I’ve been using the Fitbit One for just over two months now, so I think it’s finally time for a review.
My initial reaction when unboxing it was just how tiny the device is. I carry it in that little change pocket that pants have, and very occasionally use the clip if that pocket isn’t available (for example, some kinds of shorts). The marketing material says you can put it anywhere, and it’s probably true, but it just works out to have it near my hip. The carrying clip is a stiff rubber with a metal clip that feels very secure when attached to a belt or pocket edge. Both the material’s grip and it’s tight clamp combined with a ribbed texture on the end make for a fit that’s secure when in place but easy enough to take on and off when you want to. The fit of the One inside the clip is the same way: easy enough to put in and out but I trust it entirely when walking / running / biking. Considering it’s likely going to be bouncing and bobbing around, this is very good.
There’s just one button on the entire thing which is used to cycle through the various stats which include time, steps, flights of stairs climbed, distance, calories burned and a flower that indicates how much activity you’ve recently done, with the idea being you want to keep the flower in bloom across the day (it’ll slowly recede if you’re sedentary). It has a stopwatch, I think, if you hold it but honestly, I’ve never used that since I don’t run with any particular time goal or schedule.
Using your phone, tablet or computer (with the help of a tiny USB dongle) you can Bluetooth from the device to the app / browser and it’ll show you a more comprehensive dashboard of your data. This is where the device really shines and where I as a graph nerd really find it useful. Not only can I quantify my laziness, I can chart it!
You’ll see where I’m not even using the full functionality. I don’t log my food (which is a thing that works fairly well in my limited testing) so my calories in are nil and, to be fair, my calories out aren’t very accurate because I don’t log my bike commute every day either. It captures the motion of my legs still, but it counts the effort as if I were walking / running. I happen to know roughly how many calories extra the biking is worth (since I did log it a few times) and just mentally add it in rough. This brings me to my first gripe: there doesn’t appear to be a way to make an activity repeat. I know I’m going to bike to work using the same route and do it in roughly the same time every day (it seems to calculate calories using the distance you enter and your time doing it, mixed with the altitude data) – I wish I could just say “Monday -> friday, these activities (bike there, bike back) get added. Repeat weekly.” Since I’d have to manually enter every ride I quickly gave up and stopped caring that those numbers were in the official data. It should be noted that adding an activity overwrites the walking data for that time block, so it doesn’t get counted twice. Technically then, I am getting some points for biking.
You’ll also notice that I’ve given up on the sleep tracker. Except for those random, bizarre spikes (which don’t make sense since the device is likely on the bathroom countertop sitting undisturbed) it’s empty. The Fitbit One comes with a very soft wristband with a pocket for the tracker and I did track for the first month or so. It told me what I already knew: I sleep like a rock and with solid patterns for going to bed / waking up. That’s also why I stopped using the alarm clock function, which basically vibrates (very similar to a cellphone) on your wrist until you shut it off. This would be nice, I’m told, for people who sleep with other people. Since I am not one of those people, my waking routine involves significantly more sobbing and existential depression. Speaking of which, the device is water resistant and although never really stress-tested, I can imagine it would be. It’s a small, sealed unit with one small rubber button.
Also ignored: there’s a wireless scale that can sync up to the dashboard via WIFI and provide weight info. I don’t have a regular scale, so I couldn’t even input my weight manually, but it would keep track of that too if you wanted. You can also input water consumption and keep a journal of your mood, heart rate and blood pressure, glucose levels and, as mentioned above, food and non-walking activities. Food is always tricky and I’m not sure how they could have made it any better. There’s a big library of foods and you can add by searching and then telling it how much you had, in basically any measurement you can imagine. It’s pretty intelligent with knowing that one granola bar is different than one cup of granola bar etc. Unfortunately, there’s simply too many things out there. How do you log that sandwich you had at the neighborhood deli? It has sandwiches from, say, Subway or common foods from Safeway, but once you start making your own stuff and buying from non-chain stores the accuracy gets sketchy. Understandable, though. It does it’s best.
Battery life is amazing. It’s a small screen that’s rarely on, so it makes sense, but still. I haven’t really paid attention to when it gets charged, but it’d have to be every fortnight or so. Week and a half at least. The charging cable is USB and the device just clicks into it’s rubber embrace. It makes sense that the charging cable and the Bluetooth dongle are different USB devices, but it also means more clutter to have and plug in and out. The Bluetooth syncing is really cool because you never have to think about it. If you sit down at your computer, it’ll do a little sync and anytime you access your data, it’ll be there and roughly up-to-date. It’s that sort of thing that I appreciate in technology. I never have to think or worry about it, it’s never a chore or annoying. Other than having to charge it every so often, I really could just keep it in my pocket all the time and never think about the device itself again.
So after 71 days of more-or-less accurate testing (you can see in the graph I forgot to wear the tracker a few times) I’ve traveled 509 980 steps, which works out to just over 7 000 per day. You’re recommended to walk 10 000, which is alarming. I’m a fairly active person, I walk a fair bit and bike commute 30km a day. I’m usually at my desk, true, but I would have guessed I was higher. Summer’s just getting started, so I imagine hiking will bring up my average some. It’s good to know these things, and it’s a motivation to do more, but it’s equally disappointing to learn just how bad you are.
Verdict: It’s $100. I’d buy it again, easy. It’s robust and well designed in both hard and software. Does what it promises and without complaint, which makes for a boring review but is exactly why you should buy something. It’s invisible design. I might look into the new bracelet version that just came out but from what I’ve seen it’s basically the same thing with a coloured rubber band. The ability to wear the One without drawing attention to it could be useful, perhaps.