Fitbit Review 2020: Which Fitbit is Best for Counting Steps?

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The Fitbit has been around for many years now. Many consider it the premier source for Pedometers and smartwatches to track your activity.

However, there are many different models of Fitbit, They have a huge range of wearable and pedometer watches that will help you keep track of your step count (and quite a bit more).

 Sometimes this can make finding just the right pedometer for your need a bit difficult. It can be a bit confusing if you are not used to the different makes and models 

…..That is why I wrote this Fitbit review.

I will cover all the current (2020) options available for the Fitbit, and give you some insight into why different models might work for you (or not).

I start off this post with a rundown of the general benefits of getting a Fitbit activity tracker. Then I describe the methods to finding the “right” tracker for you.

Features

Fitbit Ionic GPS Smart Watch

Fitbit Charge 3

Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit Ace

Fitbit Flex 2

Looks Like:

Price

$$$$

$$

$$

$$

$

Steps, Calories, Distances

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Floors

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Connected GPS

Yes

Cell connected GPS: YESNative GPS: NO

Yes

Yes

No

Battery Life

4 days

7 days

7 days

5 days

5 days

Text & Call Notifications

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Movement Reminders

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Clock/Time

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Where to Buy

     

Benefits of Using a Fitbit

1. Tracking.

One of the things I emphasize on DevelopGoodHabits.com (DGH) is the importance of accountability and metrics while forming a new habit.  It’s been my experience that when you focus on a specific milestone every day, it becomes easier to permanently adopt a new routine.

With that in mind, I think that one of the most important features in a pedometer when the pedometer helps you develop the “step walking habit”. Most models of the Fitbit do this, by giving you an audible tone or a shake when you have been sitting too long.

This sort of habit “reminder” really helps to turn the tracker from a simple tracker into the perfect “walking habit buddy.”

2. Portability.

There are lots devices/apps that count your daily steps.  The problem?  Most are annoying to carry around. Either you’re tethered to a cell phone or you’re forced to wear a device that often looks unprofessional.  Neither option works from a “habit development” standpoint because you have to develop a whole new routine JUST to count your daily steps.

Fitbit has many styles and sizes that fit perfectly with any attire. From tiny pedometers that can be slotted into jewelry to a range of pedometer watches. See these top 5 of these options below

3. Accuracy

One of the chief complaints from the FitBit detractors is it often accidentally counts steps that don’t happen.  Some say it measures any sort of movement like driving or using public transportation.

While my personal experience is not a large pool experimenting. I have owned several Fitbits over the years and I’ve tested this “problem” on my own, by doing the following:

  • Recorded my steps before and after driving a car
  • Shook the device vigorously in my hand
  • Measured step counts during a train ride

What I found was simple—the FitBit doesn’t accidentally count steps. 

Sure, you’ll get a few by shaking the device up and down.  Perhaps a step or two difference getting in and out of a car. But, the designers have done a great job with their accelerometers and altimeters to determine what’s a “step” and what’s a simple bump in the road while driving a car.  As a result, you get a spookily accurate measurement of your daily step count.

4. Activity Charts (count my steps)

FitBit is supported by a number of apps and an extensive member dashboard.  Whenever you sync the device, it automatically updates your account with information like:

  • Steps
  • Distance
  • Floors
  • Calories burned

I feel these charts are important because they help strengthen the daily walking habit.  Instead of getting vague information about your step count, you get fully-detailed progress reports as you form the walking routine.

This is important because it’s easier to stick with a habit when you see progress being made. 

What the Fitbit membership site gives you is a central location that maintains a daily log, without requiring a lot of extra work.  Simple sync it every few days and FitBit automatically updates your account.

There is even an option to add a ton of extra data to the site, either manually or by importing data from other apps/devices. Doing this you can keep track of things like water and food consumed during the day to get a complete picture of what comes into your body and how you get rid of it (via exercise).

5. Gamification

Gamification is a new trend where businesses leverage the human desire for competition into the design of their software or applications.  When a product is “gamified,” it rewards the user for completing specific challenges and accomplishments.

After using this pedometer for a while, you’ll earn a variety of badges based on daily steps, floors climbed, lifetime distances and lifetime climbs.  Once you hit one of these milestones, you’ll get an email notification and earn a badge for your membership account.

Here is a graphic I made for many of the “Gamification” badges offered by fitbit:

A complete collection of the fitbit badge achievements. See all the possibilities of badges you can recieve on your path to walking fitness

Click this to check out all the Fitbit Badges

I’ll admit that “gamification” seems like a silly idea. 

What normal, healthy adult would care about earning virtual badges?  Ummmm…. me.

Oddly enough, I found these rewards do help with the development of the walking habit.  Sure, they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but they often provide another incentive to walk—even when you’re not up for it.  Sometimes knowing you’re about to “earn a badge” is enough motivation to get out the door and start walking.

6. Accountability

Most brands of Fitbit can be fully synced with your social media accounts.  This means you can compare the daily step counts to your family and friends.

This is a very important feature because having “public accountability” is one of the best ways to stick with a new habit.  (This is something I covered in my article about the Hawthorne Effect).

The FitBit membership dashboard provides a leader board that ranks your steps against other people in your social network.

For instance, look to the left to see how I currently compare to my contacts (for the sake of privacy, I blurred their names/faces.)

This feature is yet another way to get motivated to continue with the walking habit.  Knowing you’re close to passing a friend can become a wonderful incentive to do a little more walking each day.

Because… are you gonna let that guy “win”?

Even now (as I write this article) I’m looking at the above image and feel a need to walk 2,000 more steps today to pass the next guy on the leaderboard. (I never said I wasn’t competitive.)

7. Long Battery Life

We all know it’s frustrating to have devices that need constant charging (like the iPhone). 

This CAN also be a problem with some of the more “doodad” filled and GPS capable models of Fitbit. But there are some simpler versions that have a very long battery life, and it is something that keeps getting better.

But even the models that should be charged every day, like the Fitbit watches, charge very quickly. So you can set your Fitbit to charge before you shower in the morning and it will done before you are ready to go out for the day.

I find this feature to be especially refreshing. This pedometer is intended for constant use, so I’m glad it has a “charge it and go” type of design. Sadly, this is a feature you don’t often see with many lifestyle-based devices.

What to Consider When Choosing a Fitbit

1. What’s your goal?

Do you want to lose or maintain weight? What to build a walking/running habit? Are you looking for a fitness tracker or a multi-purpose smartwatch?

2. What’s your lifestyle?

What is your main form of exercise? Walking, running, swimming, etc.? Do you hike often?

3. What’s your budget?

The fancier the Fitbit, the higher the price tag. Many of the “simpler” Fitbit options miss a few bells and whistles, but are really just as effective.

4. Do you like to stay connected?

A Fitbit smartwatch may be a better option. These watches have amazing bells and whistles and can give you control for messages and music from your watch.

5. Is style important to you?

Fitbits come in different colors and designs, so you have options if you want something feminine or masculine. Many of the simpler versions of the fitbit can be placed into Fitbit accessories which look just like other jewelry and no one will ever even see your Fitbit/. 

Which Fitbit is Right for You?

1. BEST OVERALL FITBIT: The Fitbit Charge 3

BEST OVERALL FITBIT: The Fitbit Charge 3

It is tough to give a single Fitbit as the title “Best Fitbit”, since that decision that is highly subjective and personal. But there are a few reasons I think the Fitbit Charge 3 deserves that title.

It is the newest model, so it has as many feature-packed into its smallish body as possible. It has a larger screen and a lighter design than its predecessor the Charge 2.

This Fitbit model has about everything you could ask for.

  • Goal-based exercises.
  • Completely waterproof
  • Reminders to move
  • Notifications (and replies with android phones)
  • Guided breathing
  • Long Battery life: 7 days
  • Improved resolution screen (although still black and white)
  • Increased durability

The Charge 3 even has the ability to change watch straps to make this a cooler fashion accessory. (Check out this cool leather watch strap accessory.)

What puts this watch over the top are a combination of things where it ranks high. It is not the least expensive Fitbit, bit it is one of the less expensive options. It doesn’t have “the most” features, but it does have most of the features on other Fitbits and a few that they don’t have. It doesn’t have the “longest” battery life, but it is far longer battery life than most of the other options. Put all of this together it makes the Fitbit Charge 3 “the best” option, in my opinion.

Features

Fitbit

Price

Click here to see it on Amazon

Steps, Calories, Distances

YES

Floors

YES

Connected GPS

Cell connected GPS: YESNative GPS: NO

Battery Life

7 days

Text & Call Notifications

YES

Movement Reminders

YES

Clock/Time

YES

Water Resistant?

YES. It is not only “waterproof” but swimproof

Guided Breathing Sessions

YES

2. MOST AFFORDABLE FITBIT: Fitbit Flex 2, Navy (US Version)

 (linked image)

MOST AFFORDABLE FITBIT: Fitbit Flex 2, Navy (US Version)

The Flex 2 could easily win for another category: The best Fitbit if you do not want to wear a watch.

These days it seems that Fitbit options primarily come as watch options. But what are you to do if you already have a watch you wear? Or if you simply do not want to wear a watch.

The Flex 2 comes with a wrist wearing option. But it is small and unobtrusive with no watch face. This makes it easy to wear with a watch, without seeming foolish.

Perhaps more importantly, however, this is the perfect option if you want an activity tracker, but DO NOT want anything on your wrist. You can but some simple add-ons to wear the flex 2 in a variety of other ways.

There are pendants and fancy silver necklaces and perhaps my personal favorite, the magnetic clip-on.

I really do love my Flex 2 and the magnetic clip-on. I have been buying Fitbits since the very first one. For a long time, my favorite Fitbit was the “Fitbit ONE”. It was much larger than the Flex 2. It did not have all its features but came in as a large magnetic clip on. Even though I own a Fitbit watch, I don’t always want to wear it. Having the backup option to clip the Fitbit Flex 2 on my belt or shirt unobtrusively is pretty awesome.

For me drawback of the Flex 2 is that it does not count stairs since it has no altimeter.

Features

Fitbit

Price

Lowest priced Fitbit. Click here to see it on Amazon

Steps, Calories, Distances

YES

Floors

NO

Connected GPS

NO

Battery Life

5 days

Text & Call Notifications

Yes

Movement Reminders

YES

Clock/Time

NO

Water Resistant?

YES

3. BEST FITBIT SMART WATCH: Fitbit Ionic GPS Smart Watch

BEST FITBIT SMART WATCH: Fitbit Ionic GPS Smart Watch

If you are looking for a fitness tracker that has it all, this is the one for you. The Fitbit Ionic offers reminders, notifications for texts, calls and calendar alerts, many cool watch face options. Heart rate, complete sleep tracking, steps, calories, floors swim and more. Full real-time stat breakdown. It even has an option for personalized workouts straight from your watch.

It also has many features you can expect from any Smartwatch on the market. Store and play songs (300+). A colorful LED display with great resolution. Great support for tons of apps. From full integration with many workout apps to music services like Pandora.

The downside of this Fitbit Tracker is the cost. It is on the higher end of Fitbit options. But still less expensive than an Apple watch or any other Android watches.

Besides its focus on being a complete fitness tool, the Fitbit Ionic is way ahead of the other Smart Watch options in one very important way. Its battery life.

Most smartwatches need to be charged every single day. Some not even making it 24 hours without the need of a recharge. But the Ionic is different. It lasts an average of four days between charges. This means that it is far more likely to be charged when you need it to track your activity. This makes the Fitbit Ionic the best fitness tracker watch available.

Features

Fitbit

Price

Click here to see it on Amazon

Steps, Calories, Distances

YES

Floors

YES

Connected GPS

YES

Battery Life

4 days

Text & Call Notifications

YES

Movement Reminders

YES

Clock/Time

YES

Water Resistant?

YES

Guided Breathing Sessions

YES

4. RUNNER UP FOR BEST FITBIT: Fitbit Alta HR

RUNNER UP FOR BEST FITBIT: Fitbit Alta HR

Most of the reasons I loved the Fitbit Charge 3 are true also true when it comes to the ALTA HR. It does a little bit of everything. It has a reasonable price. It has reminders to get you off your butt and exercise, notifications for call, text and calendar alerts. THe Ionic has full fitness activity tracking. Recording steps, floors, heart rate, calories distances and more.

Similar to the Flex 2, it has a face that is small and detachable from the watch body, making it something that 3rd party business make more stylish watch bands to house.

The only thing the Fitbit AltaHR lacks is swim proofing and built in GPS. But this “lack” is reflected in longer battery life and a lower cost than many of the GPS enabled options.

Features

Fitbit

Price

Click here to see it on Amazon

Steps, Calories, Distances

YES

Floors

YES

Connected GPS

YES

Battery Life

7 days

Text & Call Notifications

YES

Movement Reminders

YES

Clock/Time

YES

Water Resistant?

YES. But not water proof or swim ready.

Guided Breathing Sessions

YES

5. BEST FITBIT FOR KIDS: Fitbit Ace

Kids can now have their own personalized activity tracker, just like mom and dad. The slim design of this activity tracker is similar to that of the Fitbit Alta and Flex 2. In fact, it seems to use an Alta body and can be switched out with Alta 3 party accessories.

The watch is made for growing kids and its “one-size-fits-all design will fit a child for years as they grow.  The watchband measures 5.0-6.1 inches (125mm to 155 mm). This watch has a long 5-day battery life and fully syncs with IOs and android devices. It comes with a few cool color options. But if your kids want multiple color options you can easily buy more options for them like this 12 pack of colorful bands for the Ace/Alta.

Features

Fitbit

Price

Click here to see it on Amazon

Steps, Calories, Distances

YES

Floors

YES

Connected GPS

YES

Battery Life

5 days

Text & Call Notifications

YES

Movement Reminders

YES

Clock/Time

YES

Water Resistant?

Yes. But not water proof or swim ready.

Guided Breathing Sessions

YES

Fitbit Account

Children log into a sub account of their parents accounts for better supervision.

How to Buy (and Use) your BEST FitBit in Three Steps

Overall, I’m extremely impressed with the functionality of the FitBit Charge 3. It’s a device that’s

simple to use, but also offers a variety of features that motivates you to maintain the walking habit.

It’s not hard to buy (and use) this device. In fact, I encourage you to grab it and then connect/compete with members of the Develop Good Habits audience.

You can do this in three simple steps:

Go to Amazon get your best deal for the FitBit Charge 3. (Or wherever you want to buy it.)

Connect with me through the membership account of FitBit—my email is stevescottsite(at)gmail(dot)com.

Walk every day and see how you rank versus other DGH readers.

The trick to developing any habit is to stay accountable and reinforce it on a daily basis.  What the FitBit  gives you is a device that merges simple functionality with social networking. 

When you know people are following your habit change, you’ll be more inclined to follow through with this commitment. 

So if you’re looking to develop the walking habit, any of these best Fitbit choices are excellent options.

19 thoughts on “Fitbit Review 2020: Which Fitbit is Best for Counting Steps?”

  1. Michal,

    No, I haven’t tried the sleep monitor, since sleep is something I really don’t have issues with. But that is yet another cool function!

  2. Hi SJ,

    I didn’t know too much about such devices before reading your post and have learnt a lot of new things. Thank you.

    It’s wonderful how such devices exist to help us develop habit. One feature I really liked about the FitBit One is its accountability function. I can see how this can really help to motivate us to continue making progress with developing the habit.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • I agree, accountability is a key reason for me. Between the historical data, the subtle idea that others could see what I do, and the inspiration to just want to do a bit more, having the tracking and web based portion is the cornerstone of the usefulness of this device for me!

  3. Awesome review! Did you find yourself losing the unit over the last few months? I think that’s what’s keeping me back from biting the bullet on one of these things, so I’m curious what your thoughts are!

    I plan on buying a new phone in a year or two, and most of them are including motion trackers now- would you recommend the fitbit considering that?

    Cheers!

    • Chris,

      Some great questions.

      The clip is pretty strong, so I don’t think “losing” it is an issue. Putting it on my clothing and taking it off in the evening has become seemless routine, and I simply don’t worry about it much outside that during the day. I am, however, on my second in about 6 months. When I went to Greece on vacation recently, I got a little drunk and went swimming in the ocean, forgetting my tracker was on and ruined it, so I certainly see where the small size could be a little bit of an issue. (Although I just read today that future models are expected to be completely waterproof)

      As for a phone -I can see your point and it is valid. A phone, and good fitness apps (many of which can sync with and use your fitbit), could duplicate a lot of the data of a fitbit. I guess the questions would be, would the fitness app be on 24/7, and would you carry the phone 24/7. Also, I would wonder at the accuracy. I know the fitbit uses 2 highly accurate accelerometers and an altimeter. Not sure if phone motion trackers would be as accurate or not?

      Regardless, though, I see your point, in a bit of time, a phone could be at least “close enough” to do the job (if you carry it with you all the time).

      I still like the fitbit, but finding SOMETHING to track, record and publicly record your data really does help to motivate and inspire – the WHAT to use is up to the individual.

  4. The FitBit sounds like an awesome pedometer. I have heard that to lose weight you need to take 10000 steps a day. I know if I really measured the amount of steps a day I take, I would be disgusted with myself. I like the fact that the unit is small. It is just like getting up in the morning and putting on your watch. I would think once you developed the habit you would put it on first thing when you got out of bed so you could count those extra steps. Great review.

    • I do love the FitBit…feel it’s pretty awesome. After a few days, it does become second nature to put it on every day. I have it on my nightstand and put on first thing in the morning. So it’s fairly easy to remember.

      You’re right about the 10,000 steps. That’s the point where people start to lose weight. Actually, I did the 10,000 step habit in August and have followed it every since. Also, I just wrote a Kindle book about developing it. Just check back here in about 10 days and it’ll be free to download. 🙂

  5. Purchasing a Fitbit has been on my to do list and this was the model that I’ve been considering. After reading your thorough review, I’m ready to click the buy button. I’m not wild about the bracelet versions of Fitbit.

    • Donna,

      I am not crazy about the bracelet either. The newest and fanciest fitbit is a bracelet model, really looks like a watch. But I like the clip model, personally. It fits great on either a belt or a pocket.

  6. Scott,
    Awesome article and description of the fit bit. I have been using it for about a year and the rare time I forget it, well the day just stinks. I have not lost weight but my cholesterol is lower and notably I have not gained weight. I have taken 4 vacations this year , to include 2 cruises so that is something to be impressed with.
    I love this thing and it is a new challenge every day.

    I highly recommend this pedometer.

    • Terry, I had to chuckle at your comment about “the day stinking” when you forget to put it on, because that is so true for me too! I know it makes no bit of difference excpet for accounting, but it feels like the steps are worthless without being tracked. Kinda funny.

  7. I just discovered your blog. I have been wearing a Fitbit Zip three months ago and I love it. A + for women is that it fits on you bra. What a great review of the Fitbit.

  8. I have the fitbit Charge ( bracelet ) and its its best thing I’ve ever bought… has me jogging infront of the TV to get those steps in!

  9. I’ve also been enjoying my Fitbit One, HOWEVER, I have experienced a large number of steps logged while riding in a vehicle. On smooth roads in a car with good shocks, perhaps the Fitbit can detect the difference between walking and riding BUT on a bus or on bumpy roads, like around NYC the tracker doesn’t do well. In fact, this morning my Fitbit One logged 500+ steps PLUS EIGHT floors climbed on a ten minute bus ride. Not cool. What would make it tolerable would be the ability to edit and remove steps/stairs climbed, but unfortunately Fitbit doesn’t currently allow you to do that. Maybe they will add it in the future. Too bad, because it really is a clever device.

    • You can delete the extra steps / floors pretty easily via the Fitbit website. Admittedly would be better if it didn’t log them in the first place, but to remove them just set your travel time by logging a “driving” activity using the following instructions…..

  10. Great article Scott!

    I’m actually a big fan of fitness trackers (incl. the FitBit) because it really gets you moving, just by the gamification aspect. You can do the same thing for other healthy habits too: Alarm to get up every 45-60min. and drink a glass of water, etc. the options are endless.

    Some people do criticize the accuracy of the devices but in the end, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it gets you to move more.

  11. The FitBit One has another benefit that blows away the wrist worn competition, it won’t give you a nasty skin rash!

  12. I have had a FitBit One since Christmas 2012. It has been great and until recently, I have had few problems. Any issue I had was minor and I was able to find an answer online.

    Now, my One will no longer hold a charge for longer than a day, I have issues getting it to sync and a few days ago the clock became messed up and is wrong. After some searching I discovered the sad truth. FitBit is discontinuing this fabulous device. I won’t be getting their other clip step counter, so now I’m in a mad search for a replacement.

    Any suggestions for soemthing that will count floors and is as accurate as this has been?

    • Like you, my favorite fitbit is still the One. I now also have bought the Blaze and Flex 2. The watch was just “too much” and I dont like to wear my fitbit on the wrist. Flex 2 is probably closest to the ONE. It can be removed from the watch and is pretty accurate for steps and levels sitting in the pocket. There are also other pieces of jewelry you can clip it into. including a clip similar to the ONE. That is probably your best bet for being similar to the ONE

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