The Different Fitbit Types - dummies

The Different Fitbit Types

By Paul McFedries

Fitbit divides its main activity tracking products into three categories: clip-ons, wristbands, and watches. Fitbit devices have come a long way since the release in 2009 of the original tracker, which was called, appropriately enough, Tracker.

Clip-On activity trackers

A clip-on activity tracker comes with a metal or plastic clip that uses tension to hold the tracker in place when the device is attached to a belt, a pocket, or another item of clothing. The following figure shows an example that offers a small screen displaying the tracker’s activity data, which is usually just steps and calories, plus a clock.

clip-on Fitbit
Photo by Steven Walling via Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

An example of a clip-on activity tracker.

Fitbit started off making only clip-ons back in 2009 with the original Fitbit Tracker. These days, the company offers a single clip-on tracker called the Fitbit Zip (shown in Figure 2-1), which I talk about in more detail later in the chapter.

Although almost all clip-on trackers come with a screen that shows activity such as the number of steps taken so far today, checking the screen is often inconvenient, so most people check this type of tracker infrequently. That inconvenience is the main reason why the activity tracking world has moved on to the other two tracker types: the wristband and the watch.

Wristband activity trackers

A wristband activity tracker is worn around either the left or right wrist. Most such trackers come with two components:

  • The tracker device, which might or might not include a screen
  • A wristband to which the tracker attaches

Some trackers — notably Fitbit’s Flex 2 device — can detach from the wristband and connect with accessories that enable the tracker to be worn as a pendant or a bangle. Fitbit doesn’t make such accessories, but many third parties offer them.

This figure shows Fitbit’s original wristband-type tracker, the Fitbit Flex, which the company released in 2013.

wristband Fitbit
Photo by MorePix via Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The original Fitbit Flex wristband.

The major advantage of a wristband tracker versus a clip-on is that it’s easier to monitor the display to track your progress. The Flex doesn’t have a screen (nor does its modern replacement, the Flex 2). Instead, a series of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) illuminate as you progress towards your daily step goal (which is why Fitbit calls these lights the progress display). One light means you’ve reached 25 percent of your goal, two lights indicates 50 percent, and so on.

These days, most people choose a wristband tracker with a screen that enables the wearer to see the current time or daily activity stats, such as steps taken or calories expended. Modern Fitbit wristband models such as the Ace, Charge 3, Inspire, and Inspire HR all come with displays.

Watch activity tracker

A watch activity tracker looks and works much like a regular watch, but it can also do the following:

  • Display many different activity metrics, including steps, calories, distance, sleep data, and heart rate
  • Access the global positioning system (GPS), either directly or by using the GPS signals from a connected smartphone or similar device
  • Run apps that perform special tasks, such as recording a run or swim workout
  • Access third-party content and services, such as music, podcasts, online training sites, and voice-activated assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa

This impressively wide range of features is why this type of device is often called a smart watch (or smartwatch) or a super watch.

The following figure shows Fitbit’s original watch-style activity tracker, the Fitbit Surge, which the company released in 2014. That model has been superseded by the Ionic, and Fitbit also offers a slightly lower-end watch called the Versa.

watch-style Fitbit
Photo by Sam Sailor via Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The original Fitbit Surge watch.