The Fitbit Ultra is UK bound and ready to help you fight the festive flab. Can the the wireless fitness tracker really be the key to a fitter you?
Ah Christmas. 'Tis the season to eat and drink like you are a bear hibernating for the winter and then upon waking on January 1st 2012, realise you've inherited more than a few festive pounds.
The Fitbit tracker has proved a hit over in the US, and with the latest version all set to arrive in the UK, we’ve been fortunate to spend some time with the Fitbit Ultra to see if it really can whip you into shape
Fitbit Ultra: Build and design
Inside the box, you'll find the 5-inch matte black wireless tracker which houses a 2.5-inch illuminated OLED display and features just a single physical button and is designed to clip easily and securely to your trousers or a shirt pocket for example.
Almost identical to the first Fitbit in terms of looks, the Ultra has added the choice of a blue or plum coloured finish which adds an element of sleekness to a device that is both lightweight and unobtrusive.
Alongside the tracker, there's the docking station which connects via USB, with PC and Mac compatibility, and the Velcro wrist strap, which holds the Ultra in place whilst tracking sleep patterns.
Fitbit Ultra: Features
Tracking your activity during the day is achieved using accelerometer technology similar to that found in Nintendo Wii remotes, with the OLED display allowing you to view real-time data throughout the day.
With just the single button you can flick through the different data modes which includes a step counter, distance covered, calories burned, a flower to illustrate how active you’ve been and new features such as a stopwatch, motivational messages and an altimeter to track how many steps you’ve climbed.
All the data can be uploaded to the free Fitbit online desktop tool which is quick and easy to set up. You can sync data using the docking station or wirelessly from 15ft which worked successfully from our time spent using it.
As well as recording all of your activity data, there is a myriad of other information to keep track of, including food consumption, water intake, heart rate and glucose intake, however this all has to be manually added.
Like the Jawbone Up you can track data on the move, which is done via a mobile website and a free iPhone/iPod Touch app that is currently only available to users in the US.
The smartphone support does not end there with a host of apps including Endomondo, FourSquare and FitBit Daemon which syncs Nike+ data, which enhances the tracking possibilities of the Ultra.
Fitbit Ultra: Performance
We took the Ultra for numerous running and gym sessions to test alongside the Nike+ GPS on the iPod Touch and found data such as distance covered and calories burned to be accurate.
The Ultra is certainly a lot easier and lighter to run with than having a device strapped to your arm however that is at the expense of not having GPS.
The altimeter proved equally accurate while there was something quite impressive about telling people that you had climbed the equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The sleep tracking is perhaps one of the more intriguing elements of the Fitbit Ultra. The Ultra slips into the wrist strap easily and is barely noticeable whilst in bed.
You’ll need to give the single button one hard press to start the tracking and repeat in the morning when you awaken.
Not only do you get information on sleep patterns on a daily/weekly basis but it was perhaps most interesting to see the amount of times you wake up during the night which could ultimately help to see whether events during in the day could have affected your quality of sleep.
The idea of food tracking seems to be one of the most problematic aspects of many fitness tracking devices, and the same can be said about the Fitbit Ultra.
Manually inputting meals eaten throughout the day, there is a large database available to select from, but currently only caters for US branded products however this will be updated for the UK launch.
While you can add new foods, you will be required to work out calories and quantities which can be quite an arduous process.
On the battery front, you can expect to get around a week of use before you have to refuel via the USB docking station, and in a day and age where we’ve got smartphones, tablets and iPods to remember to charge, this is a major plus.
Fitbit Ultra: Verdict
So does the Fitbit Ultra do enough to convince you to abandon your unhealthy lifestyle? Well, it's a good place to start and its ease of use means everyone should be able to get to grips with using it.
We instantly found the challenge to beat our data from the day before quite addictive, while data is presented in an user-friendly online tool. The food tracking element is by no means perfect, while we found the inability to sync data from the mobile website something of an issue.
The success could lie with the insightful sleep tracker and the possibilities opened up by support for numerous iPhone and Android apps geared towards health and fitness monitoring.
Some might question whether this is more than just a souped-up pedometer, but the Fitbit Ultra is so easy to use, and is laden with enough features to make it an attractive purchase for seasoned fitness fiends and those embarking on a new healthy regime.
Fitbit Ultra availability: 3 January 2012
Fitbit Ultra price: £79.99 (available to pre-order from Amazon, Firebox and Play.com)