Fixya rates five leading fitness bands: which should you buy?

Summary:There's a growing interest in fitness bands, and if you're thinking of buying one, the Fixya trouble-shooting website has produced a report on the main problems with the top brands

Health monitoring is now a healthy part of the electronics and "quantified self" markets, and one that should grow as obesity becomes a major problem. Ditness bands can help users keep up their exercise routines, track their eating and sleeping habits, and in some cases, provide a rough guide to heart rates.

However, most potential users are still new to the game, and don't have much idea of the pros and cons of the different products. This is where the Fixya trouble-shooting website can help with advice based on logging thousands of user requests.

Fixya reckons the wristwatch-style Basis B1 is today's best fitness bad in offering more sophisticated data and advice, and it even covers heart rate, skin temperature, and perspiration.

The most common complaint is that the Basis B1 doesn't provide current heart rates while users are exercising (25 percent), though as Fixya points out, it works as intended -- and as explained in the documentation. (It's not a medical-style chest-strap heart rate monitor.) Users also complained of the lack of a food entry (calorie counting) system or a wake-up alarm (both 20 percent).

Five leading fitness bands.
Five leading fitness bands. Image credit: Fixya

Fixya rates the Fitbit Flex as the best fitness band for beginners: it's a small and relatively simple device, and also waterproof. Users complained that, unlike earlier models, it lacks an altimeter (25 percent). Also, it needs a proprietary charger instead of using a common USB charger (20 percent). Another complaint, summed up as "inefficient data" (25 percent), is that it can count actions such as washing up or playing the guitar as steps.

The Nike+ Fuelband is another entry-level system that is missing some basic features such as sleep monitoring. However, it is sleek and easy to use. It also benefits from having the best online community and the backing of a big-name brand. The main complaints from Fixya users are, again, "inefficient data" (25 percent), lack of manual data entry and sleep monitoring (both 20 percent), and the fact that it's water resistant, not waterproof (15 percent).

Fixya gives the wooden spoon to the second-generation Jawbone UP, which wins the award for Most Frustrating fitness band. Although it's much improved, Fixya users complain about inconsistent battery life (40 percent), syncing issues and its proprietary charger (both 15 percent). Ominously, another complaint is "requires replacement" (20 percent).

Fixya notes that syncing can be a problem because the device doesn't have built-in Bluetooth, and says the batteries can sometimes fail around the 3-month mark, when some devices go from working perfectly (10 days per charge) to half a day per charge, or less.

The Fixya report also covers the BodyMedia Fit Link, which "has taken personal fitness data to the next level for fitness junkies". This is an advanced device used in the NBC TV reality show, The Biggest Loser, so it obviously includes food monitoring.

Unlike the other devices, the Fit Link is worn around the upper arm, not the wrist, so one complaint from Fixya users is "Hard to sleep" (20 percent). Again, like the Nike+ Fuelband, it's only water-resistant (25 percent). However, the biggest complaint about BodyMedia's armband is that users have to pay a small monthly subscription for web access to their data (30 percent).

The Fixya Report on Fitness Bands was published online today.

Topics: After Hours, Hardware, Health

About

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first webs... Full Bio

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