Fitbit's name may be synonymous with wearables, but that doesn't mean it's the only avenue of connected tech the company is involved with.
That's right - back for a second iteration, the Fitbit Aria 2 is the fitness tracking giant's refreshed take on the world of smart scales. And much like the competition, the device is aiming to help users leave behind traditional scales and replace them with a smarter tablet that brings more advanced metrics, more accuracy and more guidance.
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But after a successful entry into smart scales, how does Fitbit improve with the Aria 2? And does it still deliver on the above aims? We've been living with it for the past few weeks in order to gain a better idea.
Hitting the scales
When it comes to the smart scale process, things vary little between the offerings from the likes of Garmin, Nokia and Fitbit. And although this is the latter's second go-around at tracking your body, the form hasn't altered too greatly here.
After taking the shiny wedge of glass out of the box, you'll have to head to the Account section of the Fitbit app (available for both iOS and Android) and begin setting up the Aria 2 as a new device.
This should be relatively straightforward — you wait for the scale to be picked up, follow the on-screen cues, tether it to your Wi-Fi connection and voilà, you're ready to be judged. However, we did initially have problems overcoming this first hurdle before tinkering with our settings, and moving the scale closer to the router helped link things up.
Now, for the actual tracking. Just like the first generation Aria, this scale measures your weight, body mass index (BMI), lean mass and fat percentages, and you can still also have up to eight profiles linked with the device. The big change here is the scale's reworked algorithms, which Fitbit says leads to improved accuracy. The fact that the device now also has FDA-approval would suggest the internal changes very much do make a difference.
In terms of design, the differences, like the tech inside, are fairly unnoticeable. Things are slimmer, and the backlit display certainly makes things easier to read (even if you're weighing yourself in the morning before you put contact lenses in), but in truth there's little to write home about here: it looks smart in the bathroom and doesn't take up too much room.
Of course, people's uses for smart scales also varies, depending on their goals. Fitbit, though, aims to help you with this by asking you whether you want to lose, maintain or gain weight. And just how you're progressing with this target is presented in a tile in the Fitbit dashboard, along with other trackable elements, such as sleep, heart rate, weekly exercise, steps, water and calories.
Feeding the bigger picture
So, let's explore how this actually works. Since weight and its peripheral measurements fluctuate greatly throughout the day, depending on the likes of water and food intake, I've been trying to jump on the scales around the same time every morning.
And generally speaking, from the data that I've gathered over the past few weeks, it would appear as though the scale has taken some time to round into form. As we can see from the image below, my weight has gradually increased over the time I've spent with the Aria 2.
And while this could be a byproduct of too many milkshakes, my average for the last ten weigh-ins (around 12 stone, 8lbs) is roughly where other scales - smart and dumb - have pegged me over the last six months, so it seems about right. Either way, this difference is relatively minute when it comes to the bigger picture of weight tracking - a scale sitting a few pounds either side of the number you have in your head isn't really anything too unusual.
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With regard to syncing over to the Fitbit app, though, we've experienced the odd inconsistency. The weighing process itself only takes a few seconds, with the display's screens quickly shifting between the tracked metrics before showing the syncing icon. But if the network the device is linked to can't be reached, the time won't be registered (as is the case on the two most recent entries, found on the left screen below) despite the weigh-in itself simply being logged at a later point.
We've also found that the first step on the scales is sometimes not registered, and instead it takes two attempts before it shakes hands with the app. This has been helpful from a testing perspective, but the everyday user might want to be sure it's being synced every time they step on.
When things are synced, though, what is presented is a very easy-to-use package, much like the rest of the sections within Fitbit's companion. Not only do you get graphs and have a history of your weight logged, but you also have details tracked for your body fat percentage, BMI and even a cross-comparison of your lean mass compared alongside your fat mass and total weight.
This isn't anything groundbreaking, obviously, but it does provide a sprinkle of objectivity to whether all those Christmas meals really did pile on the pounds.
Our only real gripe with this is the lack of data interpretation - the same kind of in-app breakdowns and suggestions that have made Fitbit's sleep tracking the best in the business. We understand that Fitbit might not have as much authority in this area, but offering the odd suggestion for how you can get closer to your goal wouldn't go unnoticed.
If this prospective feedback also began to pull in data from other areas, such as water intake, sleep and exercise, Fitbit could really pull away from some of its rivals in the area. Reminders could even be sent to its range of fitness trackers and the Fitbit Ionic, in order to keep you on track.
Worth the upgrade?
As we've alluded to, the big positive about the Fitbit Aria 2 is its ability to mesh and add more detail to your health picture through the Fitbit dashboard.
There are some things on our wish-list with regard to just how far this data should stretch in the future and how it has room to grow with its connection to other Fitbit devices in the stable, but the Aria 2 covers the basics of tracking extremely well. We haven't suffered through any serious data aberrations, just the odd syncing niggle, and its storage and graphs are a solid way for you to keep tabs on the standard metrics within smart scale tracking.
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The problem the Aria 2 has is that it doesn't offer too much difference from its predecessor. We have no doubt the tracking is more accurate, as Fitbit says, but there's not too much reason for original Aria users to dig into your pocket and upgrade. With that being said, if you're already locked into the Fitbit ecosystem and have a specific goal in mind when it comes to your weight, this is definitely an option worth considering. And who knows, perhaps Fitbit will add more detailed feedback as the scale's life progresses.