Fitbit One adds Bluetooth sync and silent alarm; the one life tracker to buy (review)

Life trackers are very useful for motivating you just enough to improve your life and by doing so on a daily basis you will see improvements. The Fitbit One comes in at price lower than the competition while capturing all the data you could want from such a device.
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Fitbit One retail package

I don't get many comments on my life tracking device articles, but I still continue to buy them and post my thoughts because I think they serve a valuable role in getting people up and out of their seats. I recently reviewed the new Jawbone UP and then bought my own light blue one. I was going to just stick with the new UP, but then saw that Fitbit made several improvements in their latest tracker so I bought the new Fitbit One a couple of weeks ago and have been putting it through its paces. I think the Fitbit One may be my new ultimate tracker, but let's take a walk through it and see what you think.

What is improved in the new Fitbit One compared to the Fitbit Ultra?

To start with, the form factor of the Fitbit One is much sleeker than the Ultra and the clip is an additional accessory and not integrated like it is on the Ultra. I liked the integrated clip design of the Ultra, but since I am primarily carrying the One in my small jeans pocket I find I like the more compact design. The display is brighter and sharper on the One. I also LOVE that vibration is now supported for a silent alarm to wake me in the morning. Another MAJOR improvement is the ability to sync the Fitbit One with an iOS device via Bluetooth (Android support is coming). I'll discuss these new features in my detailed review below.

Form factor and data comparison with others

For most of this year, the Nike+ Fuelband was my preferred activity tracker. It has a great design and I like the wristband form factor. However, it doesn't do much in the way of collecting useful data and the closed ecosystem limited its usefulness. When Jawbone improved the UP, I moved to using that device and found it much more useful than the Fuelband. The UP collects and helps manage movement, sleep, and meal data and comes in the wristband form factor. I am wearing my light blue UP band right now and like most everything about it. I don't like that it only syncs to my iPhone via a rather clunky 3.5mm headset jack connection, there is only an iOS app so you cannot view any data in a web browser, and there is no support for 3rd party applications so you can't integrate workouts tracked by other devices or use other meal tracking apps. The Fitbit One is definitely the most open of these three devices and also collects and manages more data.

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In the box and first impressions

The Fitbit One arrived in a clear plastic package with many details on the functions shown on the colorful paper covering. I didn't realize how small the One was by looking online and was surprised by how much smaller it was than the Ultra. I also thought the clip was part of the One and didn't know it was just a simple small piece with a clip accessory. Inside the box you will find the following:

  • The One tracker
  • Silicone and metal clip
  • Wireless USB dongle
  • Charging cord
  • Sleep wrist band
  • Free Fitbit.com membership: includes ability to log and track activity, food, sleep, water, body mass, weight, and more.

I purchased the burgundy one since I wanted something a bit more visible than black in case I dropped it or misplaced it and needed to find the Fitbit. Burgundy is sharp looking and I am happy with this choice. I am a bit worried by the silicone clip accessory since it seems the One could fall out, but then again it is very light so it might be just fine. The sleep wrist band is much improved over the one provided with the Ultra and I find it very comfortable to wear at night. I was a bit confused by the charging cord and wireless USB dongle as I will discuss below in the hardware and setup section.


There are a few key specifications that may be of interest to you, including:

  • Bluetooth 4.0 to sync to computer and iOS device. (Bluetooth 4.0 dongle included for computers without BT 4.0 support.)
  • Rain, splash, and sweat-proof design. Not waterproof so don't take in the pool.
  • Integrated rechargeable battery for 5 to 7 days of usage
  • Vibration motor that powers the alarm
  • MEMS 3-axis accelerometer and altimeter
  • Dimensions of 48 x 19.3 x9.65 mm and 8 grams

I found the battery life to match what they list and have charged my Fitbit One up three times over the past couple of weeks. The Bluetooth 4.0 and vibration motor are two key specs for me that have me carrying the Fitbit One daily.

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USB charging cable, Bluetooth 4 dongle, and clip

Initial setup and walk around the hardware

I took everything out of the package and then figured I would charge and sync up the Fitbit One. I set the One into the USB charging cord, it fits into a rubber opening with the two metal contact points on the back lining up with contacts inside the rubber opening. I plugged the cord into my MacBook Pro and went to the Fitbit setup site. I kept refreshing the page to try to make the connection between my Fitbit account and the One without success and even restarted my MBP to try to get the connection through the USB cable. I then read the startup wizard instructions again and realized that you have to plug in the small Bluetooth 4.0 dongle to sync to your computer. I thought this was simply a dongle for people without Bluetooth and left it in the package. After plugging this in, I was able to complete the setup wizard. So remember, the USB cable with opening is for CHARGING ONLY and does nothing to sync the Fitbit One.

The Fitbit One follows the same design principle as the Ultra with a single button and a small display that shows you various pieces of information. You can toggle what appears on the display through the web browser Device Settings area of your Fitbit.com account. The following is available for display on the small screen:

  • Flower (grows and shrinks based on your recent activity)
  • Distance
  • Calories burned
  • Floors climbed
  • Clock
  • Greeting (customized with a name you enter)
  • Chatter (Random messages that appear throughout the day)

Steps are always present as one of the views of the Fitbit One. Silent alarms also appear on the display, but are setup in the Dashboard settings or on the iPhone. You also select whether you are right-handed or left-handed. After you selected what you want to see displayed and have the Fitbit One charged then you are ready to place it in a pocket or clip it somewhere and let it capture data.

What kind of data is captured?

The Fitbit One records data for steps taken, floors climbed, calories burned, hours slept, quality of sleep, and distance traveled. It can store up to seven days of data between syncing so make sure to sync and get your data up on the server at least once a week. This is the same data as the Jawbone UP, except the floors climbed measured by the altimeter is unique. I actually like this measure and find that it directly motivates me to take the stairs rather than the elevator more often than I normally would.

Walk through the Fitbit iOS application

There are official Fitbit applications for both iOS and Android at the moment, but the Android one does not yet sync directly to the Fitbit One and simply syncs and presents data stored on the server. You can enter things manually, such as meals eaten and water that you drink though. The iOS app is the premier app for the Fitbit One though and I absolutely love that the Fitbit One sits in my pocket and syncs to my iPhone 5 without me doing anything on the Fitbit itself. The Nike+ Fuelband syncs via Bluetooth to the iPhone too, but requires button pressing and it only captures minimal data.

You can sync and manage your Fitbit One all from within the iPhone application. The main display is called the Dashboard and shows you steps taken, floors climbed, calories burned, your weight, sleep data, food data, and water consumed. You can easily reorder the items on your Dashboard or remove them from view if you don't care to view them. The other tabs along the bottom can all be customized to your liking. I personally have the Dashboard, Food, Water, and Activity tabs adjacent to the More tab. I drink LOTS of water and like how quick and easy it is to enter water data into the Fitbit application. Food is pretty easy and so far the database seems pretty extensive. The great thing about the Fitbit too is that it is open so you can use a number of specialized meal tracking apps that sync to the Fitbit. I am happy with the Fitbit app itself so far and am going to try to use just this application for my food tracking.

You can swipe across the data in your Dashboard and change the goal levels or share your progress via Twitter. I like to run three times a week and to more accurately track these types of intensive activities you can specifically log them in the activity tab. Again, there are 3rd party apps you can integrate your Fitbit One with as well. You can also view your Fitbit battery life, but this is hidden down in the More>Devices section. Another fun aspect to the Fitbit is connecting with friends and comparing your progress. I manually control when the Fitbit syncs (when I launch the app), but you can also setup background sync to periodically sync when the app is running in the background.

Daily usage and experiences

One of the new features that alone helps me justify the cost of the Fitbit One is the silent alarm support. The Jawbone UP was the first device I tried with a vibration alarm, but on the UP it wakes you within a 20 minute period to attempt to wake you when your sleep is light. In practice, it keeps waking me up much earlier than I want to get up and when I am already getting up at 4:10 am I feel I need as much sleep as possible. With the Fitbit One, you manually set an alarm time and the Fitbit vibrates actively at that time until you press the button.

The other major new feature is the Bluetooth sync directly between the iPhone and Fitbit One. I prefer not having to use a computer to sync up my fitness trackers and these latest devices meet that desire. I do prefer how Fitbit lets me login to see and manage my data and the device via a web browser too and am glad it is not just a mobile experience. With the small Bluetooth 4.0 dongle in my computer, my Fitbit One stays synced when I am home with my Fitbit.

The Fitbit One is very small and I have been using it without the clip. For daily use I place it in my small jeans pocket and then when going on runs I place it in pocket in my workout gear. I feared I would lose it and I have forgotten it three or four times when I switch clothes, but then remembered it a short time later. Just like my UP, I keep forgetting to enable the sleep mode and lose out on tracking the data. I wish it could automatically recognize when I am in a horizontal position and switch to sleep mode.

I am still trying to figure out if I prefer the UP band or Fitbit One form factor, but I am leaning towards the Fitbit One since I put it in my pocket and forget about it. I like the ability to check the display for status, but even better is the seamless sync with my iPhone that makes the UP headset jack sync seems clumsy at best. The fact that the Fitbit One now has a silent alarm feature means it addresses one of the missing pieces from the Fitbit Ultra. I also love the web browser access, support for 3rd party apps, and quality of the Fitbit One.

Pricing and availability

The Fitbit One is available now in black and burgundy for $99.95. I bought it from the Fitbit website, but you can also find it at retail locations. Compared to the UP band and Nike+ Fuelband, the Fitbit One is priced quite a bit less while providing support for the most data and openness for 3rd party applications. IMHO, it really is the ONE life tracker to buy.

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Wrist strap

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Fitbit One in the wrist strap holder

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Wrist strap on for the night

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Fitbit One compared to Ultra

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Fitbit One is much smaller than the Ultra

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Fitbit One and Ultra

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Fitbit One clip accessory

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Clip on the back side of the silicone holder

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Fitbit One in the clip holder

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Ultra next to the Fitbit One in the clip accessory

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Back of the Fitbit One and Ultra

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USB charging cable

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USB charging port

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Bluetooth 4 dongle

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Website Dashboard view

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Managing device settings via the web

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Privacy settings via the web

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Setting silent alarms

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Dashboard in the iOS app

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Bottom of the Dashboard

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Water entry screen

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Food manager on the iPhone 5

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More menu items

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Customizing the bottom tabs

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Viewing device status

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