How 3 Wearable Fitness Trackers Size Up

I Wore the Fitbit Charge, Jawbone UP2 & Inbody Band Simultaneously

woman with fitness tracker
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As of this moment, I've test-driven eight different fitness tracking devices. I've tried each wearable independently, noting its pros and cons and meting out varying levels of approval based on my experiences. And while I can determine the accuracy of one band or another with reasonable confidence, there's always an element of mystery involved. I'm certainly not mentally tallying each of my own steps along with the band, so who's to say whether I've stepped 11,221 times today or 12,001? It made me wonder: If I placed three bands in a head-to-head showdown, what would happen? Would they all come back with the same numbers? Would they vary widely? How could I know which one was the most accurate or inaccurate?

So, I decided to find out. For two weeks, I wore the InBody Band, Fitbit Charge, and Jawbone UP2 all day, every day. This is what I learned from the experience:

1. Wearing Multiple Bands Looks Ridiculous

I got made fun of by friends and family for looking so crazy — which is fine. I don't mind, but there's no doubt that wearing three devices at once made me look like a weirdly obsessed fitness fanatic.

2. They're All Inaccurate, but Consistently So

My numbers varied widely from band to band, but the numbers were fairly consistent. For instance, the InBody Band almost always gave me the highest step counts. The Fitbit Charge almost always stood in the center, and the Jawbone UP2 consistently gave me the lowest step count. It wasn't unusual for my daily step counts to vary by 2,000 to 3,000 steps between bands (the equivalent distance of over a mile). And yet, I found they were all reasonably accurate.

How do I figure? I walk a lot. Depending on the day, I averaged from 11,000 to 15,000 steps. If I assume the band that was tracking the median results (the Fitbit Charge) was the most accurate, a 1,000 step difference from the median is still within 10 percentage points of the average. In other words, if the Fitbit said I stepped 11,000 steps — a 10-percent differential would be 1,000. So, if the InBody Band said I stepped 12,000 steps and the Jawbone UP2 said I stepped 10,000 steps, each of the band's estimations are still within a reasonable range.

But even if I can't assume the Fitbit is the most accurate of devices, the consistency of results across bands tells me this: No matter the band I wear, I can improve my total step count and track changes over time with accuracy because my results are consistent.

In other words, because the InBody Band offers consistent feedback, if I start stepping 7,000 steps per day, and gradually increase to 10,000 steps per day, I can feel confident in my increase in activity because the band's counting mechanism is consistent, if not 100 percent accurate.

3. It's Easy to Become Obsessive...

I found myself tracking each of my band's results like a mad woman, constantly comparing stats between bands and trying to meet each of the goals I set for myself. While the motivation to meet goals was positive, there were several times I stopped myself and asked, "What are you doing? Why have you become so obsessed?"

4. ... And Angry

Weirdly angry. I would get really annoyed if one of the bands needed to be recharged because then I wouldn't be able to compare the bands' results as closely as I wanted. Also, the Jawbone UP2 occasionally stopped tracking results well (usually it had to do with how tight or loose the band was on my arm), and it made me irrationally angry. I hated knowing I couldn't count on the results of one of the bands. I'm never like this when I wear a single band, so it was an odd experience to notice myself having.

5. They All Have Different, Positive Features

Using all the bands at once made it very clear that each band has positives and negatives. For instance, I loved the Jawbone UP2's app the most. I loved the clear accuracy of sleep and steps offered by the Fitbit Charge, and I loved the body fat and heart rate testing offered by the InBody Band. Likewise, there were aspects I didn't like about each band. Wearing three at once made it clear that there may not be a "best band" out there — it's just about choosing the best band for you.

6. It's Best to Choose One

At the end of the day, wearing multiple devices is completely unnecessary. It's distracting and crazy-making, especially if you're a competitive person who is hyper-motivated by numbers. Choose one band that has the features you're looking for, and use it as a way to track your activity trends over time, rather than a to-the-step obsession device.

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