Find yourself looking at your waistline in the mirror, mourning those extra pounds that have slowly slipped on over the years? You could go on a crash diet, shovelling down nothing but Rice Krispies for months on end, but they say the best changes are ones you can make permanently.
They’re also the hardest to make, which is where the delightful £49.99 Fitbit Zip comes in. Like Nike’s smart Fuelband, it’s less about GPS, exact measurements and heart rate number crunching, and more about logging your total distance walked each day, gently coaxing you to go further. Is it more Mr Motivator than Sergeant Slaughter? Let’s take a look.
The Fitbit Zip is as adorably tiny as its name suggests. It weights just 8g, clipping onto your clothing, getting to work, and before you know it you’ve forgotten it’s there and you’ve clocked 8,000 steps already. The colourful little critter keeps track of your steps, distance covered and calories burned with remarkable accuracy, but it’s how it then shares them that really stands out.
Though it’s Fitbit’s cheapest walking gizmo, the Fitbit Zip squeezes in the latest Bluetooth 4.0 tech, which is designed to keep syncing data without wasting energy, so it runs and runs. That’s right, no more recharges every other week: it runs for up to six months on one coin battery, and replacements cost less than 50p online.
Using this, the Fitbit Zip syncs your data with a PC or Mac (via USB dongle) as soon as you’re in range, no cables required. It even does the same with the Fitbit iOS app on iPhone 4S and iPhone 5: an Android equivalent is in the works, though don’t expect it to work on any Google phones without Bluetooth 4.0 nestled inside.
From here, you can see how your progress is going on a much bigger screen, and challenge yourself to go further and further. You can also log your diet on the site, and even compete with your friends and family to fight the flab.
Fitness nuts will immediately run up against the problems with the Fitbit Zip. Literally. Although it can judge steps and calories burnt, it can’t take elevation into account (so won’t praise you for traipsing up ten storeys every day) or the speed you’re moving at. And it flat out doesn’t work for cycling. It’s also missing a few features from the Fitbit One, including sleep tracking and a backlit screen you can see in the dark, though given it costs £30 less, we can’t grumble too much.
Alongside all the useful data it stashes, the Fitbit Zip also includes an annoyingly punchable LED face. Supposedly, it gets happier the more ground you cover, but regardless of what you do - or don’t - it just seems to start smirking at you. You’ll come to loathe this little AI face, like a brash Tamagotchi that’s always got a better story than you. Perhaps that’s just us, but thankfully you can turn the option off in the settings.
The bottom line
The Fitbit Zip, despite its name, isn’t for fitness freaks. It’s useless for cyclists, and largely so for runners. But that low price tag and long battery life might just be enough to get couch potatoes up off the sofa. It’s a tiny, persistent gizmo designed purely to nag you into movement in the friendliest possible way, and in that it succeeds. Just don’t look at the smiley face: no matter how far you walk it always starts to look smug.