Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

If You Throw This Fitbit in the Washing Machine, It’s Really Your Fault This Time

If you love your clip-on Fitbit fitness tracker but frequently put it through the wash cycle, or it seems to jump off your clothes like a flea, your gadget prayers may be answered.

Fitbit today began shipping the Flex, which packs all of that health-and-activity-tracking goodness into — you guessed it — a wristband. The San Francisco-based company first showed off the product at International CES earlier this year, adding to the growing list of wearable “smart” devices that aim to track all kinds of personal data from your wrist.

The Fitbit Flex measures your steps and your sleep, syncs with your other favorite fitness apps … okay, okay. Here’s what you really want to know: How is this different from other activity wristbands on the market, like the Jawbone Up and the Nike+ FuelBand?

First, at $99.95, it’s less expensive than the $130 Jawbone Up and the $150 Nike+ FuelBand. The Flex is also launching with both Android and iOS compatibility, while the FuelBand still works with iPhone only. (Jawbone just released an Android version of Up, about a year and a half after the iOS-friendly product first launched.)

The Flex uses low-energy Bluetooth to sync your data to a mobile app or Fitbit Web dashboard throughout the day, unlike the Jawbone Up, which must be manually plugged into the audio jack of your iPhone. The FuelBand also uses Bluetooth, but you have to press a button on the wristband to pair the two devices and sync your activity data. If you have a newer Android phone, you can also sync your data open the Fitbit app by tapping the Flex against your phone, because the Flex has an NFC chip.

Lastly, Fitbit claims that its clip-on tracker, the One, is the most accurate device of this wearable-fitness bunch when it comes to calculating how many steps you’ve taken, and the company says the Flex is just as reliable. Its competitors, of course, can be calibrated to improve their accuracy in certain areas, although the FuelBand uses a pretty arbitrary currency called “fuel” to measure your overall exertion levels.

In a nutshell, these are some of the features that Fitbit hopes will set this product apart. Keep in mind that this whole personal data-tracking category of tech devices is still pretty new; these companies and others are exploring how to make wearables even more sensor-laden and more precise.

And, fitness bands are good for getting your butt off the couch, but they won’t do the exercise for you. As Billy Joel once sang, you get more mileage from a cheap pair of sneakers.

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