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THE FITBIT BLOG

Guest Blog: Fitbit: Virtual Badges Influence Real Behavior

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We at Fitbit love when we find unique, thoughtful blog posts about our products. The below is one such blog about the power of Fitbit badges, originally posted on Louis Gray’s personal blog. Louis Gray is a Google employee, technology blogger, and dad. We came across his blog by accident, but loved it so much that we wanted to share it with everyone. You can read more of Louis Gray’s blog at louisgray.com.

I am not going on a diet – and I have no interest in going to the gym, even if Google makes it incredibly easy to eat healthy on campus, and gym membership is free with equipment abundant. It’s just not me. But despite this clear disinterest in my making any kind of physical life change, I have been wearing a Fitbit the last week, obsessively counting my steps, climbing the stairs and tracking how many miles I make on foot. I’ve even been wearing the lightweight tracker at night to see how long and how well I sleep – working to optimize that as well.

So why would I resort to such silliness? It’s the stinkin’ badges – helped along by casual competition with friends, and now, despite my best attempts to not make any actual alterations to how I behave, I am sure I am doing things that are actually better for me, in the same way that Foursquare recommendations have pushed me to new venues and trying new things, based on badges and recommendations from friends.

Yesterday's Fitbit activity shows average walking, and lots of climbing.

Yesterday's Fitbit activity shows average walking, and lots of climbing.

The Fitbit itself is not entirely new – having debuted in late 2008, and so far, I’ve been uninterested. I recognize that my mostly sedentary activity of holding down a desk, and chasing after my kids being my main form of exercise would not be particularly interesting. Even now, while I managed 10,000+ steps and 50 flights of stairs yesterday, I still managed to scarf down a great bacon and cheddar sandwich for lunch, so weight loss is not the target.
After scads of occasional tweets and other status updates from acquaintances updating me on the minutiae of their daily fitness activity, it took a simple email of a friend’s weekly dashboard last week to recognize this was a device I needed. In minutes, I’d not only purchased the $99 Fitbit Ultra tracker, but also pre-ordered the Wifi-capable Aria scale for another $129. It was the stats, and the idea of competition, that made me knew I had to get it.
A day's activity, showing spikes of walking across campus and at home.

A day's activity, showing spikes of walking across campus and at home.

Like a true geek, I’m understandably curious about the Fitbit’s accuracy. Does it count 5 steps as a flight of stairs? What about 10? What about small steps, big steps? Do I get credit for manually shaking the tracker or running in place? But despite my moments of tinkering, I’ve found the tracker’s daily reports to be especially accurate. I can spot when I walked to and from my car, to and from lunch, and even when I went from building to building for meetings. I can see when I chased my kids around the backyard, and by looking at the sleep tracker, get a good idea for when they started yowling in the morning, begging to get up.
A night's sleep - 95% efficient, I am told, despite Diet Coke addiction.

A night's sleep - 95% efficient, I am told, despite Diet Coke addiction.

Gaining one’s first badges, such as 5,000 or 10,000 steps, or 10 flights of stairs traversed, is pretty straight forward. But I wanted more. When I got home and put the kids to bed, I was at a mere 14 flights of stairs, so I literally, alone in a quiet house, went up and down my 15 stairs at home 11 times, to get to 25 flights. It must have been quite the sight. That got me a 25 flights badge, and later, when I interrupted each chore with 5 more flights, I finally made it to 50 flights of stairs, which earned me a new badge, not to mention a little bit of sweat and some tightness in my calves, which said the exercise might actually have been working. Tricked again!
A badge for 50 flights is one thing. What about 100 flights?

A badge for 50 flights is one thing. What about 100 flights?

Had it not been for the allure of the 50 floors badge, there’s no question I wouldn’t have been hiking up and down in my house in some solitary unfulfilling challenge. Had it not been for the intrigue of comparing my daily steps accumulated against my friends, and seeing if I could walk more steps than the previous day, or sleep more efficiently one night versus the previous night, I wouldn’t be thinking about it at all. Once the scale arrives and threatens to send my weight to my own internal profile, I wonder if it too is going to impact how I eat, measure and commit to something that resembles good behavior.
As for the Fitbit itself, I can’t complain at all. It’s very light, inconspicuous, and the software is practically invisible. Just connect to the computer, hit sync, and it’s good to go. I’m now addicted to these stats, like any blogger chasing page views, or your favorite fantasy football fan whose future hangs on every rushing yard. The badges are driving the behavior. So if you have a Fitbit and want to challenge my stats, invite me by email. Let’s do this.
This blog was reposted with permission and all content remains the property of louisgray.com.

Our Android App is Here!

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Our free Fitbit app for Android has arrived! Of all the digital fitness device companies out there, we’re happy to announce that we’re among the first to offer both an iPhone and Android app. You can download the Fitbit app for Android for free from Google Play.

When we released our iPhone app last October and saw the warm reception it received, we started working on our Android app.  We made a point to design our app specifically for Android phones, rather than just try to make the existing app work on Android. We hope you’ll be happy with the results.

With this app, you can log your food, activities, weight and water while on the go, as long as you have a wireless connection. Everything syncs to (and from) your Fitbit.com account, and you can view up to two weeks of data for easy access when you’re away from your computer.

The updated Food Plan is also on the Android app, so that you have all the information you may need to make smart decisions about your calorie intake throughout the day; to learn more, check our earlier blog entryFor our iPhone users, the updated Food Plan will be available with our next iPhone app update at the end of the month.  We’ll be adding new features and updates to both apps, so keep your feedback coming and make sure you keep your Fitbit app up to date.

And a special thank you to all our Android users for your patience! The app is only available in the US, Canada, and the UK right now, but will be expanded to further countries as we expand our direct international sales. Happy tracking and logging — wherever you go!

Food Goal Update: Meet Food Plan!

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After our release of Food Goal, we got a lot of great feedback and suggestions from our Fitbit fans about it. We’re excited to announce our answer to those suggestions with a large update to Food Goal. In fact, we’ve changed so much that we completely renamed it to Food Plan.

What’s changed? Quite a lot, actually, though the Food Plan has kept the same general look and feel as it had before. Everything that was in Food Goal is still available, like the gauge to show whether or not you’re in the “calorie zone”. But now, we’re providing a lot more information right at your fingertips, and the Food Plan has become even better at helping you manage your calorie intake each day.

Smarter calorie estimates: Your Food Plan sets each day based on your historic activity levels. It will calculate how many calories you burn each day on average, and base your suggested calorie intake on this. As you wear and sync your Tracker throughout the day, your Food Plan adjusts dynamically based on whether you’re exercising more or less than that average, so that your goal remains as accurate as possible. And as your activity trends change over time, your Food Plan’s starting estimate will adjust to your new activity levels as well.

Calories in vs calories out: Additionally, many of you wanted a way to judge how well you were doing at any one point of the day. You can now view your total calories burned compared to your total ca lories eaten, and see whether or not you are currently within your plan’s deficit goal zone. So if you’ve just logged your lunch and wonder how you’re doing for the day so far, you can see how your total calories burned so far for the day measure up against the total calories you’ve eaten. There’s no more guessing if you’re behind or on track so far for the day. With this meter, it’s always clear where you stand.

Tips and Tricks: To get the most out of your Food Plan, make sure to log your food throughout the day. You can do this on the go through your smartphone on our apps, or by visiting our mobile website.

Overall, we’ve tried to make changes that provide you with the information you need to make smart, healthy decisions and be better prepared to achieve your goals. We hope you enjoy the Food Plan, and welcome any feedback you might have. “Like” us on Facebook to join the conversation there.