FITBIT FORCE REVIEW
--NOTICE-- FitBit is recalling the Force for full refunds due to reported skin reactions.
Official FitBit Notice: https://help.fitbit.com/customer/portal/articles/1425569
TechHive Coverage: http://www.techhive.com/article/2099905/fitbit-is-recalling-its-force-activity-tracking-wristbands-after-verifying-skin-rash-issues.html
The FitBit Force features all the strengths of the FitBit One AND the form-factor strengths of the FitBit Flex. The best of both worlds, this fitness band has an on-device screen, yet is worn on the wrist -- and tracks stairs (a neat feature of the One that the Flex doesn't have). The only thing this fashionable, durable 24/7 wristband lacks is full waterproofing so you can wear it in the shower. Otherwise, perfect.
My FitBit Force is Mine
As with all of my first hand reviews, it's important for me to let you know that I bought my FitBit Force with my own pocket money. (Actually, in this case, a friend bought it for me as a birthday gift because she wanted me to be her FitBit buddy!) To be clear, FitBit didn't ask me to review their product or write this review. A friend gave me the Force as a birthday gift, I used it on a daily basis, and now I'm telling you what I think. However, if you do buy anything through my site I usually get paid a small advertising fee (it doesn't bring your price up, though, so don't worry!). My opinions are my own, and I'm going to tell you the what I honestly think about the product in addition to listing the cut-and-dried features of the product. And, when a company does give me a test unit to review, I'll always be up-front about letting you know. Just wanted to get that out of the way!
Blisters of Joy
Frankly, everything about the FitBit Force was great, except for three things:
The Glorious, New FitBit Force
The new FitBit Force is what I've been waiting for (and I received one as a gift from a friend this February 2014!). After using the FitBit One for about a year and loving it, I lamented the release of FitBit's first wrist-mounted tracker: the Flex. The Flex solved the problem I had of misplacing my FitBit One, but it didn't have a screen that I was so attached to on the One, and, unlike the One, did not track flights of stairs ascended.
Imagine my delight when the FitBit Force was announced: A wrist-worn FitBit tracker with screen and stairs tracking. Read on to learn which few features curb my enthusiasm, which features I love, and why.
Chief among the exciting features of the Force is that it has a screen *and* is a wristband. Why is that great? A wristband, as long as you almost never have to take it off, is almost impossible to lose. It also helps you remember to achieve your fitness goals because it's always in your field of vision. And a screen gives you the real-time data you want to know in order to determine how close you are to achieving your goals. The 7 to 10 day battery life isn't anything to scoff at, either. Wowza.
The screen itself is backlit (great for when you're outdoors in the bright daytime sun) and provides information on including steps, distance, floors climbed and calories burned. The screen displays the time in addition to all the other great tidbits of information, so you can use the band as a watch. And, if you're aiming to hit the recommended 30 minutes of activity per day, behold: the screen will tell you how many active minutes you've accrued for the day (something the One doesn't show on its screen).
FitBit says it will soon be able to "use the Force" (hehehe) to alert wearers to incoming calls, too. However, this feature will only be available to those with iPhones running iOS7 and higher.
Charging the Force is a bit easier than charging the Flex. With the Force, you simply plug one end of the USB charging cable into a computer, and the other end into the band. With the Flex, you had to first remove the minicomputer from the rubber wristband before snapping it onto the charging cable. The flip side is that having the technology removable from the Flex band meant you could swap in a variety of different-colored bands. The Force only comes in two colors. And thought it also comes in only two sizes, small and large, its adjustable notch-based band style make it more customizable than the Nike+ FuelBand (unadjustable: S, M/L, XL) or the Jawbone UP (unadjustable: S, M, L).
The Force is a little wider and bulkier than the Flex. This means it can get caught on narrow sleeves of some clothing (mostly relevant for women). Also, it's not shower-proof. Making the FitBit Force waterproof would nearly make it the perfect tracker. I can say it's incredibly difficult to snap the band on. It did become slightly easier over time, but not much. It's very, very hard to get it attached. However, I've only had it come unattached once (the end of the band caught forcefully against my jeans and undid the snaps while I was carrying/shifting a very heavy tote bag full of heavy groceries. So, it can un-attach inadvertently, but it takes unusual strength or an unusual situation.
One small gripe is that condensation builds up between the insertable electronic device and the clear plastic viewing area on the band. Not enough to obscure the view of the data, but just enough in the corners to look gross. The Flex has the same issue.
None of these are deal breakers, though; This is really a nice product. It's also at an appropriate price point. Compared to its closest competitors, the Misfit Shine, Jawbone UP24 and the Nike+ FuelBand SE, it really has a lot to offer.
What might be a deal breaker for some people (including me, very sadly): As of late February, 2014, Jawbone has issued a voluntary recall of the Force for a full refund due to recent reports of a small number of users experiencing skin reactions to the band (https://help.fitbit.com/customer/portal/articles/1425569). I've only had mine for about 5 days, and have started to experience a reaction. The skin issues people are experiencing could be due to a number of issues that FitBit is looking into (nickel in the metal, adhesives used in manufacturing, an ingredient in the rubber, or bacteria harbored between the band and the skin). It's also not clear whether there's a problem with all the Force bands, or just some of them. In my case, the problem is likely nickel: I have a very slight nickel sensitivity, and my reaction is occurring only in the small area where the module's metal touches the back of my wrist. I've since replaced with with a FitBit Flex.
None of the other FitBit products have caused any known skin reactions among FitBit customers. And if the Force hasn't caused a problem for you, you're lucky---because otherwise, it's a really great option.
Similar to its sister devices in all the good ways
Just like the One and the Flex, the Force captures not only steps and activity intensity, but also your sleep (duration and quality). It uses the data collected to further calculate distance travelled (based on your stride length) and calories burned (based on your height, gender, weight, and steps/activity level). You need to set the device into "sleep mode" to track your sleep. If you forget, you can log sleep manually. It also features a silent alarm that gently buzzes to wake you up without disturbing your partner.
You can also log in to your personal FitBit dashboard online to view all of your detailed data over time. The dashboard lets you connect socially with other FitBit users - both those you know in the real world and those you don't - and see how you rank against them on your personal "leaderboard." There are also communities you can join (marathon runners, local walkers, etc), and a robust forum of FitBit users who help answer each other's questions and provide support. You can also track calories consumed, weight over time, and customize a calorie tracking plan for weight loss. FitBit's Aria smart scale, sold separately, will wireless transmit your weight and body fat percentage to your dashboard as well, helping to provide a full picture of your health journey over time.
In addition to viewing your data via Mac or PC, you can also view your data on select iOS and Android devices (greater mobile compatibility is on the way). The data is transferred wirelessly from your fitness tracker to your computer or compatible mobile device. The flexibility of access from multiple devices and ability to sync wirelessly are significant benefits over those limited to only web or only smartphone and trackers that only can be synced manually.
My Personal Experience with the FitBit Force versus the Jawbone UP
Since the FitBit Force is very similar to the FitBit One in terms of features, and identical similar in terms of dashboard, you may be interested in hearing more about my experience with the FitBit One and the Jawbone UP. I've owned a FitBit One since November 2012 and a Jawbone UP since about March 2013. You can read more about how I came to own both tracking devices (and why I went through three of each) on the About Us page.
Compared to the UP, I prefer the Force, with one caveat: I do like the UP's sleep data better. And I like the Basis sleep data even better than the UP's!
Other than that, I've preferred the Force over the UP. In particular, I'm swayed by the Force's screen for the constant feedback it provides (mid-run, I'll know whether I need to do another mile or just a few more blocks to meet my goal). I prefer its more robust social features on the FitBit Dashboard, which you can read more about in the main body of the Detailed Reviews page.
The automatic syncing is lovely - It would be an essential feature for me in any other fitness tracker. Not having it in the Jawbone UP hampers my use of the UP data along with the device's ability to motivate me (though the newest Jawbone UP24 does have wireless syncing). Also, I have found the Jawbone UP to have sharp edges on the ends of the band. The Force doesn't have any sharp metal edges and appears to be more comfortable than the UP for this reason.
My main gripe about the FitBit One is that I tend to lose it, or its holster (which I have three of, and still misplace all of), or its sleep wrist band (which I also have three of, and still misplace all of). The Force solves this problem --- the only time to remember to put it back on is after a shower. And it has all of the same features I love in the FitBit One (mainly, a screen and stairs tracking). It also has a great battery life.
You can read more about my perceived downsides (and positives) of the UP in the corresponding "Personal Experience" section on the Jawbone UP Review Page and the FitBit One Review Page.
Ten Tips for FitBit Users
FitBit Products: What's the difference between the Zip, the One, the Flex and the Force?
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
Features & Added Benefits
The FitBit Force has a 3-axis accelerometer that captures your daytime and nighttime motion. This data is used to categorize steps, activity intensity, and sleep patterns. It also has an altimeter that measures your change in elevation while running or walking in order to calculate the number of flights of stairs you've climbed in a day.
The Fitbit Force uses this information to present various data to you, including steps, distance, floors climbed, number of active minutes that day, calories burned, hours slept and times awoken. The screen also displays time of day.
In case you're planning an extended trip, the band stores 30 days of data (minute-by-minute data from the last week, and daily totals for the last 30 days) as long as it stays charged.
A number of features add appeal to this health gadget (as well as the Flex and One) including a silent wakeup alarm, a social aspect that lets you add friends and strangers to a competitive leaderboard, goal setting and tracking, weight tracking, and food logging/calorie counting via the FitBit dashboard.
Hardware & Wearing
The FitBit Force has a wristband form factor. Unlike the FitBit Flex, the electronic doodad can't be popped out of the band...the two are permanently united. It is splash-proof, but should not be used in the shower or while swimming. It's available in two sizes and two colors, and comes with a wireless sync dongle and a charging cable.
A backlit screen shows you your stats when you activate it with the press of a button.
Battery Life & Charging
The FitBit Force charges manually via a USB cable that comes with the device. To charge, plug one end of the cable into a USB port, and the other end of the cable directly into the charging port that's on the inner surface of the Force band. It needs to be charged about every 7 to 10 days.
Bluetooth 4.0 syncing allows your data to automatically transfer to the website/app when you get within 10 to 20 feet of your paired computer or mobile device.
You can view your FitBit Force data via a Mac or PC and through select iOS and Android devices. The company is planning to continue to add compatibility with more mobile devices. An API is available, and the device interfaces with many popular fitness apps and websites, including MyFitnessPal, Run Keeper, May My Fitness, Spark People, Endomondo, and Lose It!
Where to Buy
You can buy the device directly from FitBit (They provide free Shipping for orders over $50.), from Amazon, and a variety of other stores including REI, Sports Authority, and Brookstone.