Fitbit Set to File for an IPO

Fitbit, manufacturer of fitness trackers and scales, is planning to go public, with an IPO valuing the company at $100 million. As the leader in this segment, Fitbit sold nearly 11 million devices last year, with revenue of $745 million.

They are certainly the market leader, with more than 2/3 of the fitness tracker market. But Fitbit’s timing is odd. Could it be because the Apple Watch is on the market? While not that many Apple Watches are shipping, Fitbit might have their IPO before there are enough to be a threat.

As Wall Street Journal technology columnist Christopher Mims said on Twitter, “42% of people stop wearing fitness trackers after 6 months. Any growth left for FitBit is just people who haven’t tried, discarded it yet.” So this isn’t a market where you develop long-term relationships with a lot of your customers.

But for those interested in tracking their fitness, Fitbit devices are much cheaper than the Apple Watch, competitive with other brands, and they offer a full range of trackers, from the One, which goes on your belt clip, to the Surge, which is similar to a watch. But some of Fitbit’s products are very inaccurate, prompting people to return them, or dump them.

Personally, I’ve used a Fitbit One for about two and a half years. It’s the most accurate device the company makes, and is unobtrusive. Dedicated runners and fitness buffs may want more, such as the Fitbit Surge HR, which measures their heart rate along with their activity, but the Apple Watch, while priced a bit higher, offers so much more functionality that it’s hard to imagine this cohort not buying the Apple product, once it becomes more widely available.

While Fitbit may be able to retain some of their market share, I think investing in this stock would be quite risky. Wearables are not a given, and with Apple in the market, it will be hard for any company to create products that compete.

Will the Apple Watch Track Fitness Accurately?

I have repeatedly highlighted how inaccurate fitness trackers can be, showing how wrist-worn devices have much worse accuracy than devices you wear on your belt, such as old-fashioned pedometers. It’s surprising that this more people don’t complain about this. I think most people never have the opportunity to compare two devices, to see how inaccurate one of them can be. I’ve compared the Fitbit One to a number of devices – such as the grossly inaccurate Fitbit Charge – and found that the One is the most accurate fitness tracker I’ve tried, simply because it is worn like a pedometer.

This isn’t a simple problem. If you want to wear a device on your wrist, you have to accept that some of your movements will be interpreted as steps. At one point, I found that merely tying my shoes while wearing the Fitbit Charge led to 20 steps being counted.

Nike realized this by using “Nike+ Fuel,” rather than counting steps. What’s most important in tracking activity is trends; were you more active today than yesterday? Did you attain your activity goal? Nike+ Fuel was designed to measure overall activity, since steps are not the only metric that should be counted. (Of course, even movement is not the only metric worth counting; you don’t move a lot when you work out with weights, yet you burn a lot of calories.) Personally, I think steps are a useful metric, because my exercise of choice is walking. So I want to continue to count steps no matter what.

Also, not all steps are equal. Steps on a slow treadmill desk are in no way equivalent to steps you make when walking briskly, or when running. Lots of people use treadmill desks, thinking that clocking 20,000 steps a day is somehow worth 20,000 steps of walking or running. While standing for a long time can be beneficial, treadmill desks, due to their unnatural pace, can cause injury, and even make you less productive, and less accurate in your work.

Apple will come under scrutiny about the accuracy of the Apple Watch. Unlike Fitbit, who offered no explanation when I contacted the company about how inaccurate the Fitbit Charge is, Apple has much more at stake.

Will Apple be able to make the Apple Watch more accurate? I think they will, and I have a feeling that they’re going to couple the Apple Watch and the iPhone to count steps and activity much better than other devices. The Apple Watch will be able to count steps without the iPhone, but when you have the iPhone in your pocket, it’s nearly as accurate as a pedometer. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple has figured out a way to compare your activity on both devices, using the iPhone as the benchmark, so movements made with the watch alone are counted more precisely.

Apple watch activityThe other possibility is that, while the iPhone can count steps, the Apple Watch will not present this metric to users. The Activity app, on the Apple Watch, only displays three metrics: Move, Exercise, and Stand. Move is a calorie-based count of your activity (which, while probably linked to a step count, since it’s called “Move,” is probably more than that. Exercise is a time-based count of activity “at the level of a brisk walk or above.” And Stand is the amount of time you stand during the day. Ignoring steps as the default metric may mean that Apple doesn’t have to worry about accuracy.

Yet that brings up another question: how much activity will get recorded by wrist movements? We’ll find out in a month, but, for now, I’m curious as to whether Apple has solved the problem of accurate fitness tracking.

Apple’s Health App Needs a Redesign

Apple is touting the Apple Watch using three main arguments. The first is that it keeps time, and is accurate to within 50 milliseconds. (I’m so relieved by the fact that a watch in 2015 can be accurate, aren’t you?) The second is the “fun, spontaneous ways” you can communicate with “your favorite people.” And the third is probably the best selling point, given the way people have used wearables up until now: it offers “a smarter way to look at fitness.”

I have to agree with that. The tricircular interface on the Apple Watch’s Activity app, which shows how much you move, exercise, and stand, is a brilliant design.

However, much of the Apple Watch’s data will be piped through to the Health app on your iPhone, and the interface of that app is sorely in need of a redesign, even if we do get a separate companion Activity app for iPhone too.

There is a huge disconnect between the simple, intuitive interface of the Apple Watch and the dry, archaic look of the Health app. With nothing but straight graphs lacking easy-to-spot dividers, the Health app displays data in ways that will put off even the most earnest of exercisers.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

What’s the Reason for the 10,000 Step Recommendation for Fitness?

I’m always skeptical of round numbers; they’re too convenient. I had wondered, recently, about the 10,000 step recommendation that many fitness trackers set as a daily goal, and that, apparently, the World Health Organization recommends. (I can’t find any actually proof of this on the WHO website, but many other sources report that they recommend this level of activity; all the links to their website I’ve seen that claim to support this number are dead.)

According to the Live Science website, the origin of this number comes from Japan.

“The origins of the 10,000-steps recommendation aren’t exactly scientific. Pedometers sold in Japan in the 1960s were marketed under the name “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter,” said Catrine Tudor-Locke, director of the Walking Behavior Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. The idea resonated with people, and gained popularity with Japanese walking groups, Tudor-Locke said.”

What’s interesting is that, in Japanese and Chinese, 10,000 is an important number. In Daoism, it’s an expression that means “everything that exists,” and in Buddhism and other oriental philosophies, it also has the meaning of “everything.” If you read texts about these belief systems, you may see the term “the ten-thousand things.” This is also the case in our culture, yet most people don’t realize it. The word “myriad” means 10,000; it’s often used to mean “countless,” or “an uncountable number,” and it comes from Greek, by way of Latin, where the original word had that meaning.

So, why 10,000 steps? It’s an easy goal to visualize, but it’s certainly not ideal for many people. If you walk to work, and walk a lot during the day, you can easily hit 10,000 steps, yet you may still not be fit. If you walk half that much, you may be fit too. And, steps aren’t even the best way of counting activity: a walked step counts the same as one you run, whereas the latter uses far more energy. (And this is why walking desks – desks with slow-moving treadmills – don’t have anywhere near the effect that walking at a normal speed, outdoors does.)

A 2004 article published in the journal Sports Medicine looked at this number, and said:

“Preliminary evidence suggests that a goal of 10000 steps/day may not be sustainable for some groups, including older adults and those living with chronic diseases. Another concern about using 10000 steps/day as a universal step goal is that it is probably too low for children, an important target population in the war against obesity.”

Some sources recommend a time-based goal, such as 30 minutes a day. This is easier to quantify, but it may be harder to ensure that your 30 minutes meet the criteria some organizations recommend. The Centers for Disease Control counts moderate intensity activity as walking 3 miles per hour or faster, a speed which might not be achievable by all. My own brisk walking is about 5 km/h, or just over 3 miles per hour, but when I walk on my treadmill, I can’t go that fast at all. (It could be that the speed the treadmill displays is wrong.) The CDC also says that bicycling under 10 mph is moderate intensity activity; I don’t cycle these days, but 10 mph is quite slow, and doesn’t even make me sweat. So these guidelines are confusing at best.

Most fitness trackers let you set your own goal, but one company, Withings, doesn’t give you that option: its trackers are set to 10,000, and, while it would be trivial to allow users to change that in their apps, the company doesn’t do so. If you use a fitness tracker, choose one where you can set your goal, and not just for steps; some calculate the intensity of your activity, and record minutes of moderate or intense activity.

So, don’t be intimidated by the tyranny of the 10,000-step daily goal. Set your own goal, based on what you walk now, then increase it, slowly, until you reach a goal that is attainable without too much difficulty. Or use a different goal; steps are easy to count, but they may not be the best way to measure activity. It’s frustrating to always miss a goal, so you can try to stay fit without choosing some arbitrary number as a measurement of your activity.

Life After Cancer: How the iPhone Helped Me Achieve a Healthier Lifestyle — MacStories

I’ve been struggling to get back in shape after chemo.

Since being diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma (Stage IV) in late 2011, my life changed. Beyond the psychological and emotional consequences of how cancer affected me, my family, and my relationships, it is undeniable and abundantly clear that cancer took its toll on me from a physical perspective.

Last year, I decided to regain control of my body, my life habits, and my health. I started tracking everything I could about my activities, my exercise routine, the food I ate, and the time I spent working with my iPad instead of walking, sleeping, or enjoying time with my family. Since then, I’ve made a decision to not let cancer and its consequences define me any longer.

I want to be healthier, I want to eat better, and I want to take the second chance I was given and make the most of it. What started as an experiment has become a new daily commitment to improve my lifestyle and focus.

And it wouldn’t be possible without my iPhone.

A very moving story from Federico Viticci. He explains how Apple’s Health app helps him aggregate lots of different data streams, but also points out that he doesn’t rely on it to view the data. One of my gripes with the Health app is that its display is poor. The article is a great overview of the many apps you can use to track and enhance your health.

But, above all, Federico tells a great tale of beating cancer.

Life After Cancer: How the iPhone Helped Me Achieve a Healthier Lifestyle — MacStories.

Study Highlights Inaccuracy of Many Fitness Trackers

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at a number of fitness trackers and smartphones to see how accurate they are at counting steps. A number of tests were carried out on treadmills, with participants walking 500 or 1,500 steps. The devices were compared with the actual steps that the participants took.

The test showed that many fitness trackers are inaccurate, something that I recently discussed, but looking at the results raises a number of questions.

Jama fitness tracker test

First, why would different apps on the iPhone show different results? All apps that track steps do so using the built-in motion co-processor.

Second, they give a step count for the Nike Fuelband. But that device doesn’t track steps; it uses “Nike+ Fuel” as a metric.

Finally, why did they only test these devices on treadmills? That, in my tests, is where they are the most accurate. Fitness trackers need to be tested during everyday activities, because any worn on the wrist track steps when you make certain arm motions.

I note that the study confirms what I have seen (among the devices I’ve tested): that the FitBit One (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) is the most accurate at counting steps. It may not be the sexiest device, but it certainly does what it claims.

Some people claim that the accuracy of these devices isn’t that important; that it’s more important to look at them as recording trends. This is true, if all you do is check how many steps you count in order to be more active. But many people use these together with calorie counters, and the lack of reliability of the step count – and other activity tracking – means that any calculations of calories burned is wrong, ofter by a very large percentage.

I think it’s a shame that so many of these devices are sold that are grossly inaccurate at the one metric that they claim to measure. Consumers should demand more than just estimates.

Fitness Trackers Need to Provide More than Just Data

Fitness trackers are good at counting things: steps you walked, calories burned, active minutes, how long you slept, and so on. While the accuracy of these devices can be dubious, a tracker can at least tell you how active you are compared to other days–well, assuming you keep wearing it. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than half of the people who purchase fitness trackers stop using them, and one-third stop in less than 6 months.

What fitness trackers and their apps aren’t good at–yet–is providing real insights. While looking at your fitness data can help motivate you to maintain a level of activity, data alone probably doesn’t tell you that much that you don’t already know. They don’t help you get healthier or more active. You have to do that yourself.

For fitness trackers and other health-related devices to be useful, they need to go one step further and provide real, actionable advice.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

Shouldn’t Fitness Trackers Be Accurate?

314xSphvUfLI’ve written about fitness trackers here several times. I currently have a Fitbit Charge, I’ve reviewed the Fitbit Flex, Fitbit One and Jawbone UP24, and I tried the Nike+ FuelBand.

One problem with these devices – aside from comfort, which is not always a given – is their accuracy. I’m surprised that most websites that review these devices don’t even discuss accuracy, when it’s not that hard to compare different fitness trackers, and determine how accurate they are. It’s almost as though reviewers expect them to be inaccurate, and don’t think that accuracy is important. (One notable exception is this Mashable review.)

I’ve been using the Fitbit Charge for a few weeks, and I’m surprised at how inaccurate it is. Fitbit, on their website, tout the accuracy of the device, saying:

“Charge has been tested extensively against our clip-based devices like the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip. That said, because Charge is specifically designed for your wrist, if you move your body a lot and not your arms (or vice versa), you may get a slight difference in activity than you would see on your clip-based trackers. Additionally, since you’re more likely to wear Charge 24/7, you may count a few more steps.

“This is no different than any wrist-based tracker on the market. For most people, there may be no difference at all between clip and wrist based trackers or it may be within a few percentage points difference. That said, if you have a lifestyle where you move your hands a lot such as playing the drums every day, you may see a few extra steps on your Charge because we do want to give you credit for this activity.”

Yet it’s horrible. Compared to the Fitbit One, the Charge records 30-50% more steps, and, therefore, longer distance and more calories burned (and its “active minutes” is pretty wonky too). It even records some steps while I sleep. Granted, the Fitbit Flex records lots of steps when you drive, so I guess this is an improvement. And the Jawbone UP24 doesn’t record steps when you walk on a treadmill, so all the Fitbit devices win on that front.

Here’s another example of the Fitbit Charge getting it wrong. I went out to mail some letters today; the mailbox is 400m away. First, when putting on and tying my shoes, the Charge recorded 20 steps. Then, I set the Fitbit app to record my walk. When you do this, it uses the GPS in the iPhone (or other phone) to record a map of your walk, providing you with distance, time and pace per mile or kilometer. The app recorded this correctly, and said I had walked 794 steps; the Charge recorded 943 steps.

Most people don’t compare the accuracy of different devices, so they never know how inaccurate their devices may be. Precise accuracy isn’t essential; as I said in my review of three of these devices:

“Fitness trackers are motivators. While, on the surface, they claim to record data about your activity, the real reason people buy them is to motivate themselves to be more active. None of them are perfectly accurate, and they all have drawbacks.”

Thinking about this made me wonder how companies think they can sell these devices with such glaring inaccuracy. I understand the technical hurdles in counting steps using a wrist-worn device; but what Fitbit says, above, is that it’s not only possible, but accurate. They say that the charge “may count a few more steps,” but they’re disingenuous if they really think that it’s only a few steps.

Fitbit says:

“Fitbit is dedicated to developing the most accurate activity trackers on the market. Our team performed multiple internal studies to rigorously test the accuracy of our trackers. Through our testing, we have confirmed that our trackers are some of the most accurate wireless tracking devices.”

And, on another page:

“We’ve tuned the accuracy of the Fitbit tracker step counting functionality over hundreds of tests with multiple body types. All Fitbit trackers should be 95-97% accurate for step counting when worn as recommended.”

So the problem is one of a marketing message that is simply not true; where I grew up, we called that “lying.” 95-97% accurate would be great, if it were true. Assuming that the Fitbit One is the most accurate of the devices I’ve tested, because it’s worn on your belt, like a standard pedometer, none of the other devices are anywhere near that accuracy. The Nike+ FuelBand cops out, most likely because the company realized that accuracy is simply not possible with a wrist-worn device; they came up with “Nike+ Fuel,” a points-based system that has no relationship to steps. In a way, they’re the most honest; they don’t pretend to be accurate. However, Nike still claims that their software can count calories using an algorithm based on the energy you expend when you move. That’s pretty vague, and deflects the issue.

The fitness tracker sector is expanding rapidly, and the one thing companies should do is ensure that their devices are accurate. I think these devices do have a future, but only if we can take them seriously. For now, we simply cannot.

Wearable Review: Fitbit Charge Activity Tracker

Update: Having discovered serious problems with the accuracy of this device, I’ve updated my review on January 2, 2015. I leave my original review intact below.

In my original review of the Fitbit Charge, which you can read below, I said, “it’s as accurate as the Fitbit One.” I’ve come to find that this is not the case.

I originally bought the Fitbit Charge when it was released in the UK. On December 26, Amazon UK had a one-day sale, offering the device at 25% off. I ordered one, and returned the original device. While the original device was fairly accurate in my testing, this new device is terribly inaccurate.

Here are some examples. One day, I tested the devices by wearing both of them. I went about my usual business, and I walked on my treadmill for 30 minutes. Both devices recorded nearly the same number of steps on the treadmill (2,048 steps for the Charge, and 1,997 for the One), but for the rest of the day, the numbers diverged greatly. Near the end of the day, when the Fitbit Charge was at 5,000 steps, the One was almost exactly at 4,000 steps. These convenient numbers make it very easy to calculate the discrepancy between the two devices. If you take away the 2,000 steps on the treadmill, where the devices nearly matched, the Charge recorded 3,000 steps, and the one 2,000. In other words, the Charge is recording 50% more steps than the One. (I’ve noticed that the Charge records some steps when I’m asleep; a half-dozen here, a dozen there, adding up, some nights, to 50 steps or so. And, no, I don’t sleepwalk.)

In subsequent days, I saw similar numbers. The Charge generally records from 30-50% more steps. What this means is that the distance it tells you you’ve walked is 30-50% higher than what you actually walked (or ran), and the calories that it says you burn are much higher than what you have really burned. (Not 30-50%, because the Fitbit also takes into account your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories your body burns if you do nothing.)

But it goes much further than that. Today, I walked on my treadmill for exactly 30 minutes. When I started, there were no active minutes recorded; when I finished, there were 35 active minutes recorded.


2015 01 02 12 22 31     2015 01 02 12 22 28

Looking back, I see that this is the case almost every day. Yesterday morning, it recorded 6 active minutes when I went downstairs and made breakfast. And the day after the above 35-active-minute workout, the Charge recorded 27 active minutes for the same 30-minute walk on my treadmill.

Not only is the device reporting incorrect information, but the Fitbit website is also presenting incorrect past statistics. Looking back, I see that my step counts are grossly over-exaggerated. In March of this year, it shows me as having gone over 20,000 steps several times. I was using the Fitbit One, which seems very accurate, but here it looks as though the website algorithm – which is probably what takes the raw data from the devices, and converts it into numbers – is way off base. There’s no way of knowing if this is what’s causing the discrepancies between the two devices, but if it were the overall algorithm, then both devices would report incorrect numbers now, and that’s not the case. When I look back at active minutes, I also see this. I’m not a very active person, working at home in a sedentary job, and there’s no way that my activity was anywhere near what is shown in the screenshot below.

2015 01 01 20 50 13

An article on the Fitbit website discusses the accuracy of the device. It says:

“Charge has been tested extensively against our clip-based devices like the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip. That said, because Charge is specifically designed for your wrist, if you move your body a lot and not your arms (or vice versa), you may get a slight difference in activity than you would see on your clip-based trackers. Additionally, since you’re more likely to wear Charge 24/7, you may count a few more steps.

“This is no different than any wrist-based tracker on the market. For most people, there may be no difference at all between clip and wrist based trackers or it may be within a few percentage points difference. That said, if you have a lifestyle where you move your hands a lot such as playing the drums every day, you may see a few extra steps on your Charge because we do want to give you credit for this activity.”

If it were just “a few extra steps,” I would understand. But this is much more than a few. And that doesn’t explain why 30 active minutes count as 35; that’s something that you simply don’t get wrong because the device is worn on the wrist as opposed to on the belt.

With this in mind, I strongly recommend avoiding the Fitbit Charge, if you seek a device that is accurate. While the first model I had was quite accurate, the fact that the second is so far off suggests that there is a serious problem with the quality of these devices. It’s pretty much a crap shoot as to whether the device you get is accurate. If you do buy one, I strongly suggest you check its accuracy. You can do this by, for example, counting your steps per minute on a fixed-speed treadmill, or even outdoors on a flat surface, then extrapolating to get the total steps for the amount of time you walk. You can also check the distance by walking around a track, if you have access to one. The way the Fitbit calculates distance is by simply multiplying the number of steps you take by your stride, and you can set that in the settings on the Fitbit website, in the Personal Info section. You can measure your stride by taking a number of steps along a distance that you can measure, such as in a room whose dimensions you know. (I suggest that you measure this over at least ten steps.)

I contacted Fitbit’s PR firm, who sent me another Charge. I wore two charges on the same wrist for two days, and they both gave more or less the same numbers (one was a tad higher than the other). So it’s not just a single bad unit, it’s the Charge in general that’s inaccurate. I’ll stick with the Fitbit One.

Original review:

I’ve been using the Fitbit One fitness tracker for about two years. It’s easy to use, since it clips on your belt and you can forget about it. But I like the idea of the fitness tracker, and have tried several others, such as the Nike+ Fuelband, and the the Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up 24. I found that all of these trackers – with the exception of the Fitbit One, were inaccurate, and many were uncomfortable.

314xSphvUfL.jpgFitbit has released a new fitness tracker, the $130 or £99 Fitbit Charge. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) This device is similar to the Fitbit Flex, but with a larger OLED display that can show the time, steps taken, distance travelled and more. Unlike the Flex, however, the Charge is very accurate. When I tried the Flex for a few days, I found its numbers diverged widely from those of the Fitbit One, especially when walking on a treadmill, or when driving in a car; it counted about 100 steps during a 15-minute drive, for example. A waist-worn tracker is probably the most reliable in counting steps, and the One is a good benchmark. Fitbit seems to have greatly improved the accuracy here, making the Charge seem much more accurate than its predecessor, and than the Jawbone Up 24, which was also very inaccurate.

2014-12-11 09.53.05.pngThe Fitbit Charge records your steps, floors you climb (using an altimeter; 10 ft = 1 floor), your “active minutes,” and your sleep. Using steps, it gives you a rough idea of the distance you’ve travelled. It also calculates the number of calories you have burned, based on your activity; you can log food as well, to determine how much you’ve eaten, and set a goal of burning more calories than you consume each day. You can record your weight, either by entering it manually, or by syncing with Fitbit’s Aria scale. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) (I use one of these, and it’s easy to use, and syncs to your Fitbit account over Wi-Fi.)

You can also record walks or runs, using the Fitbit iOS app. This records your distance, splits by mile or kilometer, and, using the iPhone’s GPS, even saves a map tracking your route. You initiate a recording by using the Track Exercise section of the iOS app, and choose Walk, Run or Hike. You can also start this by pressing and holding the button on the side of the Charge for a few seconds.

Fitbit’s iOS app is the best of the fitness apps I’ve seen, as compared to those of Nike, Jawbone and Withings. It can display lots of information, and lets you set goals. When you reach your goal – which can be steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, floors climbed or a calorie deficit – the Charge vibrates to tell you. And the Fitbit website has a graphical dashboard that shows all of your data.

Fitbit web

All this can seem a bit finicky; you may not want to view all of this data, and you can choose what to display, and in what order, in the Fitbit app. There are also a number of customization options for the device itself, which you can set from the app:

2014-12-11 09.53.22.png

You can see above that there is a tap gesture; this lets you choose what displays when you tap twice on the device. I found this very hard to get right. I initially wanted to double-tap the way I double-click a mouse, but that didn’t work; I had to tap very hard to get the device to display. I eventually found that you need to double-tap fairly slowly to get it to work, and I’ve gotten used to it, but figuring that out wasn’t easy, and the Fitbit website offers no help on this matter. (I just tried it again, as I was writing this article, and it took four tries to get it right; Fitbit needs to fix this.)

While much of the data the Charge records and displays is useful, I’m not convinced that the sleep data tells me much. Unlike previous Fitbit models, where you had to manually engage a sleep mode, this one detects when you go to sleep by the fact that you’re not moving. And the sleep data it offers is sketchy at best. Since it’s based on your movement, you may be awake and not sleeping while the device thinks you are asleep.

2014-12-11 10.15.41.png

The Charge also offers two useful features, but that could be better implemented. It has a vibrator that can alert you to incoming calls, and the display shows caller ID. This is great, except it only vibrates once. If you miss that vibration, and don’t hear your phone (mine is generally set to silent), it ends up being useless. It should continue vibrating until you’ve picked up the call. You can also set “silent alarms,” which vibrate – and continue – at times you set in the Fitbit iOS app. It takes too many steps to get to the alarm settings, and it would be more useful if you could set them more easily. You can set repeating alarms, which is good if you get up every morning at the same time, but they can only repeat daily. So if you want to set an alarm for every day of the week, you need to set five alarms. And not forget to turn it off on holidays or when you’re on vacation.

As for the device itself, it’s comfortable, having a soft plastic strap that is thin enough that it doesn’t get in the way when I’m typing, as the Jawbone Up 24 or Nike+ Fuelband did. It comes in two sizes; I have big bones, and the large model just barely fits. You need to leave a finger’s thickness between the band and your wrist to be able to attach the device by pressing its stainless steel clasp against the underside of the wristband, and I can just barely squeeze my finger under it. I would have liked a slightly larger model, which would be a bit looser. The Fitbit website only says there are two sizes, but the product manual says there is also an extra large size, and I’ve contacted Fitbit to find out how one can purchase that model, and if I can exchange mine. (I bought it from Amazon, so I know I can return it.) If you’re hesitant about the sizes – small is 5.5″ – 6.7″, and large is 6.3″ – 7.9″ – opt for one that’s larger than your wrist, and if you have a large wrist, contact Fitbit. (If I get more information about the extra large size, I’ll add it here.)

Fitbit has another version of this coming out in a couple of months, the Fitbit Charge HR. This will cost a bit more, and will have a heart rate sensor, to record your heartbeat continuously. I don’t really need this. And the Fitbit Surge, which will be larger, more like a Pebble watch, will also include GPS; again, not a feature I need, since my iPhone can handle that.

One note about syncing the device. There are two ways to sync: using the iOS (or Android) app, or using a dongle, provided with the device, which you connect to your computer. The former works fine; the latter hasn’t worked for me, even with the Fitbit One, for some time. Several months ago, it stopped working, and Fitbit sent me a new dongle; that worked for a while, then stopped. I have been unable to get the desktop software to sync the Charge, even though I re-installed the software. It seems to think that the Charge I have is a different one than the one linked to my account (which I’ve synced using my iPhone), and fails. I find that the desktop software is problematic, at one point, causing high CPU usage, and Fitbit support is not too helpful regarding these issues.

While I haven’t had it long, I like the Fitbit Charge. I actually find it useful to be able to check the time on my wrist; I haven’t had anything that allowed me to do that for a long time, but I’m finding that I do use it as a watch. The device is comfortable, and it’s easy to forget that I’m wearing it. It’s not the most attractive of devices, but it looks much better than, say, the massive Nike+ Fuelband, or the oddly-shaped Jawbone Up 24. And it’s as accurate as the Fitbit One. I’m still tempted by the Withings Activit√©, which looks like a real watch, but, for now, the Fitbit Charge is a keeper.

Fitbit Connect Software and High CPU Usage by galileod Process

I have a Fitbit One, and I use their Fitbit Connect software on my Mac so the device can sync silently using a USB dongle. When I got my 5K iMac the other day, the dongle wasn’t recognized, so I re-installed the software.

I’ve noticed since then that, at times, my Mac lags a bit when I’m typing. I spotted a process using from 50-100% of one core’s CPU time. This process, galileod, is part of the Fitbit Connect software.

It seems that the only solution is to uninstall the software, using the uninstaller on the Fitbit Connect’s disk image. I’ve contacted Fitbit support to see if they can resolve this, but if you have a Fitbit, and you’re Mac’s running slow, have a look in Activity Monitor (this is in your /Applications/Utilities folder) and see if that process is slowing you down.

Note that the Fitbit software uninstaller does not uninstall all the software. You will need to manually remove /usr/local/bin/Fitbitd and /Library/Launch Daemons/com.Fitbit.Fitbitd.plist.

Update: After contacting Fitbit Support, I received an email saying the following:

Please be aware that Galileod is a patch that Apple has launched to fix a bug on the previous OS X. The Fitbit software doesn’t use Galileod to run on your computer.

We would like you to try uninstalling your Fitbit connect using the steps on the following link: https://discussions.apple.com/docs/DOC-5471

If after following the above steps to uninstall you are not able to do it, or you still see an issue with Galileod we recommend to contact your Apple manufacturer for further assistance.

This is surprising, because galileod is part of the Fitbit software installer:

fitbit.png

Well, it won’t be the first time that a support rep told me something, um, untrue…