Review: Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker

It’s not often it happens, but there was another gift that headed past my table in the past months, and it was a Fitbit Zip. As I recently reviewed the Fitbit One, most of the comments about apps and setup apply, so I won’t reiterate them. Instead, this article will focus on unboxing and the feature differences.

Unboxing

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The Zip comes in a similar box to the One, with a large clear window to see the tracker unit itself. The unit is almost reminiscent of a tamagotchi, with its pebble shape sans the buttons. There’s a few less icons on the package, as the unit is a little more basic. It retails for AU$79.95 on Fitbit’s own shop, or about AU$50 on eBay.

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It claims the same level of compatibility, including a USB wireless sync dongle. It has a battery and battery tool, as the Zip uses disposable coin-cells rather than a rechargeable li-ion/li-poly cell as in the One.

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As promised, you get the listed inclusions. The battery is a CR2025, rather than the more ubiquitous CR2032. Despite this, they are still moderately easy to find, and a new cell sets you back around AU$0.50 from element14. The battery tool is a slotted piece of plastic – a thin coin can also suffice. A similar stainless-steel and silicone based clip is provided for wearing on a belt, in a pants pocket or on a bra.

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The unit’s rear battery door occupies the majority of the diameter, which shows you just how “small” this unit is. The door has a gasket with some grease to keep it waterproof, and because of the lack of buttons on the unit, it seems likely it is a little more waterproof than the One. It’s still claimed to have sweat, rain and splash resistance, with a formal IP rating notably absent.

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Once the battery is installed, the unit starts up, and is ready for set-up. The same set-up process applies, just with a different tracker selected at the dialog.

Differences between the Zip and the One

For one, the Zip is the more basic unit, and is cheaper than the One. As a result, the Zip does not have sleep tracking, floors climbed or alarms. The Zip also uses disposable cells rather than an internal rechargeable battery, which is possibly less environmentally friendly. But as a result, their design claims a four to six month battery life for the cell, rather than the 11-days or so you get with the rechargeable One.

In order to achieve this, the display is a low-resolution non-backlit LCD which is less vibrant than the OLED and not readable in the dark. It also does not appear to display any text, greetings or motivational messages. It does give you an overview of your stats if you “tap” the device, but again, if it’s clipped in your pocket, it’s not so easy to use.

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Because of its clip design, it has the same sort of drawbacks and advantages as the One – namely that it is more discreet, can allow you to track steps while carrying things or having your hands in your pockets, but is more difficult to access the screen. As with other Fitbit devices, they seem to be always discoverable with their Bluetooth Low-Energy radios responding to scans, which could be a privacy concern, but might also be a life-saver in case you do lose the device and need to scan for it again.

Conclusion

The Fitbit Zip is the most basic of their fitness trackers. I suppose if you like the Fitbit app/platform, want to connect with Fitbit friends and compete with them, then this is a lower cost entry route to the platform. It’s also a good choice if you want simplicity and no need for recharging. However, it’s feature-set is relatively limited, and for the price, the Chinese alternatives still offer much more functionality.

Because of the long claimed battery life, I haven’t been able to assess its true “in use” life – the review will be updated once it is known.

Update (27/10/2016)

The Fitbit Zip has proved itself to be a dependable, no-frills, low-maintenance fitness tracker. On the whole, there were no issues, and the supplied Panasonic CR2025 cell lasted a total of 97 days until the battery went completely flat to the point the tracker would no longer function. This is a little more than the claimed 3 month battery life, which is great news. Unfortunately, the low-battery indicator is very sporadic, and was only displayed intermittently in the days prior to the unit shutting down entirely.

Replacing the cell with a generic CR2025 posed no issues, the unit operates satisfactorily although battery life with the generic cell is not yet known. However, the fit of the terminals may be sensitive to the dimension of the cells, as squeezing the unit from the top and bottom does result in the low-battery indicator engaging and the unit shutting down seconds later. In normal use, this doesn’t seem to pose an issue, as the unit does not lose its data immediately upon transient loss of battery power.

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One thing that did annoy me was the frequency of sync errors, which appeared to be related to the limited transmission power of the unit itself. In such cases, the only remedy was to cancel the sync and try again with the unit placed adjacent to the sync dongle. Sometimes several attempts are required.

About lui_gough

I’m a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!

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