Fitbit Flex : Wearable design with an impressive smartphone app

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, 

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

    • How Amazon counterfeits put this man's business on brink of collapse

      Forearm Forklift was thriving until cheap knockoffs flooded, sending sales tumbling and jeopardizing the manufacturer's future.

    • Elizabeth Warren: 'Nasty women' will vote Trump 'out of our lives forever'

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday hammered Donald Trump for his remarks about women, contending "nasty women" will mobilize to elect Hillary Clinton.

    • Parent punches student in the stomach in a school hallway, then just walks away

      (CNN)It happens so fast you almost miss it. A man walks down the hallway of a school, crossing paths with a young boy. Suddenly, without provocation, the man reaches down and punches the boy in his stomach. He then casually walks toward the door. The boy falls to his knees, doubled over in obvious pain. The man pauses, just for a second, to look over his shoulder at the boy, before walking out. Surveillance video captured this shocking encounter, which happened last week at the KIPP DC Spring Academy in Washington DC. The boy in the video, 7-year-old John Mclean, told CNN affiliate WJLA that the punch to the gut was "real painful." It was painful for John's mother to see as well. She says the

      CNN q
    • 'The Walking Dead Recap': Get All the Details of the Season Premiere

      Season seven of AMC's "The Walking Dead" promised to be a dark one, and on that front, it didn't disappoint, as devastating as it was. Fans were left hanging at the end of season six about whom Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan executed with his barbed wire bat Lucille, and they had to wait about 20 minutes into the premiere to find out who died. When the show begins, the executions have happened, and Rick, still kneeling, vows he's going to kill Negan.

      Good Morning America
    • 12 Lies American Evangelicals Believe

      Evangelical Christians are supposedly united in their belief that only those who believe the gospel — that Jesus Christ died on the cross for humanity's sins and rose from the dead three days later — will be saved. But not all who identify as evangelicals even believe this. According to a September study by LifeWay Research, Americans don't know much about theology. While most Americans identify as Christians, they seem confused about the details of their faith. "Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are OK for most people," explained Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. Even those who identify as evangelicals often fell into some of the worst theological errors. Here are

      Faith q
    • Nurse who survived Ebola settles with Texas hospital system

      A nurse who contracted Ebola two years ago while caring for the first person to be diagnosed in the U.S. with the deadly disease settled a lawsuit Monday against the parent company of the Dallas hospital where she worked. Attorneys for Nina Pham announced the settlement with Texas Health Resources. Pham contracted Ebola in the fall of 2014 while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

      Associated Press
    • Chrissy Teigen Feeds Daughter Luna Her ‘First Savory Bite’ – Watch the Too-cute Video!

      Chrissy Teigen enjoys watching her six-month-old daughter Luna’s many firsts, especially if it has to do with food. And on Sunday, little Lulu expanded her taste buds — happily!

    • Selena Gomez Desperate to Leave Rehab: "Everyone is Worried" (EXCLUSIVE)

      She's trying to get the help she needs, but unfortunately, Selena Gomez's rehab stay hasn't gone as expected — and her family is starting to become seriously concerned. A source tells In Touch that the 24-year-old has admitted to her loved ones that she "feels like hell" and wants to leave the Brookhaven Retreat as soon as possible. "She absolutely hates it there," the source reveals, adding that the star cited personal issues as her reason for checking into the facility. Even ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber is concerned for the brunette beauty, and is "praying" for her recovery. "Everyone is worried," the source adds. "Everyone's just hoping Selena gets better."

      In Touch Weekly q
    • Investors are ditching bonds and the long-term top is probably in: NYSE trader

      Keith Bliss of Cuttone says pension funds and other investors have poured into the long end of the yield curve because there is no return on the short end. As investors prepare for interest rate hikes, yields will move higher.

      Yahoo Finance Video
    • See 'Fuller House' Season 2 Photos (11 photos)

      Season 2 of Fuller House will be available to stream December 9th on Netflix.

      Yahoo TV
    • Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool title talk: “I don’t care”

      German coach hears your title talk and will not give it the time of day.

      NBC Sports q
    • Ohio Democrats watch in dismay as their state tilts red

      COLUMBUS, OHIO — Thousands of Democratic Party loyalists shifted eagerly in their seats in Columbus’ dimly lit convention center ballroom. They waited for President Obama, who would give a fiery speech urging Democrats to get out the vote, and indicting the GOP for aiding and abetting the overt racism that marked this election season. But before the president took the stage, Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper strode to the podium and, citing polls showing Donald Trump with a slight lead in the crucial swing state, launched into what he called a “pep talk.” “Do you think we’re a Trump state, Ohio?” “No,” the crowd roared. “I don’t think so,” he called back to them. “We’re the state that

      ThinkProgress q
    • Apple Says 90 Percent of These Amazon Products Are Fakes

      A new lawsuit filed by Apple contends that 90 percent of iPhone devices and Apple accessories it recently purchased from Amazon were fakes. Apple says it purchased the products directly through Amazon, not a third party. Amazon is not named in the lawsuit, according to an Associated Press report.

      Money Talks News
    • Woman groped on plane turns to an unexpected source for help

      During a recent flight, a passenger by the name of Ariana Lenarsky used Twitter to call attention to a serious issue. Lenarsky, a Los Angeles-based performer and podcast producer, opened up to her thousands of followers on Oct. 22 to share a harrowing personal experience that occurred mid-air as she was flying from Austin, Texas. As Lenarsky was walking down the aisle of the airplane, a male passenger allegedly "grabbed and stroked" her calf. The incident greatly upset Lenarsky, and she decided to turn to her Twitter followers for comfort and advice. SEE ALSO: This code word will help you when you feel unsafe on a date Since the incident occurred while Lenarsky was in the air, the ways in which

      Mashable q
    • 5 Colon Cancer Symptoms To Pay Attention To

      Cornell University college president Elizabeth Garrett, the first female to ever hold that title, died of colon cancer this past March. She was just 52. “It is with utmost sadness that I write to inform you that our president, colleague, and friend, Elizabeth Garrett, passed away late last evening after a brave battle with colon cancer,” Robert Harrison, chair of Cornell’s board of trustees, wrote in an email to the Cornell community on Monday. “There are few words to express the enormity of this loss.” Garrett served her role for less than a year due to her disease. She announced in February that she was undergoing an “aggressive treatment plan” for colon cancer and delegated some of her responsibilities

      Glamour q
    • Watch Orlando Bloom Rescue a Dog and Try Not to Swoon

      Orlando Bloom loves animals. And over the weekend, the actor rescued a dog he found bloodied and abandoned on a street in Shanghai, China.

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • Cosmopolitan
    • The Advice Every Couple In A Sexless Marriage Needs To Hear

      It’s incredibly painful when the person you love doesn’t want to be intimate with you. Luckily, there are steps you can take to change that. In a new animated video from The School of Life, acclaimed philosopher Alain de Botton explains how therapy helped one couple fix their strained, sexless relationship. It’s a must-watch for couples who feel more like roommates than romantic partners. As de Botton tells it, real-life couple Johnny and Rachel began to get into overblown arguments two years into their relationship. One night, Johnny punched his fist through the kitchen door ― a turn for the worse that prompted him to go to therapy.  The therapist discovered that Johnny’s uncontrollable anger

      The Huffington Post q
    • Harvick has words, jab for Kurt Busch after Talladega

      TALLADEGA, Ala.—Teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch are moving on together to the next round of the Chase. Harvick was angry enough that he stormed over to Busch’s car on pit road and punched at something—helmet, post, whatever—hard enough to rock the entire car on its chassis. Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch have words.

      From The Marbles
    • Photos of the day - October 23, 2016 (28 photos)

      Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, celebrates with a team members after winning the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas; Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters during a campaign event at Saint Augustine’s University, Oct. 23, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C.; and swans glide as the sun sets over Hawley Lake near Blackwater, southern England, Britain are some of the photos of the day. (AP/EPA/Getty/Reuters/Zuma) See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.

      Yahoo News Photo Staff