Right now, we have a slew of devices tracking our activity most of the time, but each is telling only part of the story, part of the time. Runkeeper on my cell phone nails lap times, but stinks at tracking jaunts to the store. The Nike+ Fuelband sees me shampooing in the shower, but it can’t really tell basic information—like where I’ve been or how I slept—and I need to remember to sync it to the cloud.
The Fitibit One ($100)—with industrial design by NewDealDesign and web components by Odopod—is Fitbit’s latest 24/7 tracking device that’s about 40% smaller than any Fitbit to date, yet more connected than ever before. During the day, it clips to your belt or slips in your pocket to track your steps, even the stairs you’ve climbed, and the overall calories you’ve burned doing so. At night, the One slips into an armband, where it measures your sleep cycle and will vibrate in the morning to wake you up, silently.
And all the time, it’s syncing to the cloud via low-power Bluetooth 4.0. Every bit of information beams to an iPhone or Android device, allowing you to see a deeper, app-enabled story about sleep patterns and activity.
"The thing about these devices, if you really want them to be things you wear all day and disappear into your lifestyle, they’re going to get more and more smaller," Fitbit co-founder James Park tells Co.Design. "And the smaller a device is, the amount of interaction that you can do directly on the device is more and more limited."
It’s maybe the best, unsung power of the app: Peripheral electronics like the Fitbit can virtually disappear, and myriad interactions and data sets can arise from thin air. Now the One can send push notifications to motivate users. It can warn someone when they’ve been overtaken in a Fitbit competition, or congratulate them for reaching a goal. So the One can become mind-bendingly tiny while doing more than any Fitbit before it.
But if the One is a sleek, black device meant to fit in at any power lunch, the new Fitbit Zip is the polar opposite, a chunkier, more colorful cousin. Its functionality is more or less the same as the One’s (lacking sleep tracking), but at $60, it’s intentionally designed for families. Whereas the One exudes corporate anonymity, the Zip aims to be friendly.
And despite these cosmetic differences, each Fitbit actually shares the same, biggest engineering challenge. The floor/stairs counting feature relies on an altimeter, which measures changes in air pressure to track your altitude. But Fitbits also need to be highly sweat and humidity resistant, meaning they’re hermetically sealed, making it difficult for those sensors to work. It’s a cruel irony inherent to the technology, and a design challenge that won’t necessarily disappear as Fitbits continue to evolve. It’s hard to expect any gadget to be as durable as the human body.
The new models are available now for $100 (One) and $60 (Zip).