In 2012, I was at a CES keynote when I first heard “wearable tech” as one of the big bets for the next five years. I scoffed at the idea of people opting to shed their jewelry and fashion statement-making accessories for tech products. Two years later, I’m writing this review while my Fitbit Flex sits patiently on my wrist.
+ Very Responsive
My absolute favourite feature of the Fitbit flex is that it does what it’s supposed to do. It knows when I’m running, it knows when I’m exerting myself, and it knows when my hands may give an inaccurate picture of what the rest of my body is doing (chopping carrots for example). If you ever stop to review your metrics at the end of the day, you’ll likely be very impressed with the accuracy of the device.
+ Subtle Design
A huge issue for a lot of wearable tech users is fashion. Naturally, putting something on your body day in, day out is a commitment that we wouldn’t even sign up for with our favourite articles of clothing. So, the Fitbit’s design is well suited for everyday wear. I opted for the generic black band which comfortably fits under my dress shirt sleeves, and matches virtually everything I’m wearing. There are also customizable coloured bands for those who want to go one step further with coordinating their outfit.
+ Resistant to Water, Life
When it comes to testing the Fitbit Flex, I really put it through the ringer. I wore the Fitbit Flex for virtually 24 hours a day, for a month. I even showered with it. The device held up very well in the shower and the only noticeable signs of use are the fading edges on the jet black band. Update: after 3 months of solid use, the band is now closer to grey in colour than black.
+ App / Email
Although a lot of wearable tech devices give you metrics in one form or another, Fitbit Flex’s value in this area is hidden behind the minimalistic approach on the device itself. The flashing lights do little more than give you your current day’s progress, but the Fitbit app is robust and complete. Personally, I’ve set the email to give me weekly updates, which I find to be a great time to review when I was most or least active.
Some great statistics available through both the app and the weekly report include: total steps (with daily average and your best day), total distance travelled in miles (with daily average and your best day), total calories burned (with daily average and your best day), weight change which requires you to input any changes, and average sleep duration if you enable it before you go to sleep every night.
There’s also a “step winners” leaderboard that shows you how you stack up to your Fitbit friends, but setting that up is cumbersome and ultimately less of a motivation than benchmarking against myself.
+ Battery is a Beast
Probably the most impressive feature of the Fitbit Flex is the amazing battery life. Presently, I’m getting 6.2 days of continuous use out of it between charges. When you sync it with the app and enable notifications, you’ll also get a pop-up when your battery is running low. Otherwise, the only way I came to learn that the device was out of juice was when I went to check my day’s progress and the device didn’t respond. Usually this was during a particularly long run or intense work out, which was annoying.
– Band Dulls Over Time
As I mentioned earlier in the review, because this band is on your wrist 24/7 or very close to that, you want to ensure that it looks good. The biggest issue with the Fitbit Flex is that the band dulls over time. What started out as a sharp, jet black band is now closer to grey in colour, especially around the edges. While this has no implications on the performance of the device itself, I increasingly find myself tucking it under my shirt sleeve especially when I’m in nicer clothes for fear of looking ratty.
You can always replace the band for as little as $5.99 as well.
– Band Smells
The Fitbit Flex motivates you to put your blood, sweat and tears into every day in hopes of being more active, naturally some of that is going to end up on your sleeve. I didn’t realize that this was even an issue until I was hugging my girlfriend from behind and she told me it wreaked. Naturally giving the band a good rinse every now and then is a good idea, but that smell does tend to seep in sooner and sooner as time goes on.
The core objective of the Fitbit Flex is to track your movements accurately, thereby encouraging you to be more active. The device is subtle, durable and tracks your movements precisely. It doesn’t falter when my hands are doing actions that aren’t indicative of my body, and I can honestly say that my overall level of activity has steadily increased from roughly 6,550 steps a day when I first put it on to 8,943 (a 37% increase).
For the price ($109.99 MSRP), I think it’s a feature-light wearable solution, but if you’re looking for more robust reporting on the fly, you’ll have to look at higher end models.