When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, steps are just the beginning. Fitbit tracks every part of your day – including activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep – to help find your fit, stay motivated and see how small steps make a big difference.
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Fitbit via Mode Media>. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Fitbit.
As per my policy on review articles, I only post reviews of products & services that I would recommend to my “real world” clients and I only request payment when a company wants time-limited exclusivity, meaning that I won’t review a competing product for a specified period of time. This is one such case.
When a rep from Fitbit called me last fall and asked if I wanted to review Fitbit’s Surge fitness tracker / wearable / watch, my initial reaction was…NO WAY!!!
I have tried out LOTS of fitness trackers over the years…with the end result being that after a few months, all of them found their way into the back of a drawer and were never heard from again.
Don’t get me wrong. The data that I received from most of my previous fitness trackers was useful, but only to a point. Up until now, fitness trackers were great for runners & walkers, but pretty much useless for anything else.
And while I wasn’t surprised that the Fitbit Surge has the latest & greatest technology for runners:
- Measuring heart rate in real time right from your wrist without having to push any buttons while you run.
- Using that real-time heart rate data to gauge & adjust training intensity on the fly.
- A built-in GPS giving you data on pace, distance, elevation, floors climbed, split times, route history, route map and workout summaries to help you adjust your running program as needed.
Even with all this, I still wasn’t interested in doing the review. Like most fitness folk, I do more than go for a run or a walk.
- I lift weights,
- I sprint hills.
- I do yoga.
- I circuit train.
- I do a bunch of different stuff.
That’s when the Mr. Fitbit smarty-pants told me that the Surge can be used to track all sorts of different workouts:
- Weight training
- Circuit training
- and more
By now, I was a little intrigued. But, I still said no because as cool as this thing was sounding, my history with previous fitness trackers told me that:
- I would still end up putting it on for workouts…
- Taking it off for the rest of the day…
- Occasionally forgetting to put it on in the morning…
- And eventually losing track of it altogether until it popped up at the back of my junk drawer in the kitchen.
What I needed was a good reason to wear this thing. Something more than all the fitness tracking technology.
Here’s my reasoning:
- Most of us used to wear a watch.
- But, as soon as we all got mobile phones, a lot of us ditched our watches because our phones had a clock.
Why did we do that?
- Pulling your phone out of a pocket is much less convenient than a quick glance at your wrist.
- Why would we abandon a superior piece of time-telling technology for an inferior one?
- The annoyance of carrying two pieces of technology outweighed the annoyance of having to dig your phone out of your jeans when you wanted to check the time.
Don’t believe me?
- My clients who self-identify as runners wear their fitness trackers 24 hours a day.
- My clients who don’t identify as runners wear their fitness trackers for workouts and take them off when they settle in for the night at home.
- Normal people (who want to be fit) buy fitness trackers and eventually stick them in drawers.
Unless the annoyance of wearing a fitness tracker on your wrist is significantly outweighed by the benefits, it’s gonna end up in the back of your junk drawer in the kitchen. Believe that.
So I asked Mr. Fitbit…what can the Fitbit Surge do to make my life better, in addition to improving my health & physical fitness?
Mr. Fitbit replied that the Surge will allow you to:
- See who is calling or texting you on your mobile phone without having to pull it out of your pocket
- Pause or fast forward your phone’s music player QUICKLY and EASILY while you are working out.
Two things that would make my life just a little bit easier, and would get me to wear a watch for the first time in over 5 years.
Here’s my review:
Looking at the technology, the Surge has all the functions I want in a fitness tracker…
- GPS Tracking & Mapping
- Continuous heart rate readings. 24 hours a day. No straps. No clips.
- Continuous activity monitoring
- Multi-sport functionality
- Workout intensity monitoring
- Sleep Monitor – quality & quantity
- An excellent (IMHO) Computer / Smartphone app interface….very simple & intuitive.
- It also works with a bunch of third party health & fitness apps. Which is great if you’re already an active member in one of the major online fitness communities.
And if you’re not part of an existing online fitness community or online fitness training advice service or motivation app, Fitbit also allows you to contact/challenge/praise/shame your fitness friends as well as make new friends via the Fitbit community.
Note: Fitbit also offers a “premium” service, providing personal training, nutrition & sleep consulting. I didn’t try this service, so I have no idea how good (or bad) it is.
Moving on to the reason why I decided to review the Surge
I couldn’t be much happier with the Surge, because in addition to all the cool fitness tech, it made my smartphone even smarter.
Call & Text Message Monitoring
- With the Surge, I can monitor phone calls & text messages during situations when I “can’t” check my phone .i.e. during business meetings,
- Or when I’m walking, running, working out, etc,
- Or when it’s charging across the room.
Music Player Control
Not as big a deal as the call/text monitoring, but still pretty useful for me.
When I’m working out at the gym or running, I use my smartphone as a music player. Sometimes, I need to pause the music or skip one of my less favorite songs.
Prior to testing out the Surge, I had to pull out my phone, open the screen-lock, open the player and pause/skip to the next song. I realize this is the very definition of a first world problem, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to just reach over to my wrist and push the pause or FF button
You’re going to appreciate this when someone interrupts your workout at the gym.
Things I would change about the Fitbit Surge
- The display is a back lit monochrome LCD display. Considering that competitors like the Microsoft Band and the upcoming Apple Watch both have high definition OLED screens, the Surge LCD touchscreen looks very 2014.
- While the phone call/text notifications are FANTASTIC, it would be nice to receive notifications from Facebook, Twitter, etc. Not essential, but nice.
- Re music player control, some people prefer to use streaming services rather than playlists stored on their phones. Control of these services would be great for those users.
- Style wise, it would be nice if Fitbit had an option that looked less like a sports-watch and more like a watch-watch…something that would look nice with a suit.
NOTE: Online, the Fitbit Surge is getting compared mainly to the Apple Watch. And I have a bit of a problem with that comparison. While the Surge gives you on-board GPS and optical heart rate monitoring, the Apple watch uses less accurate optical heart rate sensors and the watch doesn’t have GPS.
Which kinda sucks if you bought the Apple watch to be your fitness tracker.
It’s like comparing these two pair of shoes.
Sure, they both look like basketball shoes, but each was designed with different purposes and for different consumers. One’s a fashion shoe. The other is a fitness shoe.
- The Apple watch is a smartwatch with fitness features.
- The Fitbit Surge is a fitness tracker with smartwatch features.
Which one you choose depends on your needs for the product. At least, IMHO.
NOTE: I have no idea if Fitbit is looking into adding more smartwatch-esque features in the Surge 2.0 or if they looked into them already but decided against them due to cost constraints.
I’m pretty sure they could have put in an OLED display and added more connectivity options, but that stuff costs money…which would be reflected in the purchase price.
Maybe Fitbit could offer two different Surge versions…the current version at $250 and a second version with OLED screen & Twitter updates for $350.
Ultimately, the strongest recommendation I can give in support of the Fitbit Surge is that I very seldom take it off and I have no plans to stick it in my kitchen junk drawer.
- At first, I fiddled around with the watch commands…swiping the touch screen, pushing buttons…trying to get the thing to do what I wanted it to do.
- After a few days, I was pretty good with it and was developing a habit of using the watch and checking my dashboard daily.
- After a few weeks, I was really comfortable using the watch and I had developed a dashboard routine that took about 2 minutes per day.
- As I was already a giant fitness nerd, I didn’t exactly need the Surge to motivate me to exercise.
- What it did allow me to do what get a better handle on how my training was affecting my overall health.
- As a result, I have made some minor lifestyle & exercise changes which have paid off nicely. Definitely worth the $250.
At the end of the day, I can heartily endorse the Fitbit Surge.
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