Review of the Fitbug Orb
The Fitbug Orb is one of the more recent entrants to the tracker market, launching at CES 2014. They also happen to be a British-based business, which allows for a little patriotism too.
The Orb is available in the UK and US, claiming to be the cheaper (around £50 or $50) and more versatile than most other devices on the market. There are free apps for both Android and iOS available, all meaning that this year Fitbug certainly seems to think it’s not only going to take on, but beat its pricier competitors. To see our more detailed review, please read on.
WHAT IS TRACKED?
The Fitbug Orb tracks 2 main data points, steps (both normal and ‘aerobic’) and sleep. It also has a tracking line for nutrition in the app, but I can’t seem to find a way to connect this – although it may be via it’s connectivity with other services like MyFitnessPal.
Syncing the Orb to your account has a couple of different options, but I used the manual push that required me to open the app on my phone and then push the button on the device for 3 seconds and hey presto. The full range of sync options available are:
- Push mode (as I used it)
- Beacon mode (automatically sends you steps periodically)
- Air mode (keeps you tracker up-to-date I real time)
The sleep tracking is a manual process too, requiring 3 quick pushes of the Orb’s button, which the device responds to with 5 green flashes of the green light. This can be a little difficult to get the hang of, but once you have the ‘knack’ you can do it in your sleep (which could come in hand, as you’ll see later).
The Fitbug service does allow some apps access, but we also expect to see more of these added this year.
As ever, I wore the Orb head to head against another tracker to see how accurately it tracked my steps (and sleep). The peaks and valleys of activity throughout my days wearing the device seemed perfectly accurate and made sense to what I recall doing. However, the number of steps did feel a little high, which has a knock on effect to the calorific burn the app believes you’ve accomplished.
One very nice feature is that it the counts ‘Aerobic steps’ giving you a nice tally of the extended periods of time that you spend walking or moving, to combine with the general short walks to the printer at work (no that’s not real exercise!).
The sleep mode is engaged manually, so it’s understandably accurate enough. However, it did turn itself off a couple of times when I was having a particularly restless night or had to visit the bathroom in the night (just a short walk away too, I don’t have an outhouse!). The depth of the data was also a little disappointing, as I have come to expect at least 3 basic levels of sleep measurement: awake, light sleep and deep sleep. The Orb only seems to have asleep and not, which tends to give a fairly superficial figure to the sleep you had – especially as someone that can lay relatively still for an hour hoping to go back to sleep again on a bad night!
The Fitbug app is available for both Android and iOS (I used the latter), syncing with both the Orb and some of the other trackers that are made by FitBug. The app is simple and functional, giving you all the information you require on your daily totals, step history, sleep and how you’re doing against your goals. It doesn’t quite have the final touches and smooth finish of some of the other apps on the market. But at half the price for the device and the standard free app download, it’s in keeping with this functional and cheaper alternative to the Fitbit and Jawbone UP’s of this world.
As with some of the other features, the FitBug Orb is a solid performer that offers all the features you’d expect to see in a tracker (and some you wouldn’t). But at a good chunk less than the other trackers on the market, it’s easy to wonder whether the user experience will be able to compete with its more expensive competitors. Read on to find out:
The Orb comes with a variety of different ways to wear it right in hyena box, including a wristband and two different types of clothing clip. This means you can wear the device on your write, belt, on a lanyard, or clipped to another piece of clothing. For people not wanting to wear a big white (also available in pink) strap on their wrist with the tracker in, this is perfect!
All the options felt very secure and not matter how much I ran about or flung my arms in the air, the band never came off and the clip felt safe on my waistband too. The versatility is always very useful and certainly a benefit that many of the other tracker on market don’t currently offer.
The Orb doesn’t have any sort of vibrate function, but it does have a small light that can shine a couple of different colours (green, amber and red). These give you a variety of different notices, from letting you know that the tracker is alive and well, to confirming a sync is ready to go ahead or that you’ve successfully turned on the night mode (a dim sure there’s more besides).
It takes a little while to get used to what the different flashes mean exactly, but once you understand that one green flash means this and five means that it’s quite easy to live with. There is no real way to check your activity with the Orb alone, you’ll need to sync it with your phone, which is a little annoying but easy enough to live with (I can’t remember the last time I intentionally went anywhere without my phone!).
To sync to you phone there are a couple of options (as mentioned above), but I went with the manual process. It mostly worked well, although it took a couple of goes to get used to holding the Orb’s button down for 3 seconds. You also have to make sure you have the app open on your mobile phone, but once the device is pushing its info out via Bluetooth it syncs happily. I found it did fail to sync a couple of times during my tests, but not enough to be an issue and normally if I was holding my phone relatively far away from my wrist with the Orb on.
The Orb is another one of these trackers that opts to use a watch battery rather than having a rechargeable battery. I couldn’t find claims as to how long it will last, but given the lack of ongoing notifications compared to say the Misfit Shine I would assume the Orb battery could easily last over 6 months at a time.
At £49.95, the Fitbug Orb is by far the cheapest option to take your first step on the way to a more quantified life. And for the price you get a solid, durable and fairly accurate tracker.
The Fitbug Orb is, and this might be getting boring by this point, a really solid piece of tech. It’s not the nicest device aesthetically, it’s not the most accurate, it’s not the most durable and it doesn’t have the best app. But for almost half the price of many of its competitors, it’s hard to expect much more.
Would I buy it? No, but if someone asked me to recommend a device to start on the road to a more quantified self, the Orb would certainly be in the conversation. It’s wearable versatility, decent accuracy and solid features offer a first step.