5 Things You Should Know About Fitbit's Force & Apps

The wrist-worn Force may not be the best Fitbit device to own if you're competing against friends for number of steps walked per day, says CIO.com blogger James A. Martin. Here's why, plus other stuff to know about Force.

Fitbit's Force, an activity tracker worn around the wrist, has been earning great reviews—and deservedly so—since its recent debut. After several weeks of using the $130 device, I've learned a few things I thought were worth passing along.

1. Force is still hard to buy in stores and online. The Fitbit site currently says the device will ship in “2-3 weeks,” with guaranteed delivery by Dec. 20. Best Buy’s Web site, as of this writing, simply said the device was “coming soon.” And the shelf space reserved for Force in a San Francisco Best Buy store was empty the day before Thanksgiving.  

Fitbit Android screen

(Fitbit's Android app.)

2. The strap isn’t that hard to use. Nearly every review of Force I’ve read mentions how difficult it is to secure the device’s plastic strap around your wrist. Admittedly, the procedure isn’t immediately intuitive: you must snap two connectors into slots on the strap. But I mastered it after the first two attempts. Tip: It helps if you place your wrist against your knee, palm facing up.

3. In my tests, Fitbit Force counted fewer steps than Fitbit One. During multiple workout sessions and walks, I kept a log of how many steps Force tracked compared to One. In nearly every instance, Force logged fewer steps.

Sometimes, the difference wasn't much. During a 3.42-mile run, for instance, Force tracked 7,069 steps, while One logged 7,170.

But in other cases, such as a walk from my home to a nearby shopping center and back (about 1.6 miles), the disparity was more pronounced. During that walk, Force calculated 3,293 vs. One's tally of 3,625, a difference of 332 steps. Keep this in mind if you're trying to stay ahead of your other Fitbit-wearing friends. (You can see their steps logged online and in the apps, and vice versa, as long as you’ve ‘friended’ each other via Fitbit.)

4. Force counts stairs climbed. For whatever reason, Flex ($100), Fitbit’s first-generation wristband tracker, doesn’t count stairs. Fitbit Force and the pocketable Fitbit One ($100) do.

5. Force's screen is easy to read in direct sunlight. One of my biggest complaints about One is its screen, which is nearly impossible to read in sunny conditions. That's not a problem at all with Force, which is extremely legible in bright sunlight.

Also worth mentioning: The free Fitbit apps for iOS and Android have advanced enough so that you don't even need to sync your Force or other device to your computer; you can just sync with the apps. But the apps sometimes make it a little harder to find some features and settings that you'd more easily spot when logged into Fitbit.com.

With a Force firmware upgrade that’s coming “soon,” those with an iPhone 4S or later can view incoming call notifications on Force’s screen. A Fitbit spokesperson said the company is working to bring the same capability to Android users.

I’ve tried nearly every Fitbit device so far, plus a few others from competitors, and Force is by far the best. As we head into the holidays, it’s a good time to get one—if you can find one.  

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