Hot on the heels of my endomondo review from last week, comes news about fitbit. The company closed a round of $12 million in series C funding. The money ostensibly is to launch and gain market traction for their new product, the Aria, a wirelessly connected scale and body fat percentage sensor. I thought I saw their first product, the Ultra in Costco last weekend. A quick perusal of the box marketing led me to the conclusion that it was a $100 pedometer. But then I realized that this wasn’t the fitbit, but another wireless sensor called Bodymedia Fit Core, which monitors temperature, galvanic skin response and motion. The wireless communication adds some value, but I couldn’t really see it as useful for me. Without GPS you’ve just a got a pedometer. You can buy a pedometer for about $5 on Amazon. Getting rid of the data entry isn’t necessarily going to help you lose weight or get fit. Ultimately you can tell if what you’re doing is working by stepping on the scale once a week.
I have endomondo on my Android phone which records my real effort of moderate exercise and a lot of ways to visualize my performance on a website. I believe the Aria’s wireless scale and body fat tester changes the game somewhat. As the CEO describes it, the Aria “closes the loop” between tracking a user’s effort and the results. I think there might be something to this. Whereas the Ultra has fewer sensors and less functionality than app on your phone, there is no way your phone can weigh you or calculate your body fat percentage.
Regardless of the raw functionality, fitbit is going to have to figure out a way to make weighing yourself fun. I think that Wii Fit nailed this with the way they made weighing into a game. No matter how good or bad the result of the weigh in, Wii fit gives you two other ways to win. You can try to be as still as possible and equally distribute your weight on the scale while you’re weighing in. You then get a selection of two balance and agility games. Your performance on the games gives you a Wii fit age, a synthetic score which purports to measure your overall fitness.
Whatever the validity of the Wii Fit Age score, I found the Wii Fit tremendously fun and I have used it pretty consistently for over a year an average of 3 times a week. For some reason the rest of the family never got into it. My daughter would do the body test with me once every couple of months. My wife has used it maybe 3 times.
There are more cool devices like this in the market. Jawbone’s UP is a cool looking band. Now comes the Nike FuelBand to the mix of products in the mobile wellness category. The winner in the space is going to be the product with the best software, the simplest interface, and the strongest social sharing pull. I’ll let you know who I think that is in my next post.