Fitbit’s possible way forward

Fitbit believes that by sending data from its smart watches directly to electronic medical records, doctors will gain a more comprehensive view of the patient’s status, leading to more personalized care. Fitbit and Google also want to help manage chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension… More at Cult of Mac.

I am kind of torn as to the best way forward for Fitbit. On the one hand the Apple Watch appears to be dominating the smart watch market while the Fitbit hardware is seen as budget by many, but the Versa may be a much bigger hit than expected.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch is closed very much to iOS and the market for smart watches from the likes of Fossil and even higher-end watch brands is having an impact on traditional watch sales.

Should Fitbit be offering its smart watch software and tracking technology to the likes of Casio, TAG, Fossil and the rest to make their products MUCH more useful? It could be cutting their own nose off, but at some point it may be the only choice.

Fitbit Versa: two days in (vs Apple Watch)

I have been using the Versa for two days now and feel that this is enough time to start to understand the good points, the bad and the meh…

Overall I am very impressed with the Versa as a fitness tracker, which should obviously be expected considering that this is what Fitbit does. It is in no way of the same build quality as an Apple Watch, but the gap is not that small when it comes to comparing it with the non stainless steel models. The lightness causes an immediate negative impact in terms of how the build is perceived, but it is actually an advantage. With the standard strap it is simply not noticeable when worn. Also, there is nothing obviously wrong with the Versa in terms of fit and finish because it is well made and does what it needs to without trying to be something else.

This is my overriding impression of the Versa in these early stages. It is a fitness watch that will help you to understand what you do each day without the need to pretend to be luxurious or some kind of status symbol. The Apple Watch, on the other hand feels completely different. To me, the Apple Watch is for those who go to the gym to be seen at the gym or to tell the people at work that they went to the gym last night. The Fitbit Versa is for those who go to the gym to get fit, quietly.

That is obviously a huge tongue in cheek generalisation and smart watches are meant to be about more than fitness, but the fact is that they are about fitness and notifications, and telling the time. Nothing else at this time. Find me a third party app that works well enough on a smart watch to make it worth installing and I will still challenge it because (logically) I have found no apps that work on a watch better than on a phone or that benefit the user because they are on the wrist. With this in mind, the fact that the apps on the Versa are poor means little to me because I am unlikely to use them. Just as I used no third party apps on the Apple Watch.

As a fitness tracker the Versa is brilliant whereas the Apple Watch is not. Filling rings takes me back to the thoughts of gym people because it feels like dabbling with getting slightly more active than before. It feels as though Apple doesn’t quite get the true idea of fitness and instead looks at it as a lifestyle thing to do at the end of a busy day in the office. Don’t get me wrong, filling rings is nice and all that, but to me doesn’t offer a sense of improvement or the detail needed to truly understand how and why you can improve. Some of you may disagree completely, but I know of four people who owned the Apple Watch and who now use Fitbit’s because of the superior tracking. I can only go on my experience and those of people I know.

The battery life is an obvious advantage on the Versa which again offers a sense of ‘tool’ rather than ‘style’ and from a practical sense the Versa ticks all of the boxes. The Ionic almost did, but the Marmite design is a killer for too many people, and it’s also too big for most women.

It would be nice to be able to store more than one watch face on the watch and to not have to use the phone to change them, but I am hoping that I will find one I stick with so that will not be a problem. Seriously, I must have tried more than 30 faces so far and am kind of enjoying messing around with them. The whole clock face thing really is the majority of the customisation available on the Versa, unless you want to play around with the apps and games, but the less is more feeling is to me another advantage because you end up just using it and not thinking about it too much. In a grown up tech world, products that benefit you without the need to fiddle are what most people want.

The Versa is not exciting and it is not complex. It is not jewellery and it offers no statement about the person wearing it. It just works (a phrase Apple would do well to remember).

Fitbit Versa: a second opinion

Really am enjoying my Versa. It replaces my Charge 2 as well.

I like the size, the weight and I got the charcoal band, which I also prefer over the silicone one on my Charge 2. I don’t understand the criticism of the pin mechanism for the band. Seems to me that going to the standard watch pin system means that more bands are available for choice.

I am having to get used to finding things. I preferred the Charge 2 display which displayed the date, time, number of steps towards my hourly 250 step goal and my heart rate.

Right now, I can’t find a watch face with the hourly steps displayed. I have to scroll down to my Today screen and then scroll down to get my hourly steps. Too many steps (pardon the pun) to get to the info.

I also find a bit of lag in walking the steps and having the Versa catch up in displaying the count.

Apps are a bit of a hit and miss. Some don’t work. Others are quite good. Very sparse app store.

I do notice that the display brightness on mine tends to, well, swell for lack of a better word. It gets brighter and dimmer rhythmically, as if it were breathing.

Also, my first sleep analysis was a bit interesting. Setting up my watch in the afternoon, it added the rest of the afternoon to my previous night’s sleep. I know I have a sedentary job, but that might be a bit ridiculous.

And as to my full night’s sleep last night, it did a nice job of classifying my different levels of sleep, but it didn’t register any time. So I have a nice graph with a total of 0 minutes asleep. Never felt so rested for not getting any sleep.

The journey continues… Arnold

Some good thoughts by Arnold which I mostly agree with. The ‘0 minutes’ problem is a new software glitch on the Fitbit end affecting many users, no matter what device they own so is not a Versa problem as such. The strap system does work as it should- it is a little fiddly, but I find that I can use a variety of 22mm standard straps at very little cost which is a nice bonus.

The number of watch faces is almost too much and I kind of see where Arnold is coming from, but I don’t look at the 250 step goal which proves we all have different preferences.  I will add more in the next few days.

Buying the Fitbit Versa, twice

My wife and I are Fitbit converts. She used to wear an Apple Watch, but felt that the fitness aspect was too wooly to really benefit from and I am a (real) watch guy so have been happy to wear a Fitbit Charge 2 on my non-dominant wrist.

Since July last year my weight has moved from 285lbs to 205lbs and my wife’s has moved from 137lbs to 115lbs thanks to eating healthily, exercising every day and regular logging of everything from calorie intake and weight every other day using Fitbit products. In effect, together we have lost almost the equivalent of her entire weight between us in 9 months and we are chuffed with ourselves, we really are which is why I bang on about it… Life is easier when you are lighter and we can do much more than we ever did thanks to the change, and I credit Fitbit for helping us do that. There is something about the data on offer, and especially from the Aria scales, that helps keep the motivation high and so the Versa was always going to be considered.

Anyway, we wandered to the shops this morning. Yes, a real physical shop where you can buy things and see what they are like first. We spied one Fitbit Versa in gold in the cabinet and asked to look at it. The sales guy explained that they had received 10 this morning and that this was the last one left which was quite surprising. The shop opened at 8:30am and we were there at 9:15am which perhaps shows that there is some interest out there for the Versa. Actually, go to the UK Fitbit site and you are greeted with ‘On back-order. Ships in 2-3 weeks’.

We asked the sales guy to open the box so that my wife could try it on and he refused, politely. We asked why and he mumbled something about his manager saying that they could not be opened which was a shame as they had no display models. So I asked about the returns policy if it was opened and he said that they would give a full refund if she did not like it. I then explained that we would buy it, she would try it on in the store and if she did not like it we would ask for a refund. He opened the box.

She loved it immediately. The lightness was a real surprise and it fitted perfectly, the first Fitbit that my wife can wear without the lugs extending past either side of her rather small wrist. It was an instant sell and I really could not blame her. The oh so soft strap only added to the excitement as did the very bright screen with perhaps too large bezels for my liking, but she was happy and when she is happy so am I.

IMG_1735 2

Strangely, the first thing she said was “this is like the Apple Watch, but I prefer the design and it feels easier to use straight away.” We went for a coffee and she spent some time setting it up while I sipped on my cappuccino and her hot chocolate got cold. The process was not too long actually, much less hassle that when I first tried the Ionic, and her Charge 2 was dropped into her handbag to likely find its way to eBay in the future. Seriously, she was delighter with it and this is the first time I have seen her react to technology in such a way. Fitbit may have done something special here when it comes to females and fitness tracking.

But what about us guys? Surely we need the Ionic with its manly space age looks and angular form. No, actually we don’t because it’s pretty ugly and looks too much like a tracker and not enough like a watch to fit in to many people’s normal days.

I tried her Versa on in the coffee shop, the gold Versa with a pink strap, and I kind of liked it. I really did like it and was surprised at how quickly it felt right on my wrist, even in pink. It is so light and the strap so soft that it feels invisible on the wrist which is an advantage for a watch of any type. Being a watch guy, however, I would have to stick with the Charge 2 on my right wrist and my beloved vintage Bulova on the left.

Ten minutes later I bought a Fitbit Versa special edition from another store that also only had one left. To be continued…

“I have yet to meet anyone who owns an Apple Watch who’s passionate about the product.”

“I have yet to meet anyone who owns an Apple Watch who’s passionate about the product,” Zerella said, adding that Watch sales mainly piggybacked off iPhones sales. Ouch.

Apple doesn’t spill the beans on sales figures of its smartwatch, but there have been plenty of analysts that seem to have the data to suggest the Watch is actually doing pretty well. Fitbit on the other hand recently revealed that its debut smartwatch didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Maybe things will change when the ‘mass appeal’ Fitbit Versa lands in April… More at Wareable.

This is my experience as well. I know a few people who own the Apple Watch, but not one of them enthuses about it. They like it and use it as a watch, but the fitness side does seem to be lacking. Also, I know three women who are looking very closely at the Fitbit Versa because it will give them the fitness tracking they need in a form that will suit them. The Versa looks far from perfect to me, the lack of GPS being one omission, but it could do very well indeed and in particular in the female demographic.

The Apple Watch hardware is decent and there are various options for men and women, but the sheer lack of ambition in the fitness side is maddening. Apple could kill Fitbit in an instant if it wanted to, it really could.

One option for Fitbit’s survival

The fitness-tracker maker has had a good run but has failed in its efforts to innovate soon enough and diversify quickly enough into new, emerging markets. While Fitbit has cobbled together an impressive array of companies that could help change that dynamic, it increasingly looks like the best use of those technologies will be assisting a bigger competitor in exploiting them — through a buyout… More at The Motley Fool.

I had to replace my Charge 2 today because it simply stopped working and this is not the first time. Fitbit hardware has been, in my experience, poor at best and at times shocking in its ability to deal with normal usage.

The software is superb so one option would be to licence the sensor technology and software for use in smartwatches. At this time, most non-Apple smartwatches have poor fitness tracking and Fitbit’s are lacking in quality. This would solve problems, but I’m not convinced there would be enough money in it. It may, however, be the only option if the numbers continue to decline.

Fitness Trackers Don’t Help You Lose Weight

If you love your Fitbit, prepare yourself. This story might bring you down. A study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that fitness trackers don’t help you lose weight. Instead, they may impede your efforts. Researchers monitored the activity and weight loss of participants for 18 months to come to these conclusions… More here.

I kind of agree with this from my experience. I have used various fitness trackers over the past few years and at no point did any of them help me get fitter or lose weight. For some reason it all came together over the past 8 months with exactly the same device I had failed with in the past, and now it is integral to keeping the weight off and helping me to get fitter. Ultimately, it is all down to the individual, but I am also convinced that with the right mindset they can be very helpful for keeping the good behaviours going over long periods of time.

Did the big Fitbit Ionic update fix anything?

I got some time recently to test the big Fitbit Ionic update and must say that the 100 watch faces are useful because they give you as many options as you could possibly need. The fact that they cover a wide range of tastes means that for most people only a few will suit, but you do get enough to change the look and functionality of the Ionic every day if you so choose.

File 31-12-2017, 21 27 33

The new apps are OK I guess and offer some basic functionality, but they do suffer from the inherent problem that the majority of watch apps do very little that works better than on the phone that you likely have with you as well. The problem on the Ionic, however, goes much deeper than that.

This is a fundamentally flawed smart watch which comes with significant faults.

Changing the watch face will cause your phone to pop repeating messages stating that connection has been lost between the phone and the watch. It did this for me anyway and the only other person I know with an Ionic has the same problem. Eventually the face will change, but it literally takes minutes. Minutes!

Opening apps also results in serious delays which feel like forever when trying to do simple things. It’s apparent throughout the product experience and makes me not want to bother using any apps at all.

The Ionic is a decent fitness tracker, no better than the Charge 2, but it is an ugly smart watch that is too big for most women and it is, as I said earlier, flawed in the most important areas. Fitbit’s update added fluff to the experience and completely ignored the flaws. This does not bode well for what is to come next.