Apple’s latest Watch was met with great applause when the company announced in September the thing could take a dive in the pool and keep on ticking. But the price and other bells and whistles of the Watch might be too much for those just looking for a simple way to track steps, laps and calories.
Enter Fitbit’s Flex 2, which starts shipping tomorrow morning. It’s a slimmer version of other Fitbit models like the Blaze or Surge, but for about $100 this fitness tracker will count your steps, calories, let you log your food through the app and you can even go swimming with it.
The Flex 2 comes in several colors and you can get it in the metallic bracelet or pendant of your choice if you want to wear it as jewelry.
I took the lavender colored wristband out for a test drive in the park near TechCrunch’s San Francisco office this past week. You can see how it held up by clicking on the video above.
The Flex 2 is an upgrade from the original Flex band with a more customizable look and ability to go underwater. But, like the Flex, it’s geared toward those who just want the fitness basics like keeping track of steps or developing healthier habits. In other words, those needing the motivation to get up and go or who need to break away from a sedentary lifestyle are the target consumer for this gadget.
It works using a little sensor you can pop into the top pocket of any of the provided wristbands, which come in size small or large. The sensor’s battery lasts up to five days before needing a recharge but it’s pretty easy to power up again by just popping the sensor out of the wristband and putting it in the provided recharging station.
You’ll know your Flex 2 is fully charged when all five lights on the top of the sensor glow green. If you want, Fitbit will also send you an email notification when you are almost out of battery so you know it’s time to power up again.
Like the original Flex, the Flex 2 also tracks sleep and can record your workouts. A nice bonus is that it’s also water-resistant up to 164 feet. That means you can take it in the shower or go swimming with the device.
Flex 2 automatically tracks your laps in the pool, their duration and your caloric burn in the Fitbit app while you swim.
One really cool thing about the Flex 2 is you can take it on a workout without your phone and it will record your steps, floors climbed and how far you went afterward if you sync it up with the app on your smartphone.
You may notice a discrepancy in the number of steps your phone says you took and how many the Fitbit says you went in a day. Be sure to wear your Flex 2 on your non-dominant hand for accuracy.
If you are still seeing a big difference it may be time to calibrate your sensor for stride. This is because, unlike your phone, Fitbit does not have a built-in GPS and everyone has a different stride. This happened to me the first few days as I compared my phone and the app for accurate readings. My sensor normalized on its own but for those who need to calibrate, here’s how Fitbit recommends doing it in iOS:
- Turn off WiFi on your phone
- Go to “Track Exercise” in the Fitbit App
- Select “Walk” and press play
- Walk for .25 miles using the “MobileRun” feature – and walk normally
- Press and hold to finish
- Then go to the tracked exercise tile and the exercise recap to see how many steps were taken (this is in the impact on your day section on the bottom where it says +XXX)
- Then divide the total distance (in feet) taken by the number of steps to get your stride length (in inches).
Fitbit Flex 2 is perfect for those who just want to move more. The little notification buzz I get to get up and move around every hour helped keep me going and is important in keeping metabolism up throughout the day. The ability to log the foods I’ve eaten and see how many calories I’ve burned throughout the day are a plus as well.
Will I use it for longer than three months? Who knows. Keeping consumers interested in the product is a known problem in the fitness-tracking industry — and may not even lead to any weight loss. But I will say it’s a solid gadget for those who don’t want a lot of fuss and at $100 it’s a great price compared to other fitness trackers.