I’ve been using a Philips DirectLife Activity Monitor for over two years now, and I pretty much have loved it. But I recently got intrigued by the FitBit, and I decided to give it a spin to compare the two. I think that activity monitors are really, really useful tools for health and fitness. I want to be able to share one of these gadgets with future clients, and I wanted to choose the best one. I once used a BodyBugg but I felt like it was too complicated, offered almost too much (kinda like Microsoft Word) and I hated the feel of having an elastic cuff around my arm all the time. Like having my blood pressure taken. So I switched to the simpler DirectLife and it’s been working well for a few years now.

Well. It’s a tough choice! Both the DirectLife and FitBit have some distinct pros and cons.

The FitBit arrived a few days after I ordered it and I was very excited to try it out. It has some additional features that the Philips Directlife Activity Monitor doesn’t have, like estimating flights of stairs climbed and sleep quality. I thought that was kind of cool, since there have been many studies linking quality of sleep with weight loss.

But after 2 days, my FitBit died. It just stopped doing its cool things no matter how many times I re-installed the software, stuck it with a paper clip to reset it and contacted Customer Service. All of which were time consuming and a pain in the butt. Then I got a new one. Which took over a week to arrive, which was frustrating. I had 2 days of activity tracked and I hated having that hiatus in between. Then I almost killed the new one by putting it in the washing machine. It didn’t work for many days but then somehow it revived (dried out?).

So here’s the rundown. I LOVE many elements of the FitBit, but for me, the one major drawback is that it is not waterproof. I had no idea how important a feature this was, until I didn’t have it anymore.

Totally waterproof!

This is the deal. I wear my DirectLife all day, all night, every day, 24/7. I never take it off except to charge and sync it. I wear it on a chain around my neck and unless I’m going to some super-fancy affair (in which case I stick it in my bra), that’s wear it stays. I don’t ever think about it. I wear it in the shower. I wear it in the pool. I wore it during my triathlon. I NEVER TAKE IT OFF.

Maybe I’m just too clueless and lazy for a FitBit. I clip it on my clothing. And then when I take that piece of clothing off, I often totally forget about the Fitbit. And many hours of activity are lost. Sometimes it ends up in the washing machine. This is NOT GOOD. Once I clipped it on my sports bra. But then I washed it. Bad bad bad.

I really, really liked that the FitBit would show its data in real time, and that I didn’t have to connect it to the computer to see my stats. I loved that it measured steps, miles, calories, flights of stairs. SO COOL.

real time data! Nifty!

So to recap:

Philips DirectLife:

Pros: easy to use, great individual coaching, clear data online, waterproof, durable

Cons: only tracks “movement” and not individual elements like steps, stairs, etc.


Pros: easy to use, clear data online, can see data in real-time, has various data points (steps, mileage, calories, sleep, stairs)

Cons: easily damaged (?), delicate, customer service takes FOREVER, not waterproof, must transfer from clothing to clothing, no coaching

They both cost about the same ($100, give or take a few bucks). For now, I’m going to continue using both, but for my personal use I think I’m probably going to stick with the DirectLife. It’s a no-brainer for no brains like me. Also, I just remembered the amazing personal coaching that DL offers. It’s a live person who emails you especially when it looks like you’re slacking off. They support, encourage and trouble shoot.

The customer service at FitBit was maddening. Basically you send them an email. It takes 24 hours average for them to respond with some suggestions. Then if the suggestion doesn’t work, you have to send ANOTHER email, more time elapses, and UGH. There’s no way to talk to a “live” person either by phone or online and get real-time support. Which I think is a major terrible drawback.  I like to be able to try something, with the person RIGHT THERE, and then I say, “yeah, that worked! thanks!” or “that didn’t work, now what?” and I can get it taken care of right then instead of waiting two days for another fruitless email exchange.

I’ve heard of another gadget – Jack something? something Jack? which I might try. Whichever one I get is going to end up with a heck of a lot of business from me (I’m incorporating one of them into my developing business), and I want to get it right.

Have you used one of these activity monitors, or another one? Which one do you like and why?