Essentially, your Fitbit account is a personal fitness profile that tracks your daily and weekly activity, as measured by the Fitbit Ultra, against a comprehensive calorie counter. The introduction of the Aria, though, adds the final piece of the data puzzle: your weight recorded over time. What's more, the Fitbit provides free mobile apps for both iOS and Android, through which users can track their current activity level and calorie intake. The software offers a method of logging meals and snacks and manually entering workouts.
But that's not all. To motivate yourself further, and shame yourself with the truth, you can use your Fitbit account to set goals for weight loss and verify your progress with daily weigh-ins on the Aria scale. If you achieve hard-earned weight loss, the Aria will congratulate you with nifty badges that you can then use to gloat via Facebook or Twitter or to friends with Fitbit accounts. Fortunately, that last step is optional.
Acknowledging that many people already use fitness software to keep tabs on their health and workouts, Fitbit supports 13 popular third-party applications including Lose It, Endomondo, and TargetWeight. Yet, compared with the Withings Body Scale, that's a paltry showing. The Body Scale connects to a whopping 44 health-centric apps and online services including RunKeeper and even Fitbit. The Body Scale, however, lacks the breadth and reach of Fitbit's analytical tools and merely plots scale measurements over time. More detailed assessment, fitness, and nutritional planning must be done through Withing's third-party partners.
Ease of setup is one area where the Fitbit Aria trumps the Withings Body Scale. The Aria has a completely wireless installation process whereas the Body Scale requires you to connect the device at least once to your Wi-Fi-connected PC via a USB cable. It's a minor inconvenience but if you misplace the cord (USB-to-Mini-USB) and change your home network settings, you'll be in a real jam.
In my brief test period with the Fitbit Aria I came away very impressed. Setting up the device on my home network was a snap, taking about 5 minutes to complete. First I made sure the four bundled AA batteries were properly in place and the Aria was in its setup mode. Then I pointed my browser to www.fitbit.com/start and downloaded the Aria client software. The software pushed me through a simple wizard that helped me log into my Fitbit account, name the scale, and enter my Wi-Fi network details. The Aria client then communicated the network log-in information to the scale and confirmed success.
Using the Aria is just as straightforward: just step on the device, preferably with bare feet to ensure proper BMI measurement, and wait a few seconds. In my experience, the Aria recognized me and began sensing my body before entering a "thinking" mode where it calculated my weight and percent body fat. Once done, the Aria instructed me to step off and it immediately uploaded my new stats to Fitbit's servers. The whole process took about 10 seconds, which wasn't that traumatic. What the scale reported though was very distressing.
Glaring at me in cold white digits was the reading of 224.8 pounds. "Hell no!" I told myself, but deep down I knew it was true. Less than 10 months ago, just before my twins were born, I tipped the scales at a much trimmer 206 pounds. That's lighter than when I was the dedicated karateka of my youth, though I definitely had more muscle mass as well. If my new weight isn't a kick in the gut to get back down to fighting size, I don't know what is.
To be fair, last year I stuck to my wife's strict predelivery diet, which cut out most refined carbs and sugars. Thankfully, the online tools Fitbit provides quickly let me draft a weight-loss plan determined by my calorie intake, measured weight, and activity level. Using the company's Android app is also easy and conveniently let me log foods soon after meals. If all goes well, I'll be fit as a fiddle by August.
Despite being a fan of the Fitbit Ultra, I was frankly dubious about the need for a smart scale. I'm probably one of the few people in America who bought a Nintendo Wii Fit way back when and have been soured by the dull and at times insulting motivation it served up. My feeling, though, is that if you can afford to splurge on a $129.99 scale and have already invested in Fitbit's ecosystem, the Aria is a worthwhile addition. It's better-looking, easier to install than the $159 Withings Body Scale, and just as accurate. If you need a scale that supports a wide range of fitness apps and services, however, the Body Scale is a compelling alternative.