One of the less highlighted features of the HTC One (M8) is the FitBit integration courtesy of the “Smart Sensor Hub,” which also brings you some of the wake gestures and the like that we’re so fond of on the M8.
FitBit is the first to take advantage of these capabilities by adding persistent activity tracking via their app on the M8. We spent the last week testing out this feature on the M8 against a FitBit Flex to see how accurate the M8 was and what you might miss when relying purely on the app versus a dedicated tracker.
For those of you who are more familiar with fitness apps meant to track a specific activity, like Runkeeper, Strava or Endomondo, the difference here is that you turn the FitBit app on once and after that it always tracks your movement. It simply relies on the sensors available in the M8 rather than GPS to monitor you.
The FitBit app provides you with the number of steps you take each day, the distance you traveled, calories burned, and if you choose to log them, your food and water consumption.
You set a goal for the number of steps you want to take each day when you are initially setting up the app, and if you allow it to, it will offer you encouragement throughout the day as you work toward that goal.
You can look at charts of each metric to see how you have performed during the day or over the last week, month, 3 months or a year.
In the past persistent tracking would have been a huge battery drain, but not so thanks to the Smart Sensor Hub. I can attest that I didn’t notice any appreciable difference in battery life before and after enabling FitBit.
If you are a fan of BlinkFeed, you can add a FitBit channel to it that will keep you updated on your daily progress. It’s less intrusive than a notification, but if you are using BlinkFeed as HTC intends, you are checking it throughout the day and it’ll serve the same purpose.
This is a no-maintenance way to track your daily activity level. Once the app is on, you never have to touch it again. Presumably, you’re keeping your phone charged anyway, so it isn’t adding anything extra to your routine.
When comparing the results from the M8 to the results from the FitBit Flex, there were fairly significant discrepancies. The M8 was typically at least 20-30% below the Flex. I watched both track live as I was on a walk a few times, and I could see the Flex step counter almost exactly 1:1 with my movement whereas the M8 seemed to be adding steps in bunches.
Naturally you have to have your phone on you for this to work. I’m assuming many of you are like me and rarely set your phone down during the day. During this week-long exercise, I did notice that I put my device down more often than I would have thought. I may have lost many steps that way.
Overall I think this is a useful feature for M8 owners. It gives you a solid idea of whether you had an active or sedentary day, and the charts can help you pinpoint those times of day where you should maybe think about getting up and moving a little more.
These are the early days for the Smart Sensor Hub, and we’ll see further refinement of this app. We should expect others to take advantage of it in the coming months.
I don’t think FitBit needs to be worried about cannibalizing their activity tracker sales, though. If anything this seems like a gateway drug for those dedicated devices. The Flex for example only needs to be charged once a week, and with wireless syncing to your device, it is extremely low maintenance. The Flex also adds some additional data points for you with sleep tracking and “very active minutes” during the day. Once you get a taste for self quantification you’ll find yourself wanting more.