Do you want to jump onto the activity tracking device bandwagon but not want to spend a crapload of money? The Fitbug Orb was created to be one of the most budget-friendly ways to get into the game. They sent me one to try out and see if it’s worth the $50 price point.
A bit of background. I’ve fully bought into the activity tracking device fad, to the point where I feel kind of naked if I can’t look at a friendly chart in the morning that lets me know exactly what time I got up to pee and how long it took me to fall back asleep. I went a couple Nike Fuelbands and Jawbone UP bands and came to the general conclusion that wearing something on your wrist day in and day out inevitably makes it break. Luckily the companies are usually happy to replace them. I would wager that this market is either going to get super comprehensive, like the upcoming Airo band that supposedly monitors the nutrition in your bloodstream, or the cell phone will replace these in general with apps like Moves. For many people, the average $150 price for one of these just doesn’t seem worth it. That’s why it’s interesting that Fitbug is aiming to change the pricing game.
The Fitbug Orb device’s strong point, which you’ll see as soon as you open the package, is the product’s design. The actual device is a button-like, well, orb that has a battery you don’t need to recharge every few days. You have to open the back of it with a penny, which felt super 90’s. You get to choose how you wear it, whether you want to wear it on a lanyard, clip it to your undies or belt or wear it in the watch-like band, which comes with it. (I would have expected to pay extra for the band.) The device is simple, clean-cut and stylish. It also seems hardier than the other devices, like there are fewer elements that my baby nephew might accidentally break. I didn’t wear it for 3 months straight, but I did wear it for about 3 weeks and it held up pretty well. It did collect a lot of fuzz, but that’s better than getting incredibly dirty.
The Fitbug’s mobile app seems to be, compared to the Jawbone or Nike app, much more in beta. For one thing, it makes me select my preferred language every time I open it, and then makes me log in all over again. Can’t it at least remember my language, let alone not make me log in over and over? The data it captures is similar to what the Jawbone UP captures, and this app makes it fairly easy to explore, if not quite as fun. There is no way to enter your food intake on the app, which makes its function of measuring your calorie burn/ intake on a daily basis a bit difficult to put to use. I eventually concluded that the mobile site was a better option, because you can enter your food there and it is also full of some interesting blog content about nutrition and exercise.
Many of these health apps now coordinate with one another, so that you can enter your calories on one app and they’ll show up in another, or you can sign up for something like TicTrac that will compare your activity over time and send you fun little graphs. I have enjoyed the Jawbone UP app’s rich types of data integration, mixed with its general sense of fun, and I was disappointed that the Fitbug’s app hasn’t added that integration yet.
I had trouble ever getting the Fitbug’s sleep monitoring function to work, and when I did, it was so touchy that it usually thought I only slept a couple hours per night.
For my final test, I decided to compare the Fitbug Orb and Jawbone UP’s data on an epic day when I was at the mall for about 8 hours (don’t ask why). Activity tracking bands love it when you shop, because, well, you’re taking steps. They don’t love it when you do yoga or pushups though, even though those might be better workouts.
Here’s what the Jawbone said:
Here’s what the Fitbug said:
As you can see, the Fitbug thinks I took 3,000 more steps than the Jawbone did. I often noticed that the Jawbone aimed low and the Fitbug aimed high when tallying my steps. If you’re truly using a device to try to burn more calories than you consume, you may want to opt for one that errs on the low side, rather than making you think you’re a calorie-burning king when you actually aren’t. My boyfriend did point out that it was possible that the Fitbug is calibrated for being worn on the hip or collar, which might make it assume smaller movements are steps.
So, a final judgment: The device itself is promising. It’s stylish, easy-to-wear and hardy. The interface leaves a lot to be desired. I would not be surprised, however, if the app hit its strides a few versions down the line. A lot of apps start out somewhat imperfect and, as the corporate world likes to say, go on to iterate to great. If you’re looking for a cheaper activity tracking device, this is a promising, if imperfect, option. Just assume that its analysis of your daily calorie burn might err a couple hundred calories high, so take it easy on the celebratory donut holes.