Fitbit Force review
The Force is the latest activity tracker from Fitbit, maker of the similar Flex and One activity monitors. You keep the wristband on all day and night as it monitors not just your physical activity but your ‘sleep efficiency’ too. [Updated February 11, 2014: Fitbit Force availability in the UK.] NEWS UPATE: Fitbit withdraws Fitbit Force! [Updated February 21, 2014]
The £99.99 Fitbit Force adds in a bunch of the features long desired by users of the (still available) Fitbit Flex fitness wristband – and envied by other trackers such as the Nike FuelBand and Jawbone. Read our hands-on review of the Fitbit Force to find out how all these new fitness and activity-tracking features can help you get fitter and even lose weight – in conjunction with a healthy (ish) diet, of course.
I’ve been a Fitbit Flex user for nearly a year and love how it tracks my daily steps and keeps me motivated with set targets and pitting me against friends with Fitbit activity trackers. See Fitbit Flex review. The newer Force does all this and more.
Now read: Which Fitbit is best for you to buy.
Fitbit has kept UK customers waiting for months since the US release date and indicated "Spring 2014" for UK availability. News that the Force has been removed from sale even in the US because some users reported allergic reactions to the metal in the wristband puts the Force's future in doubt. Will Fitbit fix the Force to make it less prone to metal allergies, or will it replace it with something complately new? The company has promised a “next-generation tracker” soon.
Who needs a fitness tracker?
The NHS says that the average person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day, and 1,000 steps is the equivalent of around 10 minutes of brisk walking.
It recommends a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. A person weighing 70kg (about 11 stone) burns about 440 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly (3.5mph).
If you're trying to lose weight, you should aim to burn 600 more calories than you take in through food and drink every day. This is best achieved by a combination of diet and exercise. Fitbit allows you to input your daily calorie intake (via an online Food Database) so you can roughly gauge how much you’re burning off.
The food database used by Fitbit is from the US, however, so is difficult to use for standard UK brands. Just looking at the US food database put an extra few pounds on me.
That said, if you can log your food intake with some degree of accuracy then this is an important part of losing weight – if that’s one of your aims.
Lack of physical exercise is also quoted as a reason for some cancers, especially in women (breast, womb and bowel, for instance), according to recent scientific reports. Activity trackers, such as the Fitbit Force, encourage users to exercise more. That doesn’t mean joining a gym. It starts with simply increasing the amount you walk. The stuff most of us do a little of each day anyway.
Fitbit Force: apps on iOS and Android
Like the Flex the Force is compatible with free apps on both iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android. Nike’s FuelBand works only with iOS. The Fitbit app works with iPhone 4S, 5, 5c and 5s as well as the 5th-gen iPod touch, iPad 3, 4 and Air and the iPad mini. It works with most of the latest Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, LG G2, HTC One, Nexus 4 4, 5 and 7 (2013), plus others. Check Fitbit’s website for full device compatibility – it’s all down to whether your mobile device features Bluetooth 4.
The app is simple to use and syncs with the tracker via Bluetooth so you don’t need to physically attach the tracker to you smartphone or tablet. Most such activity trackers now sync wirelessly so Fitbit isn’t alone in offering speedy data downloads.
The data is presented in good-looking graphs and you can see how each day compares to others.
You can also set email alerts with weekly stats, and updates on how you performed against your Fitbit-using friends.
With the Force’s superb new display you don’t need to access the app as much as you did with the Flex but app and dashboard are essential complements to the Force wristband.
Fitbit Force vs Fitbit Flex
Like the Flex the Force you can track steps taken, distance travelled, active minutes, calories burned, and how long and how well you sleep (what’s known as ‘sleep efficiency’).
In addition it now tracks floors climbed, using an altimeter not present in the Flex.
The Force also features a clock and silent alarm, and so can operate just like a watch – as another top feature lacking in the Flex is the Force’s fancy new display that literally knocks the spots off the Flex’s minimal dotty display.
The Flex may have a minimal display but some might prefer its more minimal size. To incorporate that display the Force is 5.2mm wider than the Flex.
Fitbit Force display
You had to tap the Flex’s minimal display to show the percentage of your steps target via flashing dots. It wasn’t difficult to quickly see how you were doing at any time of day but it was only accurate to 20 percent sections of your target. To get the actual step count you needed to check your mobile app or the desktop dashboard.
The Force shows much more information right there on your wrist on a simple OLED display.
Press the button on the left side of the Force to see the time and click through daily: steps taken; distance travelled; floors climbed; calories burned; and very active minutes. It also shows you Alarm info. It’s possible to rearrange this stats sequence.
Having all the data right there on your wrist is a leap forward from the Flex and miles better than the Jawbone activity wristband that has no display at all.
I guess this makes the Force into Fitbit’s very own smartwatch.
NEXT PAGE: Fitbit Force - How it Works
PLUS: Fitbit Force Battery Life, Specs, Comfort & Design