Fitbit Flex

The perfect introductory fitness band

When it comes to activity trackers, it doesn't get much simpler than the Fitbit Flex. In a sea of smartwatches, smart jewellery and smartphones, the Flex stands out as an easy-to-use, bare-bones tracker that consistently does what it sets out to do: accurately track your activity.

That simplicity and reliability is something to be admired in an industry where new products don't always work as advertised. If features like touch screens and GPS tracking don't interest you (or maybe overwhelm you) then the Fitbit Flex might be the perfect fitness band for you.

Features, design and performance
Design
The Fitbit Flex isn't a complicated device. It consists of an activity sensor (a small black rectangle about half the size of a AAA battery), an elastomer bracelet (two sizes are offered in the box), a charging unit, and a small USB syncing dongle that transfers data to your computer. That's it. To put it all together you simply pop the sensor into the bracelet, secure it around your wrist with the stainless steel clasp and you're ready to go. The sensor fits securely into the band when wearing so you never need to worry about it falling out and removing it for charging is as simple as can be.

The Flex is fairly inconspicuous and looks a lot like a rubber charity wristband, or a very thin watch. You won't get any odd stares or "What's on your wrist?" comments. In fact, a lot people (including you) probably won't even notice you're wearing it after a while. But, if you'd prefer your Flex to stand out, the accessory band does come in 10 different colours. 

Overall, the Fitbit Flex is a lightweight, well-built device that doesn't feel flimsy or cheap in any way. It is sweat, rain and splash-proof (though not necessarily shower-proof,) and its clean and simple design means it will suit anyone and nearly any outfit.

Step counting
So what can the Fitbit Flex do? Well, it tracks your activity or rather your steps. There's no need to push any buttons (not that the Flex has any) or activate tracking modes to do so; you simply strap it to your wrist and go about your day. A 3-axis accelerometer registers your every step and stores that data on the sensor for up to 30 days. It is very accurate and won't undercount your steps. If anything it may credit you with too many. Occasionally the Flex will track exaggerated arm movements as steps but unless you're conducting an orchestra it likely won't throw your total off too much.

The Flex has a pre-set goal of 10,000 steps per day but you can easily adjust that. In order to check your progress, you simply tap the top of the bracelet twice and the LED display will light up with a series of dots. There are five dots in total each representing 20% of your daily goal. So if you see three dots you're 60% of the way there, etc. When you hit your goal, the Flex will vibrate in a celebratory manner giving you a motivational pat on the...wrist. While it might seem like a minor acknowledgement you'll come to crave the sense of accomplishment you get from that daily buzz.

Unfortunately this series of lights is the only form of display on the Flex and represents its biggest shortcoming. After you've hit your goal (and lit up your fifth dot) there is no way of knowing how much you've exceeded your step goal by and the display becomes a bit meaningless. In order to get any information about exact step counts you need to sync your Flex to either the Fitbit app or website. This also means there is no clock to tell the time and no other information that can gleaned from a glance. It's not a deal-breaker, but the lack of even basic watch functionality knocks the Flex down a peg when compared to other activity trackers.

Battery life
Battery life on the Fitbit Flex is exceptional and you can expect between five and seven days of use depending on how often you sync or check your progress, and how many alarms you have set. You can extend battery life by turning off All-Day Sync and Always Connected in the app settings. Charging the battery is very quick, taking only a couple hours to fully recharge.

Sleep tracking
One of the coolest features of the Flex is its automatic sleep tracking. Unlike some other trackers you don't need to initiate sleep mode to start logging your sleep. Just wear the Flex to bed and in the morning you'll get a report of how long you slept, how restful that sleep was and how many times you were awake during the night. You might be astonished by how much or how little sleep you actually get every night. This can help motivate you to change your nighttime routine or maybe just explain why you've been feeling so cranky. Over time this data can become really valuable as you can compare it to your activity levels and eating routine to see how food and exercise affect your sleep.

Silent alarms
Another handy feature is the silent alarm function. Using the app or website you can configure your Fitbit to vibrate silently on your wrist at specified times. This is a much gentler way to wake in the morning than the standard five-alarm siren known as your alarm clock. There's even a snooze function where if you don't wake up and turn off the alarm when it first buzzes, it will alert you again 10 minutes later. You can also use the silent alarms as a reminder to get up from your desk or the couch if you feel you're sitting too much during the day. 

The Fitbit app and website

Design and function
Due to the aforementioned lack of display you'll need to become very familiar with either the Fitbit app (iTunes/Google Play) or the Fitbit website. Luckily both are beautifully designed and very easy to use. When you log in to your dashboard on either platform you'll be able to see your step totals, distance walked, calories burned, active minutes and total sleep time. Those figures will update automatically every time you sync your device. For the mobile app you'll sync using your phone's Bluetooth, for the website you'll have to use the supplied USB dongle. In addition to the previously mentioned stats there are also fields that track your weight, meals, water intake and specific exercises, though this data must be entered manually. All of your data can be viewed through the dashboard in easy-to-read graphs that will display your history over the course of one week, one month, three months or even one year. 

Challenges and badges
Two of the most addictive aspects of the Fitbit app are the challenges and badge systems. You can find friends through your e-mail contacts that also have Fitbit devices and compare your step counts or even challenge them to walk-offs. This is where things can get ridiculously fun. Depending on how competitive you are, you may find yourself making up excuses to walk a little more to one-up your friends, or to keep pace with a particularly mobile pal. As you compete for challenge trophies, you'll also be rewarded with motivational badges reflecting total step counts, goal streaks and more. It's a great way to compete with friends and family without having to be in the same place. Plus, there's nothing that will get you more motivated to take that evening stroll than when your little sister/best friend/Weight Watchers leader pulls ahead of you into first place in your Weekend Warrior challenge!

Fitbit and Weight Watchers

Linking your accounts
Setting up your Fitbit and Weight Watchers accounts to sync is an easy process and once you do so, tracking your activity will become effortless. All of your steps will be automatically converted into FitPointsTM and reflected on your My Day tracker.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Under the Settings section of your Weight Watchers account click on the Activity tab.
  2. Select Connect to a device or app.
  3. Click the Fitbit icon. Then click Continue.
  4. Log in to your Fitbit account then click Allow on the next screen to authorize data sharing.