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How FitBit Works

Get Your Bits Fit
It’s so small that you can wear it just about anywhere, which means you’ll have no excuses for not staying active. Unless, of course, you lose it.
It’s so small that you can wear it just about anywhere, which means you’ll have no excuses for not staying active. Unless, of course, you lose it.
Courtesy FitBit

FitBit is evolving, from both a hardware and software perspective. In October 2011, the clip itself was upgraded and renamed the FitBit Ultra.

The Ultra has the same features as the original FitBit, with one major addition: an altimeter. With the altimeter, Ultra knows how much elevation you lose or gain throughout a day. That's valuable information because inclines are hard work. For example, if you climb the stairs in an 80-story building, you'll burn more calories than if you'd gone the same distance on a flat sidewalk outside.

In addition, the Ultra lets you check the time and includes a stopwatch so that you can manually time various activities. It displays so-called "chatter" messages, too, that are supposed to encourage you to keep moving (even though that super-sized milkshake is causing you some serious side cramps.

And of course, there are the aesthetics. The original FitBit featured teal accents; the Ultra comes with your choice of either blue or plum.

There's enough internal memory that the FitBit can store an entire week's worth of continuous data. Battery life is estimated at about three days, and you can check power levels at any time by plugging the unit into its base station.

FitBit doesn't track every kind of activity. It's not waterproof, so swimming is out. It can't tell that you just lifted weights for an hour, or that a rigorous yoga class just wiped you out. To bridge the gap, you can manually log activities through your Web account. Alternately, you can use the FitBit smartphone app (for iPhone or Android) to record workouts, as well as your food intake. The app doesn't let you upload data from your FitBit to your account, though. Only your computer-connected base station allows you to do that.

Once your data is synced to your online account, you have a plethora of options. You can check your daily, weekly and monthly stats, of course, as well as set goals. And you can create and monitor a food plan that helps you make better eating choices.

As you achieve specific goals, you'll unlock virtual badges that reward your positive behavior. These tokens recognize your achievements and push you to aim for loftier goals. You can also compare your stats with those of approved friends. Create an online group of friends or co-workers and together, you can share wisdom and inspiration that'll keep you on track.

By default, older versions of FitBit made your workout information public. Because of the potential for embarrassment, the company changed that setting. Now, your information is private until you configure it otherwise.

Curious about the FitBit's technology? Take a peek on the next page.