Fitbit Flex : Wearable design with an impressive smartphone app

Wired
The FitBit Flex

FitBit Flex (Photo: Mat Honan / Wired )

In well-defined markets, it’s rare to see a breakthrough device. And yet here we are. There are a lot of sleep and activity trackers to choose from right now, but none better than the Fitbit Flex. It is the most wearable, best-syncing device in the scrum, with the best app to boot. And it does all this at a great price.

Rating: 9/10 Nearly flawless

The Flex is very similar to the Fitbit One, but smaller and housed and without a display. And instead of wearing it on your belt, bra or pocket, you slide it in and out of a slim, rubberized wristband. The band is extremely basic, and it lacks the design elements of the Jawbone Up or the display of the Nike+ FuelBand. Other than the LED lights it uses to give you feedback, it is visually flat. In short, it’s not obviously some sort of sensor.

What it is, however, is highly wearable. A fitted clasp keeps it locked on your wrist securely. Most of the time, at least — I managed to dislodge it once while getting my squirming two year old out of a car seat. But I found it stayed on better than the Up. Similarly, there are no parts to lose, unlike the Up’s end cap that has a tendency to pop off and disappear over time. It’s waterproof-ish — while you can’t take it diving, you can wear it in the shower. In a huge improvement over the One, you don’t have to put it in an armband (it’s already in one) at night to track your sleep. That lack of visual flair also means it doesn’t look out of place with a suit, or a track suit. It comes in black. You can buy a three-pack of other colors if you want for an extra $30.

(See more: 4 great running shoes reviewed)

It also has a fantastic battery life. Fitbit says it was able to push performance by improving the algorithms the Flex uses to track movement and slice up the collected data. It shows. Fitbit says single a full charge should last about two weeks. I still have not run my review sample down yet after five days of use, and the battery indicator still shows a mostly-full charge of around 60-ish percent.

Fantastically, it’s able to operate on very low power even while performing great feats of syncing. The Flex uses a low-energy Bluetooth connection to talk to a USB dongle on your computer or, more miraculously, your iPhone or Android device. (At least a small number of Android devices, that is. Check to make sure yours is supported before throwing down cash.) If you’ve got your phone in your pocket and a Flex on your wrist, the latter will trickle data to the former all day long. You can check your progress in the app (and get notifications) or tap the device itself to activate the LED lights which indicate how far along towards your goal you are.

View gallery

.
Photo by Alex Washburn/Wired

The author wears a Fitbit Flex (in black) on his wrist, next to a Jawbone Up.

All of that combined means you have little reason to ever take it off, which is exactly as an activity tracker should be. The most important thing an activity tracker can do is to be invisibly present. You need to be able to keep it with you all the time and forget you’re even wearing it — meanwhile, it sucks up data about your life, delivers it to an application, and reports back with numbers and charts that are easy to understand. You want something that just melts into your life. After trying very many of these devices over the past several years, I’m convinced that always-on wearability is the most important thing. The Flex pulls that off better than anything that has come before.

It also has good ecosystem capabilities. If you own the Fitbit scale, it will use that device’s data to dynamically report back on your weight and percentage of body fat. If you are a MapMyRun (or Endomondo, Lose It, MyFitnessPal, etc.) user, it will import that data so it can get a better idea of things like calories burned, for example.

It also has tools to help promote weight loss. You can enter a goal and it will tell you how many calories you are allowed per day to get there, based on your activity. But this means manually entering the caloric values of your meals into its database, which is still sort of a chore. You have to be really dedicated to keep up with it.

Finally, the sleep tracking stuff is also quite good. When you go to bed at night, you either tap the device five times, or hit a button in the app to tell it you are going to sleep (and again when you wake). If you forget, you can manually input the hours that you slept. Either way, it will look at your movements to report back with how well you slept during the night. It also has a vibrating alarm to wake you, which is really great.

View gallery

.
FitBit Flex

(Photo: Mat Honan / Wired)

If you’ve been on the fence about which tracker to get, this is the one. It beats the Basis B1 which still doesn’t have a smartphone app and still requires a cabled connection to sync (although it does track heart rate, which the Flex does not). It beats the Jawbone Up, which now integrates with more third-party apps but doesn’t sync via Bluetooth and doesn’t have an app nearly as good as Fitbit’s. It beats the Withings, which looks really promising but at this point is still vaporware. It beats the BodyMedia Fit which tracks far more about you and even delivers prescriptive feedback, but despite a recent redesign, is still too big to be truly wearable. And it trounces the Nike+ FuelBand, which doesn’t track sleep, and has lots of accuracy problems.

This is the one you’ve been waiting for. And it was worth the wait. Go get it.

WIRED Great design. Best smartphone app of all the trackers on the market (Oh, and it’s on Android too). Amazing battery life. Scoble-proof: You can wear it in the shower.

TIRED Thanks for telling me what I’ve done, but please tell me more about what I should do. Would be nice if device itself showed number of steps taken at a glance.

Get your own: $100,  Fitbit.com 

More at WIRED:

12 Cell Phones That Changed Our World Forever

20 Gadgets Gifts Under $50

What Will Our Favorite Gadgets Look Like 10 Years From Now?

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • 'Put up the picture again': Chris Wallace uses photos to confront Trump chief of staff over false crowd-size claims

      Fox News anchor Chris Wallace confronted White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Sunday over...

      Business Insider
    • Wynonna Judd Reacts to Ashley Judd's Women's March Speech

      Wynonna Judd usually uses social media to share news, bits of wisdom and faith, or to have discussions with her fans, but she found herself in a very different position on Saturday (Jan. 21). After her sister, Ashley Judd, took the stage at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., to deliver an impassioned speech denouncing President Donald Trump, Wynonna turned to Twitter to explain her own position at length. Ashley Judd’s speech was one of the most talked-about moments of the day-long march, which according to multiple media reports drew more people to Washington to protest the election of President Trump than his inauguration drew the day before (Trump called those reports “dishonest” during

      Taste of Country q
    • 12 bodies found in Mexican tourist town: officials

      A dozen bodies -- including seven that were headless and mutilated -- were discovered over the weekend in western Mexico's seaside resort of Manzanillo, apparent victims of the country's epidemic of drug violence, local officials said. It was a shocking turn of events for an area popular with American and other foreign tourists, which until now had largely been spared from the bloody drug wars wracking other parts of Mexico. Seven bodies were found early Saturday in an abandoned taxi on the road from Manzanillo to the town of Cihuatlan.

      AFP
    • Royals' Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

      Yordano Ventura quit school as a teenager so he could begin working a construction job to help his family make ends meet, laboring day after day in the hot sun of the Dominican Republic. It was a chance ...

      Associated Press
    • Stephen Hawking warned us about contacting aliens, but this astronomer says it's 'too late'

      In 2010, physicist Stephen Hawking voiced concern about the possibility that we might contact...

      Business Insider
    • With 5 Simple Words, Mark Zuckerberg Says Everything That Needs to Be Said About Vaccines

      Mark Zuckerberg stirred up a parenting debate, and it has nothing to do with Facebook privacy settings nor photos of breastfeeding moms. No, it has to do with a simple photo he posted about his then 1-month-old daughter, Max. Like so many new dads before him, Mark's been sharing his daughter's milestones on his Facebook page — her first quantum physics book, her first New Year's Eve, her first Star Wars pose — and her first round of vaccinations. A year ago, he posted a photo of Max bundled up and sitting on his lap at what is likely to be her pediatrician's office and wrote, "Doctor's visit — time for vaccines!" With those five words, one of the world's richest and "most influential people"

      PopSugar q
    • Carly Fiorina reacts to the Women's March on Washington

      Former presidential candidate suggests on 'Sunday Morning Futures' that demonstrators give the new president time

      Fox Business Videos
    • Raging rivers, flooded freeways and a very wet Disneyland — scenes from Southern California's powerful storm

      The storm that hit Southern California on Sunday lived up to its ominous billing, delivering heavy, sustained rain that flooded numerous streets and heightened mudslide worries. Here are some scenes from across the region: Flooding Catching waves Life goes on At Disneyland on Sunday, crowds braved the rain and cold. Some rides were closed, but the fun continued.  Raging rivers Some basic flooding and mudslide facts and safety tips: Just 6 inches of rapidly moving floodwater can knock a person down. It takes only 2 feet of water to float a large vehicle. Floods can rise slowly or quickly, but most develop over a period of days. Property damage from flooding adds up to more than $1 billion a year

      Los Angeles Times q
    • Ariana Grande has an actual twin – only, they’re not related at all

      Some people look so alike, we think they’re related, but then we learn they’re not. Did you know that Ariana Grande has…

      Hello Giggles
    • White House goes to war with the press over dubious claims about crowd sizes

      President Donald Trump's top officials stood defiant for a second day in the face of...

      Business Insider
    • Trump faces lawsuit for violating Constitution two days after taking oath

      An all-star team of lawyers, including two leading experts on presidential ethics and two of the most prominent constitutional scholars in the nation, will file a lawsuit on Monday challenging President Trump’s ongoing violation of an anti-corruption provision in the Constitution. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, does regular business with foreign governments, presenting them with an opportunity to launder unconstitutional gifts to the president. Although Trump announced at a press conference prior to his inauguration that he would take some steps to insulate himself from his company, Norm Eisen, former chief ethics counsel to President Obama and Richard Painter, who held the same job under President George W. Bush, released a statement saying that these steps are insufficient.

      ThinkProgress q
    • Discarded protest signs from the Women’s March in NYC (28 photos)

      Following the march in New York City, protesters left behind thousands of signs around Fifth Avenue near Trump Tower. Many signs left near a construction site were taken home by admirers as souvenirs. One group of placards was made into an art installation on East 57th Street, while many of these great signs were discarded near receptacles along Fifth Avenue waiting for sanitation. (Yahoo News) Photography by Gordon Donovan /Yahoo News _____ Related slideshows: Slideshow: Signs of the Women's March around the world >>> Slideshow: Women's March on Washington, D.C. >>> Slideshow: Women’s March around the world >>> Slideshow: How newspapers covered President's Trump inauguration >>> Slideshow: Anti-Trump inauguration protests break out in U.S. >>> Slideshow: Protests worldwide against the inauguration of Donald Trump >>> Slideshow: Obama's Washington >>> Slideshow: Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day >>> Slideshow: 66 hands on 66 Bibles >>> See more news-related photo galleries , and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.  

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Johnny Manziel Is At The AFC Championship Game And You Can Definitely Guess Who He's Rooting For

      ALERT: Johnny Manziel is at the #AFCChampionship. Johnny Manziel had one of the most notorious flame-outs of any first round draft pick in recent NFL history, but he still loves the game. Sure, he grew up in Texas and was employed by the Cleveland Browns, but that apparently hasn’t stopped him from attending the AFC Championship and rooting for the Patriots, according to his Snapchat.

      UPROXX
    • Honda Pilot vs. Acura MDX: Buy This, Not That

      Honda's newest full-size SUV is so good that it can almost stake a claim in the luxury segment. So how does it compare to its upscale cousin, the Acura MDX?

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • Did Karen Pence and Her Blue Dress Steal the Show at the Inauguration Ball?

      All eyes were on the presidential procession during President Trump’s inauguration, and that includes getting a first look at some of the fashion choices of the new first family. However, it was Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, who according to some observers stole the show in a dazzling blue number at the evening inaugural ball.

      Yahoo Style
    • Man Killed Trying to Stop Robbery at San Antonio Mall; 5 Others Injured

      A man was shot and killed in Texas while trying to stop a robbery at a mall jewelry store on Sunday afternoon. According to San Antonio police, two armed men robbed Kay Jewelers in San Antonio’s Rolling Oaks Mall. According to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, a second man pulled out his licensed concealed weapon and shot one of the suspects.

      People
    • Tom Brady's kids have a diet that is almost as strict as his

      Tom Brady is a professional football player who is still in peak shape at an age (39) when most...

      Business Insider
    • The oldest TV technology is getting popular again with cordcutters

      We've all heard the term "cord cutting" more times than we can stand, but it often seems like, despite the fact that many cable and satellite customers talk about it, very few people are actually axing their pay-TV services in favor of something else. A new study suggests that while it might not seem like many people are actually going back to over-the-air TV, the movement is actually gaining some serious traction. According to the report, a full 15% of households with broadband connections have gone back to TV via antenna exclusively. "Pay-TV subscriptions have dropped each year since 2014, falling to 81% of U.S. broadband households in Q3 2016,” Brett Sappington, Senior Director of Research with Parks Associates, said of the data. “Several factors have played a part in this decline, including growth in the OTT video market, increasing costs for pay-TV services, and consumer awareness of available online alternatives." It's important to note that many of the cord cutters are likely not relying solely on their local broadcasters for content, but are instead embracing streaming services in place of their traditional cable or satellite options. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and even Twitch are starting to seriously make a case for themselves as primary video services, rather than supplementary add-ons alongside a monthly cable bill. Still, it's an impressive figure that seems to be growing rather steadily, and with  dissatisfaction in many cable providers at an all-time high, it's hard to imagine this trend doing anything but growing for the foreseeable future.

      BGR News
    • The Latest: Watchdog group says it will sue President Trump

      WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EST):

      Associated Press
    • Creator of Rihanna’s Iconic Hoodie for the Women’s March Explains How It All Happened

      Model Leomie Anderson’s LAPP line is making waves thanks to stars like Rihanna. Rihanna gave her fans two powerful looks for inauguration weekend. To get her message across, the Barbadian princess chose to wear a new brand, launched just last year by model Leomie Anderson.

      Yahoo Style