The Fitbit Aria is a set of scales that connects to your WiFi router, sending data about your body weight and body fat percentages to your Fitbit.com account, which can be accessed via a web browser, iOS or Android device.
Of course, there is nothing new about this concept. Withings have been producing WiFi body-weight and measurement scales for some time now. So what makes the Fitbit Aria different?
In the same way that Apple have made a living out of taking fairly standard hardware and making it good looking easy-to-use with superb software, Fitbit have gone the same route with the Aria.
From a design perspective, the Aria is a beautiful object. Available in black or white – drawing further Apple comparisons – the Aria has a glass top that quietly and subtly shows four sensors in each corner of the scale. In the centre at the top, a perfectly-placed circle houses a clear display that features large text you can’t possibly miss, even if you haven’t managed to get your glasses on first thing in the morning.
On unpacking the Fitbit Aria, you are subjected to what must be one of the easiest initialisation routines we’ve seen. Follow the simple instructions in the box and on your web browser’s screen and you’ll be ready to use the Aria in no time at all. We were impressed at how simple the process was, even for ‘newbies’ to the Fitbit.com world. For existing Fitbit.com users, the initial setup was even easier than the Fitbit Ultra personal tracker.
Weighing yourself on the Aria couldn’t be easier either. You stand on the device. It weighs you. You step off. The clear display shows you your current weight followed by your body fat percentage. You’ll then be shown a ‘syncing’ animation followed by a big ‘tick’, signalling that the scales have sent your data to your account on Fitbit.com.
As with any bio-impedance system, it is safe for almost anyone but if you have a pacemaker you should not use the Fitbit Aria.
Also, as with any other similar body fat measurement system, your current level of hydration will make a difference to the accuracy of the reading. However, we tested the Aria to destruction on this point at different times of day and with differing levels of hydration and we were impressed at the accuracy of the reading. We found that the reading from the Aria was within 3% of a calliper test, something that we haven’t seen from other bio-impedance units that tend to be much less accurate.
We were, however, mildly confused with the ‘Regular’ and ‘Lean’ options in the Aria settings menu – they didn’t seem to make any difference to the measurements at all. ‘Lean’ is supposed to automatically compensate for extremely athletic people who may show higher-than-actual results when using a bio-impedance monitor. Nevertheless, the results from our tests were still highly accurate regardless of this.
The Aria itself doesn’t do more than what you’d expect from a set of scales. You weigh yourself. The data is sent to your Fitbit.com account. End of story. Right? Well, that’s where the story only really begins.
You see, in order to truly review the Fitbit Aria, you need to understand how all-encompassing and useful the Fitbit.com website is, and what it does with that data.
We’ve already reviewed the Fitbit Ultra personal tracker and the extent to which Fitbit.com can help with your fitness goals. The Aria scales add the ability to create accurately tracked weight goals which, when combined with the food and exercise tracking, make it super-easy for you to gain or lose weight safely and at a decent rate.
To help motivate you, and give you something to brag about on social networks, you also get a full set of new weight badges (virtual, of course) to add to the existing steps and stairs rewards. If you had been tracking your weight beforehand manually using Fitbit.com and already lost a few pounds, you’ll automatically get those awards from Fitbit.com straight away, helping you to get that feeling of achievement that comes from ‘gamifying’ your goals.
But the Fitbit Aria’s best trick is the ability to register up to eight people on the one device. After you have set up your account, you can invite seven other people to join your scales and have their results sent to their Fitbit.com account. The whole family can, therefore, use the device and all its features. Of course, privacy is a key option – you can choose to share as much or as little of your data as you like to friends or publicly, so don’t worry about the security of the information. Fitbit have that covered.
When an additional user stands on the scales, the Aria will use their body weight and body fat percentage to identify which person is standing there, and will automatically assign the results to their account. If two people are within 8 lbs and have similar BF%, Aria can’t determine who should have the results of the weigh-in, so instead it will flash up a message to ‘step off’; each ‘foot press’ of the Aria’s glass top will cycle through the available user names so you can stop on yours.
If that doesn’t work out for you or you make a mistake, it is easy to re-assign measurements using Fitbit.com.
When we tried to set this up during our review, we did hit one small blip. Because the person we invited to join us set their Fitbit.com account up with only a slight knowledge of their own weight, they entered an initial value in their account that was 10 lbs off their real weight. This caused an issue with the website that meant their weigh-ins were only ever assigned to the ‘guest’ account.
To solve this, we recommend that each invitee weight themselves as a guest before you send the invite, and that they use the real value when setting up their Fitbit.com account. That way, the software seems to get it right and assign their weigh-ins properly. Fitbit confirmed with us they are aware of this minor bug, and are working to fix it.
The options available in the Aria settings allow you to choose between pounds, kilos and stones/pounds, so everyone from the most metric to the staunchly imperial are accounted for. The device will also update itself via WiFi if a new ‘firmware’ package is available. If the unit detects an update is available after a weigh-in, it will inform you, download the update and install it without requiring any assistance on your part.
Other than that small ‘user addition’ glitch, which was easily understood and fixed, the Aria was a dream to use for everyone that tested it. We used it for over a month in total and fell in love with both the design and the functionality.
If you’re an existing Fitbit Ultra user, the Aria is the missing piece of the puzzle, helping you achieve your goals. If you’re new to the Fitbit world, the Aria is still a solid purchase, although we suspect you’ll quickly add in a follow-on purchase of the Ultra tracker once you get to see what is possible.
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