Fitbit has announced a handful of new wrist-worn trackers; the Versa Lite, the Inspire, the Inspire HR, and finally for kids, the Ace 2.
The Versa Lite is available now for GB£150 with a choice of four different colours – white, lilac, marina blue and magenta – and differs from the more expensive Versa by dropping a few features. Missing from the Lite are floors climbed, swim lap tracking, on-screen workouts and music player functionality. Personally, I’d miss the swim lap tracking but if you’re more of track and field person, the Lite version might save you £50. It’s still water-resistant to 50m, so good for surface swimming, and the Versa Lite will go four days between charges.
The Inspire and Inspire HR slot into the lower end of the Fitbit line-up, replacing both the Alta and Flex product lines. Priced at £70 and £90 respectively, the key difference between the two is that the HR has constant heart rate monitoring. Both devices do activity and sleep tracking, calories burned and connect to your smartphone for notifications, but if you want heart rate measurement and sleep cycle tracking, you’ll need the HR and an extra £20. Battery life is around five days for both devices and they’re water-resistant to 50m.
For children, Fitbit have the Ace 2, which will be coming out later in the year. Building the original Ace, the new version even more child-friendly but still does all the usual activity-tracking stuff with a touchscreen that can be customised with new faces. As with the Ace, the tracker becomes part of a family group so parents can monitor their little darling’s activity. 50m water-resistance and five day battery life. Price hasn’t been announced, but the current Ace is £80 so expect something similar.
Sadly, it looks like the Fitbit Zip has followed the One into obsolescence as neither are now available in the UK store. Mind you, the Zip’s had pretty good run (sorry) for a gadget, originally coming out in 2012.
And by pure coincidence, I’ve been notified today by my Fitbit app that I’ve got the Earth badge, which is equivalent to 12,713 lifetime kilometres.
In the first interview, I chatted with one of Fibion‘s partners, Olli Tikkanen, about their approach to activity tracking and how the Fibion team can produce accurate data on movement and lifestyle from the Fibion tracker. This time, I’m speaking with Jonathan Bloomfield, MD of Support2Perform, Human Performance Specialists, here in Northern Ireland, who use Fibion trackers to carryout assessments on clients.
The team at Support2Perfom use the Fibion tracker and the analysis tools to do a deep dive into the wearer’s daily behaviour. The tracker is typically worn for about a week before the data is uploaded and analysed. The results are displayed in different graphics to show the person’s activity in a meaningful way. How much of my day is sitting around?
This data forms the baseline for change and having made lifestyle changes, the Fibion analysis can be redone to check that they’ve had the desired effect.
Fitbits and other activity trackers are popular: I see them on the waists and wrists of colleagues everyday and I have one myself. Good as they are at encouraging activity, they tend to be a fairly broad brush with an emphasis on hitting targets, typically 10,000 steps. While some trackers attempt show the breadth of activity across the day, they’re not very good at the detail. When was I sitting? When was I standing? How often did I stand up?
The team at Fibion can help answer these questions with their professional sitting and activity analysis, which aims to move away from the gamification of fitness to a scientific assessment for improving health. By combining the Fibion device with algorithms based on scientific research, the Fibion analysis gives accurate results for a week-long measurement, showing how much time is spent sitting versus standing and active.
The device itself might be considered overly plain, but that’s by design. If you don’t see your steps, there’s no incentive to do more, and so the Fibion is more likely to record a representative lifestyle. It’s all about the science.
In the first of two conversations, I interview Fibion partner Olli Tikkanen on their approach and the dimunitive tracker. In part 2, I’ll talk to a professional who uses Fibion to assess activity in the workplace.
Step counters and activity trackers are ten-a-penny, but what if the tracker could show you how you run, not just how far you run? It’s now a reality with smart insoles from FeetMe. Todd finds out more from CTO Andrey Mostovov and sprinter Taylor Pegram.
FeetMe’s athletic smart insoles, FeetMe Sport, constantly takes measurements from over thirty pressure sensors, before processing the information in their FeetMe coaching app to show exactly how your feet hit the ground. Imagine being a top athlete and being able to see your stride and steps. The app gives suggestions for improvement and weaknesses are highlighted for attention in the next training session. Unsurprisingly, the FeetMe Sport uses Bluetooth to pass the information on to a nearby smartphone or tablet, giving feedback in the field.
There’s a professional version for healthcare aimed at people who have gait or foot problems, or need post-operative assessment, allowing clinicians to review the data from the insoles.
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All too often we hear stories of poor customer service so I want to give some props to Fitbit who replaced my Flex with no fuss or special blogger treatment. Here’s how it went down….
I’ve had a Fitbit Flex for nearly two years and it’s one of my favourites as it’s waterproof and I wear it while swimming. A couple of months ago the middle LED stopped working and last week another one seemed to stop. All other functions worked fine, so the Flex was still counting steps and syncing to my Fitbit app. In reality the fault was largely cosmetic.
Still, I decided to contact Fitbit’s customer services via email. I paraphrase each message.
Me: I’m having trouble with the LEDs on my Flex dying one by one. See photo.
Fitbit: Ok. I see that. Could you try resetting the Flex followed by a full charge. Me: I’ve done that and yes, one of the LEDs is now working but the middle one still isn’t. See new photo.
Fitbit: Ok, I see that it’s still not working. When and where did you get the Flex? Me: I got it in November 2014 and here are the details.
Fitbit: No problem, that’s fine. We’re going to send a replacement. What’s your address? Me: Thanks. Here’s my address.
Fitbit: The replacement Flex is on its way. Me: Thanks again.
And sure enough, the replacement Fitbit Flex arrived in the post yesterday. All the LEDs work fine.
Reviewing the email exchange, it really couldn’t have been sorted it out in anything less. A big thumbs up to Fitbit for sorting it out easily and painlessly.
On review here is Fitbit’s ChargeHR activity tracker, one of its most popular models which provides heart rate monitoring in addition to steps taken, calories burnt and eyes shut. Designed for “active fitness”, it’s aimed at those people who take control of their fitness level rather than simply walking 10,000 steps. That’s me then. On a good day. Let’s take a look.
You can watch the unboxing and setup video above, though what you don’t see is that I completely destroyed the box getting the tracker and accessories out because you’re supposed to open the bottom not the top. Doh! Fitbit, you need “Open other end” printed on the top. Inside the box is the Fitbit ChargeHR, a Bluetooth dongle, a charging cable and small instruction booklet that directs you to the Fitbit site for more information. The dongle is only required for syncing to a PC.
The ChargeHR is available in six colours; black, blue, teal, plum, tangerine and pink. As you’ll see from the pictures, I had the teal one, which was fine when I was exercising but I did feel a little self-conscious wearing it with a suit at work. Unlike the Alta and Flex range, there’s no switching round of bands, so buy a colour you’re comfortable with. The ChargeHR band comes in three sizes, small, large and extra large, though the XL size can only be bought through fitbit.com. Small is 13.7 cm–15.7 cm, large is 15.7 cm–19.3 cm and extra-large is19.3 cm–22.1 cm. Fitbit provide a handy sizing chart here. The ChargeHR has a proper watch-style buckle for the band, rather than the push through style of the Flex.
Getting started is easy. Charge the ChargeHR with the supplied cable, install the app on a smartphone or tablet, register if you aren’t already with Fitbit, follow the pairing instructions and job done. Now all you have to do is some exercise!
The ChargeHR is a extremely easy to use as there’s only one button which is situated on the left side of the unit. Pressing the button cycles through time, steps, heart rate, distance, calories, stories climbed and next alarm. For each statistics, there’s a little graphic followed by the number – footprints for steps, a heart for pulse and so on.
The main differentiator of the ChargeHR is the heart rate tracking. I don’t know much about the science but it appears to use a couple of greenish LEDs on the back of device to measure the pulse. The ChargeHR measures the pulse every second under normal circumstances, but when it detects exercise, it ups the data rate for real-time information so you can keep your pulse in the zone.
The charging port is visible on the back in the picture. Charging typically takes less than hour for a couple of days wear.
Clever as the ChargeHR is, it’s only once you start looking at the data generated that you really start to get benefit from the tracker. The Fitbit app can provide graphs and charts for most metrics. Here are a few showing steps, resting heart rate and sleep. I didn’t wear the ChargeHR every night, hence why there’s some missing data. Activity can be reviewed, giving heart rate zones – peak, cardio, fat burning – exercise duration and max heart rate. There’s lots of useful info.
If you’re using a PC rather than a smartphone or tablet, Fitbit provide a web-based portal that provides similar information and analysis. For the really serious fitness fans, $50 per annum gets Premium privileges and extra analysis (which I didn’t investigate).
The ChargeHR does vibrating alarms too which is very handy if you need to get up without your bedside alarm waking your significant other. The alarm is set via the app and then sync’d to the tracker. I like this, though it’s not exclusive to the ChargeHR.
As expected in this day and age, there’s a social element too. You can add friends who also have Fitbits (of whatever variety) and see a leaderboard of steps taken each week. You can also earn badges for steps taken per day and lifetime achievements – I’ve a Nile badge for 6,649 lifetime kilometres.
I’ve had the ChargeHR for a couple of weeks now and I’ve been wearing it as much as I can. Sometimes I have to wear my Fitbit Zip on my belt when a teal bracelet wouldn’t be appropriate. Fortunately the Fitbit app (at least on Android) allows cross-syncing, so if you do 1,000 steps on one device and 1,000 on another, both will show 2,000 after a sync (or two). I like that feature as it lets me wear the Fitbit that suits my day.
Overall, I feel Fitbit have slightly stolen my thunder here, as the ChargeHR is being phased out and replaced by the Charge 2, but this could be an opportunity to get an excellent tracker for less money. Although officially priced at a penny under GB£120, it’s widely available for £89.99, even in shops such as PC World. The Charge 2 is currently £129.99, so there’s an effective saving of £40.
Fitbit has continued the refresh of its fitness tracker range with new iterations of the Flex and Charge HR models. The Flex 2 is a direct replacement for the original Flex and the Charge 2 takes over from the Charge HR. If you were wondering, the Alta took over from the standard Charge.
As with the original the Flex, the Flex 2 comprises a small capsule tracker fitted into a range of bands, bangles and pendants to suit the activity. The key point about the Flex range is that its swim-proof, making it the essential tracker for the swimmer. As with the first one, the Flex 2 uses the same LED dots to denote steps taken, albeit in a different orientation. The new tracker auto recognises exercise and notifies on calls or texts coming into your mobile phone. As before, the Flex 2 shows steps taken, calories burned and records sleep. I’m slightly disappointed that the wristband (available in four colours for now) doesn’t have a standard buckle to avoid loss, but it does appear to have been re-designed. Pre-order in the UK for just under GB£80. Expected to ship in October.
The new Charge 2 falls into FitBit’s Active Fitness range and takes the fitness tracker to the next level, with multisport tracking, cardio fitness level and guided breathing sessions. Of course it measures paces, steps, calories, steps, sleep and heart rate as the original Charge HR (although the HR moniker has been dropped) and it now has connected GPS, which means that the Charge 2 can use the paired phone’s GPS to track routes. The Charge 2’s screen is customisable and there’s a choice of clock faces.
An improvement on the original is that the wristbands can be switched out, with a tasty looking leather band available (at GB£59.99 mind you!) The screen’s bigger as well and can show calendar alerts in addition to calls and texts. If the Charge 2 appeals, it can be pre-ordered for GB£129.99 for delivery in 2-3 weeks.
I’m currently testing the Charge HR, courtesy of Fitbit, and I’ll be reporting on my impressions of that soon.