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REVIEW: Fitbit Ultra Wireless Activity Tracker
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 14.05.12 - 16:05:03 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 9090x
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While the Fitbit Ultra Wireless Activity Tracker isn't anything new in the U.S, it just hit Europe and is now available in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. The Fitbit Ultra is this kind of totally unspectacular nobody has a use for until you used it. From this point you don't want to miss it anymore and it's becoming your daily companion. As a matter of fact, the Fitbit Ultra monitors your all-day activity to provide real-time feedback on steps, distance, calories burned, and stairs climbed. While this sounds pretty much like a sports-tracker, it's not a sports-tracker at all but Fitbit's goal is to encourage customers to walk more and be more active. It's designed for the average user, not for the sport's-pro.

The new Fitbit Ultra Wireless Activity Tracker, which was released back in October last year in the U.S. in v2, features a 3D motion accelerometer, a new altimeter, a battery saving OLED display and ANT+ wireless for wireless synchronization. It comes with a belt holster, an ANT+ compatible base station and charger as well as a sleep wristband.

When worn the Fitbit Ultra tracks all the daily steps, number of stairs climbed, distance traveled, calories burned, and the overall intensity of the activity level. The compact design of the Tracker makes it easy to wear tucked into pocket, clipped to a belt or bra while the OLED display informs the user in real-time about the daily progress.



Activity index and time


Steps and distance walked (in kilometers or miles)

Calories burned and floors climbed

Furthermore, Fitbit Ultra allows to track the sleep by wearing the sleep wristband to monitor how long and how well the sleep war. It monitors when a user fall asleep and how many times he/she woke up throughout the night to provide a sleep efficiency index.

The ANT+ compatible base station and USB charger can be connected with a Windows PC or Mac and charges the Fitbit Ultra as well as it is used to configure it. If not used for charging, it acts as a wireless base station and every time the Fitbit Ultra is in range of around 5 meter, it receives the latest stats and uploads it to Fitbit.com which holds the users statistics and details. Fitbit.com provides insights into daily, weekly and monthly fitness and sleep levels with free online graphs and charts. Furthermore, Fitbit.com gives fitness badges for certain activities to motivate users even more but also allows to connect with friends to share and compete on fitness goals.

Users can dive even deeper in the fitness and health logging by manually adding enjoyed food and workouts to Fitbit.com. Fitbit says its database has over a 100,000 specific food items which users can select from. Fitbit's Food Goal feature shows users the range of calories they should stick to every day to reach their weight loss goals and dynamically adjusts based on their day's activities. It even allows to track weight and other health indicators like blood pressure, glucose, and heart rate.

However, logging these kind of activities can't be done from a PC only but Fitbit is also offering an iPhone and Android app which allows to log food and activities wherever and whenever a Fitbit Ultra user is. With the app's Food Plan feature, users can even set daily calorie targets that adjusts when activities are manually logged.

Furthermore, the app shows the activity level including walked steps and climbed floors, like the Fitbit.com site shows, extending the log to a smartphone.

Final Conclusion

When I first got offered a Fitbit Ultra to review it on the::unwired, I was a little bit skeptical because I had no idea for what I should use it. Counting my steps, logging my climbed stairs? For what? I roughly know how much I walk each working day and it turned out pretty soon that the Fitbit Ultra isn't a sports-tracker at all I could potentially use for biking. However, this sleep-tracker caught my attention and therefore I took one right before I flew to Seattle last month since I thought it might be interesting to track how a heavily jetlag'd sleep differences from my regular sleep at home. Interesting enough, right from the first day, tracking my sleep activity was only one component I was interested in but I also became very interested to monitor my daily activity level and counting my steps, distance walked, stairs climbed! The Fitbit Ultra became pretty soon one of these accessories I don't want to leave the home without, like my smartphone.

Well, like most of us, I'm not really walking too much on an average day without any events or appointments. I stand up, walk to my car, drive to the office, sit the whole day in front of my PC, walk to the coffee maker, walk back to the car, drive home and ending up the day in a restaurant or on the couch. This might be a successful day in terms of my job but for sure not in terms of my healthiness. I already knew before that I'm not walking enough, even if I try to actively avoid elevators but try to use stairways instead. But now, this little Fitbit-thing on my belt reminds me every single minute, every single hour that I was pretty inactive, really giving me a bad conscience. Maybe it's very much human, to know that we are acting wrong but not changing anything until we see it black on white - or in this case blue on black. And every evening, if I either have a look on the display or log into my Fitbit.com account, I see how many more steps I should have done this day, how many more stairs I should have taken, now regularly resulting in walking more the next day or just having an extra walk around the block in the evening.

Thankfully I don't have any problems with my weight anyway, therefore I'm not using the food tracking functionality but from others I've talked to about the Fitbit Ultra, I've heard that they were pretty interested in the info how many calories I burned that day.

And while I'm not using the weight and calories feature of the Fitbit Ultra, I'm using it each night to track my sleep and my personal findings were rather disappointing too. I thought I sleep much longer and more intensive but I found out that I sleep at least an hour less than I expected. While my sleep seems to be pretty deep, I think it's too short, something I have to improve next.

Altogether, the initial setup and use of the Fitbit Ultra is pretty simple and straight forward. After the Fitbit Service Manager was installed on a Windows PC or Mac, the Fitbit Ultra connects with Fitbit.com where a user has to create an account. There, the Fitbit Ultra can be configured and allows to either show the imperial or metric system. If everything was configured, the Fitbit Ultra is ready to be used and synchronizes automatically with the personal log, as soon as it is close to the docking station. Since the battery easily lasts 5 to 7 days, the Fitbit Ultra hasn't have to be recharged too often and for short trips, the base and charging station hasn't to be taken away. Especially not because the Fitbit Ultra is able to store up to 7 days before it starts to overwrite older logs with newer.

While the Android app is pretty useful for logging activities and food, it unfortunately doesn't allow to upload stats from the Fitbit Ultra to Fitbit.com. This is too bad, especially because the Fitbit Ultra is using ANT+ as its wireless transmission technology which is also supported by a handful of smartphones, as available from Sony and HTC. Would be a very handy addition to make the smartphone a base station too, therefore I could also upload my activities while travelling, without carrying the USB base station, which is nevertheless required to charge the Fitbit Ultra - sooner or later. But so far, I never went out of battery and therefore it hasn't missed a single step I took in the past 30 days.

The Fitbit Ultra isn't doing anything except reminding you to be more active and honoring your activity level with virtual badges you can purchase anything for. But that's good enough and that's exactly what it was designed for: Keeping the eye on our activity we often have no eye for. And it does it so successful but inconspicuous, that it's hard to ignore it. It really helped me to improve my activity level and therefore it's definitely recommended of office workers and couch potatoes!

The Fitbit Ultra is now available in selected European countries, as well as in the U.S. for 99.99 Euro and comes in two different colors: black/blue and black/plum.

Cheers ~ Arne


 
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