Fitbit Flex

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Based on recent news from CES it seems like 2014 could well be the year of the fitness gadgets. Gadgets, in their many guises and forms have been around for a long time, I still remember my first Polar heart rate monitor, or Garmin GPS device for example, but the new breed seem to be making the crossover from just tracking our exercise to tracking our lives. The new Sony proposes to do just that, along with the life log software, monitoring everything from sleep and physical activity to time spent doing things such as making phone calls, checking Facebook etc. While some may find that extremely intrusive, I’m sure there will be just as many, if not more, who welcome such detailed analysis of their daily lives.

Loving gadgets and fitness, I have had many fitness related gadgets in the past, usually when they are still relatively new to the market, so it was a rarity this time to wait before dipping my toes into the market of fitness bands. Deemed as fashion accessories as much as their practical use, there are already several different options out there with relatively similar functionality. I eventually opted for the Fitbit Flex a try, one of a range of trackers currently available from Fitbit. Others include the Jawbone Up and the Nike+ Fuelband SE. 

From taking delivery of the band, charging and setting up were extremely easy. Charging is achieved by placing the sensor in a cradle which is then charged via USB, as most devices nowadays. The LED indicator on the sensor keeps you informed of the charging process, and the device seemed to charge quite quickly. The sync software is installed via a second USB dongle, which is used purely to communicate with the sensor. Once charged, the sensor itself is housed in a band, and the Flex comes with 2 bands of differing lengths to cater for a variety of wrist sizes. The sensor simply slips into the casing and it’s good to go. Another plus here is that you can also order a variety of different colour bands to hold your tracker, after all you’ll be wearing it all the time.

The sync process is also very simple. Once the software is installed, open the app, make sure your band is close by, and hit sync. The data is then uploaded to the Fitbit website. As with pretty much every fitness app/tracker/website you are required to set up a profile, which then allows a variety of social interaction options with friends as well as the tracking side of things itself. The website also allows you to track other data not directly associated or derived from the band, such as weight, body fat, measurements, heart rate zones, blood pressure, other activities, food & water consumption and a journal. There is also the option for one custom tracker too. Overall the dashboard and trackers are very easy to use and input custom data, as well as having a nice visual appearance.

comparisonFitbit also offer the option to update to a Premium account, which includes a selection of more advanced options, such as personalised training, extra activity & food reports, and most importantly the opportunity to export the data, ideal for a geek like me who likes to bring all my data together in one place.

The band itself is both comfortable and robust, and after a while you will forget you’re even wearing it, which I’m not sure is a good thing or bad thing given it is designed to encourage people to be more active. Tapping the band will display your current progress, which is broken down into 20% increments of your total daily target via 5 leds. On its own the band will track your movement in steps, distance traveled and estimated calories burned. Once the daily target is reached, the band will vibrate and light up to let you know you have reached your goal. The band can then also be used to monitor your sleep patterns. Entering the sleep mode is also straightforward, a couple of quick successive taps and the machine will drift into sleep mode, indicated by a change in the display when tapping. The Flex can track your sleep, although I have found this to be more of a motion sensor than direct sleep sensor, assuming the first period you lie still as that of your falling asleep, but it is good to look at your deeper periods of sleep and see the restless periods.  The band also features an option to set a silent alarm which can wake you up without disturbing anyone else.

Screenshot_2014-01-10-21-33-01When the tracker is low on power, you will receive an email to your registered email account, which is a usual feature. The Fitbit can also sync directly with several phones, using the Fitbit app, and more are being added all the time. The app also allows you to view your progress from the last time you synced to your computer, if the sync option is not yet available on your handheld device. Food and water consumption can also be tracked, while clicking on any of the dashboard stats opens a more detailed historical notice.

It would be helpful to have a pause option, to be used for example when you are travelling in a vehicle. You can put the device in sleep mode and then delete the sleep activity from the dashboard later though. An altimeter to track stairs climbed, like some of the pricier trackers, would also be a welcome addition. On the plus side, the battery life is excellent, and the potential to sync with Smartphones over NFC and Bluetooth is also a big plus. Overall, as with any fitness device, it is easy the potential to improve and add further functionality, but as an entry level fitness tracker the Fitbit Flex does everything expected of it, and is probably the most competitively priced.

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Author: siepod

Massive technology geek Former runner looking to rediscover two working knees Ex Personal trainer currently looking to escape self imposed fitness exile Manchester City season ticket holder until 1998 & again from 2002 to present Atlético Madrid season ticket holder 1999-2001 & still follow from afar Love creative writing, and former journalist for Opta Soccer, Planetfootball & Sky Sports Former games tester, researcher and designer for Gremlin Interactive, Infogrames & Dinamic Multimedia

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