I have been using my FitBit Flex since late April now, and it has been a mostly great experience. Unlike my old FitBit Ultra (which I ultimately lost) I don’t have to worry about losing it because I wear it on my wrist. I also don’t worry about forgetting it in the morning because I sleep with it on each night in order to track my sleep. The data is provides is great, and particularly useful for someone like me, who enjoys playing around with the data.
But I did say I was mostly happy. There have been three problems, both of which have been corrected, but which I wanted to mention here in case anyone else has experienced these problems.
1. Sudden drop in step count, despite the same amount of walking
Not long after I got my Flex, I upped my daily goal to 15,000 steps/day. At first, I had a little difficulty meeting this goal, but once I began spending my entire lunch hour walking, it became routine not just to meet, but to exceed this goal on a regular basis. A typical week of walking looked like this for me:
A few weeks later, beginning around June 23, I noticed a sizable drop off in the step count for the week:
Set aside the two days at the end of the week when we were driving up to Maine and I was in the car for most of the day, doing very little walking. What is odd about this week is that my step counts are down across the board, never even reaching 15,000 steps.
But the strangest thing of all is that I was taking the same 3 walks I do every day. I was not walking any more, but I was not walking any less. So why the lower counts?
Take a look at the data for Tuesday, June 5:
You can clearly see the steps for my three walks. You can further see that each time, they reach nearly 600 steps for the time interval shown, which I think is 5 minutes. Now take a look at the data for exactly 3 weeks later, the week in which I noticed lower step counts:
You can still see all three of my walks, but you’ll note that they barely reach 500 steps/interval, despite the fact that I tend to walk at the same pace and the same distance each time. For some reason, my Flex was under-reporting steps.
Of course, it could have been over-reporting for all of the other weeks, but since this week was the exception, I decided that it was under-reporting.
I tried a number of things, none of which seemed to make a difference, including resetting the device. We’ll come back to this shortly. First…
2. When I charged my Flex, it sometimes would not charge
I have to recharge my Flex every 5 or 6 days. Right around early June, I noticed a problem with charging. I’d plug in my Flex and note the one small flashing light, indicating it was about 20% charged. I’d go away for a few hours, come back and discover it was still at 20%. In other words, it was not charging
I’d remove the Flex from the charger and put it back in and eventually, it started charging again.
However, the problems charging seemed to coincide with the low step counts.
Finally, on a hunch, I tried something. When I went to charge my Flex, I wiped off the leads on the device before putting it in the charger. It charged with no problem. Before I put it back in the wristband, I wiped the leads clean again. And guess what?
My step count returned to normal! And it has remained normal, although I will admit that I have been careful to keep the leads clean. Clean leads makes sense for charging the battery, but I can’t see how it would affect step counts. Still, it seems to have worked and I am happy.
Bottom line: if you are experiencing charging problem or low step counts, try cleaning off the leads on your Flex.
3. Capturing “activities” on my Flex
With my FitBit Ultra, I could put it into “sleep” mode during the day when I was active and instead of recording a sleep record, it would record an activity record. So if I wanted to capture data on a hike, for instance, I’d start “sleep” mode at the beginning of the hike, and stop it at the end, and when I synced my device, I’d have an activity record telling me how many steps I’d taking in that interval, how far I walked, how many calories I burned, etc.
When I got my FitBit Flex, I tried this, and found something odd. The device would go into sleep/activity mode for a minute or two, and then automatically jump out of that mode. I could never record an “activity” longer than one or two minutes.
I checked the instructions for the Flex and I could not find anything about activity records. So I just assumed that, while the device could track sleep, it was not designed to track activity records. I mostly forgot about it.
While I was away at Launch Pad, I noted that a firmware update was released for the Flex and I applied the firmware update. My firmware version is now 64. And guess what? After applying the firmware update, I can now record activities on my Flex. For example, here is what my lunchtime walk looks like, recorded as an activity:
I can only assume that firmware update 64 either fixed or added activity recording functionality for the Flex. If you are looking for this functionality and haven’t been able to get it to work, upgrade your firmware.
Of course, it is also possible that I received an imperfectly manufactured device, but I am happy to say that, based on what I’ve done above, the device is working perfectly. And I am still very happy with it.