A Week with Fitbit

After some hesitation, I reconfirmed my Fitbit order the end of December.  Fitbit is a high-tech step counter.  It utilizes wireless Ant+ technology to sync its data to your desktop where it is automatically uploaded to the free Fitbit web site, fitbit.com.  This small black device clips to your clothing or the included wristband for sleeping.  Yes.  Sleeping.  The device has a record function that allows you place start and stop markers in your step data that delineate specific activities - sleep being one special activity.  The Fitbit site is able to show how restful your sleep was based on how much you moved around during the night.  The device has a single button that allows you to toggle through all information on its clever OLED display.  I say clever, because when the display is not active it is invisible - its just a black surface.  That single button is also used to mark activities, by holding it down for two seconds.

Basically, this little thing is meant to be with you most of the time - monitoring your activity or lack of thereof.  The free web site allows you to track your activity stats, manually enter other activities, track your weight and record the food/calories you've consumed during the day.  After a week of use, I can say it works as advertised.. for me.  Here is a screenshot of my dashboard on fitbit.com:

The site is very clean and easy to use.  I particularly like the food tracking UI.  It is missing some of the goal setting features of other sites.  But the biggest missing feature in my opinion is a comprehensive database of exercises and the ability to set activity stats like heart rate, calories burned, etc.  Because of this and the limited goal setting options, I cannot recommend it to the hard core fitness junky or those seriously looking to lose weight.  For those people, I still have to point them to http://dailyburn.com (paid) or http://thedailyplate.com.  The Dailyburn helped me lose 30 lbs last year!  

From the community forums and my own experiences it is clear that kinks are still being worked out in the device and the web site.  None of these kinks have been show stoppers for me.  The biggest issue I had was with the Mac driver software - it interferes with my Garmin Ant stick I use to sync my Forerunner 50 data.  Neither device would work while both were plugged in.  I now sync my Garmin device using my laptop and have left the Fitbit base on my desktop computer.  In the forums, others have reported Mac kernel panics and other stability issues.  I've had none of that running Snow Leopard.  The device itself seems pretty stable.  Occasionally it will stop updating its step count on the screen, but if I cycle the activity mode on it, it seems to start updating the display again.  Others in the forums have reported that it totally freezes on them forcing them to hit the reset button.  I have not experienced that problem either.  Firmware updates are supposedly in the works.  

I see a lot of potential in what the Fitbit is doing.  Becoming more aware my level of activity and caloric intake was the key to my losing weight.  Devices that made it painless and quick to do were essential.  Maybe its the geek in me, but watching my progress through a series of charts and meters definitely was motivational.  I'm hesitant to recommend Fitbit to everyone looking to lose weight.  There seem to be too many little bugs and missing features in the web site to make it a complete solution.  However, for the early adopter with $99 to burn, its a lot of fun.  Get it here: http://www.fitbit.com/product 

For more on Fitbit: jduprey