In preparation for the release of the Apple Watch, and possibly in retaliation, Apple removed FitBit activity trackers from its online and retail stores. We say ‘retaliation’ as FitBit’s management told the world they wouldn’t be supporting Apple’s HealthKit as their customers weren’t asking for the integration.
Despite all that, I’ve been a FitBit user for some time. I have a FitBit Charge HR and FitBit Aria scales. Although there are a lot of things the FitBit Charge HR can’t do compared to the Apple Watch, from a health tracking point of view it offers a more complete package.
What can FitBit do?
The FitBit Charge HR, Aria Scales and the supporting app offer a very comprehensive health tracking solution. I also use MyFitnessPal to capture nutritional information. The neat thing about using MyFitnessPal and FitBit together is they share information easily. If I log into either app, I get an instant picture of calories in and out, how much time I’ve been active, what exercise I’ve recorded, and my weight and body fat percentage (from the Aria Scales).
FitBit has a strong emphasis on the social element of exercise and activity. I can invite and participate in daily, weekly or weekend activity challenges with the ability to encourage and prod my friends.
The sleep tracking features of the FitBit are great and battery life is solid at around five.
In other words, the FitBit ecosystem deals with the personal and interpersonal nature of maintaining an active lifestyle.
What can’t FitBit do?
My FitBit is completely focused on activity tracking. So, all those features that the Apple Watch delivers – like access to data, alerts and apps – are missing.
FitBit tries to do a limited number of things very well, whereas the Apple Watch is trying to be many things to all people.
A side-track – Nike Sportwatch
I’m an avid runner. I hit the local trails and streets three or four times each week. For the last two and a half years I’ve run with a Nike Sportwatch on my wrist. It has an integrated GPS, so I don’t need to take my iPhone with me for it to track distance accurately and there’s no need to fiddle with calibration.
For runners, this is a big deal. I’ve run on all sorts of different surfaces and I can tell you that stride length can vary significantly. Running up the side of Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula is very different to running along Brighton Beach. With the Nike Sportwatch, I know the distance is very accurate. On a half-marathon and 28km trail run, the Nike Sportwatch measured within 100m on those officially measured tracks.
What’s all that mean for Apple Watch?
The Apple Watch is, far and away, the best-looking device and it offers the broadest selection of features. It’s a great jack of all trades, but only a master of some.
You’ve probably noticed that one of the key use-cases for the Apple Watch, for me, is around activity tracking and health management. And, for me, this is where the Apple Watch is weakest.
However, I really like the ability to easily respond to text messages either by dictation or by sending recorded messages. And the alerts and notifications work particularly well.
My current usage of the Apple Watch leaves me with between 40 percent and 50 percent battery remaining when I go to bed. I’m hoping future software updates eke that out further.
It’s version one
We’ve been hearing about the Apple Watch for so long and expect so much from Apple that it’s possible we expect too much.
We sometimes forget that the first iPhone didn’t have apps and it took several iOS releases before we had copy and paste, or the ability to change the lock-screen wallpaper.
My view is the Apple Watch is still an immature product. While the hardware is excellent, there’s room for the software to improve and I’m confident Apple will open the platform to developers more broadly.