Fit bits and bytes: Fitbit Charge Review

Recently I’ve received questions from clients about those high tech fitness bands so I decided to get a Fitbit Charge to try it out.Fitbit Charge

What are these fitness bands?

Fitness bands are wearable technology that measure different types of exercise and synchronize the data with various devices. Types of things they measure include steps, stairs, duration of activity, calories burned. The more expensive ones have displays, measure your heart rate and hours of sleep, silent alarms and synchronize with more devices and even show who’s calling you if your phone is nearby.

What does the Fitbit Charge do?

The Fitbit Charge measures steps, stairs, miles, calories burned, hours of sleep, active minutes and it comes with an LCD display. Also the silent alarm feature which Fitbit promotes for getting up early for exercise without disturbing anyone with a loud alarm, I immediately thought of as perfect for business folks who have early morning meetings.
And it comes with the see who’s calling you feature that only works on newer phones. You can check here if it works with your phone. Doesn’t work on my 2 year old Samsung phone but I really don’t care, the display is better and bigger on my phone anyway.

The Setup

Easy for the average user to get set up, just go to the setup page on the Fitbit web site to get started. It asks you some simple questions like age, weight and one that I had to think hard about.

The setup asked if I would be wearing the band on the side of my dominant hand. Most of my work day is spent in a right handed world working with right handed mouse setups but in the privacy of my own home I am a left handed person. Not sure how that affects the functioning of the wrist band or the measurements. I decided to remain in the closet about being left handed with Fitbit.

Next you get asked, poked and prodded about sharing your data with friends and social media. Like social media isn’t already saturated with self-absorbed flotsam and jetsam. Unless you’re an Olympic athlete, who cares how many miles you’ve done in a day?

Fitbit just wants you to share everything with everyone particularly their partners. Their full privacy policy is here and worth reading. If some day being left handed gets made illegal or an insurance issue, I’m better off being closeted about it with Fitbit.

Even though the little lcd display gives you a daily total of most of what it measures, you need to synchronize the device where the data gets stored on Fitbit’s U.S. based servers to get the full functionality of the device.

The band synchronizes via a very small receiver that plugs into a USB port (USB 2 or 3 work, I tested both types of ports). And it charges via another small cable. Recommend you store them in a small, labeled freezer baggie so you don’t lose them. I couldn’t find in the documentation anywhere if and how the data is encrypted when you synchronize but it uses a very short range.

Fitbit Charge details
Fitbit states the band should only need to be charged every 7 days with “normal usage”. I’m not a big fitness person and I have been consistently getting only a good 4 days before having to charge the band.

Fitbit Dashboard

You can customize the Fitbit dashboard thankfully and get rid of their upselling tiles and share this info with friends and Facebook crap.

Picture below is the top part of my Fitbit Charge modified dashboard.

fitbit dashboardYou do need internet access to see the dashboard and synchronize your device. And I found when I was in Mexico and went to the fitbit web site it defaulted to Spanish until I logged in.

Another curiosity, but a good curiosity, is that it measures walking up hills as doing flights of stairs. I tested this by making sure I took the elevator only today (normally I always take the stairs) and the band registered I did 14 floors from walking up a big hill in the west end.

The Charge band is water resistant but not fully waterproof.

Besides the privacy concerns, it’s not a bad little device if you want to track your daily running around exercise. Price is $139.99 at most retailers.