Are you looking for that extra motivation to get in shape during the summer months? Wearable fitness tracking devices have become all the rage the past couple of years and for good reason. These devices make working out fun and can even give working out the feel of a game. A wearable device can give you the motivation you need to get off of the couch and back into shape this summer.
While I struggle to get off of the couch to work out normally, knowing I am just half a mile from my workout distance record that I set on a previous day or knowing that one of my friends, who I am competing with via our trackable devices, just passed me in the number of steps taken that day is enough to get me out the door when I normally wouldn’t have bothered.
The market right now, however, is flooded with so many options that it can be difficult to find the right device that offers the right features and that also falls within your budget.
Enter the Fitbit Flex. The Fitbit Flex is a feature packed wearable tracking device that rivals anything currently out on the market in features, while not breaking the bank at its modest $99.99 price. The Flex may be the perfect device to provide the motivation you need to help you take control of your fitness this summer.
The Fitbit Flex Band
At a quick glance, you would be forgiven for mistaking the Fitbit Flex for a Livestrong bracelet. The Fitbit Flex is a very thin and comfortable wristband that houses a plastic “Tracker” device in the slightly thicker portion of the band on top of your wrist. Unlike other fitness devices that have to be purchased at certain sizes, the Fitbit Flex band is size adjustable as it features a clasp that can hook into any of the precut slits on the band. In fact, the Fitbit Flex actually ships with two different sized bands right in the case. This will allow the Flex to fit anyone from a small child to a very large adult right out of the box.
The tracking device that slips into the band has 5 lights that illuminate to show you your progress towards your daily goal. The lights line up with a clear plastic “window” of the wristband so that you can see your progress on the tracker while it is housed within the wristband. Tapping the tracker twice while it is in the band causes the lights to illuminate. The more lights that light up, the closer you are to your goal.
The tracking device has a vibrate function that notifies you when you have met your goal, when the device switches modes, or that can function as a silent alarm to wake you up in the morning.
The Fitbit Flex is designed to be worn all day and night and is even waterproof so that it can be worn in the shower. In my testing, I found the device to be very comfortable and often forgot that I had it on.
Packed With Features
Tracking Calories, Steps, and Distance Travelled
Using special built in motion sensors, the Fitbit Flex automatically tracks the calories you burn, the steps you take, and the distance you travel each day as you wear the device. In my testing, I found the number of steps and estimated distances reported by the device to be extremely accurate.
Using Google Maps, I found the distance from my house to a nearby park to be about 1.5 miles. I walked to the park and back and was happy to find that my Fitbit Flex reported that I had travelled almost exactly 3 miles.
When you set up the device, you enter your personal information such as your height and weight. This information helps the device to more accurately predict your stride length and the amount of calories you burn for various degrees of exercise. You can even measure and set up your exact stride length if you are interested in extreme accuracy. I did not take this additional step and found the device to still be very accurate in most cases.
Sleep and Diet Tracking
While I knew that I would find value in the tracking of my physical exercise, I was surprised at how helpful the sleep and diet tracking functions of the device were for me.
Right before going to sleep, tapping on the display of the Fitbit Flex five times will cause it to vibrate and enter into “Sleep Mode”. This mode tracks the time you are restless and awake vs. still and sleeping.
I was surprise how often the device found that I was restless and awake on some nights. I quickly realized that when I stayed up too late (a personal bad habit of mine) that the quality of my sleep was much poorer than when I got to bed at a decent hour. Thought I probably could have told you this without the use of the Fitbit Flex, I didn’t realize till I tracked my sleep just how little quality rest I got when going to bed too late. The device only logged a few hours of quality rest one night even though I still had about 7 hours of time in bed. This realization quickly helped me to realize the importance of squashing this poor habit of mine if I wanted to be more awake and feel healthier.
I never have been someone with the patience to track my diet, but the Fitbit Flex changed that for me as well. The Fitbit Flex online “Dashboard” that comes with your account and the free iPhone app that can be downloaded, make it extremely easy to enter all the food you have been eating. A simple search for almost any type of food brings up results that can be quickly clicked on and added to your daily intake. While perfect matches weren’t always available for everything I ate, I usually could find a similar item that was close enough to give me a decent calorie count.
Tracking the amount of calories I burned vs. the amount I took in quickly became an addiction for me. I often found myself running an extra half mile to off set the treat I ate or feeling good about myself because I burned 400 more calories than I took in during a certain day. You are even able to set up weight loss goals that recommend the amount of calories you can eat each day based on the amount of exercise you are doing in order to reach your weight goal by the date that you set. I really felt in control of my weight gain and loss like never before when I was able to track my exercise and intake with this much preciseness.
Competing with Friends
For me, competing with friends and relatives is the biggest plus of wearable fitness. I am a competitive person and love the idea that I can add anyone with a Fitbit product as a friend and compete against them in daily and weekly competitions to see who can take the most steps or travel the furthest distance. My wife and I had fun competing against one another in steps taken, and this, alone, was a big motivator in getting me up and moving. I would highly recommend to anyone who purchases the Fitbit Flex to encourage at least one family member or friend to get a device as well. The competition is a huge motivator and is a great way to make getting in shape fun.
With the included Wireless USB dongle, the Fitbit Flex automatically syncs with your computer whenever your band is within 20 feet of the dongle. The Fitbit Flex also automatically syncs over bluetooth with the iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 as well as a handful of other popular smartphones.
This feature is one of the main features that ultimately sold me on the Fitbit Flex over some of the other available options on the market. Most other devices such as the Jawbone Up (plugging the Up into the headphone jack of your smartphone) or Nike Fuelband (manually holding down buttons and opening an app to sync) involve you having to remember to manually sync your device in order to save your latest results or make comparisons to past days.
The Fitbit Flex uses a low power bluetooth connection to sync with your iPhone periodically throughout the day. I did not notice any additional battery drain on my phone when this feature was turned on all day. I loved flipping on my iPhone and instantly being able to see my latest progress, goals, and scores of my friends without having to sync or jump through any hoops to get there.
The Silent Alarm
One other feature of the Fitbit Flex that I was pleasantly surprised by was the vibrating silent alarm. Alarms can be set using the iPhone app or online Dashboard and these alarms will cause the Fitbit Flex band to vibrate at the preset times. I often have to get up before my wife to go to work, and this vibrating alarm is able to wake me up without waking my wife. I could also set alarms for times during the day I did not want to forget to do something, and my wrist was able to be silently vibrated at these set times – helping me to remember to pick something up or make a phone call at a certain time.
The Online Dashboard and iOS App
Both the online dashboard available with your Fitbit account and free iPhone app are extremely easy to use and make it very easy to track your progress. You can easily set goals for distance travelled, calories burned, minutes of intense exercise, and calories. You are able to pick one of these goals to be your “main” daily goal that is tracked using the illuminating lights on your wristband.
Everything from entering food into your daily intake, to tracking the progress of your friends, to keeping track of your daily progress towards all your goals can easily be done via both the iPhone app and online dashboard. While the online dashboard does give slightly more detailed information about past days and your progress towards goals, someone could use the Fitbit Flex solely with an iPhone and never have to use a computer at all.
Shortcomings of the Fitbit Flex
All fitness trackers have their strengths and weaknesses. In the above paragraphs I mentioned all the pluses of the Fitbit Flex. This device does have a few shortcomings, but nothing that severely hindered my enjoyment with the device.
The Inability to Get Exact Feedback from the Wristband
As a former owner of a Nike Fuelband, this is the one area that sometimes had me wishing for my Fuelband. The Nike Fuelband has a built in LED screen that is capable of showing the user their exact progress in specific numbers right on the device. The Fitbit Flex only has 5 lights that are capable of giving the user just a rough estimate of their progress towards their goal. It is nice, while running or exercising, to just be able to glance at your wrist and see your exact progress without having to remove your smartphone from your pocket. While the Fitbit Flex, with its five lights, gives a decent estimate of where you are in relation to your goal, I often found myself wondering if I was one mile away from my goal or two. Was I about to reach the end or did I have to exercise another half hour yet? Yet, some feedback on the wristband is preferable to none at all such as is the case on devices such as the Jawbone Up.
However, the fact that the Fitbit Flex automatically syncs with the iPhone offsets much of this advantage of the exact feedback on the Nike Fuelband. A quick pause to pull out my iPhone and check my automatically synced progress helped me to see where I was in relationship to my goal. While the need to pull our your smartphone is a slight annoyance, it also saves you a good chunk of change on the cost of the fitness device vs. something like the Fuelband that costs a great deal more and the lack of a fancier screen gives your wristband a couple of days more of battery life. I found myself only needing to recharge the Fitbit Flex about once a week rather than about every 5 days as needed with the Nike Fuelband.
The Fitbit Flex is a bit of a hassle to charge. The small tracking device needs to be removed from the wristband every time you wish to charge. It can be a bit tricky to slide the tracker in and out of the wristband. Also, charging requires a special USB dongle that comes included in the package. I missed the convenience of the Nike Fuelband which had a USB input built directly into the clasp of the band. The Fuelband could be plugged directly into a computer without any additional cables or dongles. Again, this slight annoyance is offset by the nice price break you get with the Fitbit Flex vs. the Nike Fuelband and by the additional couple of days you get on a charge with the Fitbit Flex vs. the Fuelband.
Additional Cost of Premium Features
I was a bit disappointed when I found out that some advanced tracking and stat features were locked behind a paywall on the Fitbit website. While most of the stats, goals, and features I really care about are all free to track and use, a $49.95 yearly fee must be paid in order to use premium features such as comparing yourself vs. the entire Fitbit community or for a more specific breakdown and analysis of your exercise and diet. Again, none of these premium features were things I really was looking for when purchasing the device, but having to pay an additional fee on top of the purchase price to get some of these cool sounding features left me just a little bit bummed.
Vedict - The Best Fitness Tracking Value on the Market
With its long list of features and modest price when compared to many of the other options on the market, the Fitbit Flex easily comes out on top as the best value for wearable fitness tracking devices on the market right now if you prefer the wristband form factor. If you are looking for a fun way to get yourself into shape this summer without breaking the bank, look no further than the Fitbit Flex.