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Science & Tech

Zip your way to fitness

When the Fitbit originally came out a few years ago, it was one of the first worthwhile personal activity monitors on the market. Since then, however; manufacturers like Nike and Motorola have been quick to release fitness monitors of their own. Leaving the Fitbit feeling slightly outdated and out in the dark. That’s about to change once again with the Fitbit Zip, which was announced this morning.

Unlike the Fitbit Ultra, the current top-of-the-line model, the Zip features a rainproof design and smaller footprint. Measuring roughly the size of a small square, the Zip is much less bulkier than the Ultra. The Zip is designed similarly to the Nike FuelBand, allowing users to synchronize the device with their Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. With the inclusion of Bluetooth 4.0 on the Fitbit Zip, users no longer have to sync the device with the wireless module.

As a device, the Zip is inferior to the Ultra in terms of basic features, but the company has plans to release a similarly-featured Fitbit One, leveraging the same design as the Zip. Unlike the Ultra, the Zip doesn’t monitor your sleeping habits or count the number of stairs you climb. As such, the Zip only costs $59.99, compared to the Ultra (and soon-to-be One’s) $99.99 price tag.

The main feature of the new device is the ability to count calories, steps, and measure your overall activity level. Fitbit ditches the design in lieu of a resistive touchscreen, which somewhat resembles the old Tomagachi’s of the 1990s. The screen is just as easy to read as previous models, but it ditches the flower activity indicator for a more tacky smiley face. Besides the inherent corny-ness of the Smiley, it gets the job done.

It’s not like you need a smiley face to see if you’ve sat on your butt all day, right? The Fitbit Zip doesn’t run on air, though. But it doesn’t come with a charger, either. Stumped? Fitbit Zip runs on a standard watch battery, which lasts between 4-6 months, according to the manufacturer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sync to all smartphones.

Currently, the Zip only supports a handful of devices – err Apples – including the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad 3, and newer iPod Touches. As of this writing, it is unclear whether Android devices will be supported in future releases. Fitbit should release functionality for Android if they want to target a larger population of the market.

Do Exercise Gizmos Work?

Does wearing a device, such as the Fitbit, help you lose weight and be more active? It depends, but overall, yes. Because you are aware of how few steps you take, the Fitbit has an intrinsic way of making yourself more active. Whether it’s walking home instead of taking the bus or spending your lunch hour perusing the city streets rather than surfing Facebook, you’ll be more active.