Fitbit vs. Jawbone vs. FuelBand vs. BodyMedia

Fitbit vs. Jawbone vs. FuelBand vs. BodyMedia

Shyam Patel did a much more thorough review of the leading activity trackers out there. The whole post is worth a read, but he also found that the FuelBand undercounts. 


Fitbit vs FuelBand

Quantifiedself.com recently had a few posts comparing the Nike FuelBand with the Fitbit Ultra. Since I’ve been using both devices since August, I thought I’d pull my data and weigh in. From my experience, the Fitbit consistently reports higher numbers than the FuelBand and the discrepancy seems to increase as my activity level increases. These results are very similar to Bastian’s, but it was interesting to see that Ernesto found the two devices to record nearly identical step counts during his one week test. My current hypothesis is that since FuelBands are worn on the wrist, they have to eliminate hand movements from their step counts, and the FuelBand might be not counting a lot of valid steps because the algorithms are miscategorizing the movement.

Below is a graph of my steps since August 14, 2012 when I bought a FuelBand (I already had a Fitbit Ultra). This should be roughly 160 days worth of data, but I’ve removed about 40 data points because I have repeatedly lost, forgotten, or washed my Fitbit and didn’t have comparable data on those days (for what it’s worth, Fitbit’s customer support has been great at providing me with replacement devices). As you can see, the blue line (Fitbit) tends to be higher than the red (FuelBand), and the differences are highest on my high activity day where the blue spikes, but the red doesn’t.

Fitbit and FuelBand Step Counts

Fitbit and FuelBand Step Counts

Here’s another chart showing just the difference between the two devices. Positive numbers are where the Fitbit had a higher step count, negative are where the FuelBand did. As you can see, almost all of the numbers are positive. In fact, the results weren’t even close. My Fitbit had a higher step count 81.5% of the time.

Difference between Fitbit and FuelBand

Difference between Fitbit and FuelBand

On January 12, I replaced my Fitbit Ultra with a Fitbit One. I’ve only had it for ten days, but I feel like the One counts fewer steps than the Ultra. The differences are small and unfortunately I can’t directly compare the two devices since I gave away my Ultra, but the delta between my Fitbit and FuelBand step counts has narrowed slightly (down from an average difference of 18.2% to 17.0%). It’s too early though to tell if that difference is significant.

A few other notes, I used to wear my Fitbit clipped to my pocket, but after repeatedly losing it, I now leave it in my pocket clipped to my keys which I always have with me. It’s possible that my jingling keys might increase my step counts, but that seems unlikely. As for my FuelBand, I wear it on my left wrist and I am left-handed. If this is increasing my step count, it’s not doing it enough to make the FuelBand steps catch up with the Fitbit.

I’d like to run some more calculations and use a bit more advanced statistics to compare the two devices, but I think I’ll wait until I have at least a month or two of data from my Fitbit One to see if there are any differences between the two devices.

If anyone wants to play with my full data set, the Excel file is here: Fitbit vs FuelBand


There’s no such thing as a wake-up call

At age 28, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. My unhealthy lifestyle had finally caught up with me. This was the wake-up call I needed. I used it. I cut meat out of my diet, stopped drinking, lost one hundred pounds, and started running marathons. Cancer saved my life.

It’s a nice story. Fat kid gets cancer, survives, turns life around. People like narratives like that. It makes change seem easy. It makes people believe that with the right motivation, willpower, and commitment, anyone can change their life. It’s how I would write the story if I had the ability to change history.

Unfortunately, it’s not true. While I was fat and I was diagnosed with cancer; post-chemo, nothing changed. I still ate poorly. I still drank too much. I still spent hours lying on my couch watching TV. All my old bad habits returned. A year after I was diagnosed, I was over 275 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than I was before the diagnosis.

Looking back, this outcome isn’t that surprising. To get to the point I was at health-wise, I had to have ignored countless other wake-up calls over the span of nearly three decades. Why was cancer any different? My health was not a new problem that I was suddenly being forced to confront. It’s one that I had chosen to ignore for years.

My experience with cancer taught me one thing: if I was going to change, it wasn’t going to be because of one unique, life-changing event. No single thing, not even cancer, would provide me with a consistent enough  supply of motivation and willpower to maintain momentum and drive change. If I really wanted to change my life, I had to find another way.


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