Fitness tracker (Fitbit, etc.) whose Bluetooth/wifi can be turned off?
January 4, 2014 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Personal electronic devices with active wireless / bluetooth are not allowed in my workplace, so I'm looking for a fitness tracker whose Bluetooth / wireless can be turned off during the day. I have looked at the manuals for various products - FitBit (Flex/Force/One), Nike FuelBand; Misfit Shine; etc. - but I haven't found the answer yet. Does anyone know whether this is possible for any of the various devices out there today? I'm happy to do the work of manually syncing the device on my own (for instance, via USB) if that's what's called for.
posted by ninotchka to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Fitbit flex can't be turned off. If you don't want it to sync with your phone, you have to turn BT off on the phone. I assume that's insufficient for your needs?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:44 AM on January 4, 2014

Ah, that's interesting. You're right, that's not quite sufficient. I'm looking for something (a) whose wifi/Bluetooth can be turned off but (b) that can still function (track activity) while wifi/Bluetooth are off.
posted by ninotchka at 5:47 AM on January 4, 2014

The jawbone Up Gets good reviews and does not have wireless (you plug it into your headphone socket to sync). They are just launching a new one with Bluetooth, so you may be able to get the current model cheap soon.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:49 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have the Jawbone Up. I bought it because I didn't want BT running all day on my phone draining my battery. Plugging it in once in the morning and once at night is a breeze.
posted by rutabega at 6:00 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

BT in the FitBit is a relatively new feature. If you get one of the older models (maybe off eBay) you'll be fine.

(Same issue where I used to work.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:35 AM on January 4, 2014

I wish I could help you, but I think you may not have many, or any options.

Both Fuelbands are out, as there's no way to turn off its Bluetooth.

I'm pretty sure all Fitbits are out... even the oldest, original Fitbit from 2011 synced via active wifi, and you can't turn it off.

I did some digging around for you on the Basis watch and the Withings Pulse and I'm pretty sure they would not be workable for you either.

There is only one device out there I know of, and as luck would have it, it is one I can't recommend. The first and second generation Jawbone UP devices, which came out in 2011 and 2012, would work for you. The UP24 is their newest version that is not workable for you.

The new ones today have active Bluetooth that can't be turned off, but the old versions both synced only by being plugged into an iOS device.

There were definitely documented build quality issues with these things. Jawbone took the 2011 device off the market because it had so many issues. This is anecdotal, and you may have a better experience, but three of my coworkers bought the 2012 version, and all dealt with software and electronics defects, so all three had their devices brick really quickly (within months).

But, you may have a better experience! Remember, you have to be an iPhone or iPad user, or it is a useless device that can't sync with anything.

You can buy it here on Amazon, though that link just goes to the medium band- be sure to measure your wrist and see if you need the large or small one instead.

Do check out other reviews before you buy- professional reviewers said decent things about it, but caveat emptor as lots of Amazon reviewers seem to have had the same issues my coworkers did.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:23 AM on January 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

The older FitBit could connect via wifi but only with the dock plugged into a USB port on your computer. No dock, no connection. Not sure if that meets your needs, but it might explain why some above say it does and some say it doesn't.
posted by cecic at 7:36 AM on January 4, 2014

Since you're using this item for its accelerometer features, you can wrap it in aluminum foil and it'll go radio-quiet, but the internal accelerometer won't know, won't care. It would be really cheap to experiment with this at home; just be sure to check that it's recording while wrapped before go on a jog or do other exercise you definitely want to capture.

Just to respond to some of the talk above, the new bluetooth used by Jawbone Up is bluetooth 4.0 in low-power mode. Looks like fitbit, the latest models at least, are also BT4.0. Most the these devices couldn't power themselves using bluetooth 3 or earlier; as small as they are, I'm inclined to assume they're all 4.0 devices. It's really a low power draw; I've got a Pebble (watch) and my phone sends notifications to it via BT4.0 throughout the day. I've noticed no increased loss of battery since I got the watch, and I never had BT on prior to that. Additionally, Pebble (USD$150) has an accelerometer and can be used with some fitness apps, and its Bluetooth radio can be disabled.

P.S. Jawbone with bluetooth is compatible with Android phones that are like-equipped with BT4.0. Here is a list of Jawbone-compatible devices, and all of these phones will be compatible (software not withstanding) with Fitbit, Pebble, et al.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:23 AM on January 4, 2014

Moves App is a free tracker for iPhone & Android that works really well and doesn't require a separate device, so no Bluetooth or wifi required.
posted by judith at 8:37 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a Fuelband SE, and I can definitely turn Bluetooth on and off. Hold down the button until it cycles from START to the battery level to the Bluetooth icon. Then release and press the button to turn it on and off. I verifies that my phone no longer sees the Fuelband when Bluetooth is off, but it's still tracking activity.
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:47 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for correcting me, AaRdVarK, I had no idea you could do this with Fuelband SE. That's what I own and use too, so it sounds like this would work for OP!

I've really enjoyed both of my Fuelbands, though they are only compatible with iPhone, not Android. If you have an Android phone, you might as well turn the bluetooth off permanently, and just sync your data to Nike each evening by plugging in via USB to your computer as you charge up. Actually, this would probably work great for OP. And the great thing about Fuelband is how visual its display is, so you can still track your progress clearly throughout the day, and then just plug in to sync and view the details at night when you charge it.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:53 AM on January 4, 2014

I've had the first Up & it lasted a short while, went crazy, was replaced with another first gen. Lasted a long time, had a second gen that lasted until last summer (sold for parts). I've upgraded to 24/7 but the next 2nd gen I got is still going strong.
posted by tilde at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I and my family of 4 adults all love our second gen Ups. Myself and my father each had one brick; one quick call to the support center for each of us resulted in a new Up being sent to our home quickly. No issues with the replacement Up. My brother uses his with Android, so I don't think you need iOS.

I chose the Up because I liked it's app interface much better than the fitbit, FWIW.
posted by samthemander at 10:42 AM on January 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

My Fitbit Ultra doesn't have Bluetooth. I think you'd be safe with one of those. And they're cheap, too.
posted by bink at 3:45 PM on January 4, 2014

I love my Jawbone Up. I bought it recently because I didn't want the device to be talking to my iPhone all day. I sync it twice a day without problems. It's more stylish than its competitors and it tracks my steps and sleep in a satisfactory way.
posted by seawallrunner at 4:07 AM on January 5, 2014

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