May 26, 2015

Fitbit Alternative: Pivotal Living Activity Tracker for CHEAP!

By Crabby McSlacker

So my usual motivation for product reviews is simple: greed.  I get stuff free to try out, and I get to express my many opinions about everything I like and dislike.  WIN!!! So yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I got to try this for free.

However, this fitness tracker from Pivotal Living would only cost me $12 to buy myself, and I am far too lazy to write up a review solely to save myself that amount of money.

I just thought the concept was too cool not to pass along. A fully functional activity monitor for TWELVE DOLLARS?

I know there are a lot of fitness minded folks on a budget who must get tired of reading about the latest wrist-candy that can set one back, in extreme cases, hundreds of dollars.

Hi There Apple Watch!
Are You Really Worth a Thousand Bucks??

So when I got a pitch for a product a wrist-tracker much like a Fitbit that costs less than an umbrella drink at a fancy upscale restaurant, I was intrigued.

What can this thing do? And is there a catch?

Pivotal Living Features and Basics:

The band is very similar to the Fitbit Force I reviewed a while back, the one that got pulled off the market because the Force caused rashes and welts. The Pivotal tracker doesn't measure elevation, or have heart rate monitoring like the new fangled trackers, or gps, and it won't answer your phone or brew you a latte, but it does most of the basics you'd want.

It works with an Android or IOS app, syncing via bluetooth.  It measures:

· Calories Burned

· Daily Active Time

· Distance

· Percentage Met of Daily Goals

· Sleep Length

· Sleep Quality

· Total Steps

It has also displays the time and has a stopwatch as well as optional activity reminders and wake-up alarms via wrist vibrations. And you can use the app to log weight and hydration as well.

You can create teams with your friends and family to increase motivation, if you are way more social than I am.

You can apparently improve the band's accuracy by taking your phone along with you. Without a phone, the step count was very close to the Fitbit Flex on a trial run. It was a little less generous than my ipod in granting steps though. If I were a more dedicated blogger I'd count my actual steps for a few miles and measure my distance and ascertain just how accurate it is, but, well, screw that. Did I mention I was lazy?

However, over at cnet, where people actually get paid to review things and are a bit more geeky and less slothful, the cnet pivotal living tracker review indicated the step count is accurate. They had complaints though about how the distance is calculated and it may be less accurate than some other trackers.  To compensate, a more motivated user might want to simply use a treadmill or track to find their own steps/mile and figure for determining distance. Also, the cnet folks tend to get their hands on stuff really quickly, and the algorithm may well have improved by now.

There is just one button, and it took me a while to figure out how to get to everything: there are three modes that you can cycle through by double-clicking (sleep, stopwatch, and Everything Else). Within a mode, you single-click to operate.

The sleep mode seemed to function well and the results, according to cnet, matched another tracker known as reliable.

The tracker charges via a USB connector and a charge is designed to last 5-7 days.  I recharged after 5 and it still had juice left, so this seems accurate in my case.

What's the Catch?

I guess the only "catch" is the fact that after a year, to keep using the app part of it you have to pony up another $12. The app is a subscription, not a one time fee.

However, this isn't too much of a catch. The band itself tracks plenty of info and you get to keep using it even if you don't renew.  And if you do like using the app, $1 a month is not an unreasonable amount of money, plus it entitles you to a new band every year, even if they upgrade to something fancier. My understanding is the Pivotal Living folks plan on continuing to improve on both the band and the app, so re-upping the subscription after a year seems well worth it.  But if not, you still have a perfectly capable fitness tracker that you get to keep for $12.

Nitpicky Complaints

  • There doesn't seem to be a PC app, so you need a smartphone to get it set up and use the app.
  • It took it a while to pair, and sometimes settings wouldn't sync, though eventually the phone and the cloud and the tracker all held hands and agreed to talk to each other.
  • The charger clings tightly and is very hard to remove once you're done charging.  But perhaps it will loosen with time. 
  • It really only tracks steps, and there is no way to manually enter other activities and integrate the calories you've expended swimming or biking or barrel racing or bog snorkeling or whatever within the app. 
  • It doesn't integrate with My Fitness Pal like Fitbit does.
  • There is only one size band, and the elongated inflexible display panel is a little awkward on smaller wrists. 
  • Given the big-ass display, the numbers on it are tiny.  It is just barely readable inside, and almost impossible to read in bright outdoor light.

Overall Impression?

I'm not sure how the Pivotal folks can put their tracker out for so much less than everyone else, but it seemed like a very capable activity monitor for an amazing price.  It seems perfect for folks who have been contemplating giving activity monitoring a try, but have hesitated to make a big investment.

Do you guys track your fitness activity or does that seem too obsessive?  What do you look for in a tracker?


  1. I have looked at fitness trackers, but have not been willing to spend that kind of money on something I'm not sure I will use. I could see this being a good way to try it out.

  2. Way too organized for my world. I keep reasonable mental track of what I've done, and that's fine with me.

  3. Interesting - I'd heard about this device but hadn't really read anything from people who have used it.

    I wear a Fitbit, and have for awhile now. I was already active when I started wearing it, so it didn't help me with that. Initially wearing a device that showed me how sedentary I am when I am not exercising was pretty eye-opening. But the reality of it is that when I'm at a desk in a spreadsheet or on a long phone call, what can I really do that will make a difference? Perhaps sometimes it has modified my behavior, but not by much.

    Anyway, I track what activities I do, and when I do something like walk/run I track distance as well. Sometimes I wonder what the point of it all is, because I'm not necessarily USING the information, but there is some sort of satisfaction I get from the act of tracking, I guess. :)

  4. I just bought one... I am REALLY intrigued for $12! I used a Nike Fuelband for a long time (until it broke) but never got that into it. However, lately I'm struggling with fitness motivation, so for $12 this is worth a try to see if I'm more into it this time!

  5. Sounds awesome! I haven't worn my Jawbone in weeks (because, um, too lazy to put it on the morning? Oh dear), but it can be really nice to wear a fitness wristband. My biggest problem with these kinds of things are getting them to sync properly. Technology is not a big fan of me.

  6. My tracking is with the stopwatch on my phone, if i even track. Much better to track by whether i'm exercising enough that my clothes still fit!

  7. Well I track my activities but I just ballpark the numbers. I am more accurate about food tracking for the day. I figure that if I do my walking on a hot humid day or in the rain I deserve a gold star or an extra 25 to 50 calories burned. I don't plan my food around how much exercise I had so it doesn't matter much in the end.

  8. You know how I love gadgets and I love data collecting. But it's not waterproof! (That would be where they save the money.) So it's not going to be very useful if I can't wear it at work where I never stop moving. I did think I might want to play with it, and now I'm sad.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. So now I went to the Pivotal Living site and read the FAQ, and if you can wear it in the rain, but not a shower (where are they? what do they think rain is like?) maybe I could wear it at work if I took it off every time I gave a bath. I'm getting very tempted.
      Mary Anne in Kentucky

  9. I recently went all out and bought a watch that cost $3. That is as wild as I get!

    I do like to use to see how far I walked and I do note in my online calendar when I go to yoga. Neither cost me anything and that makes me happy!

  10. I use a Fitbit Charge HR. I'm trying to lose about 150 pounds, and I would say my lifestyle up til now has been pretty sedentary. I feel like the Fitbit keeps me more accountable, and my competitive nature keeps the friend feature of the software interesting. I like not having to manually enter step based activities, which is my preferred way to exercise. I'm planning on doing a formal review of my Fitbit soon. Overall, I like it. I can see it not being for everyone, though. As long as you're not expecting it to motivate you to work out, it's something to consider.

  11. (((whispers)))) my child stole mine and LOVES IT!!!! for the cost she is allowed to steal mine :-)

  12. Kudos for the great review. $12 fitness tracker...? Still seems like a catch somewhere. How's the construction quality? Does it feel cheap?

  13. I have used the band since December, and it has performed close to flawless since March. I had many frustrating problems in Jan/Feb with syncing and resets causing data loss. Problems were mostly with app which Pivotal fixed and my learning how to purge hung up communication from my phone. Things I like about band: 1) Cost. 2) Sleep tracking. 3) silent wrist alarm that does not disturb my partner 4) motivation to get in 10,000 steps/day. I track my 2-3 mile walk/runs with Nike+, but the silent activity alarm every 20-60 minutes reminds to get up and move the additional 5000 steps I want per day 5) battery life, 10-14 days with 1 he recharge. 6) Pivotal's desire to improve band/app through customer interface in Facebook page.

  14. got one of the original ones back in december. HORRIBLE. Kept resetting multiple times daily. This was a manufacturing defect and the company offered refunds or exchanges toup the "fixed model"....with the caveat that you had to pay to ship the original band back, even though it was a defective product. I could not get the company to respond to inquiries and eventually requested my money back through my credit card company. They agreed that PL did not provide what was promised and refunded my money.

    The app for android was a total disaster, and they ended up having to get customers to "beta test" a new version.

    Reviews are still poor overall for this band with many users having significant issues. And poor customer service has continued. I'd highly recommend people not waste their money on it.

    I got a first gen up band on sale for under 50 bucks. a bit more expensive then the Pl band but it does more and actually works. ....

  15. Got one in January and it just never worked. Constantly reset, wouldn't sync - finally gave up. Luckily bought it from Amazon and not from the company and could just return it. Liked the price point and the subscription deal, but the product is not ready.

  16. People Listen Up! Do NOT buy the Fitbit, it will NOT work unless you allow it to send all of your data online. You can't just use it with your android phone or iphone. Fitbit takes your money, but then FORCES you to connect online to use it. This is illegal, and they should be stopped.


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