Consumer Tech Radar

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Consumer Tech Radar

Ranking the Best Wearable Fitness Trackers

FixYa.com ranked five of the most popular wearable fitness trackers, including the Fitbit Flex, Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone UP, Basis B1 and BodyMedia FIT LINK.

to Mobile/Wireless |

I've been going to the gym a few times a week for a long time. Recently I noticed that more and more people are wearing fitness bands on their wrists or arms. I already have plenty of gadgetry in my life, and I'm not sure I need more. But I've heard good things about these devices. So I was interested to see how FixYa, a consumer Q&A site, ranked some of the most popular options.

In a new report, FixYa rates five devices: the Fitbit Flex; Nike+ FuelBand; Jawbone UP; Basis B1; and the BodyMedia FIT LINK. The favorite, according to FixYa’s readers and editors: the Basis B1. The "most frustrating:" Jawbone UP.

FixYa rated each device by collecting feedback from its users and tracking complaints. In the report on JawBone UP, for example, it says "Inconsistent Battery Life 40%," which means that 40 percent of the complaints mentioned this specific problem, not that 40 percent of all devices had battery life issues.

Fitbit Flex, $99.95. FixYa says this one is the best bet for beginners. “It covers all the basics like counting steps taken, calories burned, and sleep patterns, it’s also waterproof, includes a silent alarm, and has a sleek minimalist design.” Fitbit also makes four other versions of its fitness tracker

Fitbit Flex complaints include: Lack of altimeter (25 percent); inefficient data (35 percent); and the need to use a proprietary charger (20 percent). Most of those problems are self explanatory, but inefficient data means that Fitbit has an unfortunate tendency to count steps when you’re doing things like washing the dishes or bringing a fork to your mouth while eating, according to FixYa.

Nike+ FuelBand, $149. Nike is obviously a huge, popular brand. As such, it has developed a large online community of users. If games, awards and leader boards are important to you, the FuelBand is probably your best option. The FuelBand itself works well but is not a top performer, according to FixYa. It’s not a bad choice for a beginner, but doesn’t measure up to the needs of the "hard-core exercise aficionado."

Inefficient data (25 percent) is a downside. If you’re riding a bike, for example, you won’t move your wrists very much, so the bulk of a vigorous ride won’t show up. Not being able to enter data manually (20 percent) is another negative, along with a lack of sleep-tracking features (20 percent).

Jawbone Up, $129.99. Jawbone's fitness tracker did not receive a flattering review, though FixYa says Jawbone did make some improvements to its earlier model. “From battery troubles to annoying quirks during the data upload process, Fixya users have found the UP to still be more frustrating than anything else.”

Many users complained about battery life (40 percent), which reportedly starts out good at 10 days per charge and then dwindles to a mere half day in just a few months. Even more concerning are reports (20 percent) that some devices simply died. You can see why FixYa rated this product the "most frustrating."

Basis B1 $199. This is the most expensive band in the batch, but according to FixYa, it’s also the best. It contains "a host of features" not offered by the competition. The Basis B1, its website and mobile apps "give you goals to meet which include exercise thresholds, sleep achievement, and everyday positive habits like avoiding staying sedentary for long periods."

The most serious problem registered was inconsistent monitoring of heart rate while exercising (25 percent). But the product does not promise very accurate heart rate monitoring, so this should be a minor complaint. Some users said the device is uncomfortable (20 percent) and some wished it had an alarm (20 percent).

BodyMedia FIT LINK $149. Unlike the other bands in this review, you wear the FIT LINK around the arm instead of your wrist. FixYa says it offers the most comprehensive data of any of the bands reviewed here. It provides detailed charts and graphs of analyzed data, including skin temperature and sleep cycles. And you can pay $6.95 a month to access your data on the Web. Aside from complaints related to this fee (30 percent), users didn't like that the device is water resistant, but not waterproof (25 percent). And some said it is hard to sleep while wearing the FIT LINK (20 percent).

Image: FixYa


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