I remember that I ordered my Jawbone UP the day it came out. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get it. I love data, statistics and keeping score in general. I figured having the UP with me all the time will improve my life in some way. I wasn’t really sure how, but I was sure it would. Turns out it didn’t. Besides all the problems the first generation UP had* it never felt like a finished product. The release was basically public beta testing.
Thinking others might do it better I looked around for a device from a competitor. Fitbit seemed like a good way to go especially since I already owned their Aria scale. I pre-ordered the Flex and waited patiently. I was still bullish about the “quantified self” and collecting all that data. I have been tracking my runs for years with various kinds of apps, tried any and every app that tracks food consumption, have been using all kinds of scales and so on.
Then the Fitbit Flex finally arrived. Again I was excited. Especially since it was connected to my Fitbit scale through the app. But then, just like with the UP, I was letdown quickly. It didn’t capture my runs properly so I had to manually input those, I had to tell it that I was at the gym so it knows I was active (like the UP back then as well) and it never knew when I was biking. The last thing I want to do when I pay $100+ is to manually enter data myself. I felt like I was informing them about myself and it wasn’t informing me.**
Neither of the experiences felt seamless. I had to do way too much work myself. These devices should offer me information and results based on them being with me 24/7. I shouldn’t have to open the accompanying app to let it know that I’m doing something other than walking. All these wristbands are uncomfortable to wear. It’s impossible to forget that you are wearing them. They are always present — and annoying. They get stuck in shirts, sweaters and backpacks. When you actually forget that you are wearing it you probably also forgot to charge it and it’s just an dumb piece of plastic around your wrist.
Obviously there are also tons of apps that basically do the same thing (count your steps, sleep, etc.). I used many of them I. Human always felt like the best of them since it works well with the iPhone 5s’ M7 chip and delivers quite accurate data. But at the end of the day I really don’t need an app to tell me that I ran 7k in the morning, walked 3k to and from work and biked five minutes to meet a friend for lunch. There is literally no value being added to my life. By none of these. This is the obvious stuff. Everyone remembers their activity during the day and I honestly don’t care if my “Fitbit friend” Tobias walked five minutes less or more than me.
I really felt relieved, almost liberated when I got all of the bands off my wrist and apps off my phone. There is nothing I am missing. I use Nike+ to track my runs and Rise to track my food consumption. Besides that I don’t see any product out there that I could seriously benefit from.
Some people think they are getting a lot out of these kind of apps and devices. I challenge them to switch them off for a week. I’m confident that they will not miss them a bit. One isn’t’ suddenly going to stop moving one’s butt of the couch or take cabs everywhere.
All that said I’m still excited about this space, but decided to opt out until it matures past the alpha phase that we are currently in. No one has gotten this right yet and I wouldn’t be surprised if this phenomenon would just disappear from the main stage for a couple of years. Until someone swoops in and does it right of course.
*= The first generation Jawbone UP was a total disaster. Countless users had to request replacements because theirs stopped working. My first one stopped charging after less than two weeks, the vibration on the replacement I received never worked and the final UP they sent me was DOA. I eventually requested a refund and recycled all three wristbands.
**= One thing the Fitbit Flex did that was nice was the sleep behavior tracking. However, I had to tell it when I went to sleep and the clunky device bugged me when I was trying to rest. And this wristband also broke apart and I had to request a free replacement.