After waiting almost 18 months for Fitbit to turn the SPO2 sensor in my Charge 3, seeing how useless the implementation is, and watching them kill off one of the feature requests I marginally cared about with a tone-deaf response which indicated that they didn’t understand the ask, I’m done. Three Fitbit trackers and five years on the platform, the magic is gone… It’s been building for a while, with many reasons, but they all pretty much come down to the fact that Fitbit’s approach and attitude just doesn’t align with how a company that collects my biometrics should behave. I don’t trust them, I don’t trust the device, and I’ve had enough.
- Pace of change: Or more specifically the lack thereof. I understand that Fitbit is a small-ish company, struggling to stay afloat in a larger pool. But, while I can feel empathy for that, it would be irrational to make decisions around that. They struggle to keep up. They struggle to use their hardware. And when they finally do make a change the release is often staggered so severely that users can wait months to actually get it on their device. There is sense to a slow rollout, but the degree and pace that Fitbit takes is sluggish beyond what’s sensible.
- Lack of trust: I’m not confident that the optical heart rate (HR) sensor on the Charge 3 works reliably during all activity types. I know that it’s rubbish for cycling, reasonable for running, and reliable, enough, for when I’m not moving very much. I’ve forgiven this for long enough. It should just work. It really only has one job, and it doesn’t do it well enough.
- Lack of transparency: Fitbit hides my data from me behind largely useless graphs, and they won’t disclose how they get the values they present. Taking resting heart rate (RHR) as an example, they pretty much make something up, and refuse to tell anyone how they got there. I use RHR to determine training load, and without transparency around how they get the number they show me, it’s not terribly useful. So I just calculate my own based on observational data from the Charge 3. Do I have confidence in my number? Not as much as I’d like, but at least I know how I got there.
And when I try to match their RHR number to what I see either on my Charge 3, or when I get an ECG, their number is ~10BPM higher. Why? Who knows… They don’t let anyone check their work.
- Show me the data: It’s my data, why can’t I see it, and why can’t I export it? I am using their platform to collect it, but the data is mine no matter how they posture. I paid a one time fee to get the hardware, if they want to present pretty graphs for most users, fine.
I should still be able to get an export of the raw data. Whether that’s HR, or SPO2, just show me the numbers. When the Charge 3 came out, it was months before they exposed RHR on the watch, why? No one knows for sure, but it’s probably because they wanted to push people into the mobile app. Now that SPO2 is being captured, the raw number isn’t even available in the app, just the graph above, which doesn’t even show units or scale on the Y-axis…
- Paying to see my data: This one gets me the most. I bought the tracker, wear it to capture the data, and now Fitbit want’s me to pay a monthly fee to actually see another number that they make up without disclosing how? I. Can’t. Even… Deep breath.
I’ve already ordered a replacement, just waiting for it to arrive. So much promise, such miserable delivery. The only thing I will miss is the form factor, which frankly is the only thing that’s kept me on the platform this long.