Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker

Waistband Pedometer With Long Battery Life That Links With App

Fitbit Zip - 10000 Steps
Fitbit Zip. Wendy Bumgardner

The Fitbit activity tracker family includes the tiny Zip, which you wear on your waistband or in your pocket rather than on your wrist. A big advantage of the Fitbit Zip is that it uses a replaceable battery that lasts for months. The drawbacks compared with some other Fitbit models is that it doesn't track sleep or workouts and it doesn't give inactivity alerts.

This small pedometer uses an advanced 3-axis accelerometer to track your steps and estimate your distance and calories burned. You can view your stats on the Zip and it also can upload your data to a phone app via Bluetooth or to a USB stick on a PC or Mac computer.

You can track your diet, water intake, weight, and other activities via the app or on your personal data page on the Fitbit app and website. You can connect with friends who have Fitbit and challenge each other.

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Setting up the Fitbit Zip

The Zip is small, only 1.5 inches by 1.1 inches by 0.38 inch, and it weighs less than a third of an ounce. It slips into a soft silicone/metal clip holder that you can use to wear it on your waistband or on a neckline or bra. It is a 3-axis accelerometer, so you could also just carry it in a pocket. Here are the basics of this model:

  • It is silent, with no annoying clicking like old-school pedometers.
  • Zip runs on a replaceable 3v coin battery for up to six months, you don't need to recharge it every few days.
  • You can view steps, distance, and calories on the Zip itself rather than having to open an app.
  • If you don't have a mobile phone to sync it with, you can set it up to transmit wirelessly to a PC or Mac by plugging in the USB receiver and downloading the Fitbit Connect software.
  • To use the Bluetooth wireless connection, download the free app for iOS, Android, or Windows phones. You can set it up completely with a mobile app rather than needing to set it up with a computer.
  • Set up a free personal account on or in the app to track your data. Premium accounts are also available for personal coaching. If you have an existing Fitbit account, you can switch to the Zip and keep your data going. You can switch back and forth between Fitbit devices at any time.

The Fitbit Zip is one of the most basic Fitbit models available. It runs silently on a replaceable battery, counts steps, and does not require a smartphone app to use it. However, you can still access your activity data if you choose by logging on to your account online.

Wearing the Fitbit Zip

The Fitbit Zip slips into a silcone jacket that has a clip. The clip is very secure, but any such clip isn't foolproof. You can wear the Zip clipped to your waistband or bra, or simply carry it loose in a pocket or your purse. It's not waterproof, so you can't wear it swimming. As it doesn't track sleep, there is no need to wear it to bed. You can buy different colored silicone jackets for the Zip to change its style, and third parties even have holders to convert it to a wristband.

The Fitbit Zip has proven to be durable. You can expect it to last for years if you don't accidentally launder it.

What the Fitbit Zip Tracks

What you get with the Zip:

  • Steps: The pedometer mechanism accurately tracks steps, resetting each day at midnight. You can see the total daily step count on the Zip and app. The web site and app show details for every five minutes of the day.
  • Distance: This is estimated from your height and gender, but you can enter a stride length on your profile to use instead for better accuracy.
  • Calories Burned: The display is the number of calories burned so far each day, since midnight. This uses your basal metabolic rate and your activity. If you log non-pedometer activities using the Fitbit app or web site, those calories will be added to the total when you sync.
  • Time of Day: You can view the time on the Zip, but it doesn't have any alarms or stopwatch functions.
  • Fitbit Smiley: A face shows different expressions depending on how active you are, plus they promise "surprises."

The Fitbit Zips tracks steps, distance, calories burned, and provides the time of day. It does not track sleep, heart rate, or other workout data. It also provides a fun smiley feature to engage the user.

To see the different data screens, just tap the screen. The numbers display large enough for most aging eyes to see without reading glasses, although it doesn't have a backlight for nighttime use. The little icons that denote steps, distance and calories are harder to make out without reading glasses.

What You Don't Get

There is no stopwatch function to track individual workouts, although you can use the Track Exercise option in the mobile app to do so if you carry your phone with you. There is no sleep quality monitoring, and there is no tracking of stair climbing. You also can't review past days on the Zip itself, you have to go to the app or website to see data from previous days. Unlike newer models of Fitbit, it doesn't track inactive time and give you an inactivity alert.

Tracking Diet and More With the Fitbit App

You can use the Fitbit app or web site to track what you eat and balance calories in vs. calories out. The app also allows you to track your weight either by entering it manually or connecting to their WiFi-connected Aria scale.

You can track individual workouts with the Fitbit app using their "Track Exercise" option. This will allow you to get steps, distance, calories, and time for individual workouts.

Fitbit plays well with other online fitness and health tracking databases. You can choose to export your Fitbit data to Microsoft HealthVault, Endomondo, SparkPeople, Nike+ and more.

You earn badges for milestones such as daily steps, lifetime steps and distance. The Fitbit app has social functions for connecting to other users and participating in challenges, as well as posting your achievements to social media.

Bottom Line on the Fitbit Zip

The Zip is great for those who don't want to have to recharge their fitness monitor every few days or who don't want to wear a wristband activity monitor. If you're traveling, that's one less recharger cable you need to bring along. The Zip is expensive for a simple pedometer but is a very good price for one that uploads data to an app or computer. With all of the features of the Fitbit app, you may not need them built into the pedometer itself.

The Zip isn't given a prominent place on the Fitbit site, but it is still available in their online store. Alternative models to consider are the Fitbit Flex 2 and Fitbit Alta. These are wristband models but you can remove the tracker itself from the wristband and place it in a clip to wear on your waistband or in a necklace pendant. Many styles of clips are available from third-party sellers. Those trackers have more features than the Zip, but you must recharge them every few days. The Flex 2 has an advantage in that it is waterproof for swimming.

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By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.