Review: Fitbit Force

Over the past week I’ve been breaking in my new geek toy: a Fitbit Force.

Much has been written about the notion of the quantified self. The thought is that through analysis of data about one’s life, we can lead a healthier or better life. While I think there is some merit to this, especially if there are health issues such as diabetes, I also think that taken to the extreme there’s the danger of becoming neurotic. I remember the first time I went to the doctor complaining of tinnitus, the doctor laughed me out of the room. Admittedly, he was a NHS doctor during flu season. I didn’t have blood pressure issues and there’s no correlation between ear ringing and mental health so he told me to go out and enjoy the sunshine (to which I replied, “that’s my line, doc”). But I digress.

A Little History

The reason I started getting interested tracking my activity is that my employer bribes encourages us to be healthier. Through their partnership with Virgin Healthmiles Pulse, we can earn up to $150 just for wearing a pedometer and having a modicum of physical activity. In the years since this program started, I’ve had at least 6 of these:

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or their predecessor:

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Washing machines, left in hotels, running over with a car, jumping into a swimming pool, or simply the “misplacement gnome” showing up to hide your stuff. I’ve destroyed these in so many ways. And while the first one was free, each additional one has cost me money. So I’ve been looking for a new option.

Additionally, I’ve been intrigued by friends who have been using Nike’s Fuelband, Jawbone’s Up and the like. These are all great products but what sold me on Fitbit was that Virgin Pulse just started syncing seamlessly with Fitbit’s data! No more plugging in my pedometer with some ancient bluetooth cord (which I have plenty of now, considering all the extra pedometers I’ve bought through the years).

The Good:

Like I said, I love that Fitbit works with my employers incentive program. That’s a big plus. Other reviews have gone into the details of what’s to like (see the bottom of the article) and I concur. The band is wearable, looks decent, and seems rather accurate. In addition to steps, it also tells me how far I’ve walked today, calories burned, number of flights of stairs climbed, high activity minutes (which Virgin Pulse tracks, too!). There’s a way to track your sleep patterns. I’ve been impressed with how short a time it takes me to go to sleep. I thought it was longer.

There’s also a silent alarm–your wrist starts buzzing. Word on the street is that there will be some type of call notification for iPhones soon. And you get the positive feedback of a buzz when you reach your main goal (10,000 steps for me).

Also, the battery life has been great. Though I’ve only had it a bit longer than a week, the battery is still more than 50%

The app on the iPhone is good. You can see all that has been measured. You can also input your food and water intake for the day. There’s a social function but have yet to find friends who are active with a fitbit. You can see all of this data and more on the website.

The Bad: 

Well, I have to say I’m surprised that a rubberized product like the Force is not water proof. I’m not looking to go scuba diving but it would be nice if I didn’t have to worry about taking it off when washing dishes or should I jump into the pool. I can see why it isn’t, though. The interface for charging is open to your skin under the strap. Sell us a plug and let us make it waterproof, please!

Also, fragmentation is an issue. I’ve written earlier about how great it is that Fitbit and Virgin Pulse sync their data. But the rest of my employer’s proactive health program does not. My employer also offers a benefit for subscribing to Weight Watchers, which I joined a few years back and see it a good investment: $85 for being an online member. Who has time for more meetings, right? There’s no way to sync Weight Watchers and Fitbit. Neither the activity data feeds into WW to earn points back and the caloric data of WW doesn’t flow into Fitbit. I understand WW has their puck they’re selling but this seems like a no brainer. I recently took a survey for WW about what they could improve. I was very clear that this kind of syncing is necessary.

Also, the silent alarm is almost a joke. The buzzing is not annoying enough to wake me. Maybe they can change the patterns or intensity.

I’ll write more in a few weeks of use. But I can say that this is good product and a worthwhile upgrade from Virgin’s default pedometer.

Here’s some reviews of the Force:

2 thoughts on “Review: Fitbit Force

  1. It’d be nice if you could turn up (or down) the intensity of the silent alarm. You can do that with the sensitivity of the sleep tracker, it works much better for me in high sensitivity mode. But the silent alarm is enough to get me going.

    My employer also had a “bribe;” we did a summer fitness challenge and people could earn more and more money for walking more, going up more stairs and hills, etc. I did pretty well, enough for a down jacket. I also found that turning it into a contest was fantastic motivation.

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