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Hands on with FitBit's One and it's (Beta) mobile sync

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#1
PaulOBrien

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Regular readers will know that i've been a big fan of the FitBit for a while now. Up until very recently i'd been using their Ultra device, however i've recently switched to it's replacement, the One.

The One is part of a refreshed model range which now includes a lower priced model (the Zip) and a forthcoming wrist band mounted tracker, the Flex.

At first glance, the One doesn't really add a massive amount of features over it's predecessor. It still tracks steps, stairs climbed and sleep movement, still syncs to your computer via a wireless dongle and still has a battery life of around 5-7 days. The only real feature addition at first glance appears to be the silent (vibrating) alarm. The specs are exactly the same as the Flex (although that is water resistant) and the Zip does without the alarm, stair counting and sleep measuring but has a ~6 month battery life from a CR2032 battery.

Design wise, the tracker itself no longer clips onto your clothing, instead the Fitbit itself is a small plastic 'blob' (for want of a better word) that slips inside a silicon clip for attachment to your clothing. This actually addresses one of my concerns with the Ultra - it was very easy to lose. The One has a much more convincing grip on the clip and I actually use the Fitbit itself outside of the silicon sheath, just loose in my pocket. Overall the product feels much more premium compared to it's predecessor, important when it has a £79.95 RRP (the Zip is priced at £49.95, the Flex pricing and release date is TBC).


Before we get onto the new sync features, the silent alarm is worthy of a mention - it works surprisingly well, (assuming you've remember to put the Fitbit into it's night-time wristband and on your wrist), it's particularly good if you rise earlier than a partner and want to avoid disturbing them with a noisy alarm.

So... syncing. As before, the device of course syncs up to the excellent Fitbit website where you can view all your stats, log weight and food if you wish as well as view 'league tables' of your activity compared with that of your friends. It all works fantastically well and really is one of the best things about the product.

In the Ultra, sync was carried out via ANT to a dongle plugged into your PC (this also served as the charging dock). ANT is an excellent low power wireless protocol, but the downside is there aren't many mobile devices with ANT available, hence mobile sync wasn't a viable option. Enter the new generation devices, featuring Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), part of Bluetooth 4.0.


Instead of shipping with the combined ANT dongle / charging dock, the new devices instead ship with a tiny Bluetooth 4.0 module for your PC and a seperate USB charging cable with pogo-style pins for the Fitbit itself. As you would imagine, the switch from ANT to Bluetooth means mobile sync is much more viable and that is exactly what Fitbit are offering. The ability to sync to the website without needing to be near a PC is a big bonus. But there's a problem...

The iPhone client supported Bluetooth sync straight away, but the Android client appears to have been lagging behind... only now offering Beta syncing support for a couple of devices - the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Why? The reason is actually pretty simple - Google have yet to provide a standard API in Android for Bluetooth 4.0 LE, hence adding support has had to be specific to particular devices - the Galaxy device support comes with the assistance of Samsung. Gah! :(

While bad news for everyone else (and I really hope Google sort their Bluetooth support out soon!), it is however good news for owners of the aformentioned devices. I happen to have a Galaxy Note 2 in my possession at the moment, so i've been trying the application out.

How does it work? Great! :)

The process is completely automatic... after installing and logging into the app, the 'Wirelessly Sync (BETA)' area appears from where you can view the last sync time, view the battery level, enable / disable background sync, force a sync and configure your Fitbit's alarm. Ah... the alarm! Although the silent alarm is nice enough for a regular routine, having the ability to configure it from your phone really does make it more useful. I imagine that when the Flex comes out and the alarm is on your wrist, the ease of mobile configuration will become even more important!

The sync itself seems to be very reliable even though it's officially 'Beta'... I even found myself using the phone to check my current step count rather than digging down in my pocket for the tracker itself... it's a handy thing to have.

All in all, if you're a S III or Note 2 user, the support makes the Fitbit an even more compelling purchase than it already is. I just hope we get support on all Android devices with Bluetooth 4.0 real soon.

The Fitbit One is available to buy for £79.95 from Amazon, the Fitbit Zip is available to buy for £49.95 from Amazon.


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#2
Mark Dearlove

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It seems there are other devices the BT sync works with - just not officially. No luck with my Galaxy Note as it doesn't support BT4.0

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#3
kjtaylor13

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I can confirm this works with Galaxy SIII Mini as well as the SIII.

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#4
The Soup Thief

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I'm struggling to see the point of these devices.
Why not just install a pedometer app on your phone? Your phone's accelerometer is plenty-good already
Maybe (if these doodads log data when your phone's out of bluetooth range, to upload later when you get back from your run or whatever - if they don't do that then the whole idea is fundamentally flawed) there's an argument for having one of these, if your phone's huge, but then that's just another reason for phone makers to start making smaller phones again!

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