UPDATE 12/09/12: THE FITBIT ULTRA IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE – PLEASE SEE MY REVIEW ON THE FITBIT ONE FOR A FULL DETAILED BREAKDOWN OF THE GREAT NEW TRACKER!
I have used my bodybugg for over two years and while I love it, I was intrigued by all the talk about the Fitbit. I had avoided looking at anything else because I had been happy with my bugg, and I tend to be a creature of habit and I don’t welcome change. I had invested a lot of time into building up my Custom Foods in my bugg database and figured I’d just stick with it. However, after hearing from a few trusted former bugg users that they had switched and liked it much better really made me consider checking it out.
I also don’t want to make this review seem like I’m slamming the bodybugg, either – I really love my bugg and it has really helped me, but I feel like the Fitbit and My Fitness Pal take all of the good things about the V3 and SP bugg models, their app, and their online interface and just improve on them. They’re constantly working on improving them, but in the year that I’ve been actively involved in giving feedback and seeing the changes, I just haven’t seen enough to make me feel like it’s getting better. On my first day I wore both devices at the same time and saw the same information, so I know they’re both accurate when calculating your daily burn. I highly recommend you check out both products when you’re looking to purchase a personal calorie tracker and decide what works for you. Read my full bodybugg review.
The Fitbit Device
I love how small the Fitbit is – I clip it to my sports bra strap during workouts (so far) and to the middle fabric of my bra during the day and it’s completely unseen while working. If I’m around the house not wearing a bra, it gets clipped to my underwear. I was worried that it would fall off during my intense workouts and get hulk-stomped and broken, but it’s securely clipped wherever I put it.
The device itself is a very simple design with a digital display on the side of it that flips through different information as you push its button. See steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, the time, and a flower icon that “grows” based on your activity (your active score). You also personalize your device with your name, so it will talk to you randomly with chatter. The bodybugg doesn’t display any information, you need to have the app downloaded on your smartphone or connect to the website.
Rather than having to plug the Fitbit into your computer and manually upload data, your information will wirelessly transfer to your account whenever you’re near the base station connected to your computer. I am in love with this because I normally have to take off my bodybugg, plug it in, sign into my account on the site, and then attempt to upload the info. This can be quick or it can take a couple of tries (sometimes including force-quitting Safari multiple times), based on how agreeable the site was being on that particular day.
You also have a stopwatch trip meter that measures any length of time you specify. I track all of my workouts and record my calorie burns, so I love this feature. To activate, all you have to do is press and hold the button until the stopwatch starts. At any point during your workout, just press the button and see your current burn. When you’re done, press and hold the button again and see your final time and calories burned. This timeframe is noted on your daily burn meter and you can go in and name your workout and sync it with My Fitness Pal, or you can record your workout directly in My Fitness Pal with your start time and everything automatically happens for you. Pretty awesome.
The battery life is wonderful, too – and when you’re near the base station, you can look at the battery indicator on your Fitbit.com Dashboard to see how much life is left. I’ve worn mine 24/7 since I got it Monday afternoon (fully charged before I put it on) and as of today (Thursday) my battery life is at about 50%. I popped it in the charger about 10 minutes ago while I sit here working right now and it’s already almost fully charged. My V3 bugg held a charge for about a week, my SP had to be charged every night for at least 3 hours (so I’d leave it plugged in overnight) or I would have connectivity issues the next day.
The first thing I tried was My Fitness Pal (MFP) since they work together and I immediately fell in love – and ordered my Fitbit a day later. One of my biggest issues – rebuilding my meals – became super simple using MFP’s barcode scanner.
For a regular meal that I would have to build in my bodybugg database, I would either need to take all food items to the computer with me or take a picture of their nutrition label. I would then add each food individually to the database, and then I would build the meal. And I could only do that on the website, which I can only access through Safari (gag) and since a Java update the program has had all sorts of issues with loading and I can’t manually change numbers, I have to use their arrows. So say I have to use 293 grams of zucchini for a recipe – well then I have to hit that arrow 293 times, sometimes 586 if they want to go by 0.5 increments. And you absolutely cannot build a meal or add a new food on the smartphone app, all you can do is log previously entered foods and meals. Bummer.
But with My MFP, I built multiple meals in just minutes…from the iPhone app! All I had to do was walk around my kitchen and scan bar codes, select the correct serving size, and then search and log the whole foods I was using. And I was a bit skeptical about that at first because it pulls from a user-created database – but I compared the measurements and calories to my digital scale information and it was dead on. My only issue is weeding through all the selections (like for example, if I’m looking for raw spinach) to find an entry in grams or ounces, which is how I measure. Some people put “1 cup” and other measurements that are too loose for me. But that’s honestly a very minor issue that is easily correcting with just a little bit of looking.
My biggest issue with the bodybugg is the phone app. I love my SP (the bugg that syncs through bluetooth with your smartphone) but there have been so many issues with the app and the bluetooth linking with the bugg. And if you get the dreaded “Bodybugg not set up” error after messing with it, you’re done seeing your progress on your phone until the next day. All the information is there and able to be viewed online, but that’s why I upgraded to the SP – so I could see everything on the go and not be restricted to my phone.
I’ve also had issues with the app crashing on me, losing my workout progress, and I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a Notes document open to record start/end times just in case it happens to me so I can manually upload and get the information from the website. Many times I’ve considered reactivating my V3 model and using the digital display to see my calories burned (no issues with that at all), but then I lose out on the app syncing, which is why I upgraded in the first place. And my biggest concern at this point is that after a year of the iPhone 4S being out, there are still connectivity issues. I have an iPhone 4, but I plan on getting the 5 next year – will it even work on that? It makes me nervous to stick with my bugg knowing that there may be even more issues along the way.
The Fitbit app is clean and simple, and I even did a little “oohing” and “aahing” as I set it up and and experienced it for the first time. 🙂 It shows you at a glance all your vital information, let’s you log your water, shows you your food intake (which you log through My Fitness Pal), lets you log your workouts (which you actually do through My Fitness Pal and it syncs), and *gasp* you can log your weight!! That is a huge feature for me – I weigh myself daily and I have years logged in a Notes app on my phone – I love that I can now log it here. I tried the Aria Wifi Smart Scale to add more to this function, but unfortunately it fell short – you can read my full review to find out why.
Fitbit Online Database
The first thing I love about the online site is how clean it is. Everything is very fluid and easily read, and it has just has a very nice appearance that makes me want to stay and poke around. Right on the main page of your Dashboard is a plethora of information – today’s activity detailed by steps, floors climbed, miles traveled, calories burned, and your active score. You can view all of this information for today, or for the past week, month or year. You also get to see a pie chart breaking down your active time (motivating you to get off your butt). You can see your device’s battery level, your newly earned badges (achievements for reaching certain goals), and your friends and groups. And at a click of a button, you can log your food, activity, or weight.
In addition to logging your food and activity, the site also lets you log/monitor your weight, sleep, heart rate, blood pressure, glucose, and you can keep a daily journal to keep track of your energy level and other notes that are important to you. Each page contains graphs that shows you data over different periods of time, which I love. The bodybugg site allows you to do all of this as well, but tracked less (the only thing I really saw a chart for was my weight over time, and even that was lacking), and I have the issue of it only being supported in Safari. I hate Safari and use Google Chrome as my primary browser, so it was a little frustrating having to deal with the constant Safari crashes (caused by both Safari and the bodybugg online application).
My Fitness Pal Food Logging
I log all of my food in the My Fitness Pal online site and app, and there’s so much good to say about it. It’s super easy to search foods and build recipes, but one of my favorite features is the ‘mass add’ function. I tend to eat a lot of the same stuff over and over, as I’m sure most people do. You can browse through your ‘Most Used’ or ‘Recent’ foods, select which foods you want to record, change their measurement if needed, and hit ‘Add Checked’ – and they ALL add at once! And the website database can be used in any browser with no issues, which I also love – no more being restricted to Safari, no more flickering database and having to record online and then adjust on my app for foods that require larger ounce/gram quantities. The only drawback on the MFP website is the ads – but they’re really not horrible and distracting so that doesn’t even really bother me.
My Fitness Pal on its own will let you monitor a lot of things as well to keep you on track. But honestly, if you really want the whole picture, I say make the investment in the Fitbit and let it do a lot of the work for you. You’ll gain a lot more from seeing all the calories you burn (or don’t burn) and you’ll have more accurate information. On the bodybugg site, you have to log each food individually, and then you run into the portion issues I mentioned earlier since you can’t type in numbers for portion sizes now.
This is a function I really didn’t care about when I purchased the Fitbit but I now love it. You get a nice fabric wrist strap that the Fitbit clips into and you wear it on your non-dominant wrist overnight. It’s very comfortable and I don’t even notice it when it’s on, nor do I have any issues with it falling off as I sleep. You start your trip meter as you’re going to bed (like for real going to sleep – not laying down to read or something) and then when you wake up you stop the meter. Upon syncing with your base station, you can see a breakdown of how long it took you to fall asleep, how long your slept, how many times you woke up, and what your actual sleep time was. I slept horribly last night and I’m dragging today – and my chart shows me why. Check out the charts below that show a good night of sleep vs. last night’s bad night. Note that in the top chart, all of my waking up at 5:50 and on was due to my snooze button as I was waking up.
Bodybugg: For the bodybugg, your initial purchase is $99.99 (24 Hour Fitness price). If you get the V3 model and want the digital display, add on an additional $69.00. The bugg comes with a USB charger and an armband that the device snaps into so you can wear it.
Your first six months are free, but then you pay your membership fee to access your account and online database: $9.95/month, $49.95/6 months, or $79.95/12 months. The smartphone app is a free download that connects to your account. The bugg will work without it, but you need your active membership to upload your information and wipe the memory so it can continue recording (recommended at least every 1-2 weeks).
Fitbit: For the Fitbit, you can get one of two devices (blue/black or plum/black) for $99.95 (from Fitbit.com or 24 Hour Fitness). It Fitbit comes with the base station USB charger, a sleep wristband and a belt holster. After that…it’s free! No more fees ever. That pretty much sold me, especially because I’m so happy with the quality that I’m getting. The Fitbit and My Fitness Pal apps are also free downloads.
Other apps supported by the Fitbit
The Fitbit works also works with many apps other than My Fitness Pal, such as Lose It!, Digitfit, Endomondo, and many more. They are also accepting apps that integrate with Fitbit, which is pretty great – I’m all about sharing and making things better, and the fact that they’re open to it makes me happy.