Review: FitBit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale

A scale is a low-tech, low-maintenance gadget. You step on it once per day (or less, in my case), read your weight, and leave it to spend the majority of its time sitting idly on the bathroom floor.

But FitBit’s Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale isn’t content living a life of such blind, inert servitude.

It’s not just a scale. It records both your weight and body-fat percentage and, like the company’s FitBit Ultra body monitor, automatically sends your precious body data to the web or a mobile app. The apps graph your weight and chart your progress towards whatever goals you’ve set using visualizations that are pretty to look at and easy to understand.

The scale comes with Wi-Fi connectivity built in: Just go through an easy set-up process to connect the scale to your home’s network, and voilà, it’s online. The Aria comes in two basic colors — black and white — so it should fit in with most bathroom decor. The top of the scale, the part you stand on, is made entirely of glass. Etched into the platform are four squares with rounded edges that divide the plate of glass into four quadrants. This isn’t just an elegant design choice, it’s actually how the Aria measures your body-fat percentage.

Each quadrant of the scale’s glass top contains electrodes. When you stand on it, it sends a small electrical current through your feet and into your body to measure how much fat you’re carrying. It will record your weight if you’re wearing shoes, but you need to stand on the scale barefoot in order for the body-fat reading to work. (FitBit assures me this electrical data collection is totally safe for almost everyone — even for pregnant women, and for kids as long as they weigh more than 20 pounds — but people with a pacemaker should not use it).

I wasn’t totally sold on the accuracy of the Aria’s body-fat percentage readings, so I had my boyfriend, Jeff, use the scale as well. He recently attended a health seminar where nurses conducted a professional reading of body-fat percentage. We compared these numbers with the Aria’s measurements. The results: The FitBit Aria’s reading was within half a percent of Jeff’s professional work-up.

Using your body-fat percentage and weight readings, FitBit will calculate your BMI (body mass index). That number doesn’t appear on the scale while you’re weighing yourself; you’ll need to access FitBit’s web or mobile app to see it. On FitBit’s website, you can also track your calorie intake, hours of sleep, and activity level. If you already own a FitBit Ultra monitor, you’ll get a lot of activity and sleep data from there.

From the web app, you can also invite up to eight users to the Aria scale. Each user is recognized automatically when they step on the scale — in my week of testing, it had no problem discerning between me and my boyfriend, and it was speedy in sending the data over to our individual tracking apps. If you happen to share your FitBit Aria with someone who is in your same weight range, the scale will prompt you to select between the users after taking its readings.

I’m not one to share my weight publicly, but for those who are so inclined — either for support, or exhibitionism — FitBit does include a social feature that lets you connect with other FitBit users, share your weight, and even post your stats to Facebook and Twitter. And if you don’t have people rooting you on, FitBit’s award badges for reaching your weight goals should give you at least a little motivational boost.

At $130, it’s an expensive scale, and therefore it’s really only a smart purchase if you’re already a FitBit Ultra owner. When used in concert with the company’s little activity measurement widget, the Aria gives you a truly complete picture (literally, in two-tone graphs) of your body’s mass fluctuations over time, and the impact your activity level has on these changes.

But if you’re not a FitBit devotee and you just want to measure your weight or fat percentage, there are other, less-expensive scales that can give you similar readings. Also, with the rapid proliferation of connected devices, it won’t be long before every scale on the shelf can talk to your phone, tweet encouraging words and display the breakdown of fat and lean mass in your body on a colorful web chart. Consider that $130 your early-adopter premium.

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