Review: Fitbit Force Wireless Activity & Sleep Wristband
Of the many activity-tracking, wearable accessories we've covered over the past few years, Fitbit's Flex was one of our favorites. Now the company is back with Force ($130), an updated version of the band that adds features while maintaing a very similar look and functionality. At first glance, the only difference between the two is a taller display, and you may notice the button on the left side. Digging deeper, though, there are quite a few improvements that help justify the $30 price increase. Force uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect to most iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch devices, or a Mac/PC using an included dongle, and comes in black or slate colors. Black is shown in our photos.
Flex came as a package with two silicone bands, and a tap-controlled sensor that fit inside either, depending on the size of your wrist. Now, Fitbit sells separate small and large sizes. This shouldn’t be a big deal for most users, as the activity tracker is not really meant to be shared, but there are fewer sizing options in a box now. Also new is the USB-based charger. Instead of removing the sensor and clipping it into a holder on the cable, you simply plug the charging cord into the back of Force, where there are three small contacts in a row. Charging shouldn’t be much of an issue, as the battery is advertised as lasting 11 days per charge, more than double the previous band’s five. After a week of testing, our battery indicator showed about half the life left. These design changes offer a better overall experience than Flex.
Force’s most obvious upgrade is the display. It used to be that you would tap on Flex to have it show between one and five dots glowing through the black window, indicating your progress towards a daily activity goal. Now, that window has been replaced by a monochrome OLED display, and the tap gesture’s swapped for a physical button. Once your Force is set up and paired with your iDevice, pressing the button once brings up the time, while continuing to click it cycles through steps taken, miles walked, calories burned, floors climbed, and time spent active. It’ll also display any alarms that you have set. Finally, holding down the button for three seconds causes the band to vibrate, and brings up a timer. This isn’t a stopwatch, but rather a sleep tracker. Turning it on, and then repeating the process when you wake to turn it off, alerts Force to when you’re sleeping.
Fitbit’s free companion app has also been updated with an iOS 7-like look, and support for the added measurements. When the app is launched, it’ll automatically sync with your Force as long as Bluetooth is turned on. A toggle claims to permit background syncing, but we never actually found that it happened. From the app, you can also enter information such as weight, calories eaten for the day, and water consumed, to help build a holistic picture of your fitness.
In every way — except price — Force is an improvement over Flex. The lack of a watch face was one of the biggest drawbacks before, and now it’s been added, along with a longer-lasting battery, better interface, and more informative display. For those looking to keep track of their daily activity, it’s certainly a smart choice. Compared to Withings Pulse, our highest-rated $100 tracker, it stacks up pretty favorably. No, there’s no heart rate sensor, but everything else is pretty much there, and we prefer wearing a real watch-style band to a neoprene wristband or clipping something onto a belt or shirt. At $30 more, some users may find the price a bit objectionable, but the improvements are worth the added cost, and Force is impressive enough to deserve our high recommendation.