Getting fit, bit by bit: hands-on with the FitBit One

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This week Core Group, the official Apple distributor in South Africa, expanded the lineup of iPhone-compatible accessories it brings into the country with the FitBit.

Fitness and wellness expert Lisa Raleigh was on hand, explaining that this device – and indeed, others like it – are responsible for a new era of digital wellness. Using a simple sensor, we can now track how much walking or running we’ve done in a day. Fitbit’s accelerometers are also accurate enough to tell when you’re climbing stairs, and the device can average out everything to give a total distance walked.

Wellness, Raleigh said, starts with good sleep. And that’s another thing the FitBit can track. Strap it on while you sleep, and it’ll time your snooze, as well as keep track of when you’re restless and awake. Establishing good sleeping patterns between midnight and 2am will lead to better rest, and helps weight loss.

The FitBit One, which we were given to review, is a cute little digital pebble. Out of its silicon holster it’s about the size of a Bluetooth earpiece, without, you know, the part that goes into your ear. A single button controls its display, where you can cycle through steps taken, distance walked, calories burnt, and so on.

Unlike the FitBit Flex, which is worn on the wrist, the One is designed to be kept in a pocket. For this inconvenience you do get the advantage of a device with a display, and the aforementioned silicon holster allows it to be clipped onto your clothing. It does mean that you’ll have to be quite proactive about remembering to take it with you every morning, though.

Seen here with its clip-on holder and the mandatory USB dongle.
Seen here with its clip-on holder and the mandatory USB dongle.

If you wanted, you could also use the sleep wristband all the time. It’s designed to be comfortably worn while sleeping, with a pocket for the FitBit to be kept in. It works well, but its use as an everyday solution for wearing the FitBit is hampered by it not being waterproof. The FitBit itself is hardened against the elements and perspiration, but the fabric sleeping band won’t stand up well to constant use. The Flex wristband, on the other hand, can even be worn in the shower.

In either case you’ll eventually have to take the devices out of their usual spots to be charged up. The FitBit One we have is still running strong on its out-of-the-box charge. According to the documentation the battery – charged using a supplied USB cable – is good for between 5 and 7 days on a full charge.

Finally, there’s the case of all that data. Since it tracks your movement all day long, you’ll eventually want to use the knowledge to improve your lifestyle. That’s where the FitBit apps and web dashboard come in. The device syncs wirelessly with your phone (via Bluetooth) or PC, using the supplied Bluetooth dongle. Strangely, it won’t use the built-in Bluetooth functionality on a computer…

Apps are available for both iOS and Android, and if you don’t have a smartphone then the web dashboard will offer the same functionality. Using a smartphone will also let you get other apps that have built-in support for FitBit, including one that warns you when its battery is running low.

Analysing the data that the FitBit collects should, ostensibly, help you lead a healthier life. This is obviously not a magical cure-all if you feel you’re unfit and need to do something about it. Rather, it’s something that will greatly help you if you have a fitness goal. If anything, the R1 299 asking price might be enough motivation to not let one of these go to waste.

We’ll be reviewing the FitBit one over the next few weeks to determine whether it’s effective at helping keep to fitness goals. At the very least, sleep patterns will have to improve because at last count, according to the One, this author’s bed is a battlefield at night.



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