Monday, January 25, 2016

Fitbit Charge HR - what I like and I don't

With the fitbit charge HR information and its app I've been able to:

- Motivate myself into hitting my daily step goal (those 10K are tough to hit everyday when you work from home and live in a very small apartment!)
- See my heart rate, every day, over time. My resting heartbeat rate wasn't actually bad, my wife told me
- See the effect of exercise over what I could eat (more exercise, you can have more carbs). Exercise is the only thing that reliably lowers blood sugar (naturally) and also removes sodium from the body (through sweat)
- Establish a daily goal of 10 floors. I've always liked climbing floors, and my building has 5 floors, so I can accomplish that goal easily.
- Track my weight. Not only pound, but it also offers to track my body fat percentage. I did not buy the Fitbit Aria (which at $100, I thought too expensive for a weight scale) but I did get a digital weight scale that tells me that (and water, fat and bone density) and I can input the information manually every morning
- Track my water intake. I was really bad at drinking the 8 glasses of water daily. Don't be a wise guy and count other things as water (which I know is really the case 0 the body doesn't differentiate); try to really drink 8 glasses of water apart from milk, tea, etc
- Track my food intake. This was huge. This was the first time I was able to track my daily intake of carbs, protein, etc. I since have replaced this with MyFitnessPal which I detailed here but the Fitbit app is a great way to start, even featuring its own "scan the barcode" database.
- Easy sync, including removing and adding a new device.
- Easy integration with other software. I've been able to integrate my fitbit account with my care provider's app, with my employer's health benefits account, and with MyFitnessPal, and I'm not even trying too hard. It's great to see your results updated automatically everywhere.
- You get a weekly report (including comparisons to your friends)
- The website is even better than the app

But what really has me very happy and motivated is the social aspect. There are several things about it I like:
- The app is free. Anyone can join. Several phones (like latest iphones) will at least give steps to the app so people can join in without having the device
- One of the things that motivated me to write this blog was how I saw my friends and co-workers try to shape up when they saw the change in me. Those that bought a fitbit (I even gifted some) were able to add me as a friend and they also got the bug. It's a HUGE motivation to be able to do this with a friend!
- The achievement badges are a lot of fun. They're witty and easily shareable on social media.
- The competitions are only 4 types but they are good. I always run weekly and weekend competitions, and sometimes use a daily one if I want some extra motivation.
- Once you run into another person that has a fitbit, there's a good chance they will agree to do challenges together. Anybody that has one of these is trying to be better about their health, which is great! I run separate challenges with separate circles and it's a lot of fun!
- The app does a great job of telling you when you are doing good or someone is sneaking up or if anyone has hit their step goal or taken the lead. It keeps you in it enough that it's a game!

Of the device itself I've liked
- good material for the band. Yes, you still have to be careful, but I've had it for more than a year with no skin problems. Keeep skin clean and dry (move and dry if you are sweating) and you won't have problems
- both the small and large have fit me perfectly ok, which is great since I bought a large for my dad and it was too big for him. we were able to swap them and he was happy.
- silent alarms (just vibration) are very cool and effective
- this model is really low key, which I love
- call notifications! you can keep your cel in silence and this will vibrate
- enough customization options that I haven't found somebody that hasn't been able to be happy with it, both young and old
- firmware updates have added cool things. You can flick your wrist and it will light up. You can also just tap it with your finger to cycle through the screens.


However, I won't say either the Fitbit or its app are perfect. Here are my cons:

- The green light which measures your pulse can get distracting at night. Wish it was in infrared but I guess this was the best way to get the sensor working
- Sometimes, especially when walking a lot outside and wearing a jacket, it can count a lot of floors. I was walking the national mall area in Washington DC and it counted 100 floors. I walked a lot but I'm pretty sure I would have noticed! Supposedly it measures atmospheric pressure and this could explain a bit. Otherwise, it's a pretty good sensor.
- Battery life is at best 3 days tops. Maybe having it sync automatically and having bluetooth on all the time affects it.
- They only sell the XL over their store. At some point it was sold out and it was a pita to get an ETA when they would bring it back. When they finally brought it back, they didn't send me an email alert (which I had signed up for). They weren't helpful through twitter or email either - so don't expect much from their support.
- Seems a lot of people, when reporting problems, get sent a new one and are told to dispose of the older one. What the? I mean, it's great if the problem is indeed the device, but how much  feedback to improve their products are they missing out because of this? Plus it must eat into their revenue (although I bet their markup on the devices is insane).
- Getting the heart rate reading on the app, when you sync, takes a good 10 seconds more than the rest of the stats. I don't understand why. The tracker shows the bpm immediately.
- The fitbit food tracker database is not very good. That's forgivable since it's not their main focus. What isn't forgiveable is that the things you submit never get reviewed. I submitted a bunch of things and they were never added, nor did I get any feedback. Why even offer it if no one checks it? Solution was to use another app and tie it back to fitbit.
- 5 challenges at the same time is too little. I think this artificial limit should be lifted.
- It is not intuitive how to add friends, especially if you are already invited to a challenge with them. The first option you are offered is to add them by email. The actual best way is to click on the challenge options and then you get a list of every person, where you can just click on the person and send them a friend request through there.
- Love that they added the feature to just flick the wrist and have the tracker wake up, but it's not 100% reliable.
- Can't check the battery level on the charge HR itself. It will faslh a low battery when it's about 10%.
- The charging cables (really adapters) are different for every model and they sell them way too expensive. Thankfully my wife and I have the same one and we've only used one, but I can see someone losing or breaking one and groaning at paying $15 for something that definitely could be a micro usb instead (bunch of phones even do these connectors waterproof)
- Lots of extra reporting features are available as a premium subscription. I did the trial and wasn't impressed enough for it to be valuable.
- The vibration for call notifications can take a while to activate, which means by the time it vibrates it may be several rings in

Let me know any others and i'll add them!

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