Fitbit One review: Powerful fitness tracker, weak design

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 7.0

Average User Rating

2.5 stars 3 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Fitbit One offers an intuitive way to track and analyze your sleep, the steps you take, stairs climbed, and calories burned. Small and light, the One is very portable. Its OLED screen, which has a clock, is easy to read. It sends data to phones over Bluetooth.

The Bad The Fitbit One’s clip often comes loose. The One's Bluetooth syncing function only works with a few compatible handsets thus far.

The Bottom Line The Fitbit One is a feature-rich pedometer, but the wristband-style Jawbone Up and Fitbit’s own Flex are more convenient and much better deals.

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The $99.95 Fitbit One is one of the most advanced fitness trackers money can buy. Besides measuring steps, this gadget can record how many stairs you climb, the calories you burn, and even the quality of your sleep. Its clippable design, however, isn't as convenient or secure as competing wrist-style devices such as the Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand, and even Fitbit's own Flex. And unlike the Fitbit One, those devices are made to be worn around the clock, not just clipped to clothing when you hit the gym or head out for a run. So for those trying to keep tabs on every move you make, the One isn't ideal.

Design
If you've owned or played with Fitbit's past devices such as the original Fitbit tracker and Fitbit Ultra, the One will certainly look and feel familiar. Small and oval-shaped, the tiny Fitbit One is easy to carry even when placed in its silicone cover and clip.

The idea is to use the clip to attach the One to clothing, either a belt, pants pocket, or shirt. Once clipped on, the gadget records your daily activity. There's just one button on the One. Pressing it toggles through the product's various screens -- the time, steps, stairs, distance traveled, and calories burned through activity. A final screen shows a flower graphic that grows and shrinks in relation to how much you've moved recently. The longer the flower stem, the better.

Clip the Fitbit One to your clothes. Sarah Tew/CNET

You can also slip the Fitbit One right into pockets without wrapping it in its rubbery cover; Fitbit claims the tracker will be just as accurate. I personally would advise against doing so; the One is so tiny that it wouldn't be hard to lose it. In fact, even when clipped to my waist, I often forgot the gadget was there.

This may not sound like a problem, but when coupled with the product's problematic clip case, it could become one in a big way. Large messenger bags, the type I usually wear at waist level, can cause the clip to unhook; since the One is so light, you won't realize it's gone until too late.

Getting in and out of cars, seats, or bending constantly to pick up and put down fussy toddlers can cause the same malfunction. Hey, that's pretty much what my entire weekend looks like. I lost two Fitbit One units within my test period, which points to a serious design oversight in my view. I had similar clip failures when using the Fitbit Zip, which has an almost identical clippable case. This is why I believe wristband products like the Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up, and Fitbit Flex make the most sense for 24-7 use.

It's easy to misplace the tiny Fitbit One. Sarah Tew/CNET

Another issue to consider is how easy it is to accidentally throw a product like this into the wash. I admit I did this with the Fitbit Zip and came embarrassingly close to making the same mistake with the One on numerous occasions. Luckily my Zip emerged from the washing machine no worse for wear. That's likely because it, the Fitbit One, and Fitbit Flex are splash- and sweatproof.

Features and performance
Truly a pedometer on steroids, the Fitbit One uses a built-in accelerometer to track your movements in measurements of steps and distance traveled (miles). It also logs how well you sleep in terms of actual time spent in slumber and how many wakeful interruptions you experienced overnight.

One drawback to sleep tracking on the Fitbit One is that you have to remove the device from its clip sheath and place it in a soft cloth strap designed for nighttime use. I found this an inconvenient extra step, especially when dead tired. Also, competing fitness bands such as the Jawbone Up, Basis Band, and the Fitbit Flex tackle sleep duty without relying on a separate strap.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Fitbit One - activity/sleep tracker - burgundy

Part Number: 6330296
Low Price: $78.99 See all prices