Fitbit One Review: A Great Way to Monitor Your Wretched Laziness

Last month we reviewed the Fitbit Zip, which was basically a glorified pedometer. The Fitbit One is the Zip's big brother, and successor to the very popular Ultra line. Is the feature-filled gadget worth a hundred bucks?

What Is It?

It's a tiny fitness monitor that counts the steps you take, the stairs you climb, and the calories you burn, and even tracks the quality of your sleep.

Who's it For?

People who want data about how much exercise they get throughout the day.

Design

It's a smooth, oblong pebble. One button lights up the LED screen and allows you to scroll through your stats. It comes with a clip you wear while working out, and a wrist band for wearing it as you sleep.

Using It

Just carry it all day and it'll track your activity. The data wirelessly syncs when you're near your computer, and then you can view all sorts of charts and graphs online. You wear the One in a wristband as you sleep—just start the timer when you lie down and stop it when you wake up.

The Best Part

The altimeter. Other fitness monitors count steps. But a step on level ground is not the same as going up stairs or climbing a hill. The Fitbit One's altimeter considers that and estimates the calories burned.

Fitbit One Review: A Great Way to Monitor Your Wretched Laziness

Tragic Flaw

The sleep monitoring is buggy. If you don't manually input the times, it guesses. One day, it said I went to bed at 8:07pm and woke up at noon the next day. I wish. (In fact, I was out at a bar until 3:00am and then got up at 7:40am.) Yet I couldn't manually input my actual sleep times.

Update: You can manually start/stop sleep tracking by long-pressing the button. That's nice, but A) it's very easy to forgot to start and/or stop it, especially when sleepy, and B) it's indistinguishable from the stopwatch feature, which is kind of weird. We prefer a system that just knows when you've gone to sleep and knows when you've gotten up, like the Basis B1 band.

This Is Weird...

You can set a silent alarm that'll wake you up but leave your bedmate undisturbed. Set the time online, sync it, put the One in the wristband, and pass out. A series of vibrating pulses shakes your wrist when it's time to rise and shine. I thought I'd fallen asleep with my phone in my hand—but it successfully woke me up without rousing my girlfriend. Weird, but cool.

Test Notes

  • Because it isn't attached to your body (like, the Nike Fuelband) it's easy to forget to keep it on you. Every time I changed pants, I forgot to switch it out. For tracking sleep, you need to take it out of your pocket, put on a wrist band, then put it in the wrist band, then start recording. It can be a nuisance.
  • Paradoxically, the fact that you don't wear it could also be a major selling point to some. People who dress up a lot might not want to have a funky rubber bracelet on all the time.
  • We really like the design. The aluminum backplate makes it feel extremely solid. The button has nice click to it, but it doesn't feel like it will be accidentally depressed in your pocket.
  • One of the biggest advances is the display. It's a lot brighter and more pixel dense than the Fitbit Ultra was, which greatly improves readability.
  • You can also track data with smartphone apps. The iPhone 4S and 5 can sync data directly with the One. The Android app can't sync directly with the One (because no Android devices currently support the low-power Bluetooth protocol), but you can use it to view your data, add meals, and stuff like that. Both apps are very good looking.
  • Another weird thing about sleep monitoring: You can select Normal or Sensitive modes. On Normal, it thinks I'm fully asleep 92 percent of the time that I'm in bed. On Sensitive, it thinks I'm only asleep 52 percent of that time! The truth has got to lie somewhere in between, but that's such a gigantic margin of error one has to assume this data is essentially unusable. Major bummer, as this was the feature I was most looking forward to.
  • Really solid battery life. You should get close to a week of use on a single charge, and it charges quickly with the included USB adapter.
  • The screens in the app are: Steps, Distance, Calories burned, Floors climbed, a Clock, and a handy stopwatch that you can start/stop by long-pressing the button. A little Flower grows and shrinks based on your recent activity. It also displays a greeting when you pick it up. Adorable.
  • The Fitbit dashboard on the website is really a mess to navigate. Things are not intuitively laid out. For example, to add an alarm, you have to know to click on your device, go into the settings, and then find the alarm. It's visually pleasing, but it needs some reorganizing.
  • Through the website, you can choose to have all your data auto-sync to other programs like RunKeeper, Endomondo, and others.

Should You Buy It?

If you're considering the Fitbit Zip, then sure. It's certainly better, due to the altimeter, improved screen, and recharability. And the silent alarm is a cool feature. It's also $40 more, but the $40 is worth it for the added functionality. And it's $50 less than the Fuelband.

As for the flaws, to be fair, the device doesn't ship until early November, and they have been sending out firmware updates throughout the last week. In other words the sleep functions may get better. Even if they don't, though, this is still a pretty decent piece of kit. [Fitbit]

Fitbit One Specs

• Radio: Bluetooth 4.0
• Size: 1.89 x 0.76 x 0.38 inches
• Weight: 0.28 oz. (8 grams)
• Screen: LED
• Colors: Black, Burgundy
• Splash-proof: Yes
• Battery: Rechargeable Li-Po
• Price: $100
Giz Rank: 3.5 stars