Welcome to October, readers! Fall has finally arrived and brought with it crunchy leaves to run on, wonderfully cool temperatures, and something else I’m really excited about: new Fitbits! Two new models were announced on September 17, the Fitbit Zip and the Fitbit One, the former of which is available now and the latter which is set to ship out in early November. Both models bring some great new features to the Fitbit line, so, as a current Fitbit Ultra (and former Jawbone Up) owner, I wanted to offer up my thoughts on what’s been added and improved.
First, though, let’s go over the state of my original Fitbit, the Ultra. Purchased last November, my Fitbit Ultra has definitely taken on a well-worn appearance over the past 11 months. It still functions normally, but the finish is showing significant wear and the plastic is cracked and chipped around the hinge. The fabric wristband that came with the device is long gone. It started to rip after a couple months of use and I didn’t really have any great need to continue to track my sleep habits since the data didn’t change much or help me out on a day-to-day basis. While I had hoped that the device would make it more than 11 months before taking on such a battered appearance, it is, let’s face it, not that surprising for a piece of plastic that you wear on your person at (almost) all times. I’m just proud of myself for not losing it to the washing machine or knocking it off on a sidewalk somewhere. Needless to say, it looks like my Ultra will be up for replacement within the next few months, which is either perfect, or all-too-convenient, timing for Fitbit to release new models!
The Fitbit Zip
We’ll start with the first new model, the Fitbit Zip, which is available now in stores and online. The Zip is the Fitbit for the budget-conscious stepper. At $59.95, it is the cheapest option in their line, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Fitbit has made a “cheap” device–the lowered cost is related to the number of stats the device collects data on, not its construction. Based on my quick examination of the Zip in a store, it feels like a well-made little device, and it certainly seems sturdier than my Fitbit Ultra. I like to think that the Zip adds a little bit of fun and youthfulness into the line. It comes in five colors (including pink!) and collects data on steps, distance, calories burned, and activity level (shown as an increasingly happier smiley face). This data, along with a clock, is displayed on an LCD screen on the face of the device, and, like the Fitbit Ultra, you can scroll through each metric and choose the one you would like to be shown.
There are five new features that set the Zip apart from previous Fitbit models:
1. Improved clip design. The clip is the method by which the device is attached to your person. It is now made from silicone, making it much more flexible and, presumably, more durable than the hard plastic used in the Fitbit Ultra.
2. Replaceable watch battery. The Zip has a watch battery instead of a rechargeable battery as in the Ultra and the new One. The battery is purported to last up to 6 months and is replaceable by the user. Although this seems unnecessary for a device that could easily be charged while sleeping (it doesn’t track sleep patterns), Fitbit suggests that the replaceable battery removes the excuse of forgetting it on the charger for the day (which I have done before). I suspect, however, that the more likely reason for putting in a replaceable battery is that it is probably cheaper than having to supply a rechargeable battery and a charging cradle with every device, allowing Fitbit to sell the device for less.
3. Rain, sweat, and splash proof! No more worrying about getting caught in a rainstorm or getting super sweaty during a workout. Your Fitbit can handle it. Now if only they could make them washing-machine proof…
4. Bluetooth 4.0 Compatibility. Perhaps the most exciting capability of the Zip is the Bluetooth 4.0 capability. This capability allows the device to sync in two ways. It can either connect wirelessly to the computer via a small USB dongle, or it can connect via Bluetooth to your iPhone or, soon, your Android phone. The online and app interface is one of my favorite parts of the Fitbit system, and I have often found myself wishing I could check up on my current stats, especially in regard to the insights they provide on my calorie intake for the day. If I’m out for the day and end up at a restaurant, I want to be able to know how many calories I’m safe to consume, and being able to sync my device to my phone will give me that data!
The Fitbit One
The Fitbit One is the follow-up to, and will likely eventually replace, the Fitbit Ultra. It is set to start shipping in the beginning of November and is available for pre-order now. The design, while very similar to the Ultra, is a bit sleeker looking and comes in two colors: black and burgundy (no pink…). Like the Fitbit Ultra, it tracks steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed, and hours slept. The data is displayed on a small LCD screen that is essentially the same as the one found on the Ultra. The One also offers the same upgrades as the Fitbit Zip (new clip, water-resistant, and Bluetooth 4.0 capability), but instead of a watch battery, has a rechargeable battery and includes a charger along with a USB dongle for connecting the device to your computer. It also has one additional upgrade that I think trumps all of the other ones, though, and that is the SILENT VIBRATING ALARM!!! Yes, I am that excited about it. As much as I disliked my Jawbone UP, I LOVED the gentle wake-up of the vibrating alarm it had, and was bummed to give that up when I switched to the Fitbit. I’m also happy to have a reason to wear the Fitbit at night, again, although I hope they improved the durability of the included wristband.
Which one should you get?
I appreciate what Fitbit is trying to do by releasing the Zip, but the clear choice here is the One. To me, the silent vibrating alarm alone is worth the extra $40, but I know I would also miss being able to count the number of staircases I’ve climbed. I think the number of times I choose to take the stairs has increased at least 10-fold since I bought my Fitbit Ultra last year, and I have to admit that if I wasn’t collecting data on it, I probably wouldn’t be as motivated to take them. Because it tracks sleep quality, the extra $40 for the One essentially doubles the amount of data you are getting from the device relative to the Zip. The Zip certainly has its place, too, though. If you are someone who camps, backpacks, or participates in other activities that take you away from a power source for extended periods of time (or greater than the 4-5 day limit of the One’s battery), the Zip would definitely be your best choice. Its price also makes it a less risky choice to give as a gift to a friend or family member who is new to the all-day tracking game.
Either way you choose, I think both of these devices represent a step forward for Fitbit. The only thing that I still feel is noticeably missing at this point is compatibility with a heart rate monitor, which could increase the device’s capacity to track physical activities that do not involve walking and/or running. But, enough of what I think! What do you think about these new additions to the Fitbit line? Sound off in the comments!
Images from Fitbit.
Meagan is a geochemistry research lab manager, runner, Netflix binge-watcher, and Mom to a rescue dog, a bunny, and a human child. She started running in May 2011 and ran her first half marathon in October 2012, followed by her first marathon in October 2013. In July 2018, she joined the triathlon world and completed an Olympic-distance race. After an extended break (pregnancy/maternity leave), she is making a long-overdue return to running and is preparing for a high-elevation half marathon at Crater Lake National Park in August 2020.