The Fitbit Flex hit the market back in 2013. It was the first wristband fitness tracker from Fitbit, taking all the features customers had loved in the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip and putting them into a band that could be worn comfortably and conveniently on the wrist.
While Fitbit’s wristband fitness trackers seem like a given now, it’s pretty interesting to realize they became available to consumers just four years ago! In small but important ways, they transformed the idea of wearable trackers. For one thing, people no longer had to be concerned that a little clip-on Zip would fall off a belt loop or waistband with the wearer being none the wiser. Another benefit was that the wristband could be worn constantly, allowing for sleep tracking throughout the night. Of course, all of this is old news now.
But the Fitbit Flex remains something of an historic item in the realm of fitness. And, because it’s an older model, it can be bought at a much lower price. While the Flex is hardly cutting edge technology, this simple and comfortable wristband tracker remains a good choice for any person who’s looking to become more aware of his overall health and fitness.
Because of its step tracking abilities, this product is best for walkers, joggers, and runners. But one of the wonderful things about Fitbit products is how versatile they are. While many wristband fitness trackers are designed and intended for runners
alone, Fitbit’s products are made with all levels of athlete in mind. While their products probably aren’t the best for serious athletes, let’s face it — the average person is not a serious athlete. Most people are simply striving to make health and fitness a bigger part of their daily lives. The Fitbit Flex is here to help. It tracks your steps, records your distance, watches your calories. It even lets you know how long you’ve been active and how long you’ve been sitting still. It also tracks your sleep, so you can learn how long you slept and at what times you slept best.
Like most of Fitbit’s other fitness trackers, the Fitbit Flex is primarily a step tracker, but it is by no means limited to this. In addition to tracking your steps, it records your distance — this means you get to know not only how many steps you took in a day, but how that translates into miles or kilometers. It also lets you know how many calories
you burned, based on the personal data (i.e. height, age, and weight) you enter into the app when you first set up your Flex, plus the activity you’ve accomplished in a given day. The Flex tracks your active (calorie-burning!) minutes versus your stationary time (all that time you’re being productive at other things, of course), so you can be aware of how much time you spend sitting around and how often you get up and move. Of course, you can’t be on the go all the time. Especially at night, when what’s healthiest is to be lying still. Sleeping
. The Fitbit Flex works for you even then, with its sleep-tracking capabilities. When you sync to the app, you’ll be able to see when you were sleeping soundly and when you were tossing and turning.
To be perfectly honest, the Fitbit Flex is a pretty basic product. It keeps things simple and straightforward. At the time of its launch, many of its features were advanced, but since then technology has rapidly advanced, as it’s wont to do. Now its most advanced features are basic when compared with other products
. This is not, however, a jibe against it. Basic technology is accessible to a larger demographic than the newest and most advanced products. As mentioned in the introduction, this is a fitness tracker for the average person.
The accuracy of the Fitbit Flex remains questionable. When worn alongside other fitness trackers
, such as the Jawbone Up, it records generously more steps than the other trackers. When a smaller number of steps are counted for comparison, however, it fares better. While this uncertainty about the exact accuracy of the tracker is frustrating, there are many people who won’t be bothered by a few steps added or subtracted here or there. The Flex is not designed for highly specific training, but for people looking to gain a better basic understanding of their overall personal fitness.
The Fitbit Flex connects through Bluetooth wireless syncing, so there’s no need to plug it into your phone or computer as you have to do with both the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip. The Flex occasionally wakes up and connects itself to your phone, so all your fitness stats can stay updated automatically.
While Fitbit has substantially improved the connectivity of the Flex and continues to do so, it still isn’t able to all mobile devices, such as the Xperia Z2. This is obviously a deterrent for any would-be purchasers who own incompatible devices. But there is a solution, even if not a particularly elegant one: the Flex comes with a USB dongle that can connect it to both PCs and Macs.
Syncing your Flex to computer and phone is only one level of connectivity. Fitbit also helps you connect
with fellow fitness-minded friends and colleagues. When you log into your Fitbit account, you will automatically see how others are doing in accomplishing their goals. Sometimes a little dose of healthy competition
is all you need to speed up your pace and ramp up those steps!
An area in which Fitbit excels is their app and website interface. Fitbits are designed to be used in conjunction with the app and the website, and both these sites are intuitive, elegant, and customizable. With both the app and the website, you can look at your stats (i.e. steps, distance, calories) over a number of days, weeks, months, and even a full year.
In addition to viewing your progress, you can use the app to track your food intake. The app’s built-in food database is rather hit and miss, but you can connect to third-party apps such as MyFitnessPal
to have access to a greater variety of food data. You can also connect to many other third-party apps, like Strava, MapMyRun
, and RunKeeper.
With its slim size, soft rubber band, and light weight, the Fitbit Flex is indeed comfortable
. It is so comfortable, in fact, that it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it at all. This really is not problem, though, because the Flex is truly water-resistant. You can walk through pouring rain, wash the dishes, and even hop in the shower without worrying that your fitness tracker will be destroyed.
The Fitbit Flex doesn’t win many points for style from reviewers. Made of thin rubber, it looks more like the sort of rubber bangle you get at a music festival than it does a sleek watch or an attractive bracelet. Although not particularly stylish in and of itself, it is slim enough that it’s really not too noticeable, or even overtly sporty, as a Garmin
smartwatch would be.
The band itself generally holds up well, but some users did notice wear and tear after only a few weeks of use. Users also noted that the plastic screen tends to get scratched and cloudy after only a short time of use.
The Flex does not have a traditional watch face
with numbers telling the time, or step count, or calories. Instead, it has a dark plastic sliver at the top of the band. Beneath this plastic are five tiny LED lights which communicate your stats. Rather than being attached to the rubber band itself, these LED lights are the topmost (and the only visible) part of the tracker’s “brain.” This tracker is considerably smaller than the One and the Zip that came before it, in part because of the almost total lack of “watch” face.
Like most other Fibits, the band is made of soft, flexible rubber. The “brain” of the tracker fits into the band right around where a normal watch
face would be, and since this “brain” can be taken in and out, the band is replaceable. There is an array of colors available for the Flex band, from neon orange to steel blue. To fasten the band, you press the two nobs on the end of one strap into the holes on the other side. These holes are close together, giving you the ability to get the band just as tight or lose as you like it. Unfortunately, the band can be difficult to clasp, especially on the first few tries. It requires an unusual amount of force to get the nobs into the holes. But, once on, it’s not going anywhere — and since it’s water-resistant and tracks both waking and sleep activity, you’ll have little reason to take it off.
The Fitbit Flex is available in two different sizes: small and large. Size small fits wrists 14 -16.5 cm. Size large fits wrists 16.5 - 21 cm. Because there are multiple sizing holes along the strap, there is plenty of flexibility when it comes to sizing. The band is 15.2 mm wide in both the small and large.
Ease of Use
In order to charge the Fitbit Flex, you will need to take it out of the wristband it’s cased in. Thanks to the flexible rubber of the strap, popping the tracker in and out is no trouble at all.
Unfortunately, getting the Flex into sleep mode at night isn’t quite so simple. In order for the Flex to start tracking your sleep, you have to tap the screen six times — at the right speed! Go too fast or too slow and it won’t register what task you’re asking of it.
Viewing your stats, however, is much easier. Just tap the screen with your fingertip and the LEDs will light up to show your progress on a scale of one to five.
The Flex is powered by a rechargeable battery. This battery lasts up to 9 days before it needs to be recharged. Included with your purchase of the Flex is a USB cable and a socket adapter. Connect the power cord the to three metal contacts on the end of the tracker, opposite from the LED lights
, then plug into your computer to begin charging.
Now that Fitbit has launched the Flex 2, the original Fitbit Flex can be purchased at almost half the price for which it was originally sold. Unfortunately, however, the Fitbit Flex does not have an altimeter, which tracks steps on stairs. The Fitbit One
does have an altimeter, and sells for the same price as the original Flex, but it is not a wristband.
Fitbit offers an array of colors for the Flex band, so you have to option of accessorizing with different-colored bands
for different-colored outfits. Third-party sellers offer stylish band options, such as the leather wrap bracelet from Charming Charlie, and bling-filled handmade bands from sellers on Etsy.
Tracks steps, distance, and calories
Tracks stationary vs. active time
Comfortable, lightweight wristband
When it first arrived in the world, the Fitbit Flex was something of a groundbreaker in wearable fitness tracking technology. But just a few years later, as often happens with "new" technology, it’s no longer breaking news. It’s missing some desirable features, such as the ability to calculate steps on stairs.
Overall, however, the Flex remains a solid fitness tracker. With its comfortable band and slim design, it appeals to people of all ages. It counts steps, calculates distance, lets you know how many calories you’ve burned. It tracks stationary versus active time. It’s even got your back through the night, as it monitors your sleep levels. So, although the Flex is not the newest and shiniest product on the market, it remains an excellent choice for anyone looking for a wristband step tracker that is easy to use, comfortable, convenient, reliable, and affordable.
If you are looking to pay more attention to your personal fitness, to inspire yourself to work harder and achieve your goals, fastening a Fitbit Flex around your wrist is a great way to start.