Fitbit Surge could get me wearing a watch again


Staff member
May 27, 2012
Bellmere, QLD
I've never been much for wearing jewelry - had to tape my wedding ring up for work so I eventually removed it and now rarely wear it ever and since smartphones came on the scene I discarded my watch because it was just as easy to look at my phone if I wanted to know the time.

However, with smartwatches reviving watch wearing I've been keeping an eye on the market with interest because I can see when wearing your phone on your wrist will one day become the norm. I haven't been at all convinced with the current smartwatches like the Apple Watch because it doesn't really replace a phone in my opinion and I still think there's a way to go before it's worth getting. Not that I'd buy Apple anyway personally...

Having said that, the Surge watch by Fitbit offers me something more than a smartphone extension on my wrist and I have to admit I'm very tempted to get one because I can imagine it being very handy for my type of lifestyle.

I'm close to 50, I like to exercise, but I really should be monitoring my heart rate at my age not just for performance measuring but mainly to ensure I don't over exercise (which I'm prone to do) and I do like to keep track of my workouts to see how I'm going. I've recorded my workouts for over 20 years and started with a written diary thankfully these days the same thing can be almost automated with a smartphone and now a watch like the Surge can apparently not only talk to your smartphone and log workouts, monitor performance, but it can also measure heart rate (without an annoying strap), sleep activity, GPS tracking, control music, and more.

It's a pretty compelling argument for someone who's into fitness but doesn't like wearing jewelry to start wearing a watch again :)

Maybe a Xmas present to me lol...
The 'watches' are quite subtle as jewellery anyway Mark. As a tool is is a good guide, but it must be regularly referred to and its information acted upon if it is of any value. I know I lead just a little too busy and time poor a lifestyle for me to be bothered with the kit.

I already have a Health App that automatically records the steps I take, how many flights of stairs I've climbed and how many calories I've burned; but do I check in on this information? I can't remember the last time, but I do know I get at least 6,000 steps of incidental exercise a day. This to me is not a strenuous enough activity to count towards my fitness. Sounds like you have quite the opposite problem, Mark!
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I haven't been getting enough exercise lately because I've been stuck on my desktop doing all that IT rubbish so to get my steps in I'm jumping on my eliptical machine at night better than nothing I suppose but I can't wait to throw the kids back in school and go for a run :p
I wonder if these things really do help encourage you to move more. You have me looking into them now Mark :)

On a side note with your elliptical, how do you find it? do the arms move as well on your one? Something I have wondered about getting myself. I can get very busy doing things but it's not always active things.
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I wonder if these things really do help encourage you to move more. You have me looking into them now Mark :)
Well Kate, I wasn't into step counters either but my wife won a Vivofit2 Garmin last month and it's been sitting on the shelf unopened so last week I decided to put my skepticism aside and wear it to see how it worked and if it indeed does motivate.

I'm not a big fan of Garmin because I think their software is a bit clunky and that was confirmed after going through the drawn out process to create an account and set up the app on my mobile phone. However, once I got through all that I found the actual wrist band (mini watch) worked quite well!

I would say it does give a fair indication of how far a person has moved and how active they have been for the day and I was surprised to see the statistics of my sleep pattern also. What I found myself doing is monitoring my steps and then at the end of the day if I haven't made my quota automatically set (according to my goal which is to lose 10 kg) then I get out in the garden or go for a workout. So yes, I guess it's working to motivate me.

It's also interesting to see how far I do move some days even doing regular things like shopping used up almost half my steps in few hours and my tennis fixtures chewed through my steps and added several thousand onto the counter! So no need for the elliptical machine that night :D

I'll write a full review on the Vivofit2 and put the link here if people are interested.

On a side note with your elliptical, how do you find it? do the arms move as well on your one?
I love running outdoors but I have a recurring calf injury that keeps coming back because I keep running... My last 10km run I only lasted 1km and my calf blew out so I angrily limped home.

We've had our elliptical machine a few weeks now and it as my wife convinced me to get one because she uses them in her work gym and thought the low impact may help with my injury plus you can set the angle so it targets your upper thighs and hammies instead of working the calves.

Bottom line... She was right!

I've been using it nearly every day and because it's low impact and I can set the machine to be kinder on my calves I've had no sign of discomfort whatsoever. Yes, it's a little boring but I've installed a TV in our home gym so at least this helps.

I'm still working my way back to running but I think I'll use elliptical training as part of my weekly workouts from now on regardless of how well my calf recovers. I can elliptical every day but I could never run every day (since my 20s) because running although great exercise is high impact.

This particular machine is mid-range RRP $1300 got ours on special for $999 from Amart Sports called HealthRider and yes the arms move so it's sort of like skiing with your arms whilst riding a bike standing up in an elliptical fashion - I must look quite untidy especially when I'm close to the end of my workout and doing it hard with arms and legs going everywhere :p

I'll write a review about this also.
Thanks Mark great info as always. The Garmin Vivofit 2 has been another one I have been looking at verses the Fitbit Charge HR. I like the fact the Vivofit 2 can be worn in the shower etc but doesn't have a heart rate monitor unless you buy the separate chest strap. The Fitbit charge HR is of interest because of the continuous heart rate monitor. I suffer from a fast heart rate, that I'm on medication for so having something that always monitors it while not exercising could be handy. I think the Surge would be too much and too big for me, but interested for my hubby. With all these things needs to see them in person and see how they feel.

I'd love you to do a review of the elliptical machine, low impact sounds like a good way to go as we get older. You are not the only one pushing 50, this month for me. :shock:

Does the Vivofit 2, count steps on the elliptical machine?
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You are not the only one pushing 50, this month for me. :shock:
Happy birthday soon! :popcork:

Does the Vivofit 2, count steps on the elliptical machine?
Yes it does - apparently these new step counters use a combination of sensors to measure activity. Compared to the machine distance it's probably a few kms short in difference but elliptical machines tend to overstate distance so neither is fully accurate anyway and it probably balances out on average.

The main thing that puts me off the Surge and other smart or exercise watches is having to recharge them every 7 days but I guess I could get used to it.

In the future, watches will be powered by energy gathered from surroundings such as the body and possibly a combination of solar and magnetic so recharging will be something we look back on and say how inconvenient that was to do :)
With the Vivofit 2, I know you can get an additional heart rate monitor strap but the website also shows heart rate on the actual wrist strap/watch. Does it keep track of your heart rate on the actual device?
Yeah Vivofit2 syncs with the heart rate monitor and displays on the screen. I don't like wearing those hrm though they're a bit restrictive.
Ended up getting a Vivosmart activity tracker. It's waterproof so can be worn in the shower, swimming etc. Hubby and I both got one. We wear them all the time. It sets a goal based on how active you say you are when you first set the device up. This goal is automatically adjusted higher once you reach your goal. If you don't reach your goal it also drops the steps a bit too. It's a bit of a joke around here once we reach our goal we don't want to do any more as it ups the step goal ha ha.

It has a move bar, so if you are inactive for an hour it vibrates and tells you to move. It take about 250 steps to reset the move bar to zero. For the most part this works pretty well. Have noticed it doesn't pick up movement if you are pushing a trolley. Also we have been very busy renovation and it doesn't always pick up that you are moving even though you could be working your butt of. But as I said we find it's pretty good and does keep you motivated.

The Vivosmart can be bluetooth connected to your smartphone to sync the device with the Garmin App and also notify you of any emails, calls, text, even facebook depending on your settings. My hubby finds this great for calls and sms as he has his phone on silent at work and often missed messages.

If you wear the Vivosmart to bed it tracks your sleep pattern. We find this to be pretty good, detects movement, tossing and turning, if you get up during the night etc. If you are in a deep or light sleep. What it doesn't track well is if you are awake but lying still.

It's pretty discreet just looks like a black band around your wrist. Double tap wakes the device and then you just scroll to what to want to look at like, time and date, steps, goal and steps left, move bar, notifications. Even controls the music on your smartphone.

We also bought separate Garmin Heart Rate Monitor straps that can be connected to the Vivosmart to keep track of your heart rate when exercising, walking or just in general.

The new model Vivosmart has a heart rate monitor built into the strap.

Overall we are really happy with our choice and think something like these are worthwhile and do motivate you to move.
I was given the Fitbit Charge as a present quite a few months back which does HR and steps etc but no GPS function. I do like the sleep monitor function which tells me how well I sleep and how many times I'm restless or wake and I also like the way it tracks my resting HR which is a good indication of overall fitness level.
But now I wish I had the next model up that has the gps function which is now about the same price as the original.
Never mind, it keeps me motivated and always trying to get the step count up around 10k per day......
Hey Mark, how's the wife's Surge going? I've had one since they were first released and I know some people have had problems with theirs...but I'm pretty happy with mine.
The heart rate monitor (this goes for any wrist HR monitor) isn't quite as accurate as a chest strap (wrist straps don't measure the heart's electrical impulses) but WAY more convenient (esp if you happen to have boobs!) In the original wrist bands, you generally had to stop exercising to get an accurate rate, kinda defeats the point really! But I've checked my Surge using my old chest strap and it's pretty accurate even during a run.
I find the pedometer can be a little off - but tends to err on undercounting rather than over that encourages me to walk or run a bit more than I otherwise might.
My main criticism would be that the charge often doesn't last more than 1-2 days - and it's rare I get the full 7 days anymore. I've read online this is a common complaint - I think with mine it's a poor connection when the charger plug is inserted - it seems to not fit as well as it did when I first got it. Or perhaps because I often use the gps. Just means you have to plan your recharge so it's not dead when you want to go for a run!
Yeah the wife's loving it but like you she hates the poor battery life. I did warn her about this limitation however Nina's getting in a routine now of recharge like she would her phone.

She's finding the heart rate monitor is very accurate, which surprised me actually. Nina's in the medical industry (nursing background) so she's pretty particular about accuracy of heart rate measurements and gives the surge a thumbs up!

It's definitely a good start anyway. No doubt Fitbit will improve the watch incrementally and fix the power issues etc overtime.
But the $64 question...did you end up getting one yourself??
Hahaha, nope! Not yet anyway... currently I'm wearing this Vivofit2 the wife won - it's not too bad as a step tracker but to use the hr monitor the strap needs to be worn so I don't bother.
Was reading an article recently regarding a class action against fitbit for their ad campaign for the Surge which had the tag line "every beat counts". Because as we're all aware, wrist HR monitors just aren't as accurate as chest straps, and don't in fact take "every beat" into account. So if they'd just stuck with their promotional blurbs, they'd probably have no chance of losing the case...will now depend on whether a judge thinks they gave a different impression in their advertising...
Yeah but they also don't do a bad job at measuring heart rate either... It's meant to be used as a guide when exercising - people shouldn't be wearing it as a medical device to rely on exact measurements.

I don't know of many devices that hold up to the marketing campaign claims - if so, there should be a class action on Siri (Apple) because that definitely doesn't work like in the Ads or is Apple too big to sue :D

Seriously though, smart watches all over need a much better battery life for a start and more intuitive features if they are to become mainstream. For now, I'm still happy running with my phone in my hand and a set of bluetooth headphones. To measure my heart rate on a jog I stick my fingers on the old carotid artery for 10 seconds multiply by 6 and keep running - it's fast and pretty accurate!
Agree's one thing to blindly purchase something like a fitbit without doing a little research into the pros and cons, but really, to take it to the point of suing!? I know mine's a little inaccurate - no one should be relying on equipment like this for medical monitoring, and therefore, if it's a little out, what harm can it be doing. (Last I looked to successfully get damages, there has to be some harm sustained...having said that, fitbit probably could've avoided the negative publicity by simply refunding those people who found it too inaccurate for them.)
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