My Fitbit Relationship: Wearable Lessons Learned

My Fitbit Relationship: Wearable Lessons Learned

Following 2016 CES I received a Fitbit Surge ($249.95) fitness tracker with watch for evaluation. With all good intentions, I strapped the watch on. But life being what it is, injuries and work curtailed much of the time I intended to spend getting into better shape using my new wearable. But even so, an ambivalent relationship evolved between me and my Surge. This is our story.

Related: The Hunt for the Best Fitness Tracker

Lessons learned

First lesson: data is important regardless of intent. At first, I wore the Surge almost all of the time. I exercised. I counted my steps and my floors. I checked on my heart rate and monitored my sleep patterns. My fitbit proved a new portal into my body and life, even if I was not planning on becoming a Ninja Warrior. The data became a new way of looking at myself, an aspect of my life I did not have access to before.

Second lesson: be cautious of devices with proprietary charging. Every couple of days my Surge portal ran low on power, requiring a charge. To date, I still experience issues with charging, most of which revolve around the rather delicate clips along the outer edge of the charging cable. Early on, those appear to have been bent, leading to insufficient contact between the Fitbit and the charging cable, which led to wanting to wear the watch but finding its battery still depleted after several hours plugged into the wall. I now make sure that the watch shows a charge indicator and then I delicately place it facedown on the counter so that gravity can assist in keeping the connector connected.

Third lesson: don’t wear a Fitbit Surge all of the time. Early on I wore the Surge incessantly. Because of that, I developed a rash on the outside of my left wrist. I explored various message boards, and it appears I am not alone. The cause is probably more about moisture than material alergies, but I didn’t perform a scientific analysis. It took several weeks to get under control (and it can recure if not careful). During this time I wore the Surge very infrequently. Thus the ambivalence. I enjoyed the small data insights, but the inability to wear the watch eliminated the regular data flow. Fitbit needs to address this Surge-centric issue.

Fourth lesson: a paired Surge can eliminate the need to take out an iPhone every time it vibrates, or when you want to skip a song. When you do wear the Surge, it offers not just a window into you, but a window into your iPhone. But that window is rather narrow. iOS integration beyond the app include phone awareness, text message display, and music control.  But that is OK. For the most part, those are the apps that require whipping out an iPhone prompted by interruption rather than desire. If you are after a fully integrated Apple experience, then you want an Apple Watch. If you are after a fully integrated activity monitoring system, Fitbit offers more.

A brief review

Overall, I like the Surge as a watch, though a standard USB-C or micro-USB charging solution would be preferred over the proprietary one (which is too complex—in that the connector has parts that can easily be bent or broken, and it is larger than other charging solutions for similar sized devices).

Watch faces are the one feature that makes the watch feel personal. The basic LED monochrome, while conserving battery, does little to make the Surge sexy. More watch faces would be cool.

That said, the reporting in iOS is excellent, and the synchronization seamless after initial set-up. For many reasons wearables aren’t going to be web-connected for now, but they should not be so overly reliant on the phone. Certain functions that require iOS, like setting alarms, don’t make any sense constrained by synchronization. I should be able to set an alarm on the watch without my phone.

Finally, it would be great to see additional features, perhaps opening up the platform for developers. The one feature that seems just plain missing to me as a writer is the “get off your butt” nudge that would suggest movement after a fixed time of inactivity. The Surge should track sitting like it tracks sleep. Perhaps it is too hard to sense inactivity, but even if it was less intelligent, perhaps just a silent alarm that went off every 30 minutes between eight and five if the watch isn’t otherwise engaged in an exercise or other activity, would be useful.

The relationship endures

Despite my ambivalent relationship with it, my Fitbit Surge has become my go-to watch of choice unless I’m dressing up, then it’s the Movado. The data remains a regular source for a new way of seeing my life, one that isn’t available without the technology. Much like social media that acts as a lens into the world and into personal relationships that isn’t possible without technology to create the portal, the Fitbit creates a new sense that leads to new awareness. I’m never going to be an athlete, but I don’t mind finding out more about the physical aspects of my life. On my recent trip to E3 in Los Angeles I walked 7.46 miles. Who says computer gaming is too sedentary.

Fifth lesson: you don’t need to be an athlete to get value out of a Fitbit Surge.

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Author Details

Daniel Rasmus's picture

Author Details

Daniel Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Serious Insights. He is the author of Listening to the Future, Management by Design and Sketches of Spain and Other Poems. Rasmus teaches at Bellevue College where he teaches Social Media and Personal Branding.