Editors Note — Fitbit has now recalled the Fitbit Force, please read this post to see why. We are no longer recommending the Fitbit Force be used by anyone. We thank the people in the comments section for their support and being outspoken on why the device needed to be recalled.
In 2013, three companies (Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike) made up 97% of the fitness tracker market. While my favorite tracker one year ago was the Nike FuelBand, the newly released Jawbone UP24 and Fitbit Force ran to the head of the class with class-leading battery life, third party connectivity, and robust feature sets.
Having personally tested many of the most popular fitness trackers, I’m often asked which is the best. My answer almost always comes down to the Jawbone UP24 or the Fitbit Force.
After spending a month going back and forth between the two options, I’ll share my answer.
The Jawbone UP24 ($149) and Fitbit Force ($129) are quite similar–they both are worn around the wrist, both add sleep and nutrition tracking, both offer silent/vibrating alarms, both feature passive/continuous Bluetooth syncing, both offer 7 day battery life, and both offer excellent third-party integration. Regardless, spending time with the two devices reveals that each has a different personality and approach to the quantified self movement.
A quick comment about the competition. I love the Nike FuelBand SE ($149), and it was formerly my preferred device, primarily due to the beautiful LED display and ability to function as a watch. However, the FuelBand’s limited 3rd party support and lack of sleep/nutrition tracking grew frustrating, especially at this point in the evolution of fitness devices.
The Basis Band ($199, review here) is currently the only other player in the market that I would consider over the Fitbit Force or Jawbone UP24. I love its accuracy (especially its ability to automatically track sleep) and additional sensors such as heart rate and perspiration, but it’s steep price tag, short battery life (4 days), and lack of third party support keep me from recommending it to people interested in casually joining the quantified self movement.
Form Factor and Hardware Design
The UP24 and Force are worn around the wrist. The UP24 clings snugly around the wrist like a bracelet, whereas the Fitbit Force utilizes a strap not unlike the adjustable clasps used by old baseball caps. Amazon reviewers have been particularly frustrated with the Force’s strap, complaining of its tendency to come loose. In my experience, the strap functioned perfectly fine 95% of the time.
However, the occasional but consistent instance where the Force’s strap gets tugged loose makes me question why Fitbit didn’t just opt for the traditional watch strap. As pictured, the UP24 is sleeker than the Force, especially on its tapered side.
The most significant design difference is that the Fitbit Force’s increased size allows for a digital display, which can toggle through various displays: time, steps, distance, calories, active minutes, and floors climbed. The display is crisp and easy to read, and allows the Force to serve as a watch, which provides extra incentive to be worn every day. Unfortunately, the display requires the press of a button to turn on, unlike the always-on display of a standard digital watch. Furthermore, the Force’s primary clock display shows no indication of daily activity progress, requiring you to press the button a second time to switch the display if you want to see how close you are toward reaching your goal. For comparison, the Nike FuelBand’s strip of rainbow colored LED’s under the time provides an instant glimpse of how many steps one has traveled.
While the UP24 lacks a screen, the absence is not all bad. The UP24 is noticeably sleeker than the Force, and with automatic continuous syncing via Bluetooth, the iPhone app essentially becomes the Jawbone’s screen. In turn, the user interacts more frequently with a visually rich app, which is more immersive than any simplistic display on the band itself could provide.