It seems everyone is jumping on the fitness band craze. A quick look around a collection of people and you will spot a variety of devices about their person, tracking their movements, heart rate and food consumption.

I too entered into the spirit of fitness tracker -- also known as: 'my sedentary tracker'.  Like most tech, there are a variety of providers and one or two clear favourites.  I initially opted for a Jawbone tracker but gravitated to a Fitbit.  I also used the opportunity to test the accuracy of each device.


Firstly, some quick background.  I initially settled on a Jawbone, simply because a few friends had the bands and we could be social and share our achievements.  I wasn't keen on the bands so I opted for a Jawbone 'UP Move' -- this is a small clip on device which can be discreetly attached to your belt, pocket, bra!  I thought belt was the most sensible. It affectionally became known as my 'button'.

My button and I played well for a few weeks and I enjoyed the challenges it set (via a phone App) and also the reassurance that I was making more effort to move.

The idea to move to the fitibt was a bit of an accident.  After I joined the craze I discovered that more of my friends had a fitbit -- like oil and water, Jawbone and Fitbit do not allow you to be social outwith their own brand.  I had no way of sharing and competing with Fitibit friends.  

I decided to purchase a similar Fitibit button; the Fitbit Zip.

My journey with the Fitibt Zip caused me to immediately question its accuracy.  On the first day I apparently completed my 10,000 step daily goal.  I was suspicious --  hitting 10k on the Jawbone UP Move was not that easy (for me).

I decided to test both devices simultaneously, and the results are very interesting

The Fitbit and Jawbone test

The Fitbit and Jawbone test

Testing the Jawbone UP Move and Fitbit UP Zip

My scientific testing was not rocket science.  For three complete days I attached both 'buttons' to my belt and proceeded about my daily business. 

It's fair to say the Fitbit results were wildly different from my Jawbone.  In summary:

  Fitbit Jawbone Difference
Day 1 7,699 5,638 2,061
Day 2 5,374 3,702 1,672
Day 3 6,581 4,749 1,832

On all occasions the Fitbit was dramatically higher at the step count than Jawbone.

There were several occasions when the Fitbit counted steps when I was not walking.  I can see several 15 minute slots when I knew I was driving but the Fitibit Zip recorded around 50 steps each time.

In almost every 15 minute time slot the Fitbit over recorded, compared to the Jawbone (see graphs at the end).

I also conducted some manual counting activities.  190 steps counted as I walked resulted in 199 from the Fitbit and 189 from the Jawbone. Doing larger bursts resulted in greater variation between each.

As a further test I induced a third device: my mobile phone. It has a built in fitness tracker and will count steps if your phone is in your pocket. My mobile recorded 1,401 steps; the Jawbone caught 1,390 steps; 1,547 on the Fitibit.


Here is a breakdown of data recordings each day:

In Conclusion

I've no idea how accurate these fitness trackers claim to be.  However, in my limited testing (and based on manual counting and using a third device), I can only conclude that the Jawbone is more accurate.

If we use the table above to calculate distance variations, the Fitibit is adding almost a mile (roughly 2,000 steps for a man).

As to which one I would recommend, you'd think the answer was obvious but it's not!.  The Fitbit Zip has a display on it, whereas the Jawbone UP Move uses a series of lights to show you detail on the button.  The Jawbone mobile app is far better than the Fitbit, however the Fitibit web page of your stats is great; the Jawbone has no webpage for user data analysis.

Perhaps it's fair to say that if you stuck to one device then the actual count is not relevant -- more the increase in activity and fitness. 

I'd be delighted to hear about your own experiences.


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