The Fitbit Force is the fitness tracker that the earlier Flex should have been: more solid, with an actual (hi-res) screen and a switch that allows for user input. But what puts the Force ahead of its competition (particularly the Nike Fuelband) is its companion software.
Where most mass-market wristwear is content to simply track movement, Fitbit’s software tries to get at real fitness issues: sleep monitoring and coaching beyond the table stakes of steps traveled and calories expended. Add into that an ecosystem that includes a scale, the ability to track food intake, and the ability to export your own data for your own analysis (albeit for an extra $50/year), and Fitbit is leading the pack.
Note that running watches, as a higher-ticket and more specialized item, were not included here. We expect to have hands on that stuff more thoroughly in 2014.
The Force is far from perfect. The rubber wristband is less than terrific, and the clasp is often ineffective. It unfastened repeatedly during routine wear and the unit ultimately got lost when our coat sleeve knocked it off entirely. And we remain unconvinced about the accuracy of any motion tracker.
But for those drawbacks, the Force was with us in 2013.