Fiddling with a Fitbit Charge HR

   Sam Nicholls    One Comment    Gadgets, Personal

Why is my FitBit not syncing heart rate data to the Android app?
If you’re here wondering why your Charge HR is not synchronizing heart rate data to your Android device, you need to enable call notifications and be patient. Heart rate graphs and data are only displayed in the app after the device has established your resting heart rate. If your heart rate varies a lot while you are awake, the tracker might not be able to do this until you’ve slept.

I purchased a Fitbit Charge HR this morning. Although this was somewhat of an impulse purchase, I had been thinking of acquiring one for a few months now. The purchase was primarily motivated by my partner’s latest pursuit for improved fitness, but I guess any excuse for self-quantification is a good one for a statistician like me.

I paid a little more for the Charge HR (over the Charge), as I wanted the heartrate monitoring to appease my quantitative self, and after some initial confusion at Argos, where I received the inferior Fitbit Flex inside an already opened Charge HR box (a scam presumably relying on the member of staff processing the return not knowing the considerable difference between the two items), I took my new toy home for charging before use.

The device charges via USB and so I took this opportunity to perform the initial setup via my desktop. You can do this via a mobile device by downloading the app, but I figured that I may as well use the desktop seeing as it was already plugged in to charge. Although it turns out all configuration and synchronization with the device is performed over Bluetooth not USB.

Once you’ve downloaded the installer, I had to make the difficult decision to connect with Facebook, Google or neither. I reluctantly chose Facebook as I figured it would make finding and sharing statistics with friends simpler, though I was not spared from having to faff with creating an online account.

During initial configuration, I downloaded the companion Android App to my phone and logged in via my new account. It was interesting to find that I did not need to pair my phone to the Fitbit, as I had already paired the Fitbit to my online account during the desktop installation.

Impatiently, I equipped my left wrist with the half charged Fitbit. The strap is sturdy but quite difficult to adjust (which I’ve needed to do a few times to maintain comfort) and unfortunately catches my arm hairs. However, I was happy to see it was stronger than the clip-on strap on the Flex that I was briefly acquainted with earlier. Despite terminating the charging cycle early, there should still be a few days of charge remaining.

The mobile application is pretty, friendly and easy-to-use. I input my height, weight, a weight-loss goal, a step goal and two morning alarms (for weekdays and weekends). I’m interested to see how effective being woken by the device vibrating is, against a typical audible alarm.

The Charge HR has a small screen for displaying the time and various stats (steps walked, current heartrate, calories burned etc.) which can be cycled by pushing the Fitbit’s only button. Additionally, one can configure a default display mode for double tapping, and turning the screen towards your face. I chose to display my current heart rate and the time, respectively. I was impressed to find detection of the latter motion quite reliable.

I was disappointed to see that the heart rate monitor did not appear to be synchronizing with the mobile app, but I later discovered that it appears to need to collect a few hours of data to estimate your resting heart rate first.

I expect the Fitbit is most useful when you log information on calorie intake and exercise, so the design of the companion application was a driving factor for my purchase. Logging is quick and simple; for food intake one can scan a barcode or search an extensive database to fetch predefined information on nutritional values1. Frequent items and itemsets (i.e. meals) are enumerated for quick access. Activities can be logged in a similarly easy fashion; you may select from a list of predefined exercises with a predetermined per-minute calorie burn. I like that walking, running and hiking specifically allow you to use your phone’s GPS to more accurately track those particular activities.

As a fan of numbers and graphs, I’m looking forward to using the application when more data has been collected. I’ll report back then.

  1. I should add that this isn’t unique to the app and I’ve recently been using MyFitnessPal on my girlfriend’s recommendation, which provides the exact same functionality.