Healthy Obsessions The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

Tag Archives: Life Hacking

Fitbit Redux plus the new Aria

I gave in and ordered a fitbit ultra. At some point, I lost my original fitbit and by the time I found it again, I lost the charger. I kept thinking I’ll find the charger, and what a waste it would be to buy another fitbit when I already have one! And then I thought I could get a charger through ebay, until I realized that would cost me at least half (if not more) the price of a new fitbit.

So. New fitbit! I got the plum one since it was on sale through my gym.

The ultra is pretty nifty; it’s a lot like the original but with a stopwatch and stair mode. But those are not the things that excite me.

As awesome as the fitbit is, and as awesome as all the graphs and stats are (and they are an OCD dream), I have always hated the food logging interface. It was clunky and time consuming. Creating custom foods was a pain. I used to wish that I could somehow combine LoseIt with my fitbit data, and guess what… No idea when this happened, but sometime during my long separation from my fitbit, they did exactly that.

For that matter, the food logging interface on FitBit itself looks a lot better now. Will have to play around with that some.

The fitbit aria


Fitbit has also just launched their new product, the Aria: my new object of health-tech lust. A scale. It looks like a competitor with the Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale, which has long been the gold standard of high tech scales. Both obviously measure your weight, but both also measure your body fat vs. muscle percentages. They also each have free iPhone and Android apps, wireless syncing, family settings (so more than one person can use the scale), nutrition recommendations, and exercise plans.

For that matter, both can be linked to your fitbit or LooseIt data, among many other apps & services. Withings seems to have more services set-up already, but that’s not too surprising considering how long they’ve been around.

The only real difference I’ve been able to see, not having used either one, is price. The fitbit aria is $30 cheaper, clocking in at $129.99.

Jawbone UP looks like an interesting contender in sleep tech

Just looked at this for the first time (thanks to a commenter suggesting it).

Looks like it uses the same idea as the fitbit and Sleep Cycle; motion tracking to assess your sleep cycles. It’s sound tech, and works well in the two I’ve tried out.

The UP is more of a direct competitor with fitbit, seeing as it also works for tracking movement during the day. Which makes me wonder just how they’re tracking movement, seeing as the Jawbone UP is on the wrist. I don’t know about you, but I move my wrist an awful lot more during the day than I move most of the rest of me (ah, the sedentary life of a writer). Seems likely that there’s some communication with the iPhone to help with that.

I do really like some of the features they mention:

  • Water resistant  (woo! I have a history of dropping expensive electronics in water.)
  • Reminder to move periodically during sedentary (computer focused) activities (this is hugely important for people with RSI, and even though I *know* I should do something like this, I never actually do.)
  • Silent wake-up, via vibration, at the appropriate point in your sleep cycle

That last one is actually of tremendous interest. With both Sleep Cycle and the Zeo, which do the same thing with varying levels of accuracy, you have the issue of potentially waking your partner at an inopportune time. Since they both use sound, it’s really impossible to wake only one person. I can’t tell you the number of times the alarm has gone off waking one of us at exactly the wrong moment, thereby leaving us groggy the rest of the day.

Jawbone UP looks like it might solve that particular problem. Hard to know, not having experienced it and therefore not knowing if the vibration would be enough to wake me. (I’ve been known to sleep through sizable earthquakes). The idea of a dawn lamp really still seems best to me. And if anyone finds a way to connect that to the Zeo (or, heck, any one of these sleep trackers) I’m so totally there.

From what little I’ve seen in commentary, there may be a question of sturdiness with the UP. But then, I found that the fitbit tended to crack (both fitbits I’ve had did this, which makes me wonder at the customer service response saying they’d never seen that before, but they would–and did–replace my broken fitbit). For that matter, the Zeo started malfunctioning a few months ago, and since then it’s been gathering dust on my dresser. Sleep Cycle is, at this point, the only one I’m using every night. Though it is the least accurate of the three. It’s the easiest.

Of course, the reason I’m not using my fitbit is that I managed to misplace it and then, once I found it, I couldn’t find the charger. So, I might still be using it if I could charge it…

The UP weighs in at a solid $99, making it equivalent to the fitbit in terms of cost.

Fitbit Ultra

Zeo @ Amazon

Sleep Tracking: Looking at Sleep Cycle

As mentioned before, I’ve been using the fitbit, the Zeo, and Sleep Cycle all together for over a month now. Honestly, I like all three.

With the combined data, I’m getting a good picture of my sleep. However, most people are not going to be as gadget happy as I am, and will only go for one of these sleep trackers. Maybe two at the outside. So I’ve been trying to figure out which of the three I’d pick if I could only pick one. And the answer is: it depends…

Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is the one I expect will be most commonly used, simply because of the price point. It costs .99 cents. That’s pretty damned hard to beat. However,  Sleep Cycle is the weakest of the three trackers.

(This is going to be long; skip to the bottom if you just want the bullet points).

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Fitbit vs. Zeo vs. Sleep Cycle: Accuracy

I’ve been using all three for at least a month now, so I feel like I can give them a fair shake. Let’s do a quick recap of what each one does.

  • Fitbit – Accelerometer, used both as a pedometer during the day and as a sleep monitor at night when strapped to your non-dominant wrist (I still don’t know why non-dominant, but I’m willing to go with it). Conventional sleep labs also make use of an accelerometer.
  • Sleep Cycle – There’s an app for that! (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist). This app for the iPhone uses roughly the same tech as the Fitbit. Accelerometer based monitoring. You place your phone on your bed, near – but not under – your pillow. It tracks movement via the mattress.
  • Zeo – Completely different tech. Instead of monitoring movement, the Zeo focuses on brain wave activity to track sleep phases. The monitor comes on a headband that you wear to bed. As tech goes, this is most akin to the EEGs used in sleep labs.

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