I bought my Fitbit Flex on recommendation of a colleague, online through Amazon, for £64, but it’s taken me quite a while to get around to using it properly. The theory is that you take delivery of your Fitbit, in a box containing two black rubber straps (smaller and larger size), an electronic device the size of a – very slim – fingernail and a minute usb dongle (for synchronising with your computer). You are then supposed to set it up, using online instructions, having been directed to them by the postage stamp leaflet inside the box. Reader, I failed… on the first instruction, about inserting the device into the strap, so I left it standing idle for weeks, until another colleague showed me how to peel back the strap so the hole lengthened and widened, and in it went. (Honestly, deflowering a virgin must be easier!)
For a while, everything was fine, me trotting around the countryside, checking on my phone to see how many steps I had walked, and waiting for the thing to buzz when I managed ten thousand steps in a day. From a psychological point of view, of getting you off your bottom and moving about, the Fitbit hits the spot. It is motivational. Yes, I will walk into town at lunchtime. Yes, I will go the long way around to the carpark. It is also informative: I was very surprised to find out how many steps I took, not just from ‘going for a walk’, but during the ordinary course of the day, doing things like cooking, ironing and cleaning. You can record other things, such as exercise, calories eaten and sleep, on the Fitbit Dashboard (online), but, as these have to be done manually, and much of what I might enter would be estimates, I haven’t bothered.
My Fitbit honeymoon was, unfortunately, short. First of all, the synchronisation with both computer and iPhone has stopped. Having followed online instructions on how to restart the thing and found them useless, I reported the problem to the Fitbit Team who supplied with a new device and a new battery charger. A few weeks later, I had to contact the Fitbit Team again, to tell them that tears had developed in the strap, right next to the hole where the device is housed; they very kindly supplied me with another one, only for that to tear within 8 hours, in exactly the same place and to fall off my wrist on to the floor … in the Barbican Theatre, actually. (I did tell you, that I went to see ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, didn’t I, Dear Reader?) Another strap was required. I did feel for the Fitbit Team at this point: was this woman running a Fitbit parts racket, or what? They required a photograph of the damaged straps on both occasions, but generally they accepted that the customer was being truthful.
So, do I recommend the Fitbit? Yes, but with reservations:
- Printed and meaningful instructions, with diagrams, inside the Fitbit box are definitely needed. These should include advice about peeling the strap back to insert the device. If I had done this correctly first time around, maybe the first strap would not have torn (although why the second strap tore within such a short time is a mystery).
- Synchonising the device with the computer and the phone is problematic. Once you get it working, the computer/phone remembers the settings and you’re away, but it takes several attempts. Also, you cannot synch with one device while the other one is in the room, unless you turn off Bluetooth on the other device. (This messed me up several times.)
- The rubber straps are ugly. (Mine is black. Other colours are available but they are not beautiful either.)
- The Fitbit does not count stairs. At the college where I work (only for another two weeks – hurray!), I have been walking up and down four flights of stairs several times a day, but the Fitbit counts these as normal steps. Pity!
Charging the Fitbit can also be a problem. The charger fits into a usb port but it won’t charge from a computer which has been shut down – and when do you want to charge your Fitbit, at night, when you’ve shut down your computer? What works better is to insert the charger into the usb port of, say, an iPhone or Kindle charger, and plug it into the mains (having taken the iPhone/Kindle lead out first, obviously).
Yes, really, I would recommend it. The plus side is that, when it works, it works very well. And the customer care I have received from the Fitbit Team has been second to none.
Postscript About the Fitbit
The Fitbit doesn’t go through the security arch at airports. I got called over at Gatwick when I tried to walk through wearing it. I got frisked, had to take it off and put it in a tray, then show the frisking lady my asthma inhaler AND the used tissues in my pocket. Mind you, I do think that our UK airports are the strictest in the world – rightly so.