Why I still use the cheapest fitness tracker you can buy – it works

There’s a lot of talk these days about fitness tracking and fitness trackers in general.  You’ve got a lot of players in the game, from well known names like Apple with their Apple Watch and Garmin with their history with mobile GPS, to lesser known players like Huawei (at least for their smartwatches), Withings, Moov, and Misfit.  And then there is Fitbit, arguably the most well known of any fitness tracker brand, and they have multiple different devices to meet any and every need that one might have.  And their most inexpensive device (that I even received for free) is the one I use for one simple reason – it just works.


The Fitbit Flex (the original version) can be had at the time of this writing for around $60, which makes it a solid value compared to many other devices from Fitbit themselves as well as other manufacturers.  In the interest of transparency, I received this as a gift from my company, during a time of year when they were encouraging every to get active and stay active (loving referred to as “Walktober”) and at first I wasn’t interested or impressed.  And so the Flex languished in a desk drawer, until I began to have some issues sleeping, mostly children related, and I was at the same time subject to the most painful of male medical issues – a kidney stone.  So as both the doctor and my wife were gently encouraging me to drink more water, I wanted to find a way to track the quality of my sleep as well as the quantity of water I was drinking each day.  And so again the Fitbit Flex entered my life.

 The device itself is simple, and lasts 4-5 days on a single charge.  You can charge it by simply placing it in its cradle, and when you have 5 lights flashing on the display – you’re ready to go.  It pops back into the band pictured above easily and quickly, and it goes onto your wrist just the same.  Its got slotted adjustments for a variety of wrist sizes, and yeah; its just simple and easy to use.  The display shows the 5 dots in a progress bar towards you set goal (be it steps as in my case, or something else of your choosing like distance) and each dot is 1/5th of your way there, or 20%.  All 5 dots light up, and the device will give you a vibration and celebratory light show to indicate you’ve reached your goal.  For those who are looking for heart rates, miles run, and to know their exact GPS coordinates at any given point in time…well, this isn’t for you.  But if you’re like me, and just need something to keep you motivated towards getting healthier, than this certainly does the trick.

The real trick however, is in the software on your mobile phone that it syncs with, since the device itself is relatively useless without the means to track and store your historical data.  You can see how well you’ve slept (in general), can see how many steps you’ve taken (approximately, but I’ve found mine to be fairly accurate), and input meals you’ve eaten or water consumed per day.  It allows you to view your past trends as well as provides you encouragement when you achieve set goals and it does so in an “easy to read and get to your info quickly” kind of way.  There are fun animations and bright colors, for those that are into that sort of thing as well.

I’m a man of modest needs, and being able to see my progress towards getting more active and including more water in my diet is a huge deal.  But I want to be able to do it quickly and simply, since I don’t have the time or frankly the need to do more than that.  As so while I could spend hundreds of dollars more to get more stats, more info, and more stuff, it turns out I don’t need to.  Since the cheapest, simplest, most basic Fitbit of all does what I need it to do most – work really well.


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