Fitbit Force Review: A Health Tracker You'd Actually Keep Wearing

Fitbit Force Review: A Health Tracker You'd Actually Keep Wearing

Last year, the Fitbit One was our favourite fitness tracker. It had a great design, solid accuracy for steps and floors climbed, and a nice screen. The only problem was that it was so easy to accidentally leave in a pair of pants and subsequently put through the wash. To combat this, the company created the Fitbit Flex, its first wrist-worn product. Unfortunately, while aping the Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up, Fitbit accidentally threw out everything that made the One so great. Now the Force is here, and it's great.

The Force debuted roughly six months after Fitbit released the Flex. It is, quite simply, everything the Flex should have been.

What Is It?

It's a health tracker that measures your steps taken, floors climbed, time spent active, and the quality of your sleep.

Who's It For?

People who are trying to be more active and want some measurable data about their daily activities. Having even basic metrics about what you do throughout the day can paint a much clearer picture of your health, and may vary greatly from your perception of how active you are. The Fitbit Force will help you set goals, too.

Fitbit Force Review: A Health Tracker You'd Actually Keep Wearing

Design

While it looks a lot like the Flex, but with a slightly wider band, the Force feels more high end. Unlike the Flex (which required you to pop out its brains every time you wanted to charge), the Force is one single piece of hardware. Its silicone band wraps around your wrist and snaps into itself easily. It's thin enough that it won't bother you while typing, unlike Samsung's much larger Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

Up front is a bright, mono-colour (cyan) LED display that clearly shows your metrics as you go. There is one single button on the left side which you use for waking up the display scrolling through the various screens. Subjectively, it's pretty good looking (the black version is, at least), and it wouldn't look out of place if you were dressed for business, whatever your business might actually be.

Using It

It's really pretty brainless, which is nice. You use one button to flip through the time of day, your steps taken, your (estimated) distance traversed, your (estimated) calories burned, the number of floors you've climbed, and the amount of time you've been in a higher state of activity (like jogging). Hold down that button and it'll start a stopwatch, which is a handy feature. And that same button is also how you track your sleep at night (starting it when you hit the sheets, and stopping it when you wake up).

All of that data is then wirelessly synced to the cloud. The smartphone apps let you sync your Force throughout the day, without even having to think about it, using the Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy protocol.

However, that also means it works only with iPhone 4S or above and only a handful of Android devices. Samsung's Galaxy line starting at the S III works, for instance, and any Android device running 4.3 or higher should work, but most don't seem to yet (we tested using a 2013 Nexus 7 and couldn't get it to pair). But, even if your phone isn't compatible, you can still wirelessly sync via the included, tiny USB dongle. It automatically syncs from time to time when it's within 20 feet or so of your computer.

Once your data is synced to the cloud, you can dig in and see a graphical analysis of your activity patterns, either on Fitbit.com or through the Fitbit apps. They're generally nicely laid out and they're easy to understand.

Fitbit Force Review: A Health Tracker You'd Actually Keep Wearing

The Best Part

This tracker gives you the most data for the least amount of having to think about it. It's comfortable enough to wear 24/7 and you don't have to worry about taking it out of your pocket every night, transferring it into a soft sleeve so that you can track your sleep, and then reversing the whole process in the morning.

Tragic Flaw

There's nothing really tragic here. But, because we have to pick something, we'll say that we wish it worked with more Android devices.

Fitbit Force Review: A Health Tracker You'd Actually Keep Wearing

This Is Weird...

I'm not sure I totally trust the way it measures sleep patterns. You have two options to choose from: Normal, or Sensitive. In Sensitive mode, my sleep efficiency was always down between 48 and 56 per cent. Horrible. I would be a total zombie if that were true. However, if I flip it into Normal mode, suddenly I'm a sleep guru with 96 to 98 per cent efficiency. There is simply no way that either of those are accurate. While I suspect that Normal is more correct, the truth has got to lie somewhere in the middle. But where? With a gigantic spread like that it's impossible to know. Who should use Normal, who should use Sensitive, and why? We have no idea.

Test Notes

  • Battery life on this thing is fantastic. Fitbit claims it will go 10 days before needing a charge. We found that it went up to eleven. It only takes an hour or two to recharge, too.
  • The Force is dubbed "water resistant," "splash proof," and "rain proof," but I decided to wear it during a 5K mud run anyway, because that seemed like a realistic use case. It was at one point under 2-3 feet of liquidy mud and was covered with sludge for the entire time. I thought I'd killed it for sure. But upon hosing it off, it was just fine, and it had been tracking all the while. Impressive.
  • Unlike the Flex, the Force is extremely accurate. To test this, I counted my steps very carefully and would then check it against the Force. I counted a few hundred steps while walking normally, while walking with my hands in my pockets, and while jogging. In all cases, the Force was within just a few steps of what I counted.
  • The Force has a silent alarm feature I really like (as did the One and the Flex). You set your alarm time either on Fitbit.com or within the app, sync the device, and go to bed. At the appointed time, the Force will silently vibrate on your wrist until you stop it, thus waking you up, but leaving your sweetie-pie in dreamland.
  • In generally, Fitbit's site isn't quite as nicely laid-out or easy to navigate as the site (or apps) for the Withings Pulse.
  • The Force has a wacky "coming soon" feature. When paired with iOS 7, you will be able to received incoming call notifications on your Force. It will vibrate and show the caller's name (if it's in your contacts) or number (if it isn't). This feature should be rolling out in the next month or two, unless they deep-six it.
Fitbit Force Review: A Health Tracker You'd Actually Keep Wearing

Should I Buy It?

We're going with yes. While in some ways the above mentioned Withings Pulse is a better tracker (you can even periodically add heart-rate data), the Fitbit Force is simply the most convenient. It works really well, it's comfortable, it's accurate, and you won't have to dig through your hamper every morning trying to figure out which pocket you left it in.

That said, if you're averse to having something on your wrist 24/7, then the Pulse or the Fitbit One is the way to go, and, at $US100, they're both $US30 cheaper than the Force. We'd like to see more intuitive apps and better Android support, but, going into the holiday season, this is our number one Fitness tracker. [$130; Fitbit]


Comments

    Any idea when this will be available in Australia???

      Weirdly i hope its going to take awhile. Mostly because i bought my Fitbit flex just a few months ago and this is pretty much better in all ways (numbers instead of dots, more options, etc) even if it is slightly larger. Another $100 for this (and i know i'd buy it) is money i shouldn't be spending yet.

      I paid about 120 for my Flex, $180 is a bit much this soon after the flex.

      Last edited 01/11/13 4:22 am

        I'm on the same page.
        The biggest gripe I had about the Flex was that it didn't have a watch function. It is extremely difficult to wear both the Flex and a watch on the same wrist.

        Everything else are just minor annoyances I could live with, but are definitely welcome changes.

          Hey guys,
          I tweeted Fitbit a few days back and asked about an Australian release date - they said it should be available for international purchase in January 2014.

            10 months in and my order still hasn't arrived :(

    I almost bought a Jawbone Up last week, but the initial Giz review of this made me decide to wait. Unfortunately, these aren't due in Aus until 2014.

    ...Of course, that's what VPNs and mail forwarders are for, right?

    The AU price is a killer to at $180 (from what I've heard). I know the us $130 price tag is without tax but even with tax added and exchange rates we are paying $40 more the same item. Pricing enquiry did nothing. I want it but at almost $200 I need to really justify the purchase.

      Just pre-ordered one on Amazon!
      $130 + $9 shipping.

      Last edited 01/11/13 11:01 am

        I've just looked on amazon and it's $190? I just want it now! let us know how long the shipping takes.

        Not sure how that works - I just added one to my cart and to ship it to Australia totals $282.63 with expediated shipping, or 263 with standard.

        Please expalin where $139 comes from?

          I got mine in October on a preorder from Amazon for $129.00 plus $9 postage worked out to be $150.. Aus dollar all up, My mate bought hers 6 weeks later for same price from Amazon, but had to search different sellers on Amazon to get that price, Due to the lack of devices available the sellers have set their own price, best wait till more are distrubuted from fitbit.

    This looks so sweet. I was thinking of getting the Nike Fuelband SE but after seeing a comparison ( http://versus.com/en/fitbit-force-vs-nike-fuelband-se ) and reading this review... I'm totally getting the Fitbit Force! :)

    Just add a screen with notifications and you got the perfect Smart Watch/Device.

    Brookstone will ship to Australia for around $140 delivered.

    http://www.brookstone.com/fitbit-force-wireless-activity-wristband?bkiid=redirect_force&_requestid=364178

      I just tried to buy it but it only has USA as a location. I can't select Australia. How did you do it?

        I just tried to buy from Brookstone.
        They don't accept payment from Paypal outside of US, so I tried the credit card method instead, which worked, but the lowest shipping fee was about $50, which makes you pay about A$200 for the whole thing...

    I have been wanting one the second I saw them. From this review and many others I'm going to order it tomorrow. Although, I'm getting it from best buy because they don't ship to Canada for free. Also I wish they had more colours other than black and blue.

    Hi. I have just seen these Fiitbits and been checking the products they sell. On the official website they don't have the Force. They only have the Flex, the One and the Zip. Am I missing something?? Why is the Force not on the website?

    I have used the Fitbit Force (bought via Amazon) for over 2 months now, I love it and its simplicity the only major flaw is the band, it is not secure, it will easily get caught on anything and simply unlatch and fall off. I have found my Fitbit force several times just hanging on to my wrist and have lost my fitbit force twice where I have back tracked my steps to find it, to my relief. A more secure band and this is near perfect fitness band (heart rate tracker needed for perfection).

    Does it work with a Samsung galaxy S4?

    While the Force may be an amazing product, a technical marvel... my experience as 'consumer' remains less than impressive. I ordered late December, product was back-ordered, received Jan 18. Okay, this can happen. Upon opening the box, soon discovered it was missing the wireless sync dongle. Seriously? Now waiting to find out what kind of service I get round #2. I realize this has nothing to do with the product, but it does say something about Fitbit fulfillment and quality control.

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