My first piece of wearable tech: Fitbit Charge HR

The Fitbit is one of the most popular wearable health devices on the market. I picked up the Fitbit Charge HR in July before coming back to Australia and I was pretty excited about my new toy. I went with the HR because of the heart rate monitoring function in addition to its tracking ability.

In Canada, the price range for a new one will be in the neighbourhood of around $180. In Australia, it’s roughly the same. Judging by its popularity, I’m sure lots of people love their Fitbits. Unfortunately for me, after a few months of using it, I am not a major fan. Overall, I would not deem it worth its price tag.

Some of its glaring flaws include problems with durability, lack of waterproofness, vulnerability to scratches and frequent syncing issues. If the device was around $100, I would say alright, it’s not perfect, but it’s decent value for your money. For almost $200, it’s held to higher standards. Here are some of its issues examined in greater detail.

Durability:
My Fitbit chipped well before making it to the three month mark. I wear it all the time except for showers and when I need to clean it. It been dropped once on solid floor and a few other times rolling off my bed onto the carpet. None of the drops I would consider “big”, so I am definitely surprised to see that it wasn’t more durable. Luckily, Fitbit has good customer service and will service it under warranty. So props to them.

Lack of waterproofness and vulnerability to scratches
With the plastic cover, you will find that the device does scratch fairly easily. I have heard that some people can barely see the display after having it for a lengthier period of time (1 year?). Glass would solve the problem but that adds weight. It might also address that waterproof issue which I think should really be a feature for such a device. After all, shouldn’t someone be able to swim with this for fitness tracking? We’re several generations in and it’s still not a feature on any of their devices. Not what I would expect from a $180 device.

Syncing Issues
As far as annoyances, this is probably the most frustrating usability issue. I usually sync to my phone app and every few weeks (sometimes more) I run into syncing issues. Sometimes a software upgrade on the app fixes the problem while other times, the standard solution is a soft reset. It’s annoying as heck and unfortunately far too frequent for this device.

As far as reviews go, all the good things have been said by any one of the reviews you can find online. The app is quite good and it tracks all the metrics in a nice (and pretty) way. I use it regularly to check my steps and sleep cycle. While I’m not nitpicking on the total accuracy of the metrics, it’s interesting to see patterns such as increased restlessness when I’m under stress.

Overall, I don’t recommend this Fitbit. If you’re committed to step tracking, there’s probably more affordable options on the market that offer similar functionality to the Fitbit HR. I like the idea of wearable tech but it’s still a young market so it’s not without its faults. You could argue that a phone app can do all the same things that these trackers offer, so I’m definitely keen to see what the next generation continues to push in this area.

What do you think?

Is wearable tech gimmicky or here to stay?

-TUS

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