Fitbit vs. Withings

The long-awaited write-up of my thoughts on the Fitbit One and the Withings Pulse — I know y’all were probably up nights wondering when this was going to be posted. I started using both at the very beginning of the year and have basically had them on my body every day since then.

It took me 8 tries to get a picture with both displays
still turned on, so I stopped worrying about
how awful the actual picture is.


In general, they both do their job fairly well and I think you could be happy going with either one. Personally, I’m still having a tough time choosing between them — and frankly, they’re small enough that I can carry both around without being too overburdened. And since I can’t make a decision, I’ll list all the things I think are important and then pick a winner in each category. How does that sound? Good, I’m glad you like the idea.

Step Count/Mileage

When on a treadmill or running outside, both devices are about spot-on with each other in terms of step count, however, the Fitbit always seems to underestimate distance while the Pulse compares better to the actual distance traveled. Normal walking around the office or home or out shopping?  The Fitbit will sometimes be as much as 10-15% higher in both step count and mileage than the Pulse.  Which, of course, makes me like it more.
Winner:  Fitbit One

Form Factor

While they’re both fairly small, the Pulse is definitely bulkier though I wouldn’t make a buying decision based only on this. That said, the Fitbit is not only smaller, but its curved edges seems to make it less noticeable in my pocket.
Winner:  Fitbit One

Battery Life/Charging

Battery life is good with both devices — at least 1-2 weeks, easily, and they both charge up quickly.  The Pulse battery seems to need charging before the Fitbit, but not by much, usually. A big thumbs down to the Fitbit, though, because the charging cable is proprietary. Forget it at home when you go on vacation? Hope you remembered to charge your Fitbit before leaving! The Pulse is a normal micro USB plug — the same that charges many (non-Apple) phones. I like that I can charge it just about anywhere, since I have those cords all around my house.
Winner: Withings Pulse

Syncing

The Fitbit One syncs with a computer (with a USB receiver plugged in), and with iOS/Android/Windows devices using Bluetooth. It will sync automatically, and it’s unusual that I need to force a sync because my devices and the website seemingly always show me the most up-to-date information. The Withings Pulse only syncs with iOS/Android devices and the sync doesn’t happen nearly as often and I often find myself doing a manual sync. This wasn’t too much of an issue for me until my Nexus 5 bit the dust (well, I bit the dust and it happened to be under my butt when it happened… doh) and I bought a Windows phone (which the Pulse doesn’t support). Now I keep the Nexus on at home to sync my Pulse (and for a few other things my new phone doesn’t do).
Winner: Fitbit One

Sleep Analysis

Both devices need to be worn on your wrist and turned on when going to bed and then turned off when you get up. Kind of a pain, but you soon get used to it and it’s not that big of a deal. One note — if you go to bed to read, don’t turn it on — if you’re not moving around, it’ll think that you’ve fallen asleep.  Both devices are usually within minutes of each other in telling me how long it took me to fall asleep, and how much total sleep I got. The downside with the Pulse — when it’s in sleep mode, it doesn’t count steps (sure, sure, not a big deal, but it’s not like I’m levitating to the bathroom a few times a night… I want credit for all the steps I take!). Also, if you forget to turn it off when you get up, the Pulse does not allow you to edit that sleep record while the Fitbit does (through the website).
Winner:  Fitbit One

Website

Both websites give you summary information on a dashboard-like interface. The Fitbit dashboard is all big bubbly graphics and you have to drill down to get to more detail. The Withings website, on the other hand, is awesome (how’s that for a technical review?). It manages to display a wealth of information on the dashboard without it being confusing. And you can still drill down for more details. It also integrates really well with any other Withings products you have (I own the Withings Scale).
Winner: Withings Pulse

Display/On-screen information

The Fitbit, by default, cycles through steps – floors – miles – calories (total) – energy flower – time. The Fitbit allows you — through the website or app — to change what is displayed. The Pulse cycles through steps – feet of elevation – mileage – calories (during exercise) – sleep mode/HR. Also, if you go for a run, you can swipe to a “running analysis” — basically time/distance of the activity and you can also easily see 10 days of historical data for any piece of information that’s displayed.
Winner: Withings Pulse

Clip-ons

I don’t use the clips all that often and find them both to be more than adequate for the job. I think that used more, the Fitbit has more of a chance of wearing out, but I can’t say that for sure. Just my guess.
Winner: Withings Pulse (I guess)

Extras

Fitbit:  allows you to set alarms which work by vibrating — very effective when you’re sleeping, especially if you’re trying not to wake up someone else. 

Pulse: takes your HR.  Cycle through to HR mode, then put your finger on the sensors in the back and it spits out your HR (usually – sometimes it can’t get a read and just shows an “x” on the display). I’ve found it to be pretty accurate, though it’s kind of a pain to do when you’re in the middle of working out.  I use it mostly when I wake up to get my resting heart rate.

Fitbit One
Withings Pulse

So, I suppose if you were to force me to choose, I’d probably pick the Fitbit mostly for convenience sake (it’s easier to sync) and the fact that it typically gives me a higher step count (I’m a little emotionally attached to that number). But I tell you — I’d miss the Withings website, which has been awesome in motivating me to get more active and monitoring my weight and keeping track of my weekly goals.


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