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

    • Julie Bowen Faces Criticism for Joking About Barron Trump During Inauguration

      Julie Bowen has come under fire for her comments about Barron Trump. Julie Bowen made Donald Trump’s inauguration more fun to watch, but not everyone appreciated her witty banter. The Modern Family star, who often details the funny antics of her own three sons, posted a few Instagram photos during the ceremony focusing on Barron Trump, the 10-year-old son of the new president and his wife, Melania.

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • Michelle Obama’s Faces Upstaged Everyone at the Inauguration

      Michelle Obama may now be the former first lady, but on the Internet, she’s being celebrated as the reigning shade queen, thanks to her facial expressions on Inauguration Day.

      Yahoo Beauty
    • Trump administration suspends FHA mortgage premium rate cut

      (CNNMoney) The freshly-inaugurated Trump administration has halted a cut to the FHA mortgage insurance premium that Obama's team announced during his final days in office. The Department of Housing and Urban Development said Friday that the reduction to the annual mortgage insurance premiums borrowers pay when taking out government-backed home loans has been "suspended indefinitely." The cut, at a quarter of a percentage point, would have saved homeowners an average of $500 this year, according to the Federal Housing Administration. Borrowers with larger home loans would have seen an even bigger drop in their premium rate. The mortgage-fee reduction was originally announced January 9 and was

      CNNMoney q
    • Grown-up Paris Jackson hits her namesake city for Givenchy

      PARIS (AP) — Colorful fall-winter menswear shows in Paris mixed high culture, androgyny and streetwear, as Paris Jackson, the daughter of the late pop icon Michael Jackson, stepped out for the cameras at Givenchy's library show— fittingly in the City of Light.

      Associated Press
    • Kellyanne Conway Draws Laughs and Memes With Military-Style Garb

      The Gucci dress comes with a price tag of $3,600.

      Inside Edition
    • The Clinton Foundation Is Dead — But The Case Against Hillary Isn't

      While everyone's been gearing up for President Trump's inauguration, the Clinton Foundation made a major announcement this week that went by with almost no notice: For all intents and purposes, it's closing its doors. In a tax filing, the Clinton Global Initiative said it's firing 22 staffers and closing its offices, a result of the gusher of foreign money that kept the foundation afloat suddenly drying up after Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency. It proves what we've said all along: The Clinton Foundation was little more than an influence-peddling scheme to enrich the Clintons, and had little if anything to do with "charity," either overseas or in the U.S. That sound you heard starting in November was checkbooks being snapped shut in offices around the world by people who had hoped their donations would buy access to the next president of the United States. There was a strong precedent for it in Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

      Investor's Business Daily q
    • Years later, a child witness fills in disturbing details in infamous Miami abuse case

      Six years ago, 10-year-old twins were discovered in horrifying condition in a pickup truck parked along Interstate 95 — the body of Nubia Barahona, a girl with an incandescent smile, was badly beaten, soaked in chemicals and decomposing inside a garbage bag in the truck bed; her brother Victor was in the cab, badly burned by chemicals. The appalling case rocked Florida’s child welfare agency, which had received numerous abuse complaints against Barahona and his wife, Carmen, but repeatedly left the children in the couple’s custody. The ongoing death-penalty case against the Barahonas has yet to be scheduled for trial, but prosecutors believe the couple starved and tortured the twins for months or more — a charge bolstered by a new and disturbing statement from the couple’s own granddaughter, who told investigators that she was so terrified of her own family that she waited for years to tell her story.

      Miami Herald q
    • Bella Hadid Wears Totally Sheer Shirt Without a Bra -- See the Daring Pic!

      The 20-year-old model was spotted out in Paris on Friday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Are you an AT&T subscriber? Analysts say you may be part of a dying breed

      According to a report by Cowen and Company Equity Research, the Dallas-based carrier is losing more subscribers on a quarterly basis than any other American carrier. AT&T's biggest threat is posed by T-Mobile.

      Digital Trends
    • Even at his inauguration, Trump continues to make one of the worst men's style mistakes

      Donald Trump, who is now the 45th US president, continues to make one of the most egregious...

      Business Insider
    • Melania Trump channels Jackie O in blue Ralph Lauren dress

      Wrapped in pale blue Ralph Lauren cashmere and matching suede gloves, it looks like America’s new First Lady is taking style cues from a predecessor, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, during her husband’s swearing in ceremony today.

      Yahoo Canada Style
    • President Trump’s Inauguration Crowd Doesn’t Look Like Barack Obama’s Did in 2009

      A side-by-side comparison of the crowds at former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump‘s respective inaugurations reveals that Trump’s crowd isn’t as large as he boasted it would be. Two aerial photographs of the National Mall from the two historic days reveal large patches of white ground exposed during Trump’s ceremony, spaces crowds had filled during Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Federal and local agencies estimated 700,000 to 900,000 people would be in Washington, D.C. for Trump’s inauguration on Friday, roughly half the number of people who attended Obama’s first presidential inauguration.

      People
    • The inauguration is over, but these Michelle Obama memes will still help you get through the day

      Michelle Obama is all of us today. Forced to attend Donald Trump's inauguration on her last official day as first lady, Obama, who is normally the picture of grace and elegance, let things slide a little. The result? Her facial expressions at the inauguration are everything. And thanks to the internet, we can all commiserate with FLOTUS on this awful day with all of the memes. First there's all her amazing side-eye, proving that FLOTUS is a little salty, even though she's been (mostly) hiding it for eight years for diplomacy's sake: Maybe the most awkward moment of the whole day: There's this face, which is honestly perfect for all of our feels today: After all that shade, here's a good reminder:

      SheKnows q
    • ESPN drops commentator over Venus Williams 'gorilla' remark

      US broadcaster ESPN has dropped commentator Doug Adler after he compared Venus Williams to a "gorilla" at the Australian Open -- although he insisted the word he used was "guerrilla". ESPN said Adler should have been more careful during his coverage of the seven-time Grand Slam-winner's win over Stefanie Voegele. "During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection," an ESPN statement said.

      AFP
    • Trump Already Suspends Obama-Era FHA Mortgage Insurance Cut

      The contentious cut would have saved the average borrower about $500 per year and cushioned the market against rising rates. The post Trump Already Suspends Obama-Era FHA Mortgage Insurance Cut appeared first on Real Estate News & Advice | realtor.com®.

      Realtor.com
    • Kansas City College Student Sent Cryptic Text Just Before Disappearance: ‘OMG Just Got Pulled Over Again’

      A 20-year-old Kansas City woman mysteriously vanished early Sunday morning after being pulled over by police after work — and her family is growing increasingly worried and confused. “None of it makes sense,” Toni Anderson’s mother, Liz Anderson, says of her disappearance. Toni left work at the Chrome Club shortly after 4 a.m. to meet up with a friend, Kansas City police tell PEOPLE.

      People
    • 8 Signs Your Husband is Still Madly in Love With You (9 photos)

      Even after all these years.  From Redbook

      Redbook
    • Cuba Gooding Jr. Files for Divorce From Wife Sara Kapfer After 22 Years of Marriage: Report

      Cuba Gooding Jr. has responded to his wife Sara Kapfer’s separation filing two years later — details

      Us Weekly
    • Melania Trump wears sky-blue cashmere Ralph Lauren ensemble

      Incoming first lady Melania Trump wore a sky-blue cashmere jacket and mock turtleneck dress by Ralph Lauren, the brand that designed so many Hillary Clinton pantsuits, on Inauguration Day.

      Associated Press