Fitbit is the global leader in wearables sales. There is a reason its trackers sell so well. They are simple to use, reliable, look smart, provide great vitals statistics and have an excellent app behind them.
In 2016, we saw a number of new members of the Fitbit family. The first was the Blaze, an Apple Watch lookalike that puts fitness first. In the spring, Fitbit surprised us by releasing yet another device – the Alta. Both wearables are a big leap forward for Fitbit in terms of design, although in terms of functionality it is fair to say that the company is prettying up what it already has on offer. The trackers, however, show that Fitbit has learned enough about design to compete with more stylish rivals.
The San Francisco outfit followed this up with the Charge 2 and Flex 2 activity trackers, both announced in August and released in September. Why change something that works? Again we saw a design refresh, with some added functionality. And for the Flex 2, water-resistance, a first for a Fitbit wearable.
All in all, the company now offers ten different devices for tracking steps and calories.
First released: September 2012
The FitBit Zip can be worn in your pocket, on a belt or on a bra, as it is as discreet or as visible as you want it to be. This entry level tracker monitors steps, distance, calories burned and syncs everything to your computer or smartphones. The wearable has a silicone clip and is rain, splash and sweat-proof. The battery doesn’t require charging and will last up to six months.
The mobile app remains a well-designed, easy to navigate tool for looking at your data, monitoring your fitness progress, and also tracking your food intake and water consumption. Any metric can be tapped to show historical data, and weekly totals. If you are only after a simple pedometer, this is the one to go for.
First released: September 2012
Fitbit One is also a belt-clip/carry on activity tracker which goes a bit further than Fitbit Zip. In addition to tracking your steps, distance, calories burned, Fitbit One measures stairs climbed. Come nightfall, the device also measures your sleep quality, helps you learn how to sleep better, and wakes you up in the morning.
While Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip were novel and innovative back in 2012, these days the metrics that they track are fairly standard. However, if you are looking for a basic tracker to measure your activity, the Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One both represent a great choice due to their reliability, excellent value for money and a first class app with which you can view your data. You may also be able to purchase them at a discount.
First released: May 2013
The Fitbit Flex is slim, comfortable and easy to wear. It tracks steps, distance, and calories burned and shows you how you’re stacking up against your daily goals. At night, the device monitors your sleep cycles.
LED lights show how your day is stacking up against your goal while stats are synced wirelessly and automatically.
The Flex is an old model, probably not worth the money even if it’s discounted. We suggest you go with one of the newer trackers. For a small difference in price, you will get a screen and heart rate monitoring (depending on the model). Or you can go for the new and improved Flex 2 tracker.
Released: November 2014
The Fitbit Charge features a monochrome OLED display, which is very vibrant and easy to read, despite being roughly the size of a fingernail.
The device shows the time, daily steps total, distance travelled, calories, flights climbed and you cycle through those metrics using the button on the left. The tracker can also an display caller ID information from a connected smartphone through the Fitbit app.
Fitbit likes to think of the Charge for everyday users who want to get fitter and see how they are doing in real time on the wristband and also via the excellent free app and graphics-heavy desktop dashboard. The wearable definitely serves this purpose. We suggest though, dishing out a few extra dollars and going for the Charge 2, which will also monitor your heart rate.
First released: January 2015
Like the Charge the Charge HR is an activity-tracker wristband that displays fitness stats right there on your wrist. The main difference is the inclusion of a heart rate monitor. The Charge HR has also improved the Charge’s clasp, following complaints about the previous model Fitbit Force’s looser clasp.
Fitbit’s proprietary PurePulse optical heart-rate technology, uses safe LED lights on the underside of the wristband to detect blood volume and capillary-size changes under pressure. When your heart beats, your capillaries expand and contract based on blood volume changes.
When compared to trackers with no heart rate monitor and those which only measure heart rate on demand, the ones that continuously measure provide a much more accurate calorie burn figure. Knowing your heart rate means the wearable knows the intensity of the exercise. Unlike older Fitbit devices, the Fitbit Charge HR’s sleep mode will kick in automatically – by analysing your movements and heart rate data. A recently added feature called SmartTrack, automatically recognizes select exercises and records them in the Fitbit app.
This was our choice for the best fitness tracker in 2015. You would be better off going for the Charge 2 though. It retails at nearly same price and has pretty much made the Charge HR redundant.
First released: October 2014
The Fitbit website refers to the Fitbit Surge as the ‘ultimate fitness superwatch’. This device is the most powerful Fitbit with GPS tracking, real time workout statistics and a heart rate monitor. But its stepped up specs and touchscreen LCD make it bigger in size and price. Plus, it is now in competition with more serious running watches such as Polar and Garmin.
The Fitbit Surge is noticeably larger than the Fitbit HR and upgrades to a touchscreen. This backlit, always-on interface allows you to keep tabs on your steps, miles, active minutes and heart rate on a black-and-white, 1.25-inch screen.
The device records all the usual statistics that you would expect, such as: steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, stairs climbed, active minutes, caller ID and sleep. However, the Surge goes a step further than other Fitbits by including GPS mapping, a completely new sensor to the Fitbit family. The Surge’s satelite tracking works without your phone, a feature that is not currently available in the Apple Watch.
The Surge marks Fitbit’s first foray into serious running watch territory. While it is not the fastest or most accurate GPS in the world, it does get the job done. Also, the real-time heart rate monitoring gives reasonably accurate results and the automatic sleep function is a plus. On the negative side, the Surge is not perhaps as accurate as the top-tier fitness sports watches, and the display is not really attractive for a night out or for use in the workplace.
First released: February 2016
The Fitbit Blaze looks a lot like Apple Watch, but puts fitness first. It is Fitbit’s first wearable with a color touch screen, which pops out so you can swap bands.
The device tracks activity and records heart rate, but lacks the GPS of the full-featured Surge watch. It will monitor daily steps, sleep, calories burned, and 15 different types of exercises such as running, walking, basketball and football to name a few. The wearable also offers guided activity via its native FitStar app running on the watch. And Fitbit has finally added reminders to stand.
The full list of sensors is as follows: 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, Optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor and vibration motor. The Blaze is sweat, rain and splash proof, but as with all Fitbit devices so far, is not swim proof.
Its optical heart rate sensors will take a heart rate reading every five seconds during the day and every second during workout sessions. This should, in theory, give wearers relatively accurate heart rate readings. The device has enough juice to run for 5 days before needing a recharge.
All in all, this is a stylish smartwatch for active consumer that represents a great compromise between a smartwatch and fitness tracker.
First released: March 2016
The Alta tracker has a slim stylish design, a major step up in the looks department from the retro look of its 2015 line of fitness trackers. The device features a discreet, slightly curved, touch-screen, OLED display. In terms of size, the bands are much smaller compared to the Fitbit Charge or Charge HR. The Alta will automatically turn on or off based on your wrist movements or by tapping on the display.
Retailing for $130, this is one of the cheapest trackers sold by Fitbit. The company has not included a heart rate sensor, which has allowed it to lower the price as compared to its other wearables. It also does not contain a GPS or an altimetre for counting floors climbed.
What it does contain is a 3-axis accelerometer and a vibration motor. This means the device is able to track steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes. It is also equipped with reminders to move, nudging you to stay active throughout the day, while providing visual feedback on your progress and keeping you connected with smart notifications. Detailed information on workouts and activity progress can be found in the Fitbit app.
Essentially, with the Alta Fitbit is styling up what it already offers. There is no ground-breaking new technology on board. But if you’re looking for a stylish fitness tracker that does the essentials from a recognised brand, this could be the device for you. Think of the Alta as a much better looking, revamped cousin of the Flex, but with a screen.
First released: September 2016
The Flex 2 is the company’s slimmest tracker yet and for the first time for a Fibit device is water resistant.
The tracker is 30% smaller than the original model and features a removable core unit and interchangeable slim, classic fitness bands in seven colors. A simple LED display uses color-coded lights to show progress toward your daily goal, and keeps you connected with call and text notifications.
There is a full range of options if you wish to customise the tracker. You can choose from a range of luxe, premium mirror-finish bangles in silver stainless steel, and 22k-plated gold or rose gold stainless steel, or elegant lariat-style necklaces in silver stainless steel or 22k-plated gold stainless steel.
More importantly, this is Fitbit’s first swim-proof wristband. The device is water resistant up to 50 meters, whether you’re in the shower, pool or ocean, and it automatically tracks your pool swims including laps, duration and calories burned in the Fitbit app.
Other features are fairly standard and include automatic exercise tracking, reminders to move, and personalised weekly exercise goals.
First released: September 2016
This is the successor to the popular Charge HR. In addition to PurePulse heart rate tracking, the Charge 2 features an enhanced exercise experience and new health and fitness tools.
The upgraded design features an OLED display that is four times larger than Charge HR. It actually comes across as a wider version of the Alta. You can customise the look to your liking with interchangeable bands and clock faces.
Fitbit has debuted a few new features that are powered by your personal heart rate. The one that seems very useful is called Cardio Fitness Level. Available only on Charge 2, it gives you a snapshot of your fitness level using a personalised Cardio Fitness Score. The Cardio Fitness Score is based on your estimated VO2 Max that is calculated using your user profile and resting heart rate. You also get to see how you compare to those of the same age and gender.
The other new addition are Guided Breathing Sessions. This is a relaxing mindfulness experience that calms your body and mind through personalized deep-breathing sessions called “Relax”.
While it doesn’t feature GPS connectivity, the new tracker links to the GPS on your smartphone to provide more precise data on pace and distance when you’re running, while recording a map of your route in the app.