Fitbit Ultra review
You've eaten too much, you're feeling rather fat, and you need to do something about it. In steps Fitbit Ultra promises to track your movement before displaying it all on the accompanying website for you to digest.
So can something so simple really help you shave off the pounds? Or is it a device you buy during the madness of new year resolutions, and stop using two weeks in to January? To find out, we lived with the Fitbit Ultra for almost a month.
The Fitbit Ultra is, essentially a high-tech digital pedometer in a small matte black clip. It's really tiny, with dimensions of just 55x19.5x14mm and it weighs a minuscule 11.34g. The idea is, it can be slipped into your pocket or, more likely, worn on your waist. For women Fitbit recommends you place it on your bra in between your cleavage, the idea is, to keep it central where it can be most accurate.
The device itself has a small OLED display that lights up when the single button is pressed. It allows you to scroll through the data from the device itself, but that's just one way to see how you've been getting on.
In Pocket-lint's case we've been wearing our Fitbit Ultra on our waist, underneath our belt. It's small enough to not to bother you, and light enough for us to have actually forgotten that we were wearing it at times.
That has its pros and cons. On the plus side you aren't going to notice it, and that's a good thing. On the down side, we found is diminutive size meant we forgot about it occasionally when switching trousers either at the end of the day, or when going for a run.
On the go data
While most of the data that you collect is best viewed online at Fitbit.com, you will be able to view some of the data on-the-go, via the device.
That list includes steps, distance covered that day, floors climbed, calories, a clock, something to encourage you (i.e. make you laugh), and a flower that grows the more exercise you do.
It's quick, at-a-glance stuff that lets you know how much you are walking, and it is surprising how quickly you can notch up a mile, just mopping around the house. The Fitbit has a battery that can sustain it for as long as a week too, which means you can collect plenty of data before recharging.
There are two ways to sync the device. You can either plug into the included docking station, when it comes to charge it, or just walk somewhere near the cradle when it is plugged into your computer. The Fitbit Tracker syncs wirelessly to the base station (included) using 2.4 GHz radio transmitter. That's a lot easier than faffing with Bluetooth and a lot less power consumption too.
Sync occurs automatically, anytime your Tracker is within about 15 feet of any base station, and relatively motionless. The base station plugs into your Mac or PC’s USB port and your computer just needs to be switched on for it to happen. It certainly makes the syncing process a lot easier.
If you aren't walking here, there, and everywhere, Fitbit Ultra can also track your sleep, as long as you are prepared to wear it on your arm.
There's a Velcro strap in the box and it's pretty uncomfortable. The system works by monitoring when you are still, and therefore asleep. In practice we found it not only uncomfortable to wear, but also rather pointless.
So you've got the bug, you've decided to wear the Fitbit Ultra all the time, but what data to you get? The accompanying website lets you view and manage the data you are collecting.
In a move to "gamify" your exercise you will get to earn badges, medals, and virtual awards. These come in the guise of goals that you have to complete and doing so gets you pat on the back. As default you get a challenge to walk 70,000 steps a week, walk 35 miles, or climb 70 floors.
The game element is enhanced further with the ability to add your friends who are also using fitbit and see how you are fairing on a shared leaderboard. And there's nothing like the knowledge of your mate beating you to spur you on.
Aside from the gaming side, the website is a fully comprehensive affair. You'll get graphs on your steps, your distance, the floors you've climbed - it actually includes any time your altitude increases - and if you want to take it further: your weight. You have to enter that manually, along with the time you've slept, if you wear it in bed.
The whole site is incredibly easy to manage and incredibly easy to understand and use with plenty of ways to visualise the data to let you make the most of it.
Giving you more
While the Fitbit Ultra gives you walking stats and the like, there is also a focus on getting you to change your entire lifestyle to make it "fitter" all around.
That means that whilst the device won't track what you eat, or your weight, the site encourages you to track that information yourself and enter it online.
That means it can give you better overall stats, and help you achieve your ultimate goals. But it will require a lot more work on your part.
Food tracking is easy or hard depending on what you eat. If you're a "make your own food at home" kinda-person, tracking calories can be a real pain. If you eat ready meals with all that data on the back - not a great idea - then it is easy as pie. Sadly we are of the former of the two, and we don't own a set of scales either.
We do however use Runkeeper.com, and the you can connect the two services together to have your data from the Fitbit Ultra pumped into the running website.
Very much like one of those electric meters that have been all the rage of late, showing you how you use the electricity in your house, Fitbit Ultra does the same. Whether or not that means you are going to walk more, or take the stairs more, is up to you. We haven't found ourselves opting for the stairs because of the Fitbit Ultra, however we have found it interesting to see how much we've been walking and how much exercise we are doing without realising it.
The Fitbit Ultra is a fantastic low-effort way of tracking your movements and exercise you do on a daily basis.
What you do with that information will determine whether you'll find the Fitbit Ultra amazing or a complete waste of time.
If you know that you are an active person already, then you probably don't need the Fitbit Ultra. If, however, you are on the cusp of changing your lifestyle, and getting up off the sofa, then this could just be the kickstart you need.