I recently ordered a Fitbit Zip because I missed the Moves app but didn’t want to return to them now that they’ve been acquired by Facebook. I also wanted something I could carry around more easily on my person than my phone. Sure, I take my phone almost everywhere I go, but I have to remember to grab it if I’m going to go downstairs or otherwise take a quick walk. With a Fitbit, my hope was to always wear it without even having to think about it.

So far, I have succeeded with having the Fitbit on me. I rarely wear decorative bracelets, so I didn’t want the bracelet-style Fitbit either. I opted for the Zip after a friend said it hooks neatly on her bra band. Presto! No worrying about wearing jeans with fake pockets or skirts that forego even the hint of pockets. The Zip has a smooth, rubbery hook on top that doesn’t scratch me, so I’m not aware I’m wearing it. It’s kind of funny jostling it to wake it up when I want to sync it with my phone, though; I’ve taken to thumping in the middle of my chest with the edge of my phone. This is in comparison with my friend Mike who carries his in his pants pocket: he whacks his upper thigh repeatedly to make sure Fitbit is listening.

It has been pretty good about syncing after I realized I have to jostle it once before opening the phone app. If I don’t jostle the Fitbit, the app will grumble about not sensing the Fitbit’s Bluetooth, and it won’t sync. The Android app itself is fine. It looks nice and tells me what I want to know, mainly my step count. I can also view a list of friends and have a little competition with them. It ranks us by our total step count in the last seven days, and will show average daily step count per person.

I can also track food I eat and the amount of water I drink daily. I’ve started trying to track my food as part of a plain to lose ten pounds on their “easiest” setting, which gives me till December to do it. I like the combination of Fitbit tracking my step count as well as my caloric intake, because it gives me an estimation of calories in versus calories out. So I can pig out one day if I go for a jog, and it won’t say that I’m over my limit because it knows I burned off those extra calories, for example.

I’ve used services like Fitocracy in the past but it always felt somewhat pointless because there’s so much activity that Fitocracy doesn’t see. If I didn’t work out on for a set period of time, I didn’t know what to enter into the site. Since the Fitbit’s always with me, it knows how much activity I have, and I don’t have to remember to enter it in a log somewhere.

The food tracking on Fitbit is something I have to enter manually, so we’ll see if I keep that up. From experience with food logging in the past, I hate the experience. Oh, I had a chicken taco from this hole-in-the-wall local place? Erm sure, we’ll log that as a ‘generic soft chicken taco’ and hope the app isn’t including ingredients that weren’t in my meal, and that the portion sizes match up, and that the local restaurant wasn’t using super fatty butter on the tortilla or whatever. It’s never accurate, and that annoys me. I guess the point is more to make me aware of what I’m eating and give an approximation of the calories I might have consumed.

Still, the combination of my inaccurate guessing combined with the much more accurate “you walked X steps today” that Fitbit logs doesn’t feel right to me. It’s supposed to tell me if I’m over or under my caloric intake goal based on the combination of those two figures? Seems like comparing apples to oranges. We’ll see how it pans out.

Another thing that’s not ideal is the lack of friend data. Nick used to use a Fitbit but then got an Android watch and uses that to track his steps instead. He still shows up in my Fitbit friends list because he has an account, but he has no data in the ‘last 7 days’ list. I see two problems: Fitbit is listing unused accounts in the high score list, and the list only includes data from Fitbit itself.

The first problem Fitbit can solve easily: if there isn’t data for a person in a given time span, just don’t list them. Are they expecting me to shame my friends for not walking or not using their Fitbit? Not going to happen, I’m not the activity-monitor-use police.

The second problem is probably something Fitbit won’t touch because it acknowledges that people use activity monitors outside of Fitbit. Generic apps like RunKeeper and Fitocracy would be a cool bridge here, but according to my searches, Fitbit won’t play with Fitocracy. I don’t know if there’s any way to automatically sync the step count from an Android watch to another service, either, but I suspect not. It’d be cool if I could see a list that includes all my friends that use any kind of activity tracker, but that won’t happen with all the activity trackers living in their own silos.

Despite the food log and friend list problems, I like my Fitbit. It’s a cute little thing and it has charm to it. When you first wake it up, it shows an ASCII face in greeting. I’ve so far gotten a :P, a ^_^, and a :D. It’s small and light and I hear the battery will last for several months. I love that the hook on it is snug so I can hang it on even the thinnest fabric, like the top of my t-shirt or pajama bottoms, and it won’t fall off. It has been worth its $50 price tag for me so far, and even if my food log use falls off, its small size combined with the step counter is great.