Apple Watch

I broke down a bought an Apple Watch several months ago. I went for the Sport model with the basic Sport band. That kept the cost down to $400. The “Watch” model was another $200 with no change in functionality. The only difference would be in the materials. A steel case and a sapphire crystal.
This was not my first wearable. I had a Fitbit Force, which was recalled. I was happy with the fitness functionality & the iPhone software package. My opinions on the band are well documented.

 So far, I’m more pleased with the Apple Watch. It is much more versatile, and has comparable fitness tracking functions.  

 As a watch, the Apple Watch is actually usable. The software does a good job of displaying when I raise my arm and rotate the watch upward. This is a vast improvement over the Fitbit, where I had to press a button (flashback to the early digital watches). My one nit is that the Apple Watch software is calibrate for wearing it on the outside of the wrist. I wore my watch on the inside of my wrist for decades, and the Apple Watch wasn’t happy with this. This limitation has me back to wearing my watch on the outside of my wrist. 

 There are ten watch faces loaded, each configurable. I’ve been switching around on an irregular basis. My preference is for traditional analog watch faces. This includes the Mickey Mouse option. The watch faces are configurable for color and options like day, date, timer, stop watch, fitness rings, and battery life.

 In all, I’m happy with it. The fitness function is what I use the most (outside of actually using the watch to tell time). I really like the message and phone preview functions. Being able to review/preview messages and calls and deal with most of them quickly is more of a feature that I thought it would be.

 Watch OS 2 is due out next week. I’ll post my impressions after I play around with it a bit.

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Fitbit Force

I broke down and entered the wearable market. Specifically, I replace my analog watch with a Fitbit Force.
The Force is a wrist mounted wearable that tracks the following:
Steps taken
distance walked/ran
calories burned
Flights of Stairs climbed
Active minutes
Sleep time/activity

It actually does that reasonably well. The Force can display most of that data using a OLED display, unlike the older Fitbit Flex wrist based wearable monitor. I like the immediate feedback right on the device. It reminds me when I’m sitting down too much. Getting up and walking around on a frequent/irregular basis actually helps me with my focus. The Force measures all of this using accelerometers and an air pressure monitor.

The Force will also display the time, but that is one of the two major downsides to the design. To find out the time, Fitbit has recreated that genuine early 1980s experience oh having to press a button on your digital watch in order to find out what time it is.

I’ll get to the other major design flaw later. First I want to cover more of the good points.

The Force syncs with my iPhone over Bluetooth. The Fitbit app then allows me to review the data collected in more detail and over periods of time (day, week, month). I can also log other items, including hydration input.

I can also sync my Force with my Windows 7 desktop, but I have to use the Fitbit custom Bluetooth USB dongle to do so. If I wanted to sync to my Macbook, I have to use the Fitbit custom Bluetooth USB dongle, despite the MacBook having Bluetooth 4.0 built in. Thus sayith Fitbit support, which is a PITA.

On the plus side, the desktop view is a web based app, which gives you everything the mobile app does, but bigger, which is good.

The second major design flaw is the crappy wrist band. I have fairly large wrists, so I’m wearing the Large version of the Force. I’ve found that the “latch” on the wrist band will pop loose when I put on or take off a jacket or long sleeved pullover shirt. The bloody thing will also pop loose if I flex my wrist the wrong way. There are very long threads on the Fitbit forums about this problem. People have lost multiple Force devices (many of which Fitbit has replaced, at $130 retail each), and Fitbits response so far has been to post a video on how to properly insert the slots into the tabs, which is the poor design of the wristband latch. User feedback has been better, including the suggestion of adding an O-Ring over the latch.

Overall I’m happy with the device. The geek portion functions well and gives me data to crunch, which makes me happy. The whole crappy wristband thing is a disappointment, but one you can work around as long as you are aware of it.

Serious though. Wristband design is a pretty mature technology. Somebody at Fitbit who valued form way over function green lighted this Charlie Fox of a design. A decision that has cost them a lot of customer good will. The question is what will Fitbit due in order to get that customer good will back?

Update: Fitbit has stopped selling the Force and issued a recall.  The reason given was the skin rash some users were getting from it.  The crappy wristband design probably didn’t help.  Since Fitbit has dropped this product and will not longer provide firmare updates or other support, I put it to return mine for the full retail value.  Fitbit claims to be working on  new tracker.  I posted the following to the Fitbit user forums:

With all the complaints about the Force wristband, there was an underlying theme of the issue being so frustrating because the Force was the best fitness tracker on the market. The users loved it, except for the bloody thing wanting to jump off the user’s wrist every time they took a jacket off.

I’m sure the Force replacement will be an even better fitness tracker, and have the ability to show messages and phone notification from your phone that the Force will now never have.

However, if it uses the same consumer hostile wristband, I certainly won’t be buying one. That move would certainly alienate the Force customers who love their Force but hate with deep passion the low quality wristband that is integral to the device.