Breaking news: Feb. 21, 2014: Go to:
About this guest author: Alejandro Sanchez runs upfromnothing.com, a website geared toward helping people succeed by offering free advice about everything from technology to friendship.
The Fitbit Force is an interesting device that first had me at hello, but somehow lost me. I have always been amazed at the promise of the future. As a kid I was always a big fan of the Back to the Future series. There was one memorable scene in which the main character throws on a fancy jacket and a sleek set of sneakers that adjusted themselves to automatically match his proportions. I was immediately thrilled to hear about the word starting to spread in tech circles about Fitbit setting out to outdo Nike. This being, additionally, in a nascent market that Nike had invested heavily in. Needless to say, this took quite a bit of bravado on Fitbit’s part and I was curious to see what they had brewing.
So I did something that I seldom do. I bought the product shortly after it first came out. I didn’t pay full price for a brand new unit it being that I know someone who I trust that was at the time willing to part with it at a significantly reduced price. I have never owned a wearable piece of technology before and one of the first things that I noticed was its size. We are not talking old school 1980’s cellphone here, but rather something a kin to a slightly thick sports watch.
I made an aesthetic sacrifice in the hopes of getting some great data: which I would learn later would not be easily accomplished. It was apparent immediately that it would not be as seamless a compromise as I was hoping. I, nonetheless, felt that it was worth the small sacrifice and decided to hold out judgment. After a while I began to actually resent the way that it always bulged out or somehow was tough to slip through the sleeves of my fitted button shirt.
The moment I realized the size would be something I couldn’t keep ignoring came one December afternoon when someone I was having a conversation with compared it to an ankle monitoring bracelet! I laughed it off at the time because I was more concerned with its ability to gather accurate data. I had previously heard horror stories from other users of these wrist mounted activity measuring devices and their sometimes massively inaccurate measurements. There is something about hearing these stories and quite another thing actually seeing it firsthand.
I had spent a morning practice going over dribbling skills and also basic weightlifting with some student-athletes. I am not sure what exactly caused the data to be inaccurate, but what I saw left me a little exhausted with the concept of the device all together. It had recorded my having walked 1/2 mile when in all actuality I probably had taken less than 100 steps all morning long from the office to the gym/weight room. My theory is that having dribbled a basketball repeatedly and having worked with dumb bells may have resulted in its registering my hand motions as additional steps. I stopped trusting it at that point.
Some people have complained about the user interface not being intuitive, but I beg to differ. I felt that I could access almost anything that I needed within a few simple steps. Unfortunately, some of the things that were there just didn’t seem all that trustworthy to me after the basketball incident. Sure you can easily see the time, but anything after that felt highly suspect such as stair counts, calories burned, and distance traveled and so on. I have since given it away as a present to a relative, who is apparently in love with it. She is unfortunately, is a retired person whose only major activity a day is an afternoon walk. This is definitely some promising technology, but in my opinion it has quite a while to go before we can feel like George McFly in Back to the Future.