This tiny clip-on gadget works much like the Striiv and BodyMedia devices, without the frills. The Fitbit Ultra’s built-in accelerometer and altimeter track the total number of steps you take and how many stairs you climb, and it comes with a pouch that fits around your wrist, so you can even slip it in there at night and let it track how many Zs you get (based on movement). There’s also a decent smartphone app for logging meals.
But I found the Fitbit Ultra fairly underwhelming. The primitive display on this $99 gizmo, upgraded to include the new altimeter in October 2011, is so tiny that I hardly ever glanced at it to read the supposedly motivating messages (including “walk me,” “faster” and “love ya”) it occasionally flashes. Also, I kept misplacing it. While it is nice that the Fitbit is so small as to be barely noticeable (unlike the bulging BodyMedia Fit CORE armband), that also meant that it was easy to lose or leave on my clothes at night. The company suggests clipping it to your bra, but not only is that unsexy, it also led me to forget which bra I had left it on, which was a nuisance.
One feature I did like was the weekly emails Fitbit sent out that summarized my average daily number of steps taken, stairs climbed and calories burned, since averages matter more than a single herculean effort followed by a week of sloth. Still, unlike the other devices I tested, the FitBit never really motivated me to be more active. If all you want is a discreet, barebones activity tracker, the Fitbit Ultra does the trick, but it’s nowhere near as full-featured as the other gadgets featured here.