Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fitbit vs. Vivofit - Tracking the Trackers

I have been a loyal, and slightly addicted, Fitbit user for over 3 years. Fitbit was the first activity tracker I heard about and, until a few weeks ago, the only one I had ever tried. I was lucky enough to win a Garmin Vivofit from a Saucony regional #WHOAface contest (scroll to the bottom of the post for my winning photo), which gave me the opportunity to try a different tracker and learn about different features that you might want to keep in mind when you are shopping for an activity tracker.

Garmin Vivofit (left) and Fitbit One (right)

Location, Location, Location

My Fitbit One clips onto clothing. I typically keep it on my bra. This keeps it out of sight - good for not clashing with my outfit, bad if I want to see the display. Sometimes if I am wearing a silk blouse the bra placement doesn't work, but generally it's a good spot for me.

The Vivofit is worn on the wrist (as are other Fitbit models, such as the Flex and Charge). Guess what I found out - I can't stand having snug plastic on my wrist! It drove me crazy. I liked being able to look down and see the screen and seeing steps or the time...but I couldn't stand the sensation. 

My preference: clip-on, not the wrist


Do looks matter? It depends on whether you can see it, and what your daily dress code is. Since my Fitbit One is worn under clothing, the appearance isn't important to me. For something on my wrist, looks matter. I don't want to wear a plastic band to a Board meeting. If I were wearing a wristband, I'd buy a jeweled cover-up for work:

Bracelet coverup available on Etsy

Tory Burch for Fitbit Flex available at Bloomingdales

My preference: hidden, or disguised as jewelry

What Does It Track?

The Fitbit One tracks steps, floors, miles, calories burned, and sleep. The Vivofit tracks steps, miles, calories burned, sleep, and heart rate if you have and wear a paired heart rate monitor. I got similar data from both trackers. 

Here is a comparison of the sleep data from each. They both know I was in bed for 8 hours and 58 minutes (no, I don't usually get to sleep that long!), but Fitbit notes I was only asleep for 8 hours and 33 minutes. It's movement based, so not perfect, but I like the data.

Vivofit sleep (blue shows extent of movement)

Fitbit sleep (red shows movement)
My preference: give me as much data as possible! 


Fitbit One syncs wirelessly to my computer via a USB dongle, and over bluetooth to my iPhone. This happens automatically in the background. Vivofit syncs to my computer via a USB ANT device. It happens when I push the sync button on the Vivofit and am in range of the ANT device.

I used to prefer the ease of the Fitbit sync that happens automatically. There is, however, an unease in the back of my mind. I am wearing this device close to my heart and my breasts and it is sending out signals constantly. Is this dangerous? We don't really know. We assume it is safe. Probably it is. But...? So given a preference, I would actually choose the controlled sync of the Vivofit.

My preference: the controlled sync that limits wireless/bluetooth signals and activity 


Fitbit One requires charging every few days via a charging cable. I have established the habit of charging it when I am in the shower so this isn't an issue for me. The Vivofit never needs charging, although ultimately the battery will fail and that's the end of it.

My preference: this one's a toss-up. Not having to charge it is nice, but not a deal-breaker. 


Fitbit One is not waterproof. It's not an issue when I'm showering, since I charge it then, but it's kind of a pain when I'm swimming. When do I take it off? Right before the pool and risk forgetting? Well before the pool and missing out on steps? If I were a triathlete, I would want something that was waterproof. The Vivofit is waterproof to 50 meters.

My preference: waterproof would be nice, especially in the summer

Move Your Lazy A$$

Some activity trackers tell you when you've been sitting too long. Fitbit One has a flower that grows longer when you are active. A short flower means you should move - but this is a passive reminder and doesn't do you much good if you aren't looking at it. Vivofit has red bars that start to show across the screen when you need to move. Again, this is passive, but with the wrist display it at least catches your attention. Some trackers actually buzz when you should move - that would be cool.

My preference: I'd like a buzz or some kind of active reminder to move

Can You See Me Now?

The Fitbit One has a nice display where you can see & scroll through your stats. When you pick it up it even give you encouraging shout-outs like "Highfive Kimberly" - I like those! Of course, I don't see them very often since it is under my clothes. So I often check my iPhone app for a peek at my progress:

a recent screenshot

The Vivofit has a nice display, but it isn't backlit so it can be hard to see outside or at night. I had trouble figuring out if I had correctly entered/exited sleep mode because I couldn't see it. The Fitbit gives a nice buzz upon entering and exiting sleep mode, which I appreciate. Some activity trackers, like the Fitbit Flex, don't have a display at all.

My preference: a backlit display and a dashboard on my phone


I love badges! Give me something to aim for and I'm like a Pavlovian dog. Both Fitbit and Vivofit have badges. It is so fun to get a new badge with a fun message like the one my Dad just got:

You've earned the New Zealand badge
You've walked 990 lifetime miles—the entire length of New Zealand. And while that country's native bird the Kiwi might be flightless, you, my friend, are really taking off.

My Fitbit Badges for:
daily accomplishments,
lifetime accomplishments,
weight loss

My preference: reward me with badges!

What's a Little Competition Between Friends?

Both Fitbit and Vivofit allow you to link up with friends who are also using the devices and compete to get the most steps. On Fitbit you can also cheer/jeer each other and create daily or weekly challenges. Again, I love the feedback and incentives of cheering on/competing with my friends and family.

Looks like I'm falling behind....

My preference: I love the social aspect, which requires having it available AND having friends that use the same platform

App Interoperability

Many fitness trackers play nicely with other apps. The most important app to me is MyFitnessPal, where I track my food/beverage intake. Fitbit has its own calorie tracker, but I prefer MFP. Both Fitbit and Vivofit work with MFP. I lost 15 pounds in 2013 through the combined feedback of MFP & Fitbit. I slacked off in MFP tracking in 2014, and I gained 5 pounds back. 

There are other apps I've used in the past - HealthMonth, Everymove, and Higi are a few that come to mind. HealthMonth is great for establishing healthy habits (or getting rid of unhealthy ones). Everymove and Higi were two good places to get rewards for exercising, although Everymove seems to have discontinued their rewards and Higi has fewer than they used to offer.

My preference: connect to MyFitnessPal and I'm a happy gal

Speaking of happy gals, here is my winning #WHOAface:

Thank you to Saucony and Michael Knestout for awarding me the Vivofit! I appreciate it!


  1. Excellent review! I've been contemplating getting a Fitbit for myself. I had no idea there were coverups on Etsy - would be a nice alternative to the Tory Burch version (which is really pretty).

    1. It's amazing what you can find on Etsy! If you get a Fitbit we can be Fitbit friends. I suspect you will crush me in steps :)

  2. Too funny that there is a whole industry of Fitbit covers out there! I have the Garnim Vivosmart which is a bit narrower than the Vivofit and does buzz (vibrate) after an hour of inactivity. It looks like a plain black band until you tap it to show the display. I'm tempted by the Fitbit charge for the strapless HR monitoring but really need that idle alarm.

    1. That is cool that the Vivosmart buzzes after an hour of inactivity. I'm surprised that more trackers don't have that feature. The Fitbit Surge looks pretty interesting - it also has the strapless HR monitoring that the Charge has, plus some smartwatch features. I'm looking forward to the day when one of these trackers is "pretty" right out of the box. Thanks for stopping by & commenting!

  3. Oh wow, what a great comparison of the two trackers - thanks. The only thing I don't like about my Fitbit Charge is that it's not waterproof (or even resistant). I wore it during last year's Ragnar DC when it rained during all of my runs and the glue started coming apart. I've used Gorilla Glue on it several times to put it back together and I have a new one in my desk drawer for when this one finally bites the dust.

    1. It seems so counter-intuitive to not at least make these things water resistant, doesn't it? Using Gorilla Glue is brilliant! As is having a back-up ready :)