The FitBit is tiny, and includes a finely tuned 3D accelerometer that can tell how far you’ve moved in any direction. It’s about the size of your index finger to the second knuckle. The surface is black, and the interior comes in either blue or purple. The whole thing slots into a tiny holster that clips neatly around a belt, or onto the bridge of a bra – it’s designed to be worn everywhere. Well, everywhere except the shower – it isn’t water-resistant.
In fact, it even comes with a wristband so that you can wear it to bed, where it will estimate the length and quality of your sleep.
Before very long, I found that I started feeling awful if I left it behind for even a moment. You see, the FitBit tracks everything. It counts the number of stairs you climb, the distance you’ve travelled, the number of steps you take and the number of calories you burn.
The FitBit displays these stats if you press a button at the top, along with a little flower that grows as you meet your daily goals of steps, stairs and calories.
Everything that your FitBit records is uploaded via a USB dock that you leave connected to a PC. You don’t have to plug the FitBit in: instead, you walk within three metres of the dock and it will transfer the data across to your FitBit account.
On, you can see your daily tallies and view them as weekly and monthly totals.
Similarly, you can record the food you eat. While many Kiwi foods are missing, you can enter your own.
Apparently the FitBit staff check new foods weekly and add them to the database, so Kiwi foods will appear over time.
You can track your weight via your own scales or, as I did, update it automatically using the FitBit Aria (see opposite). Finally, you can add activities – FitBit has a selection of common activities, such as running, swimming, skiing, and so forth – and FitBit will estimate your calories burned based on distance and time.
FitBit allows you to update activities and foods within the website, but you can also download an Android or iPhone app to record these. If you already use another fitness app, it may plug in to FitBit – there’s Nike+ sync, via FitBit Daemon – but it’s likely that it won’t. I had to log my RunKeeper and Garmin data myself.
One important aspect of any fitness activity is its social aspect – often the thing that keeps us going long after other motivation has dried up. The virtual badges you earn using FitBit add to the motivation, and you can track your activities versus those of other friends with FitBit trackers.
You can tweet any of the cute little motivational summaries or badges – for instance, I could tweet that I had climbed the equivalent of the world’s tallest Lego building.
Whether your aim is to support or nudge your friends, the tools are there to assist you. Alternatively, if you're like me, you can change every single privacy setting to ‘just me’ and compete against yourself.
In the end, I found FitBit immensely useful for tracking every little thing I did, and estimating my calorie usage through the day. It’s designed heavily for social fitness, and aims to be a one-stop tracking shop for those who may find other tools too intimidating.
FitBit is one of the few tools that doesn’t care whether or not you do anything above and beyond your daily routine, even while it subtly encourages a little more activity. For that alone, it deserves points.
Lacklands is the New Zealand distributor for FitBit.
This review was first published in the August edition of New Zealand PC World.