Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why the FitBit is FanTastic.


Being healthier means a lot of different things, but one commonality to almost any health improvement is that, at some point, it will be hurt a little to run a mile, forego an ice cream, or down some cabbage. And that's why the FitBit is the best health tracking tool there is:

It's painless.

You put this tiny clip on your person and then forget it's there. It can go a week between charges, all the while recording your steps and calculating your total calories burned. And when you're within 15 feet of your computer, it uploads your data wirelessly (provided the hub is attached by USB). And. That's. It.

Even the fee schedule for the fitbit is painless. The device costs $100, and the basic web analytics are free--if you want, you can upgrade to more web features for a fee. Again, painless.* I've been using it for 7 months and haven't had a day go unmeasured.

This is a point too easily lost: people don't necessarily want more features, they want less pain. (David Pogue engagingly demonstrates this truth here.) The makers of health apps and health games and tracking tools and health devices need to understand that most people want less tasks to do, and less to think about, rather than more. (See my post about apportioning our cognitive resources.)

Bells and whistles often become work, and living healthy is already a full time job.

*Compare FitBit to the BodyMedia armband. It's accuracy is unparalleled, and it's able to measure your calories burned even while watching TV and sleeping. The web profile is flashy, and there's a great smartphone app that enables you to watch your data in real time. And... it's a little painful. 

The armband is bulky (how do you wear it at work?), you have to take it off and physically plug it into your computer every day, and there's an unavoidable monthly fee. It's painful.

Note: I have no affiliation with FitBit and no axe to grind with BodyMedia. 

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