Which Fitbit should I buy?

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Which Fitbit should I buy?

You've decided. You want to get fitter, and a fitness tracker is your path to success. Fitbit is a good place to start, with a series of reasonably priced bands and wearables to suit every taste - but which Fitbit should you buy?

This guide should help you make up your mind and pick the best Fitbit for you.

Price and features

Without doubt, price is essential. Fitbits range in features and cost, going all the way from just under $80 for the entry-level Zip all the way up to $399.95 for the Fitbit Surge. As a general rule, the features increase to match the price, but that's not 100 percent true: the $129.95 Fitbit One can count the number of floors you climb in a day, while the $199.95 Fitbit Alta cannot, for example. Likewise, the $199.95 Fitbit Alta shows text messages, but the $229.95 Charge HR doesn't have a large enough display.

So before we go any further, here's a handy comparison chart of all the models to ensure that the Fitbit you choose matches your requirements.

These are all reasonably self-explanatory, but a couple of them need a little elaboration. “Multi-sport” allows you to pick the activity you want to track directly from the device itself, while “auto exercise recognition” means that the Fitbit will pick up on your exertion with no additional fiddling.

You'll note from the chart that the Fitbit Surge, at $399.95, is the only device with GPS tracking. While that's true, it needn't be a bar to entry. Although any serious kind of running/cycling based activity needs GPS for accuracy (no devices without offer anything usable, as I found here), the Fitbit app lets you connect it with other running apps that use the GPS of your phone, so it's not the end of the world, assuming you're happy to keep your phone in an armband when you're out and about. In fact, the Fitbit Blaze goes one step further than this, cutting out third party apps and directly piggybacking on the phone's GPS for activity tracking.

There are advantages to skipping on GPS too, mainly down to the cost of the technology, the impact on battery life and the fact that almost every phone already has it, so you're essentially duplicating for the sake of it.

Elsewhere, pretty much every Fitbit (with the exception of the pretty weak Zip) covers the core functions the brand is known for: step, calorie and sleep tracking. If you want heart rate monitoring, you're looking at a cost of over $229.95, while pseudo smartwatch features such as Caller ID and text notifications join the party at the $199.95 mark.

Design

The first thing to say about the design of the Fitbit is that each model is water resistant, and not waterproof. That may sound a minor detail, but given the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip are designed to be hooked on to clothing rather than the wrist, it's extremely easy to put them in the washing machine by mistake!

So what they gain in being discreet, you may well lose in functionality. Very quickly.

The next group come in the form of fitness bands, which can describe the Flex, Charge, Alta and Charge HR. Of these, the Alta is undoubtedly the looker of the bunch, which is perhaps unsurprising as it's also the newest. The other represent simple rubbery plastic bands, which offer their own brand of understated charm, so it perhaps depends on whether you want the device for the utility or to make a fashion statement. The most understated is the Fitbit Flex, which has no physical display, presenting the data in a set of five lights which illuminate to show you how close you are to your goals.

Finally there is the Fitbit watch category, comprising of the Fitbit Blaze and the Fitbit Surge. Technically, the Fitbit Surge could come under the fitness band umbrella, but the large square screen and smartwatch features make it as close to a Fitbit watch as the Blaze in my view. In terms of the two designs, the Fitbit Blaze is undoubtedly better looking, with the Surge's screen looking a touch blocky, and the Fitbit Blaze coming closer to resembling a stylish piece of jewelry.

Customisation

One of the most popular things about Fitbits is the ability to customise the look and feel of them after purchase. In most - but not all - cases, the Fitbit 'brain' is detachable, meaning you can swap your straps to match your mood or outfit.

There are some important exceptions to this. The Fitbit Zip and One do allow some customisation, but are designed to be kept out of sight, so there's not much point worrying about how good they look. Neither the Fitbit Charge or Charge HR have changeable straps as the brain is built in, so the colour you buy is the colour you're stuck with. The same is true of the Fitbit Surge.

The rest is as customisable as you like, from different coloured bands for the Fitbit Flex, to straps for the Fitbit Blaze to clasps for the Fitbit Alta. This looks like the direction the company is heading in, but for older unchangeable models, make sure you like the colour because, well, you're stuck with it.

Battery life

The differing features, displays and sizes make for variable battery life for each Fitbit. If battery life is your main concern in a fitness tracker, here's how Fitbit ranks its trackers from shortest to longest:

Fitbit Flex

5 days

Fitbit Blaze

5 days

Fitbit Alta

5 days

Fitbit Charge HR

5 days

Fitbit Charge

7-10 days

Fitbit Surge

7 days (10 hours with GPS)

Fitbit One

14 days

Fitbit Zip

4-6 months

An average of five days per Fitbit then, with a couple of notable anomalies. The Fitbit Zip offering months rather than days is eye-opening, but that's because it's a non-rechargable watch battery that you'll need to replace every six months. The Fitbit Surge looks impressive at seven days, but a drop to just ten hours when the GPS is in use probably brings it to similar longevity as its five day stablemates on average.

Whichever you get, Fitbit has an irritating habit of using proprietary chargers in every device, all with a slightly different connection. There's no micro USB connection (understandably, given the water resistance) so if you're upgrading from one Fitbit to another, you won't be able to keep the charger.

Images: Fitbit and Alphr.com

This article originally appeared at alphr.com

Copyright © Alphr, Dennis Publishing
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