GADGET WATCH: Fitbit Flex

While the wearable computing market has received a lot of attention lately thanks to Google Glass and the persistent rumours of an Apple watch, the reality is the category has had plenty of attention for some time.

The Fitbit has found a home with fitness lovers over the past few years, and iterations of the device have improved with every design.

Tech and fitness work together well, with exercise-savvy users prone to downloading and tracking data. So does the latest version of the Fitbit have the power to preach to the non-converted?

Hardware and features

There isn’t much to the Fitbit flex. Like other versions of the device, the Flex is a thin bracelet which features a metal clasp to shut the two ends together. The tracker technology is a piece which can be inserted into the device itself.

The bracelet comes equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC capability, along with an accelerometer and a battery that is advertised as providing up to a week of power.

What’s the consensus?

Over at The Verge, the publication said the design was the “best effort” the reviewer had seen in making fitness bracelets as inconspicuous as possible.

“Three quarters of the band is just a thin, flexible rubber bracelet that feels like a wristband you’d get at a bar or a nightclub.”

The actual bracelet doesn’t hold the data, however. That is stored in a little dongle which fits into the bracelet, which is then inserted into a USB device to download the data.

The Verge said this process was a little tedious, although noted this means bracelets can be easily bought again as long as the tracker remains intact.

“You’ll need your computer or cell phone to really dig into your Fitbit data, and if you’re attentive to your Flex there’s a lot to see.”

Engadget said the mobile app was easy to use, and even better, simple to read with clear graphics and data displayed with your fitness information.

“You navigate between sections from a drop-down in the upper-left-hand corner and can swipe through a few different panels on the various summary cards on the home screen.”

“The dashboard gives you quick access to your alarms and food plan, while showing your progress towards various goals such as calories burned.”

However, it did say the app misses two major features: sleep and food tracking.

“It does provide a general sense of how long you slept, and how well, but you need to keep your expectations in check.”

CNET said getting the device to actually register sleep was a little tricky, although praised the LED screen as displaying important information about your fitness progress.

“When all five lights illuminate you’ve reached the default daily step quota of 10,000 steps. The device will even perform a happy dance when you achieve your goal, complete with haptic buzzing and all lights flashing in a random pattern.”

But while the reviews agreed the Fitbit does a good job at tracking data, The Verge noted the gadget lacks one key feature – how to tell you to improve.

“And I want more than just historical trends and basic diet advice. Mint tells me when a new credit card will save me money or when I should stop spending so much money on beer, and I likewise need Fitbit to tell me how to sleep better and be more active.”

As the publication points out, the Nike Fuelband does this, even though it doesn’t collect as much information – which puts the Fitbit at a disadvantage.

Who’s it for?

The consensus is that the Fitbit is a well-built tracker for all your fitness and food information. If that’s all you need, then it’s $100 well-spent. The one downside seems to be it doesn’t turn that information into useful planning help.

If you’re happy with just looking at data, the Fitbit will do just fine. But if you want more information on how to improve, you best look at some of the other fitness tracker competitors.

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