Review – Fitbit Charge HR

Reviewing a fitness tracker seems like a stretch for me. I can honestly say that this little black band has quickly become one of my favourite things. I won it from Vancouver Is Awesome and Telus (thanks again!) about a month ago. Since then I have become obsessed with step counts, distances, staircases, caloric intake, and sleep patterns. More on that later.

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The Charge HR is a minimalist fitness band with a built in heart rate sensor. It has a rechargeable battery that lasts 5 days according to Fitbit but I’ve found that 3-4 days is more accurate. I charge it every day while I’m in the shower so I don’t ever worry about battery life. It tracks steps, heart rate, distance, calories burned, and stories climbed. It also shows the time and displays incoming calls from your smartphone via Bluetooth.

It’s comfortable to wear but the bump on the back of the watch face that contains the heart rate monitor takes some getting used to. There have been many reports of Fitbits causing skin irritation and I can verify that this has happened to me. The thing about fitness trackers is that you wear them 24/7 unlike a watch which you would most likely remove nightly. Keeping the Charge HR and other Fitbits clean is important and helps minimize irritation.

The step counter is pretty accurate based on random manual step counting. I’ve found a variation of +/- 2% based on daily checks over the first 2 weeks with the Charge HR.

The heart rate monitor is similarly accurate for moderate activity but high intensity exercise isn’t its strong suit. For those that need a heart rate monitor for serious workouts nothing beats a chest strap. I’ve found that my heart rate is much better than I thought it would be given my fairly sedentary lifestyle. 59-62 beats per minute resting and my recovery time after being active is faster than I would’ve guessed.

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So… the device itself is pretty good. Is it the best? I have no idea as I’ve never used a fitness tracker before. What I can tell you is that the social aspect of Fitbit is what won me over. The mobile app is outstanding. It syncs with your smartphone and gives you all the info on your Fitbit plus sleep tracking and meal tracking with an extensive database of food as well as bar code scanning. You can add friends from your favourite social networks or from your contact list. There are challenges like the Workweek Hustle and the Weekend Warrior which pit you against your friends to see who can get the most steps.

In the last month I have lost nearly 20 pounds, dropped one pant size and I’ve had to add new holes to a couple of belts. The Fitbit isn’t what made this happen, I am what made this happen. The Fitbit and their great little app have been my motivation. The daily and weekly challenges against my friends have motivated me. The banter between us when someone has a big daily step total pushes me to get off my ass and move.

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I’ve started walking the Stanley Park Seawall weekly plus another 4-5km in the downtown core in addition to my daily goal of 10000 steps and 8km. I’m mad when I don’t get to 10000 steps in a day and I’ll often go for walks in the evening if I feel like I’m not going to reach my target. Most days I’m over that target before the end of my workday.

Sleep tracking has shown me that I sleep better than most (if Facebook statuses about tired people are any indication). 6.5-7 hours a night during the week 7-8 on the weekends with minimal restlessness and awake time. Not bad for a guy with a 6 year old daughter who likes to wake up early.

The meal tracking within the app has transformed the way I eat. Some days I found I wasn’t eating enough and that can be almost as bad as eating too much if you’re trying to get fit.

The Fitbit Charge HR has been a wonderful addition to my daily routine. I can’t wait to see where it pushes me over the coming months. Is it perfect? No, but nothing is. It isn’t particularly attractive but it isn’t hideous either. Overall I’m very impressed with it, the app, and what it’s motivated me to try and become (a healthy person…).

Scott.

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Change is good, a tale of 2 cellphones

Some of you may have been following along on Twitter yesterday while I was having it out with Telus. I felt that the customer service they were providing wasn’t up to the same standards as their competition. I have 2 phone plans, the other being with Rogers and decided that as of yesterday Telus was dead to me.

Without beating the details to death let me sum up how my needs were dealt with by each company. I contacted Telus about a handset upgrade and was told it would cost me at least $259 with 16 months left on my contract. Rogers on the other hand contacted me about my service, offered me a handset upgrade and upgraded my plan, all without me doing a thing.

My Rogers account is used by my wife and I decided to call them and see about switching my Telus number to Rogers. Their answer was…sure, no problem. A new Android handset is in the mail free of charge, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 for $149 and a new family plan that will save my wife and I roughly $50 a month and give us more data and talk time. With 16 months left on my Telus plan I have to pay them $320, which is totally worth it. If Telus had tried to keep my business they would’ve collected over $3600 of my hard earned money over the next 3 years had I renewed my contract. I guess they’re not good at math.

The only bittersweet thing about this change is that I’m no longer a Blackberry guy. I’ve been a Research In Motion loyalist since the side scroll wheel days. BBM is also going to be missed but there are apps that do the same thing now so it’s not as big of a deal. I love my Blackberry but the entire RIM lineup seems light years behind the latest and greatest from Apple and Android, although for business use the berry is still the king.

So the lesson I learned from my frustrating day of horrid customer service was if you don’t like something, change it. Also don’t forget that math is awesome, at $50 less per month Rogers will have paid my $320 fee to Telus back to me in 7 months.

Scott.