The Fitbit Flex Fitness Wristband

January 16, 2014
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I wouldn’t say I was fat… umm, per sé, so to speak. But I’m 5’6″, middle aged and finding it harder coaching kids at soccer while I’m repeatedly wiping the sweat out of my eyes. I feel exactly like my Buddha statue in the back yard, but still want a pint of Stella to take away the city taste after my power walk and six bottles of water per day. So here comes the Ultra Fitbit Flex! The company, it says, “that deserves a lot of credit for popularizing wearable fitness devices in the first place.” I am unfamiliar with their previous device, the Fitbit Tracker, but I have seen other folks walking and running around wearing such devices clipped into their shirt pocket or sweatpants measuring every exertion. This US$99 bracelet, Ultra claims, will assist you in being more active, improve your dreadful eating habits and sleep patterns and just plain give you more oomph.

I looked it up on the Web and I found an industry. Legitimate manufacturers are already in the game. You can already buy bracelets from Nike, Adidas, Jawbone and Samsung. You can also download what seems like an Old Testament’s worth of apps for your cellphone, iPad or Tablet. Indeed, I realized they’d become ubiquitous, like Starbuck’s. I had simply never noticed. Why spend $99 to track yourself on the Flex instead of an Up or a Fuel Band or a free iPhone app when I can do it for you? Leave it to Jon E. Bagg: Investigative sweater!

Plastic jewelry makes me feel cheap. It’s the way I was brought up. Google Glass looks silly on me. The Up device is very chic, but kind of feminine. To give credit where credit’s due, my Fitbit’s designers took a minimalist route. Three-quarters of the band is a simple, thin, flexible rubber bracelet that feels like a wristband you’d get at a hospital or a fundraiser. There’s a set of teeth on one end that clicks into two of a series of slots from the other, and they lock up comfortably tight. The neutral beige or blue rubber is kind of anodyne, but the point is to be sort of unobtrusive, I guess. The Flex‘s technology is stored inside a black rectangle smaller than a baby tooth, which is tucked into a pocket in the wristband. Interchangeable, in colors like Slate, Black, Teal, and Tangerine models, everything is a cinch to replace and will soon be available to also wear in Flex-compatible shoes, belt clips, necklaces, and man purses. Yes, and you can sleep and even shower with it on

The modular design makes charging-up a bit of a hassle since you have to take the tracker out, insert it into Fitbit‘s USB cradle, and then put it back in when it’s charged. Easily absent-minded, some days I put the bracelet on without the tracker in it, which left me, you know, umm, wearing a rubber band on my wrist. Fitbit’s battery life is for approximately seven days. Meanwhile, in a practical way, double-tapping the plastic strip on the bracelet gets you a rough estimate of how you’re doing as it measures your progress in 20 percent increments. Still, you’ll need your computer or cellphone to really get a clear understanding of your Fitbit data, although it makes all of it available in web apps for your Android or iOS device. You can sync your tracker via the USB cable (there’s a helper app for Windows and OS X that collects and uploads your data), or directly to your phone via Bluetooth 4.0. That latter feature is the most fun thing on the Flex: keeping your data current is easy and counting steps somehow seems intuitive, too. But, remember, it’s all up to you! You have to manually tell the device when you’re going to sleep, although there is Flex‘s vibrate-your-wrist-to-wake-you alarm clock feature.

Flex only counts your steps for you, but it can store a tremendous amount of other data if you supply it, like details on sleep, diet, weight, which can be translated into various recommendations for meals, etc. If you’re the diary-keeping type, it’s easy, but if you’re not an organized type and juggle many things at once to do with work and the family, this Flex thing is a commitment. You commit to marriage, a mortgage, kids, but, is this how you want to go about getting in shape? Should I the run fifteen blocks or just make a note in my fitness diary that I meant to?

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