Holiday gift idea: Getting fit with the new Fitbits

A year ago I covered some great products for the iPhone, such as the Fitbit, to help you get healthy in 2012. Now that the latest gift-giving season is upon us, FitBit has revised and updated their product line to improve the features and accessibility. In particular these products take advantage of Bluetooth 4.0 included in the iPhone 4S and above as well as the new iPad. I took the Fitbit One out for a test drive (or in this case a walk) and absolutely love the changes, as well as the creation of a Fitbit Zip for users looking for a more affordable product with slightly less features.

Fitbit One black burgundy side view

The Fitbit Ultra was a great product, but it had some strange quirks that were annoying. The belt clip was bulky and inflexible and two of mine broke. The One is an elegant revision using a rubberized belt clip and a svelte monitoring device half as thick as the Ultra. Similar to the Ultra, the One tracks not just strides but steps climbed with a built-in altimeter. The Fitbit website uses your age, weight and activity levels to determine how many calories you burn each day. You can set goals each day for the steps taken, stairs climbed, miles traveled and calories burned. Additionally, you can set it each night to track the quality of your sleep. The device keeps you accountable, and it quickly charges via a USB dongle.

Added to the One is a vibrating alarm clock to wake you in the morning without a blaring alarm — a feature in direct competition with the Lark. The One can be removed from the belt clip at night and inserts into a wrist strap for comfortable sleep.

I was disappointed with the alarm and sleep monitoring feature but that’s because I’m comparing it other products I’ve tried such as the Lark, Sleeptracker and Zeo. The One does not have a snooze button and you have to “tell” it when you go to sleep via the button on the device rather than initiating the time on the app. Sometimes I’d accidentally trigger the stop button in the middle of the night and the sleep wasn’t properly tracked. I hope additional software upgrades might fix some of these issues. Given Fitbit’s track record I’m confident they’ll make some changes to this. For now, I’m still going to wear my Lark at night and I look forward to Lark’s competitor to Fitbit’s One: The Lark Life. This field of body monitoring continues to grow with Jawbone’s UP, Motorola’s MotoActv, and Basis’s watch.

Zip_5 colors_Hi The Fitbit Zip is the “mini” version of the Fitbit. Although I didn’t test it for a long period of time, the Zip is about the size of a quarter and does not require charging as it gets power from a watch-style battery. Removed from Zip is the altimeter and sleep tracking. For many users the basic stride tracking is just enough to get started.

Both of the products take advantage of low-powered Bluetooth 4.0 for real-time syncing of your step data with a companion iPhone app — without draining your battery. I really liked this feature because the app runs in the background and will coach you to reach your step goals and warn you when, gasp, one of your friends is beating you in steps for the day. No worries if you don’t have Bluetooth 4.0 on your iOS device. An included dongle will add syncing via a desktop computer (Mac or PC). The device will then sync with the Fitbit website when you are near the dongle and then the website syncs with the phone.notification_goal

What makes the Fitbit fun is the gamification. Regardless ofMobile Leaderboard - Common your fitness level, the product makes it easy to set goals for yourself and set up a friendly little competition among other people you know with Fitbits. Once I started talking about my Fitbit on social media friends started getting the Fitbit and we all increased the number of steps we were taking each day. I’m one of the first to get the One, so I’m always aware if anyone ever dares get close to my step goal.

The low cost of entry for the Zip makes this technology accessible to more people. The Fitbit API allows you to use other iPhone apps such as Lose-It and MapMyRun in order to enhance the product with third party products. Similar to platforms such as Foursquare, the Fitbit includes badges for achieving daily and lifetime goals such as 15,000 steps or walking 1,000 miles. All this provides motivation and measurement for getting and staying fit.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.