The Fitbit Force has only been on the market for about a week, and it’s already making all other fitness wearables look out of date.
The Force, which is available via Fitbit.com for $129.95 and will hit the store shelves of Best Buy and Target in the coming weeks, is part watch and part fitness tracker (and even part smart watch), displaying everything from the time to fitness stats directly on its OLED display. The wearer can access fitness info by touching a button on the left side of the display; data is shown for a few seconds before disappearing.
The Force is the first-ever wristband fitness tracker to feature an OLED display and although it may sound like a small advancement, its inclusion is a huge addition. Other trackers such as Withings already include an OLED display, but this is the first wristband fitness tracker to do so. An OLED screen doesn’t drain the battery as quickly as an LCD. And with the display, users no longer have to refer to an app to check their stats since most of what they want to know can be found right on the tracker. But there’s still an app that provides a deeper look at how you’re doing.
With so much competition on the market from Nike, Jawbone and more, that in itself makes the Force stand out more than any other fitness tracker. There’s a lot to love beyond the display too. But it’s not perfect, especially when it comes to design and style. Here’s a look at the beautiful, the ugly and where its biggest potential resides.
What the Force Gets Right
It might not be a stunner on the outside, but there’s so much to love about the Force. In addition to the OLED display — which displays crisp, easy-to-read data — it has a lot of wristband fitness tracker firsts, including an altimeter. This monitors how many stairs you climb on a hike or just throughout the day. What was most striking about this addition is learning how few steps I climb each day — seeing that dismal number is a constant reminder to take the stairs instead of opting for the elevator. In fact, that is what wristband trackers do best: they continually remind you to stay more active. And now with the display revealing how well you’re doing with a touch of a button, instead of having to load an app, the Force gets fitness more in your head than ever before .
It’s also the only wristband tracker that keeps track of active minutes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone should be active for 150 minutes every week, which is equal to a brisk 3 mph walk. The Force adds this benchmark into its core user goals and is one of the tracked stats displayed on screen. This emphasizes not only how many steps you’re making, but keeping your heart rate above a certain level, which is perhaps more important than most other things.
In line with other Fitbit trackers, the Force syncs via Bluetooth Smart technolocy, so you don’t have to plug it into your computer or smartphone to transfer data — a major advantage over, say, the Jawbone UP. The dashboard in Fitbit’s app, though, has been completely refreshed, with a modern look and simplified navigation. But overall, I found myself accessing the app far less than with the Fitbit Flex because of the display.
But perhaps the main incentive to launch the accompanying app is to make the whole Force experience more social. Now you can create leaderboards with friends (on both Android and iOS), so you can cheer them on in real time or send messages through the app to talk smack. A spokesperson told Mashable it hopes to include interactive games and more badges for users in the future.
Fitbit also promises a battery life at about 10 days and on day six, it was still going strong.
The biggest setback with the Force is the way it looks. It’s significantly clunkier than the previous Fitbit (Flex), featuring a wider band and a thicker hub under the screen for the battery. Unlike the Flex, the battery doesn’t snap out, which means you can’t switch up the device with different color wristbands anymore. It comes only in two colors — black and blue — and two sizes: small and large, which could be limiting. Securing the wristband isn’t simple, either; the rubber snaps take a bit of pressure to rest properly in place.
Overall, the look is very masculine. No company has yet to perfect the look of the wristband fitness tracker and it’s something the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch has been criticized for too: finding the balance of a connected device that is also fashionable. Its presence is overpowering on tiny wrists and feels heavy at 1.15 ounces. I found myself often subconsciously sliding the device from my wrist.
As for texture, rubber is a smart solution for runners and those looking to sweat, but for casual exercisers — which is a key demographic for Fitbit — and for those who keep it on all the time, there isn’t a truly stylish option for both men and women. It’s not the type of device you’d want to wear to a nice dinner. The Jawbone UP is by far the most aesthetic product on the market, but it doesn’t feature an OLED display or any wireless connectivity. With the Force, you have to sacrifice style for smarts.
The Force can also track sleeping patterns, but unfortunately the mode requires you to start and stop it from the app, and it doesn’t display stats directly via the display.
An Upgrade for Fitness Tracking
Although the feature isn’t ready right out of the gate, the Force will ultimately be the first wristband tracker to take advantage of the new Apple iOS 7 notification center. Once the device is paired with your phone, it can highlight the name of the person calling your iPhone, making it easy to keep track of calls while on a run (you won’t need to pull out your smartphone). We didn’t get to try the feature yet — it will be rolling out soon — but having access to this kind of “glanceable” information has a lot of potential for the Force and for any other tracker looking to follow suit.
The Fitbit Force is priced $30 more than the Flex ($99), but it’s a worthy upgrade for a few extra dollars. However, the Pebble smart watch also integrates with many fitness apps too and costs $149, just $20 more than the Force.
If you want a fitness-focused wristband device, the Force is the total package. From the OLED display to sleep tracking, floor climbing and social integration, it has everything you need to get off the couch and keep moving. It’s so good, we can turn a blind eye to another mediocre rubber aesthetic… for now.