Three More Tips for FitBit Flex Users

I have been using my FitBit Flex since late April now, and it has been a mostly great experience. Unlike my old FitBit Ultra (which I ultimately lost) I don’t have to worry about losing it because I wear it on my wrist. I also don’t worry about forgetting it in the morning because I sleep with it on each night in order to track my sleep. The data is provides is great, and particularly useful for someone like me, who enjoys playing around with the data.

But I did say I was mostly happy. There have been three problems, both of which have been corrected, but which I wanted to mention here in case anyone else has experienced these problems.

1. Sudden drop in step count, despite the same amount of walking

Not long after I got my Flex, I upped my daily goal to 15,000 steps/day. At first, I had a little difficulty meeting this goal, but once I began spending my entire lunch hour walking, it became routine not just to meet, but to exceed this goal on a regular basis. A typical week of walking looked like this for me:

Steps - June 2
FitBit Flex steps record for the week of June 2, 2013

A few weeks later, beginning around June 23, I noticed a sizable drop off in the step count for the week:

Steps - June 23
FitBit Flex steps recorded for the week of June 23, 2013

Set aside the two days at the end of the week when we were driving up to Maine and I was in the car for most of the day, doing very little walking. What is odd about this week is that my step counts are down across the board, never even reaching 15,000 steps.

But the strangest thing of all is that I was taking the same 3 walks I do every day. I was not walking any more, but I was not walking any less. So why the lower counts?

Take a look at the data for Tuesday, June 5:

Steps on June 4

You can clearly see the steps for my three walks. You can further see that each time, they reach nearly 600 steps for the time interval shown, which I think is 5 minutes. Now take a look at the data for exactly 3 weeks later, the week in which I noticed lower step counts:

Steps on June 25

You can still see all three of my walks, but you’ll note that they barely reach 500 steps/interval, despite the fact that I tend to walk at the same pace and the same distance each time. For some reason, my Flex was under-reporting steps.

Of course, it could have been over-reporting for all of the other weeks, but since this week was the exception, I decided that it was under-reporting.

I tried a number of things, none of which seemed to make a difference, including resetting the device. We’ll come back to this shortly. First…

2. When I charged my Flex, it sometimes would not charge

I have to recharge my Flex every 5 or 6 days. Right around early June, I noticed a problem with charging. I’d plug in my Flex and note the one small flashing light, indicating it was about 20% charged. I’d go away for a few hours, come back and discover it was still at 20%. In other words, it was not charging

I’d remove the Flex from the charger and put it back in and eventually, it started charging again.

However, the problems charging seemed to coincide with the low step counts.

Finally, on a hunch, I tried something. When I went to charge my Flex, I wiped off the leads on the device before putting it in the charger. It charged with no problem. Before I put it back in the wristband, I wiped the leads clean again. And guess what?

My step count returned to normal! And it has remained normal, although I will admit that I have been careful to keep the leads clean. Clean leads makes sense for charging the battery, but I can’t see how it would affect step counts. Still, it seems to have worked and I am happy.

Bottom line: if you are experiencing charging problem or low step counts, try cleaning off the leads on your Flex.

3. Capturing “activities” on my Flex

With my FitBit Ultra, I could put it into “sleep” mode during the day when I was active and instead of recording a sleep record, it would record an activity record. So if I wanted to capture data on a hike, for instance, I’d start “sleep” mode at the beginning of the hike, and stop it at the end, and when I synced my device, I’d have an activity record telling me how many steps I’d taking in that interval, how far I walked, how many calories I burned, etc.

When I got my FitBit Flex, I tried this, and found something odd. The device would go into sleep/activity mode for a minute or two, and then automatically jump out of that mode. I could never record an “activity” longer than one or two minutes.

I checked the instructions for the Flex and I could not find anything about activity records. So I just assumed that, while the device could track sleep, it was not designed to track activity records. I mostly forgot about it.

While I was away at Launch Pad, I noted that a firmware update was released for the Flex and I applied the firmware update. My firmware version is now 64. And guess what? After applying the firmware update, I can now record activities on my Flex. For example, here is what my lunchtime walk looks like, recorded as an activity:

Lunchtime Walk

I can only assume that firmware update 64 either fixed or added activity recording functionality for the Flex. If you are looking for this functionality and haven’t been able to get it to work, upgrade your firmware.

Of course, it is also possible that I received an imperfectly manufactured device, but I am happy to say that, based on what I’ve done above, the device is working perfectly. And I am still very happy with it.

41 thoughts on “Three More Tips for FitBit Flex Users

  1. Hello so how do you record an activity like you did walking? Do you put the flex into sleep mode?

  2. Hi Jamie,

    Putting the flex into sleep/activity mode just doesn’t work for me. For example: tapped it into sleep/activity mode at 16:52, went for 12k run, tapped it back out of sleep/activity mode at 17:43 – nothing logged in my activities on my iPhone app.

    I have the latest firmware. It’s annoying having to record the time of when I set off for a run everyday so I can log it correctly on my FitBit. Hope you can help me.

    Enjoyed reading your blog!

    Thanks, Liam

  3. Liam, to my knowledge the activity records will sync through your iPhone but they are not displayed there. You have to go to the FitBit website and view your dashboard there. That is the only place that shows recorded activities.

  4. Great tips Jamie! Thanks for sharing. I’m new to the Flex (and Fitbit actually) so I just wanted to clarify… To put the Flex into Sleep/Activity mode, do you just tap it quickly 5 times until it displays the two separated dots?

  5. Out of curiosity, what’s the point of logging an activity as a walk, when the fitbit’s purpose is to log walking/running? Does it double record it, as per the fact it’s an activity and the steps applied to your account?

  6. Eric, the FitBit is continuously recording your activity. You are correct. Recording a walk or hike or run is nothing more than creating a marking at the beginning and end of an arbitrary period of time to get some information about that specific period. So, for example, if I want to know how many steps or miles my 10 am morning walk is, I can “record” it, which doesn’t capture duplicate information, it simply tells the FitBit to mark the beginning and end of my walk so that I can see the data about that specific interval. You can, of course, extract this data form the raw data itself, but being able to “record” specific activities makes it a lot easier.

  7. Why in the world wouldn’t the FitBit company advertise the new activity record method of the Flex? I stumbled upon putting it into sleep mode too before going on a walk–and having it then capture the activity record on FitBit’s internet dashboard.

  8. Hi,
    Has anyone noticed that fitbit flex counts more steps than actuals?
    On a small walk between two syncs, I calculated my steps manually to 75, but flex calculated it as 154.
    I read some other reviews where it was mentioned that flex calculates more steps because it records the movement of the wrist too.
    This is not too much of an issue as I can simply deduct about 20% from the total steps calculated to see how much I have actually walked.
    Also, flex app does not work with samsung galaxy S2. Any ideas?

  9. If you’re looking for a way to get a more accurate walk count, try wearing the thicker band, around an ankle. Does defeat the purpose of a wrist band, but it makes the flex, accurate.

  10. Great article! What does the “activity record” look like in the web dashboard? Does it leave a separate report like the “sleep activity” record?

  11. Maybe I misunderstood the suggestions about using the Activity mode to track a walk. I tapped my flex five times to put it in sleep/activity mode when I started my walk.and five times then to take it out after I finished the walk. As was said, the accumulated # of steps displayed afterwards on my Dashboard on my iphone. but on the dashboard on the website it does list the # of minutes in my activity today, but not the # of steps. I thought doing this would display the # of steps I had during that activity on the website dashboard, but I guess not., Thanks

  12. Duh. Just found it. Wehn I mouse over the “spikes” in activity and i’m on the Steps tab it shows me the steps.

  13. Hello all,
    I have a question. I got my fitbit yesterday. I set it up on my desktop and iPhone 4. The information did not sync so that I saw all activity on both my PC and iPhone app. I could not see my activity on the website. I reinstalled as an existing user today on my pc. I saw my activity at first, but now I see nothing from yesterday. I logged over 10K steps and received badges, but my account shows nothing. It also shows no sleep monitoring. Is there anything I can do to see my 11/19/13 info? I am in a competition so I want it reasonably accurate for the effort I am showing. Any advice? Thanks so much.

  14. As far as I know, the FitBit Flex requires an iPhone 5 or better in order to sync with your phone. Otherwise, you have to use the desktop sync via USB that comes with the device.

  15. I have an iPhone 4S and my Flex syncs with it just fine – although, I generally prefer to sync to my iPad.

  16. Jamie-It syncs with my phone, but the I have lost data. My phone has the most up to date information. Do you know how I can get my info back to my account?

  17. Has anyone tried attaching it to your shoe for the treadmill? I understand that the flex is inaccurate on treadmills or ellipticals…. Opinions and suggestions please

  18. “Inaccurate” as in the step count is too low, or too high? I use an elliptical quite a lot so I’d like to know about this.

  19. I have been using my flex for 5 days now and all was going smoothly until it lost my activity data yesterday it originally had 36 minutes of very active then went down to 18 then down to 2 then to zero..can anyone tell me if i can recover that data or why it may have lost it in the first place

  20. Hi, I have a Flex and it seems to have stopped recording my 35 minute morning walk as an “activity”, saying I only have 3 active minutes. When I tap on the 3 active minutes (on an iPhone and on the website) it clearly shows 34 minutes walking at a moderate pace, but still only shows 3 active minutes. I’ve had the Flex for a couple of weeks, and I’m pretty sure it only started doing this yesterday, with all previous days shown correctly. Has anyone else encountered this problem or have any tips?

  21. Tricia, I haven’t seen that happen. My active minutes have been pretty accurate since getting my Flex back in May. If it continues, you might consider contacting FitBit support.

  22. Thanks for the quick reply! I will contact Fitbit support. Cani just ask, ‘Active Minutes’ should record all walking activity shouldn’t it, not just high intensity cardio work? Thanks again! Tricia 🙂

  23. Hi there! Just a quick update. As you suggested, I emailed Fitbit support, who were very prompt and helpful. It seems that since I had paired the Flex with MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper, their data was overwriting the Flex data so as not to record the same activity twice. So, I un-linked the two applications and it now works fine. I can manually add non-stepping activities such as cycling and swimming. Thought other readers of your blog may find this info useful.

    Thanks again for your help,
    Best wishes
    Tricia 🙂

  24. Maybe I’m just being stupid here, but I have googled what I want to know and cannot seem to get to an answer. I know the Flex resets itself to zero at midnight. So, when I look at the dashboard on my phone or laptop under “steps”, is that the amount for that day or is it accumulated? I’m not in a competition or anything, I just want to know daily steps. And if it’s accumulated, how DO I get a daily amount?
    Thank you!!

  25. Annie, the basic dashboard shows you your steps for the current day (assuming you have synced up your device). You can drill into the dashboard and see your steps for other periods of time (week, month, quarter, year). If you are looking at your friends list, the steps displayed there are the last 7 days.

  26. Hi there – I just received a Fit Bit Flex a for Christmas. Really enjoying it so far, and have a few friends that I have connected with. I can see my friends on the Dashboard and can send and receive message from them. Next to each name is a total – I presume it’s a running total of steps for the week. Every day the number goes up . . . as I would expect, but every night the number drops way down. For me and also for my friends. What do you think that might be? I have noticed it happening for 4 or 5 days now, every night.

  27. Hi again . . . I think I have just figured it out, after looking at your last response to Annie. It is a total for the last 7 days? So if the total is decreasing each day for all of us, we must all be logging fewer steps every day? Thanks!

  28. I have greatly enjoyed reading all these posts and have found them very helpful. I found your page in my attempt to find an answer to my question, that maybe someone here can help me understand. I’ve had my fitbit for 4 days now, and the first 3 days I thought it was very accurate. But today, I noticed a huge discrepancy. I traveled today, and it logged those 2 times correctly. But when I got home I went straight to the recliner. It has logged that time as my largest amount of steps today (when I actually had NO steps). I was not rocking in the recliner, either. Any ideas??? Thanks!

  29. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to put my flex in sleep mode. I tap the flex rapidly and three lights show up and no vibrate. Any tips? Thanks!

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