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A week with the Fitbit Flex

I’ve tried a number of wearable electronic devices out over the last few years. You’d think that after having gone through no fewer than seven Jawbone UP 1.0 devices, I’d give it a break, but no — I’m still on the prowl for the right device for me (or anyone for that matter). About a week or so ago I got my Fitbit Flex, a superpedometer in a wristband that tracks movement, sleep, and other things. It’s only been a few days, I know, but I already have some thoughts.

First, the device isn’t very visually pleasing. It’s boring, it’s black, and it’s already got a scuff or two. The LED lights don’t do all that much and it doesn’t jive well with a watch. (Why don’t they build this stuff into a watch, anyway?) The UP has the sex appeal covered, and let’s not even talk about the Larklife, which one friend — and I have reason to trust his word on this — called a “house arrest monitor.”

The web app isn’t great. When Fitbit came out for the first time, I was wowed by screenshots of the UI and the capabilities of the software. Not anymore. Fitbit was founded in 2007, and it shows. Again, I was extremely impressed with the UP 2.0 app and how far it had come from the 1.0 version (which was, admittedly, rather poor).

Connectivity is a bummer. Lately I have been getting interested in IFTTT, a neat triggering service that executes web actions when certain requirements are met. You can’t use the Fitbit with this service (although, again, you can use the UP)!

Entering food is awful. Practically no database I’ve encountered gets this right yet. I tried to enter a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the other day. What comes up? Restaurant PB&J sandwiches that are surely much less healthier than the whole wheat ones I am eating on a day to day basis. (Either that or I need to cut way down on the peanut butter.)

The real deal breaker, though, is that my Flex doesn’t seem to be working right. No matter how long it stays plugged in to charge, it only shows two (out of five) charge progress dots. In other words, it isn’t fully charging. This means I’ll be returning it to Fitbit after a few more days playing around with it.

You might wonder why I am being so picky about these devices. Here’s why. By buying into a wearable electronic item, you are consenting to wear that device, ideally, 24 hours per day. There are lots of things about me physically that aren’t perfect and that I’ll never get to change. A wristband, though, is easily taken off. This means that if it’s not perfect, I’m not going to wear it, and you’d better believe it.

(This article was also cross-posted to my personal blog.)

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I'm a cognitive psychologist. I write about behavioral science, technology, local business, and baseball. All views are my own.

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