FitBit Flex

Jawbone UP is out, and the Fitbit Flex is in (affiliate link). After wearing the Jawbone band for about two weeks, I liked the data. I didn’t like the physical band, and I also wanted wireless syncing. The Fitbit flex has both.

Like the Jawbone, the Fitbit is an impactful tool. When I wear it I’m more conscious of my sleeping, walking, and exercise habits.

Wireless syncing: One of the greatest things about the Fitbit is the wireless syncing via Bluetooth 4.0. The band syncs wirelessly with Macs and PCs with the included USB dongle, and with iPhones and some Android phones (see the Fitbit website and click on “Does Flex sync with your phone” to double check) without any additional hardware.

and the on-band lights that indicate progress. Each light represents 20% to goal, so it’s easy to see with just a tap on the band how the day’s going. Idle alert is one of the missing features from the Fitbit that the Jawbone has, and I miss it. Fortunately, I don’t miss it as much as I thought because the lights on the Fitbit are similar. Instead of a passive reminder, this is an active alert: I have to tap the band to view the progress, and then see how I’m doing for the day. Active is better here. Passive works. Definitely an advantage of the Jawbone, but not a reason to choose it over the Fitbit.

Sleep tracking: Like the Jawbone, the Fitbit tracks sleep, and shows time asleep, time restless, and time awake. The data seems realistic. Both bands require an active step to turn on “sleep-mode,” and I forget too often. I remember most of the time at first with the Jawbone, then started to fall asleep without making the change. Overall it’s nice to see sleep data from the previous night or over the course of a few weeks.

Silent alarm: The Fitbit will wakes me up with a vibrating alarm at a set time. It’s quite effective. The Jawbone “smart alarm” was one feature I was really excited about, and thought I would miss. I don’t miss it. In fact, I prefer the basic silent alarm on the Fitbit. If the smart alarm worked, if it woke me up in a light sleep state in a certain range and I was able to wake up more easily in the morning feeling better, I would do it every day. It didn’t work for me, and the uncertainty of wake-up time actually made me a bit anxious. I hope the smart alarm technology improves in the future. For now, basic is better.

Social: I joined up with a few friends who already have Fitbit devices, and like the social aspect of the band. Friends can have any Fitbit device, so it works with people using the more traditional clip-on Fitbit devices. I didn’t cover the social component of the Jawbone because I didn’t have any friends using it, and never set it up.

Additional info

Price: The Fitbit Flex sells for $99.95 on the Fitbit store and on Amazon. Note that Amazon has the Flex backordered, though you can buy it from another sell (still with Amazon Prime) for a premium (currently listed at $144.99). The band is available in slate or black, with additional colored bands available for sale (unlike the Jawbone, the Fitbit Flex is actually a small plastic computer that fits into a wrist band).

Battery: The battery lasts for around 5–6 days, and charging is easy with any USB port or AC charger. The band comes with a USB cord that connects the Fitbit to power to charge.

Fit: The Fitbit comes with two variable-fit bands, so it will fit comfortably on a large range of wrist sizes and placement choices on a wrist. The soft silicon material is really comfortable to wear for long periods of time, doesn’t interfere with typing, and doesn’t seem to inflict pain on other people (the Jawbone has some pointy corners that can be tricky when going in for a hug or more).

Buying advice
Consider the band if you love data, and want more of it in your life — and will use it to improve your life. Consider the Jawbone band for slightly nicer style, and to try the smart alarm. If you have trouble waking up in the morning, and the smart alarm works well for you, that’s a winner. I would skip the Nike Fuel Band (doesn’t track sleep), unless you’re looking for more limited tracking focused on fitness. Full comparison between the Jawbone and Fitbit coming soon. I recommend buying the Flex from Amazon (this is an affiliate link), though I don’t think getting it right away is worth paying more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The price will likely be these same, based on inventory, and returns are easy (returning an UP band to Jawbone was more difficult than any Amazon return I’ve ever done — I wish I had purchased the UP band from Amazon instead of directly from Jawbone, though Jawbone does have a 60 day trial period).