The beginner's guide to Fitbit’s ecosystem: Trackers, apps, smart home and more

What you need to know about all things Fitbit

Looking to buy a Fitbit? No idea where to start? You're forgiven: there's a lot to think about. We've already got a guide to choosing the right Fitbit, but that's just the start. Fitbit is an entire ecosystem, built from wearable devices, third-party apps and devices, and of course its own software platform.

So we're going to break it down for you with a guide to the entire Fitbit ecosystem, which should help guide would-be and existing Fitbit owners to get more from their devices and the Fitbit platform as a whole.

Fitbit: The trackers

The ultimate guide to Fitbit's ecosystem: Trackers, apps and more

We'll start with the obvious one: the trackers themselves. Fitbit's lineup is more expansive than ever, but hey, variety is the spice of life, right? You can start basic, with the Flex and Flex 2 ticking off the basics (though the Flex 2 is the only waterproof one in Fitbit's lineup), through the mid-way Alta and Alta HR and up the Charge 2 and Blaze watch.

Read this: Fitbit Alta HR review

The ones at the top end of the scale are capable of capturing more data, so it's worth thinking about what sort of things you want to keep track of. Heart rate is a biggy, but also think about the addition of features like VO2 Max (in the Charge 2) and advanced sleep tracking. Later in 2017 we're fully expecting to see the first real Fitbit smartwatch.

Fitbit: The app and dashboard

The ultimate guide to Fitbit's ecosystem: Trackers, apps and more

Next, the app itself. This has grown into quite a beast, but at its core it's still primarily a place to hold all your precious data. That data stays there no matter what, so if you get a new Fitbit you can just pair it and keep accumulating those steps and sleep hours.

You can view your history of activity and sleep, access and set challenges, get workout tips, and connect with friends and other users of the Fitbit community. By connecting with others, you'll be able to compare stats and get a bit of healthy competition.

Read next: Best fitness trackers 2017

You can actually use Fitbit's trackers without a smartphone, and instead sync them to a computer, and even view your dashboard on an internet browser. However if you don't have a compatible phone, you won't be able to use some of the features like Connected GPS.

Fitbit: Other fitness platforms

The ultimate guide to Fitbit's ecosystem: Trackers, apps, smart home and more

We have a list of the best Fitbit compatible apps, so we won't repeat them again here, but there are many third-party apps that will talk to Fitbit, allowing you to pass data for workouts, calories and other information between them. Strava, for example, lets you feed your runs into your daily Fitbit stats, while any Fitbit activities will also show up in the Strava app. Fitbit has a full list of compatible apps here.

However, it remains frustratingly insular from Google Fit and Apple Health. These are two major platforms, so it's a shame that Fitbit is still not talking to either, especially for those times where you forget to charge your Fitbit or leave it at home, and can't take advantage of Fit of Health tracking your movements from the smartphone.

Essential reading: Fitbit Charge 2 tips and tricks

Fitbit does have a small amount of compatibility with Withings, letting you sync data from its smart scales, which we'll come onto a bit later. Withings also has a 'Switch to Withings' feature that will let you send your Fitbit data over to its platform, but it's aimed at people who have actually shifted allegiances, so it won't automatically do this on an ongoing basis.

Fitbit: Smart home and other devices

The ultimate guide to Fitbit's ecosystem: Trackers, apps and more

If you're using an Amazon Echo, there's a Fitbit skill available that you can use to get quick updates on your progress. Asking, "Alexa, ask Fitbit how many steps I've taken" could be a useful deterrent from that tub of Ben & Jerry's when you're sat on the couch contemplating your evening plans. If you have more than one Fitbit user in the house, you'll have to switch between your Amazon Household profiles to access different accounts.

Right now there's no similar support for Google Home, but we expect it will eventually come. You can pair Google Assistant and Fitbit together using IFTTT applets, but it's a much more limited experience than what Alexa offers.

The ultimate guide to Fitbit's ecosystem: Trackers, apps and more

As for wider smart home tech, there's not a lot that falls into Fitbit's ecosystem right now. You have Fitbit's very own Aria scales which will track your weight and sync with your Fitbit account over your home Wi-Fi, updating the weight section of the app.

We mentioned earlier that Withings' platform can connect to Fitbit's, but right now all it will let you do is send data captured from Withings' Smart Scales to Fitbit's platform.

Fitbit's web API available for third-party developers, and out of that has come interesting things, particularly using IFTTT, but we'd like to see more direct integration with smart home devices.

Fitbit: Food tracking

The ultimate guide to Fitbit's ecosystem: Trackers, apps and more

If you're a Fitbit user you've probably noticed the food tracking section of the app. This is where you can log those meals and keep an eye on the calories, ensuring you're burning the right amount - or at least that's the aim.

As editor Mike found in his food tracking diary, Fitbit currently isn't delivering the actionably insights in this department, but Weight Watchers, Lose It! and Diet Bet are all apps compatible with Fitbit's platform, so you don't have to stay within Fitbit's confines here.

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