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Midway Through the Fitbit Experiment

I'm sitting here angrily munching on gingersnaps because the Fitbit dashboard makes me enter every single cookie separately. Or I could enter them by weight. How about I just round up to 10? Will that make you happy, Fitbit? Now I'm going to eat 10 gingersnap cookies to spite something. Probably myself.

The other day I felt dejected. OK, I was only mildly dejected, but still, there was a small nagging voice in the back of my head saying, "You only climbed 47 floors yesterday. You missed your 50 goal by just three floors. I'm ashamed of your pitiful effort."

To get revenge, I made myself jog up and down the stairs until my Fitbit flashed 50. Then, panting and sweaty, I walked over to my computer, opened Outlook, and refreshed until my 50 floor badge popped up.


Week 2 taught me that the Fitbit and I don't have a healthy relationship. Unhealthy relationships are what friends are for, so I befriended some people in my age group. Now, when I log in to the dashboard, I see our rankings on the side.

There is a whole community online where you can find people in your age group, or weight class, or geographic region, etc. Some groups are more active than others, and you can sign up to receive emails when someone posts.

I can't say I'm very impressed with the sleep tracker, though it's one of the more interesting aspects of the Fitbit. I tend to be one of those people who falls asleep in a normal position but wakes up with my legs up on the wall, my head dangling off the side, and the sheets all kicked off in random directions, so I was looking forward to seeing my nightly movements in graph form.

Above are three of my average nights, according to the dashboard. One of these nights I had insomnia and was up for at least four hours before falling asleep. Another night I was completely exhausted. And one night my neighbors were setting off fireworks and terrifying the dogs. Can you tell which is which? I can't.

On the profile settings page, you can change the sleep tracker from "normal" to "sensitive," so I tried that:

Somehow I doubt these numbers. The only thing I've learned from this part of the Fitbit is that I tend to wake up every hour or so, but then, I knew that already.

Expect a lot of competition in this market over the next few years. Developers are still working on improving the sensor math and getting the small form factor down. The Fitbit is leading this market, but it hasn't done many upgrades to the Fitbit program itself, so next year it could be a whole new ball game.

So far, there are only two real forms: clip on, or wristband. The clip-ons may be attached to your clothes, keychain, or a cloth wristband. The two main competitors to the Fitbit are:

  1. Striiv: $99. Tracks steps, stairs climbed, distance, calories, time active. Social competition encouraged. Keychain design with touchscreen. Donates to charity based on how active you are.
  2. Nike Fuelband: $149. Tracks activity level by turning it into "NikeFuel." Doubles as a watch, and syncs up with the iPhone/iPad wirelessly.

You may have also heard about the Jawbone UP -- a faulty but popular wrist band. Jawbone has halted production, issued full refunds to anyone who asks, and seems to be testing for version 2.0. Considering it's more of an audio company, it could come back to this market with a very different spin from its competitors.

There are other competitors, but none with huge market share. This is a great place to see some more competition from manufacturers with a brand or an ecosystem behind them. iHealth, maybe?

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