Whether your goal is to maintain a healthy weight or lose those extra pounds, keeping track of your weight changes is an essential part of the process. Any obstacle to doing so, whether that be having to launch an app or scamble around for a pen, will eventually halt your efforts (yes, you’re that lazy).
With the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, you needn’t waste those extra moments – it’ll sync your stats and store them for you. Now all you need to do is concentrate on actually exercising. We’re giving away a Fitbit Aria, so read on to find out more about it, then join the contest!
The Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale retails at $129.95 and supports up to 8 users. The only competitor on the market is the $150 Withings WS50 Smart Body Analyzer, also supporting 8 users but with the added feature of monitoring air quality and temperature to ensure a good night’s sleep (assuming you place it in your bedroom, which is kind of weird to be honest).
Core Functionality: Weight Tracking and Multiple Users
The core purpose of the Fitbit Aria scale, of course, is to track and sync weight, and this it does well via the accompanying Fitbit service which we covered in our review of the Fitbit One Activity Tracker. The device is also capable of remembering multiple users and automatically detecting them by body weight variance. With myself and my wife, this works fine – but if you have a family of 8 – the maximum number of users it can handle – you may find a few of the weight ranges overlap. When this occurs, the Fitbit Aria will pick its best guess, at which point you can step off and tap the scales to choose an alternative users; then simply leave them alone as the progress bar counts down.
Inviting other users is simple, but you must use the app or website to do so – there’s no settings management on the device itself.
Very occasionally, it has failed to recognise my wife, assigning her weight as a guest. You can correct these from the device management page through the Fitbit online dashboard.
I should note that there can be a bit of variance to the weight tracking, even on a minute by minute basis, of about 0.1 – 0.5 kg. It’s not hugely significant, but if you’re an athlete wishing to rely on precision measurements, this isn’t for you. I can’t explain the variance either – it was placed on a level surface, not carpet, which would normally cause that. Perhaps my bathroom floor is wobbly.
The box is barely bigger than the Fitbit Aria; an inner box provides all the needed padding to protect the scales.
Nothing else is provided, except for a small instruction manual. The Fitbit Aria takes 4 x AA batteries – these are supplied already inserted, with a small pull-tab to activate.
Opting for white – though a black model is also available – the Fitbit Aria scale fits right at home in a bathroom, with smooth corners to avoid nasty accidents.
The top of the device is a conductive glass panel, with a small circular LCD readout. It glows satisfyingly blue, as all good electronics should.
The readout has crisp grey text with blue backlight; long messages are scrolled across a few characters at a time, but weights and user identification (which consists of 3 initials) are displayed in full.
The underside is a curiously elaborate bubble design – odd because you don’t see it at all in normal use.
I had no problem getting the Fitbit Aria set up in 5 minutes, but I must admit it may be a little too complicated for those less technologically-minded. If the concept of switching Wi-Fi networks confounds you, you’re going to have problems.
There are two methods of setting up the Fitbit Aria. The first method is to use the web-based tool from a mobile device. Head over to http://www.fitbit.com/scale/setup/start to get started. As the walkthrough page explains, to activate setup mode, flip the scales over and remove just one battery. Replace it, and the screen should display “Setup active”. At this point, the Fitbit Aria scale generates its own Ad-hoc Wi-Fi network, to which you must connect your device when instructed. You can then continue with the setup to enter the details of your home network. Be warned, you’ll need to know the type of authentication being used – it’s a laborious process to restart from the beginning if you get it wrong.
The second method is to use a dedicated application for PC or Mac, though you’ll still need a Wi-Fi-capable computer, and it’s basically the same process.
“Smart” Scales: BMI and Body Fat
Apart from the ability to upload and store your weight data over Wi-Fi, the Fitbit Aria scale calculates your BMI and body fat percentage using a common method of measuring electrical conductance – by standing over the four electrical plates on the scales, a very small electrical current is passed through you. You need to be barefoot for this to work, of course. And of course, it syncs the data to your Fitbit account, so you’ll be able to view the trend over time.
However, it should be noted that this method of measuring body fat will churn out dramatically different results depending on the time of day and how hydrated you are. Even testing at the same time everyday would not give accurate results, so the measurements should not be treated as scientifically valid. Rather, you should look at the overall trends over time as significant, not the individual readings from one day to the next. The only truly accurate method of measuring body fat is using a pair of callipers to pinch and measure you skin at different locations.
There are other devices on the market however that offer a greater of “smart” capabilities – just not Wi-Fi syncing. My previous bathroom scales were in fact ones I brought back from Japan – made by Omron and going by the brand name “KARADA Scan” (karada being body in Japanese) – and can be bought in the US for anywhere between $70 for basic domestic model to $200 for an advanced import model from Japan. With an additional set of conducting plates you hold with your arms outstretched, they offer a more detailed break down of body fat in each part of your body, as well as giving you a score based on how old it thinks your body is.
I’ll admit though, the read-out provided by full body scanner was always pretty useless to me – having a record of my weight and BMI changes online and graphed over time is far more useful. Or perhaps it was just being told I had the body of a 40-year-old that made me resent those scales.
Integration with Fitbit
As the name indicates, the Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale is manufactured by Fitbit, and as such, work best when used in conjunction with an activity tracker like the Fitbit One.
As I mentioned in the Fitbit One review, the site is simple – functional, with easy to use graphing capabilities. In the weight section, you can also track body measurements.
To use the body measurement tracking, you’ll need to scroll down to the manual weight entry section, and click on the link for “log other measurements”.
Durability (and Support)
One month after receiving the Fitbit Aria, the rightmost 1/3 portion of the screen stopped working; the device was otherwise fine – it would still record the weight over Wi-Fi, and I could get the first 1 or 2 digits of the number – but obviously this is a defect that shouldn’t happen. There had been a small amount of water splashed in daily usage – scales are generally placed in the bathroom after all – but nothing that should cause such bad damage.
However, their service is certainly to be commended. I contacted support and received a response back within hours offering to ship a replacement unit out, which I accepted and received within the week. It was well within the guarantee of course, but still – I was impressed, especially considering it had been an internet purchase.
The next unit they sent hasn’t broken yet, so I assume this isn’t a design flaw and was perhaps just a one off. Take that as you will.
Should you buy the Fitbit Aria?
Tracking your weight is essential for weight loss, but tools for manually recording it can be tiresome. The Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale removes that effort and automates the process, and does it well. Though the body fat measurements are not going to be accurate, they are a useful trend to see over time, and the Fitbit site that it integrates with is a competent training tool especially when combined with a Fitbit activity tracking device. That said, I’ve only lost about 1kg in 6 months – but I think that was down to basically hibernating over the winter. Bring on Spring and then we’ll see what happens! (Alright, probably nothing will happen in Spring either)