When Fitbit introduced the Flex 2 in late 2016, Fitbit fans rejoiced because the pioneering maker of wearable fitness trackers has finally introduced a swim-proof fitness device, the Fitbit Flex 2 (P5,490). Not only that, Fitbit wanted to step up its game (pun intended) and make the Flex 2 a fashionable wearable by coming up with accessory options, which included colored bands, metallic bangles and necklaces. Did Fitbit succeed in rolling out the ultimate wear-it-anywhere fitness accessory? Read on.
Compared to Fitbit Flex, which was launched in 2013, the Flex 2 comes with a slimmer band that has textured surface and rounded edges. The thinness of the band and its edges don’t trap sweat as much as a flat band would, which helps minimize that vinegar-like (sweaty) smell that rubber strap leaves behind every time you take it off your wrist – something Fitbit users often complain about. (I reviewed the Fitbit Charge 2 before and I had the ‘smelly wrist’ problem, especially after working out, which was why I found it necessary to wash the band frequently before putting it on again on my way to work.)
The Flex 2 is easy to put on (it’s a struggle to take off, however), and it’s light as a feather. I’d often forget that I have it on unless it vibrates to remind me to get up and move. Now, the notification can be tricky, and since the Flex 2 doesn’t have a screen, it took me a while to become familiar with its five colored lights indicator. More on this later.
Included in the box is the Fitbit mini tracker, a short charging cable, and two Classic Fitbit wristbands (large and small). Aside from black, three other colored bands (navy, gray and yellow) can be purchased as a set for P1,490 via Lazada.com.ph. For those who want turn the Flex 2 into a piece of jewelry, Fitbit’s online store sells Flex 2 metallic bangles and necklace with a pendant. With prices ranging from $80 to $100, these accessories come in stainless steel, 22-karat gold plated, and 22-karat rose gold plated variants.
Setting up the Flex 2 requires you to install the free Fitbit mobile app first, where the device will have to be synced regularly to monitor your progress. Here, Fitbit will require you to create an account and answer some questions. The app will use your answers for various calculations, such as stride lengths to estimate distance and basal metabolic rate to estimate calorie burn. Once you’ve set your fitness goals and the app has analyzed your personal data, the app will create scheduled notifications on the fitness tracker to give you gentle reminders and keep you moving towards your goal.
Flex 2’s core features can be seen on the app’s dashboard. It will show you how the device records your daily physical activities: how many steps you’ve made during the day, how much calories you’ve burned, how much sleep you’ve had, as well as your exercise history. For the latter, Fitbit automatically recognizes a range of exercises, which includes Pilates and swimming. Alas, the Flex 2 doesn’t come with a heart rate monitor like Fitbit’s premium models do.
Since a screen is absent, the Flex 2’s alert system takes A LOT of getting used to. When I say a lot, we’re talking about agonizing first few weeks of trying to memorize the light patterns to understand what the Flex 2 wants to tell you every time it calls your attention. Don’t believe me? Here’s one of the many Flex 2’s light indicators from Fitbit’s website:
“Tap your Flex 2 to see your progress towards your daily activity goal. Each solid white light represents 25% of your goal, so for example, if your goal is 10,000 steps and you see four white lights, you’ve gone at least 7500 steps. When you reach your goal Flex 2 vibrates and the lights flash in celebration. If you check your progress after you’ve surpassed your goal you’ll see a flashing green light and four white lights.”
And that’s just for your progress. If you want call alerts on the device, Fitbit says the Flex 2 will vibrate twice and you’ll see a pattern of one blue light and four white lights repeated four times, or until you answer the call or double tap Flex 2 to dismiss the notification. Still not confused? Don’t get me started on the indicator for charging the device.
At times, I had to give up on the notifications and just open the app to see what the tracker recorded for the day. It felt like checking your answering machine and listening to voice messages.
The confusing notifications aside, the Flex 2 has some nifty features. Unlike the Fitbit Charge 2, this wearable tracker is so light that I could wear it all day; I could even sleep with it. Its battery also lasts 4-5 days before recharging, which is long enough for me.
I also find the sleep tracking feature very useful since I have an irregular sleeping habit, which I only realized upon reading the app’s weekly report of my sleeping hours.
The automatic tracking of different activities is also useful although at times it mistakenly identifies certain activities as exercises. The Flex 2, for one, thought I did “outdoor biking” for a few minutes when, in fact, I only drove my way to work. I didn’t mind since Fitbit rewarded me with a Sneakers badge because of it.
What the Flex 2 does well, however, is its ability to track swimming. The device can record a swimmer’s pace and the distance covered. The Flex 2 worked okay even for a novice swimmer like me, although Fitbit says there might be inconsistencies in one’s swim data log if the swimmer takes a break often if one changes the swimming style. On its website, Fitbit recommends continuous swimming and freestyle swimming for the Flex 2 to produce consistent data.
The Fitbit app uses a gaming reward system that sends badges every time you hit a milestone or crush a goal. It also suggests other Fitbit apps that work well with the device such as the Fitstar Personal Trainer, which helps if someone doesn’t have time to go the gym.
The Flex 2 works great as an everyday wearable because it’s discreet enough for the wearer to forget it’s there. It’s a basic fitness tracker that delivers on its promises despite the complicated notification system and the lack of a heart rate monitor, which most fitness trackers have. If you’re looking for a full-fledged fitness tracking device, you’ll have to turn to the Flex 2’s bigger and more expensive siblings, but if you’re a swimmer and you need your tracker to report just the basic stats, this is it.
What’s included: tracker, charging cable, two wristbands (large and small)