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Hands-on with Fitbit Aria, the Wi-Fi smart scale

For many, stepping on a scale on a regular basis is a pretty confrontational thing. Watching the needle soar past several digits is an unnerving experience that you want to keep as private as possible. So why in the world would Fitbit decide to make a product that encourages people to do it more often while posting their weight publicly online? Maybe that’s the rationale: If it’s not fear of public judgement that pushes you to reach your goal weight, what will?

Perhaps I’m over-exaggerating this notion. There are a lot of other interesting take on the ability to weight yourself consistently and keeping track on the Web. For those who want to take more control of overall fitness, the Fitbit Aria might be a handy tool to help reach your goal weight.

Look and Feel

Billed as a Wi-Fi-enabled “smart scale,”  the Fitbit Aria works locally in your home’s wireless network to transmit data between your scale and an online account. At 4.5 pounds, this is no ordinary scale, nor is it easy to carry around. The idea is you set the Aria up once and leave it be in your bathroom or bedroom, any place that you will access on a daily basis to do your routine weight-in. 

The Aria is a fine piece of craftsmanship, which comes as no surprise since it was designed by NewDealDesign, the same company behind the Lytro camera. Available in black or white, the futuristic scale has an backlit LED display and a glass surface that feels delicate to step on. One should beware not to use the scale after showers as the surface can be slippery.

According to Fitbit, this glass contains electrodes that shoot up one leg and down the other to help calculate your body mass index (BMI). Virtually undetectable, the sensors are built-in the four-leaf clover-like design outlined on the surface. For this reason, Fitbit advises against users with pacemakers or other internal medical device as the signals mere interfere with one another. It also advises against those who are or may be pregnant, which seems ironic considering you have the option of selecting “pregnant” when creating your online profile. Speaking of which…

Setting up

Upon unboxing the Fitbit Aria, you will note a sticker that prompts a visit to Fitbit.com/start to begin your setup. This will require you to download the Fitbit software before activating your scale (which comes complete with four AA batteries) and syncing it with your Wi-Fi network. The process is relatively painless, and took a few minutes to accomplish. While it is unclear what the Wi-Fi range is on the scale, it seems that it is as powerful as any mobile device you’d have functioning in your home.

On your profile, you are asked for your current weight, height, and initials, along with what you want to name your scale. Setup is near complete when the software asks you to take that leap onto the scale and weight yourself. Once the numbers compute, the data is automatically transferred to your online account. Not only will you get your weight in digital numbers, down to the first decimal, Aria will also determine a BMI percentage. This is particularly helpful for those who may not seem heavy but are unfit due to excessive fat. I believe I might just fall into this case.

Managing your account

You can add up to eight registered users on one scale, and the incredible thing about Aria is how it will recognize who is using the scale. By determining the approximate weight range, Aria can safely assume whose weight was just calculated based on previous weigh-ins. For example, my older brother tried the scale out and it was able to determine the weight is the guest, therefore his information will not be saved. However, when my mother (who is about 10 pounds heavier than me) walked on, Aria asked to confirm whether this weight is mine or a guest’s. If everyone in the household wants to register, however, they each have to make their own separate Fitbit account online. This could be rather annoying, especially since my mom doesn’t really use her e-mail, if at all.

As with all scales, smart or dumb, you should always place it on a flat, hard surface. I made the mistake of weighing myself on a carpet and the scale told me I was 1.5 pound lighter than my expected weight. This was immediately corrected during a second weighing on wood floor. The weighing process takes a bit longer than traditional scales as the Aria need to send those electrodes through your body to calculate BMI. After about 30 seconds, the scale tells me my weight, BMI percentage, and my initials to confirm the person weighed. The Aria is certainly not for the impatient.

With your online account, you can access a line graph of your weight fluctuations. And yes, while this information can be rather public, you have the option of privatizing your account so no one ever has to peep those digits. You can also link your profile onto an iOS or Android app to keep this information on the go, though naturally more limited from sleep pattern entries, heart rate or glucose logs, to name a few.

Bottom line

fitbit-aria-whiteAt $130, the Fitbit Aria is pretty expensive scale. For those who are obsessed about reaching their goal weight, however, the scale is a neat and informative tool that pushes you to continue confronting your actual weight and attempt to reach your goals. I know that each time I walk onto the scale, I keep wanting the online chart to show a decrease in BMI so I can actually be proud of weighing under 110 pounds. If you need some gamification to get your some competitive juices flowing, Fitbit also offers badges for each task accomplished, such as earning your goal weight.

Those not looking to completely change their diet and fitness should probably think twice before purchasing the Fitbit Aria. It’s clearly not made for the average person who weighs himself just for curiosity’s sake; you can do that at the doctor’s office. The Fitbit Aria is designed for those serious about getting results and will keep weighing in until the numbers reach a satisfactory digit. Again, it’s also not made for those with pacemakers or recommended for pregnant women. If you can reasonably factor in how often you plan to use the scale to adjust your lifestyle choices, by all means, the Aria would be a fine accommodation to a better and fitter you.

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