Fitbit snowflake: which one will work for me?
March 29, 2014 2:08 PM   Subscribe

It's that time of year again when the REI dividend is in the air, and I am thinking about a Fitbit (though if a Jawbone is really what I want, persuade me). Criteria that are making this difficult inside.

* I have an Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy Mega running 4.2.2. It has NFC, WiFi, Bluetooth capabilities, maybe more things that I don't understand.
* I will be walking/jogging on trails and treadmills, and cycling in the gym and on my bike. Do they recognize biking? While biking, can I wear the strap around my ankle? (I have skinny ankles.)
* I'm very good at not losing/breaking things.
* I don't particularly want to have to deal with a third-party app like Map My Run or whatever. Ideally it would be the Fitbit device and my phone.
* I like the sleep-tracking/alarms/snooze idea quite a lot.

That's all I can think of at the moment! Thanks.
posted by fiercecupcake to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Um. So, as for phone compatibility, I'm pretty sure the Fitbit requires Bluetooth 4.0 in order to sync with your device. I had (until recently) a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and that doesn't have Bluetooth 4.0, so it wouldn't work. I had to settle on syncing it with my desktop computer (it comes with a little USB dongle for this).

As for your phone - the specs list that it is Bluetooth 4 capable, but on the Fitbit "supported devices" site, it only lists these Samsung phones: Samsung Galaxy S3, S3 Mini, S4, S4 Mini, S4 Active, Note II, III, 10.1.

Some Google-fu on this subject reveals conflicting evidence as to compatibility. I wish I could tell you. I think there's a chance.

I am a big biker, so this was an issue for me too. It just kind of measures motion, so, my thing is that it... kind of.. measured biking? It would register some activity when I would bike. I think it was mostly how much my hands/wrists/arms were moving along with the rhythm of the bike. It definitely generated activity on the Fitbit, but I can't say that it was in any way accurate.

I thought about putting it on my ankle, too, but there was no way that was going to happen. If you get the Fitbit Flex, it comes with two different bands - a large and a small - and I'm a big guy - 6'4", 200 pounds - and there was no way, even with the large band, that it was going around my ankle. Like not even a little. Ankles are big, I guess.

None of the Fitbit products have GPS, so if you want to map your run or bike or whatever, you have to pair it with another app (like Strava or Map my Run) that works with the GPS in your phone, and then use that in addition to the Fitbit step tracking.

The sleep tracking was kind of cool for awhile.

Now my Fitbit sits in a drawer and I never use it. After a month or two it was just kind of like, "Eh."

I'm a pretty active guy anyway, so it wasn't really motivating me, and it was just kind of a hassle to keep it charged all the time, and I don't know.


I hope that helps.
posted by kbanas at 2:25 PM on March 29, 2014

* I have an Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy Mega running 4.2.2. It has NFC, WiFi, Bluetooth capabilities, maybe more things that I don't understand.

Support for Bluetooth 4.0 is spotty on Android devices — which is required to sync with a Fitbit — so first check that your phone has Bluetooth 4.0 hardware (and a version of Android that supports that hardware) if you want the Fitbit to sync with it.

* I will be walking/jogging on trails and treadmills, and cycling in the gym and on my bike. Do they recognize biking? While biking, can I wear the strap around my ankle? (I have skinny ankles.)

Fitbit doesn't recommend using it on your ankle. Probably due to accuracy problems.

* I'm very good at not losing/breaking things.

That's good, because the USB charger is proprietary and if you lose that, you're stuck once the battery dies.

* I don't particularly want to have to deal with a third-party app like Map My Run or whatever. Ideally it would be the Fitbit device and my phone.

There's a Fitbit user website, which you should be able to access on either desktop or mobile devices. If you use the phone sync, there's a phone app, as well.

* I like the sleep-tracking/alarms/snooze idea quite a lot.

Alarms will drain the battery. I got about four days per charge, but that went down about a day once I enabled silent alarms. YMMV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2014

I have the Fitbit Flex, and it just won't sync with my Galaxy S2. I wouldn't hope for an unlisted device to be compatible. I sync the Flex to my computer.
posted by studioaudience at 2:40 PM on March 29, 2014

Unlike BP, I get about 5 days out of my fitbit until I recharge. I have two silent alarms per day.
posted by studioaudience at 2:43 PM on March 29, 2014

You can manually enter activities that aren't captured by a pedometer (biking, skating, swimming) in the Fitbit app on your phone.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:16 PM on March 29, 2014

Best answer: I had an original Fitbit, and used it for nearly three years until it just started to fall apart. I recently replaced it with a Fitbit Flex, and I'm very happy with it. I can't speak to your syncing questions because I have a Galaxy S3 and it syncs just fine.

When I ride my bike I take it off my wrist and stick it in my pocket, either a front pocket or cargo pocket, as available. It won't register any steps when I bike with it on my wrist.

I do find that if I am deeply asleep the silent vibrating alarm alone will not wake me.

I try to make a habit of sticking it in the charger whenever I take a shower, so the battery never really runs down.

The most important thing for my regular use, however, has been having some friends who also have fitbits, and then getting into a friendly competition with them to see who can get more steps.
posted by ambrosia at 3:17 PM on March 29, 2014

I got a Fitbit One about a month ago. I chose the clip-on over the bracelets and I haven't lost it yet! I clip it to my bra. Not sure where I would put it if I were a dude.

I like the sleep-tracking feature quite a bit so far. It's not perfect but it detects motion and I've noticed a huge difference between, for example, nights I'd had coffee after 4pm and nights I hadn't. (Obviously you don't need a Fitbit to tell you this, but having the data is interesting and has made me more conscious of sleep hygiene.)

The silent alarm is nice. The sleep wristband for the One is comfortable enough. I seem to be marginally less pissed off and confused when I wake up to my wrist vibrating instead of an alarm clock. I'm a heavy-ish sleeper and it has never not woken me up.

I agree that having friends with the device is motivating and makes it more fun.

I can go at least 3 or 4 days without charging it. I only use 1 silent alarm per day.

The device does seem to count extra steps. I read somewhere that the One counts fewer extra steps than the bracelets (which is what persuaded me to get it over the Force or Flex — also the skin rashes) but it counts steps in my sleep and while I'm driving. I think it might even count floors while I am driving. So that's not great, but it seems to count only a few hundred extra steps each day.

Yeah, no GPS. I actually like it this way because I don't want the thing to follow me everywhere I go, but I do like mapping my runs. So I use Runkeeper and am satisfied with it but I understand not wanting to have all the cumbersome fitness apps on your phone. I have an iPhone so I can't speak to the Android Fitbit app, but on iOS it's pretty nifty.
posted by perryfugue at 4:42 PM on March 29, 2014

Not much to add, but I have a Fitbit One as well and it's great. I've convinced several of my friends to get one too; apparently I'm very enthusiastic about it!

I don't do runs so I have no need for anything to map or do GPS.

I have no alarms set on it and rarely check the screen, and I get 8+ days of battery life consistently.

I clip it to my pants pocket for general walking around. I clip it to the front of my shirt collar when playing sports or skiing, so I don't land on it. It's never fallen off or even come loose, even on thin athletic clothing.

Sleep tracking is neat but not terribly meaningful for me personally.

I can't comment on the syncing, as I have mine sync to my PC via the included you-can't-be-serious-how-can-it-be-that-small USB dongle.

One thing that you mentioned was "snooze"; the alarms (on the One, at least) don't have snooze. There's only one button on the device, and when you hit it, the alarm goes off and that's it.

Good luck!
posted by Dilligas at 5:26 PM on March 29, 2014

> I like the sleep-tracking/alarms/snooze idea quite a lo

I have a Fitbit Flex and like it, but I don't think the sleep tracking is any good. I've always thought of myself as being a fine sleeper, but according to my Flex I'm getting about 20 minutes of sleep a night (no matter what setting I use).
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:53 AM on March 30, 2014

As a sidenote, if you have driving that is getting detected as walking/steps, you can do a sort of hack to get rid of them: log an activity for that period and choose "Driving (sitting) light truck or automobile" ... it will wipe out the extra steps. At least, it did for my Fitbit Ultra, which unfortunately met a bad end in a car door a few days ago. RIP.

The One is unfortunately not compatible with all the accessories from the Ultra, which is too bad. But it is water-resistant, which was a huge problem with the old model.

When I bike with my Fitbit, I clip it either to the bottom of my cycling shorts or to the pocket of the shorts (if they're MTB shorts that have pockets). It will record each movement of my leg as a "step" which ends up being hilariously off in measuring distance on a bike -- on a road bike each pedal revolution is a lot more distance than you'd cover in one step -- but I figure is at least roughly comparable.

The Fitbit really excels at capturing "casual" physical activity, and getting you to increase that by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting up and walking around more often, maybe doing some reading on a treadmill if you have one available rather than sitting down. It's not as good for tracking workouts as a GPS watch and Strava or MapMyRun, but those are really aimed at solving a different problem.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:30 PM on March 30, 2014

I had a Fitbit One and now a Flex. I have a GS3, and it syncs fine.

I love the sleep tracking! It seems pretty accurate for me. Really, it doesn't take long to get used to having the bracelet on all night (and all day). I have been lax in exercising for the last month, but am starting up again this week. It's nice to see your activity all laid out for you (especially those "very active minutes").

Their customer support is great. They just replaced my almost one year old Flex because it wasn't getting a full charge anymore.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:48 AM on April 1, 2014

Response by poster: After trying several crappy pedometers I just bought a Zip and it synced effortlessly. So: for future reference, the Fitbit Zip works with the Samsung Galaxy Mega.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:54 PM on April 5, 2014

Response by poster: And thinking about it further, if anyone else is wavering because of the possible incompatibility, just buy one and return it if it doesn't work. That would have saved me a bunch of trouble!
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:12 PM on April 10, 2014

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