All of this data is displayed on your wrist as well as on the FitBit app. The Alta also displays the time of day, and the date. It also shows whether you have a silent alarm on. You can actually set a full range of alarms via the mobile app.
There is no button on the Alta. This enhances its sleek design look. However, it also means that, in order to interact with the tracker, you need to tap it in the side. This generally works, but you will find times when you are tapping away and nothing happens. There is also no way to manually record activities on the device.
The Alta does not come with a heart rate monitor. It also is not compatible with any existing heart rates monitors on the market. However, the Alta does come with Smart Track. This allows it to automatically recognize certain activities if you do them for more than ten minutes. This works well on exercises like running and walking. For activities such as cycling and aerobic activity, however, it is not so reliable.
The Alta is a stylish looking fitness tracker. You can even get different bands to make it even more attractive. The band that come a standard issue is a sport watch band. You can purchase metal and leather bands in various color options. It is easy to switch out the bands. However, you will notice a bit of wiggle between the band and the tracker, even when it is fully locked in place. You won’t actually notice this when you are wearing the device, however.
The Aria is a scale that also measures your body fat. It doe this by running an electrical charge through your feet. On the basis of the amount of charge going from foot to foot, it calculates your body fat percentage. To get an accurate reading, you need to be standing on the device in bare feet. This is then compared to your weight and your height, giving you an idea of what your body fat percentage is.
There are two modes for the body fat reading. The first mode is the average person, with the other being for athletes. When you switch between the two, you’ll get a lower body fat percentage when you’re in the athlete mode.
The Aria connects to your wireless network. It will send your readings to the account that you create at the FitBit website. All of the information from your scale is uploaded to the cloud. The information is then redistributed to your other devices, such as your iPhone, iPad and fitness tracker. This syncing process takes place in less than twenty seconds.
All you need to do is to step on the sale to have your weight and body fat percentage displayed. Up to eight people can use the scale, with personal details for each being recorded. When you step on the scale, it can tell who it is based on the weight. If the scale is not sure, you can simply tap the scale with your foot to let it know who is using it.
In terms of graphing your weight fluctuations, the FitBit portal or app, depending on which device you are using to view it, will provide you with detailed graphic information of your changes over time. You can choose between different graphic representations, including raw weight, lean muscle versus body fat and body mass index.
When you first get your FitBit Aria scale, you need to sync it to the FitBit website. You will receive full instructions on how to do this on a hard copy sheet that comes with the device. The sheet does not show you how to set up the Aria on your mobile device, even though that is easier than doing it through the FitBit website.
The surface of the Aria is made out of glass. This is reflective, allowing for smudges and fingerprints to show up. However, when it is clean it looks very elegant. There is a silver ring around the LCD screen. The underside has a neat looking uniform bubble design. There are rubber feet in all four corners. This ensures that the weight scale will remain stable at all times, while evenly distributing the weight as it is measuring it.
The power to the Aria is supplied by four double A batteries.
The Aria is a fantastic complement to any of the FitBit fitness trackers. When used in conjunction with the tracker, it will provide you with a very complete health profile.
The Fit Bit Aria is not cheap. It comes in at more than double the price of many other digital scales on the market.
- Solid Construction
- Sleek design
- Easy and simple set up
- Accurate readings
Which is the Best FitBit to Buy?
The range encompasses all price brackets and user needs that goes from the budget FitBit Zip, right up to the premium Surge.
The budget model FitBit Zip measures your steps, estimates your calories and distance traveled. It’s a little clip on tracker which runs off a button battery.
The FitBit One is about $30 more expensive than the Zip and comes in two different colors. Measuring your steps, calories and distance, it has a clock on it. It will track your sleep if you wear it on your wrist with the fabric wrist band that is supplied with it.
The FitBit Flex is the cheapest wrist band that FitBit produce. It is the same price as the One. It comes in a range of different colors. It doesn’t really have a display. It simply has several different LEDs that show you your progress throughout the day. It doesn’t have a clock, However, it will track your sleep.
The FitBit Charge and the Charge HR look exactly the same. The difference with the Charge HR is that it has a more traditional watch style buckle, whereas the FitBit Charge has a clasp with a plastic popper which holds it in place. Unlike the Charge HR, the Charge doesn’t have a heart rate monitor. In every other respect, however it is the same.
The Fitbit Charge HR is about $20 more than the Charge.
The Alta is the replacement for the Charge. The screen is bigger. It works by tapping as opposed to pushing a button. The Alta costs the same amount as the Charge. A big difference is that it has a changeable strap. This allows you to wear a stylish strap when you’re going out in the evening, and a rubber one when you are going to the gym.
Unlike the Charge, the FitBit Alta does not have an altimeter. This means that it won’t tell you how many flights of stairs you have climbed. However, it will give you call notifications. It will also give you calendar and text message notifications. You do not get these features with the Charge or the Charge HR.
The FitBit Blaze is the first color screen tracker that FitBit have released. It is cheaper than the Surge but doesn’t have a GPS. The tracker has a touch screen, so you can swipe between screens. It will connect to your phone in order to use its GPS. Apart from not having built-in GPS, the Blaze does everything else that the Surge will do. So, as long as you are happy to take your phone with you, you can have the same capability as the FitBit Surge for about $50 less.
The Surge is the brand's flagship tracker. It is being promoted as a super fitness watch rather than a Smart watch. Unlike the Blaze, it doesn’t have a color screen. When you select an activity, the GPS is switched on. This means that the GPS is not constantly on, which saves battery life.
With all of those trackers you get to use the same app. Depending on the device that you’ve got, you’ll get a different number of readouts. Virtually all of the trackers will monitor your sleep. Some will not measure floors climbed because they don’t have an altimeter. They all do active minutes and steps and they all estimate calories burned.
It is likely that before long FitBit will replace the Charge HR with a new Alta HR which will be fitted with a heart rate monitor.
The FitBit App
The Sleep mode is a favorite function of many people. It will tell you how many hours and minutes of sleep you got in the night, how many times you woke up and how long you were restless for. The way that this calculated is that the FitBit App takes the time that you went to bed and woke up. It tells you how long it took you to fall asleep. The minutes that you are awake and restless are subtracted from the time that you are in bed. The bar graph will show you the times you woke up and the times you were restless. You can toggle the bar graph to provide either the asleep view or the awake view.
So, how accurate is FitBit sleep tracking?
Under advanced settings, you’ll see an option called ‘sleep sensitivity’. By clicking it, you’ll find two options:
You may find that sensitive will pick up things that will skew the accuracy of the data, such as your cat walking on you as you sleep! It will pay to have this set to normal.
You are able to manually log your food and water intake as well as your weight. You can either scan your food or manually enter it. If you are on a weight goal, it will also calculate, from your food inputs, how many calories you have available to eat throughout the remainder of the day.
If you choose a weight loss goal, you can enter how much weight you would like to lose. At the bottom of the dashboard, you’ll find challenges. These are little goals that you can set for yourself. You can also send stickers and challenges to friends.
By clicking on the account icon at the bottom of the dashboard you are able to set up your goals. You can choose how much activity, sleep, and calories you wish to consume in a day.
The FitBit app is a very user friendly, basic application that allows you to generate a wealth of information from your fitness tracker. This can provide you with the motivation to reach out and achieve your fitness goals in a healthy, self competitive way.
Are FitBits Worth It?
It depends what you want it for? It you are after a device that will precisely and accurately monitor your heart rate steps and mileage, you will probably be disappointed. Earlier this year, the brand faced a lawsuit by disgruntled buyers who were dismayed to find their heart rate readings were wildly inaccurate. Steps taken will also be off by a percentage.
If, however, you are after a device that will provide you with a baseline from which to build, you’re in luck. The real point of the device is not the accuracy but the motivational factor that you receive when you get your data. Tomorrow you’ll want to do more than you did today, and you’ll be able to monitor your progress toward that accomplishment.
The bottom line is, if you are an internal motivator with a high exercise drive, you probably don’t need the extra motivational boost that such device will give you. But, if you’re among the vast majority who find it hard to build up enthusiasm to exercise, then a FitBit may be just the thing you need to help get you to your fitness goals. Check out this guide to help you find out more.