Category Archives: Hardware Reviews

Fitbit Flex Review

 

Fitbit Flex

Fitbit Flex Photo, from the Fitbit website

If you’re someone who is interested in health and fitness, particularly when it comes to tracking and viewing information about your daily activity, perhaps you should consider checking out the Fitbit Flex, a wearable device that enables you to keep track of your daily activity, as well as other information, such as sleep, calories burnt, and more.

I’ve actually had the Fitbit Flex for a while now and have enjoyed being able to keep track of my daily activity and occasionally my sleep.

Hardware

The Fitbit Flex comes with the tracker itself, two rubber bracelets (a small and a larger size), a metal “clasp” that is interchangeable between bracelets, a USB charging dongle, and a USB receiver that can be used to sync the tracker with a desktop or laptop via Bluetooth.

The tracker is small, made of a hard plastic, and features five LED lights toward the top of the unit, which are used to show one’s progress throughout the day, as well as whether or not the device is in sleep mode. Other than that, however, there is no other display of information on the device itself.

Fitbit Tracker

Actual Fitbit Tracker

The tracker unit itself records information using a MEMS 3-axis accelerometer, which is able to track your wrist motion, interpreting it into the number of steps that were taken, how far you traveled, and how well you slept. Additionally, the tracker includes a vibration motor, which is used to alert you when you reach your daily goal, as well as when the device goes into and out of sleep mode.

The Fitbit Flex’s tracker has a lithium-ion battery that can last for around five days, though I have been able to get longer out of the device with less frequent use. (I don’t usually wear the device all day, which may contribute to the battery lasting longer.) The battery can be charged using the included USB charging dongle, which can be plugged into a computer’s USB port or a wall-adapter (which I tend to use) for a device like an iPhone, etc.

Fitbit Flex Tracker in the included charging dongle

Fitbit Flex Tracker in the included charging dongle

When charging, the Flex’s LED lights will light up to indicate the battery’s charge level. Once all five LED lights are lit up, the tracker is fully charged.

The Flex’s tracker also features Bluetooth 4.0, which can be used to communicate with certain cell phones, such as the iPhone and select Android devices, as well as with the small USB Bluetooth receiver that comes with the device.

The Fitbit Flex is also water resistant, up to 10 meters (32.8084 feet), you can wear it all day, including when showering, washing your hands, or possibly even swimming. While I have not worn the Fitbit in the shower, I have worn it while washing my hands and it has held up pretty nicely.

One issue that you may encounter (though this has never really been a problem for me) is that water may end up collecting in the rubber band, where the tracker sits. However, since the device is water resistant, this should not be much of a problem.

FitBit Flex wristband, showing clasp and where the tracker fits into the wristband.

FitBit Flex Wristband, showing clasp and where the tracker fits into the wristband.

I purchased the Fitbit with the black wristbands, and while it looks nice and is comfortable while on your wrist, you can occasionally notice scratches and scuffs on the wristband. However, they are not major (at least the ones I have managed to get) and can usually be rubbed off, or at least made less noticeable.

Features

The Fitbit Flex, while it may look simple on the outside, includes many features that make it worth the $99.95 price tag.

The Fitbit Flex records wrist motion using its accelerometer and converts it into the number of steps that were taken, the number of calories burned, the distance that has been traveled throughout the day, as well as how one slept.

As far as accuracy is concerned, the Flex seems to be fairly accurate, though since it is worn on your wrist, faster motions, like brushing your teeth, using a cash register, or just moving your wrist a lot, may be counted as steps. However, I don’t really see these as making too big of a difference in your overall activity level, even though it may skew the results a bit.

The Fitbit Flex’s tracker features five LED lights, which are used to display how close to meeting your daily goal you are. Each of the five LED lights represents 20% of your daily goal, which you can set within the Fitbit iPhone or Android application or on the Fitbit website.

FitBit Flex Tracker with LED lights illuminated

FitBit Flex, with LED lights illuminated. (From the Fitbit website)

 

In order to activate the LED lights so that you can view your progress toward your daily goal, you can simply tap on the tracker two times, which will illuminate the appropriate number of LEDs, showing your progress.

In order to put the tracker into sleep mode, you can quickly tap on it a number of times, until it vibrates, at which point two LEDs will light up. The LEDs actually resemble two eyes and will flash back and forth, showing you that the device is in sleep mode.

After that, if you tap the device twice to view your progress, you will instead see that it is in sleep mode, as it will display the aforementioned two LEDs lit up. To take the device out of sleep mode, can tap the device rapidly again until it exits and returns to its regular tracking mode.

Applications, Data, and Connectivity

In order to view data on how active one has been throughout the day, you have to either use the Fitbit iPhone or Android application, or the Fitbit.com website, both of which allow users to view the information explained above, such as the number of steps taken, distance travelled, calories burnt, in addition to others.

The Fitbit Flex has two different syncing modes when it comes to the app – one where you can sync your data when the app is open and one where the data continuously syncs in the background, provided you have Bluetooth enabled on your phone.

Once you have synced your data to your phone or computer, you can view it on the app or Fitbit website, which features some nice graphics and other information regarding your activity.

You can also view your activity and other information over time, such as weekly, monthly, or even yearly, should you want to see how active you have been compared to other periods in time.

If you are unable to sync your Fitbit Flex with your phone or computer for a while, you don’t have to worry, as the device can hold up to seven days worth of minute-by-minute data about your activity and sleep. It can also hold your daily total for 30 days, in addition to summaries of your daily number of steps taken, calories, and distance traveled.

Another nice feature is that you can add friends and compare your totals and other information against your friends. If you’re someone who’s competitive, this may  be something that can help both you and your friends stay active, as well as have some fun by competing with each other.

Fitbit also sends out a weekly e-mail that includes a summary of your weekly activity and other information. The e-mail will also contain stock-market like arrows that show whether or not you have increased or decreased the amount of activity, steps taken, calories burnt, and distance traveled, which is always interesting to see.

Personal Thoughts, Experiences, and Impressions

Since I’ve owned the Fitbit Flex for a while now (about two months or so), I have enjoyed being able to see how active I am. Though I don’t usually wear it all day, or even everyday, I like that I can throw it on before I go to work, etc. and see how active I was during that time.

The wristband is comfortable to wear, even if you are wearing a shirt over it, and it is lightweight so you don’t really notice that it’s there most of the time. It’s also easy to use and the app makes getting the information simple and easy. The tracker only takes a few seconds to sync with the app on your phone, which is nice, and when you have the app open, it syncs in almost real time, too, which is nice if you happen to be moving around when you’re viewing the information.

Me wearing the FitBit Flex

Me wearing the FitBit Flex

I tended to wear the Flex more often when I first got it, and after a while the novelty of it started to wear off, but I still do like to wear it and see how many steps I have taken and how far I’ve walked throughout the day.

The sleep tracking functionality of the device is also a nice feature, and it is interesting to see how well you slept throughout the night. This feature seems to be pretty accurate as well, though perhaps a bit less so than the actual step tracking capabilities of the device.

For example, if you go to bed and are laying down watching TV or using your phone and aren’t moving very much, the Fitbit Flex may record that time as you being asleep. However, there doesn’t really seem to be another way to track sleep other than with motion right now, so that’s not a big deal.

Overall, if you are interested in seeing how active you are throughout the day, and are interesting in seeing how well you sleep during the night, you may want to consider purchasing the Fitbit Flex, which is priced at $99.95 and can be purchased from the Fitbit website, as well as stores like Best Buy, Target (where I bought mine), and other retailers.

If you have a Fitbit Flex or other wearable fitness tracking device, what do you think of it? How do you like using it? Do you have any comments on it that aren’t included in this review? Please feel free to post your thoughts and opinions below!

Additionally, if you like what you see on the TechnicalCafe.com website, I invite you to check out the TechnicalCafe YouTube channel, which features a programming tutorials and other computer and technology related videos.

 

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Otterbox Defender Case Review (iPhone 5)

If you’re looking for a case for your iPhone 5 that not only looks good, but provides great protection to your phone, perhaps you should check out the Otterbox Defender case, which can help you to keep your phone protected and looking good at the same time!

The Defender case is composed of three parts, all of which help to protect your phone, keeping it free of scratches, dents, dust and dirt, and even a small amount of moisture, such as perhaps a spilled drink or water dripping on it from a pool, even though it is not a “water proof” case.

The case’s make-up consists of a hard inner plastic layer, followed by a rubber covering, as well as a screen protector that is built into the plastic inner layer. All of these parts help to keep your phone free of any dents, scratches, and even any dust, dirt, and potentially water (though it’s not water proof!).

In addition, the rubber layer also covers the buttons and ports that are on the phone, including the charger and headphone ports, as well as the volume buttons, “Home” button, and the “Lock” button.

When you want to charge your phone or insert some headphones, all you have to do is peel back the rubber flaps that cover these ports and insert the charger or accessory that you’d like to use. However, the flaps have to be held open, or else they will flip back over the hole that they cover, which isn’t a big deal, as it only takes a few seconds to connect a charger or other accessory.

Because of the plastic and rubber layers that make up the case, it is a bit on the thicker side for an iPhone case, adding a decent amount of bulk to the phone, but not so much that the phone is considered unwieldy. Instead, the case makes the phone feel pretty solid and even provides some extra grip, as the external rubber covering is pretty easy to hold on to and prevents the phone from slipping out of your hand.

The case isn’t marketed to protect the phone from spills or water, as it leaves the speakers, microphone, and camera uncovered, but if a few drops of water do happen to get onto the case, or if there is a small spill that reachs the case, it will help to protect the phone from getting damage, so long as water hasn’t spilled into the phone’s speakers, etc.

Also included with the case is a belt-clip, which has been included with the previous versions of the Defender case, which is quite sturdy and allows you to put your phone into the clip with the screen facing either in or out, as well as having the phone either right-side up, or upside down, depending on your preference.

Another nice feature of the belt-clip is that is also functions as a stand, allowing users to push the actual clip part up, which will lock it into place, creating a stand that can be useful for watching videos, TV shows, or movies, video chatting with family and friends, listening to music, etc.

The Otterbox Defender is actually what I have been using on my iPhone 5 for a majority of the time since I got it earlier this year. I also had an Otterbox Defender for both my iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, though I didn’t use the case as much with my previous phones and I do now.

With the Defender for the iPhone 5, I feel as though the case doesn’t add as much bulk as it did with the other models of the phone, which helps when keeping the phone in your pocket. Due to the rubber covering, though, sometimes it can get hung up on your pocket on the way out, but it isn’t anything that should cause too much trouble at all.

Actually, most of the time, I don’t even use the belt-clip, but rather just keep the phone in my pocket, and I usually don’t have any issues with comfort or taking the phone out of my pocket. (Sometimes you’ll feel the phone in your pocket, but this is something that should be expected, due to the size of the phone with the case.)

If you would like more information about the Otterbox Defender case, you can check out the official Otterbox website, where you can learn more about the case, as well as other cases offered by Otterbox. The case can be purchased from the Otterbox website for $49.95 to $59.95, and comes in a variety of colors and designs.

I purchased my case at Walmart when I upgraded to the iPhone 5, and like knowing that my phone is protected while in the Otterbox Defender, and I believe the price was also around the $4o to $45 range, which is a pretty good deal for the protection and peace of mind you’re getting by using this case with your phone!

For updates and information on future posts or if you’re interested in what I’m up to on a day to day basis, please feel free to follow me on Twitter (@Jamiemcg)! You can also follow TechnicalCafe’s Twitter (@TechnicalCafe) for news and updates regarding the website, YouTube channel, and more!