Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ephemeral fitness trackers

Around last Thanksgiving I bought a Fitbit. I was semi-hoping for a Black Friday deal but ended up getting a Fitbit Charge on eBay, which beat out all other deals at the time. It was brand new and it worked really well. I have been using it ever since, wearing it almost every day and night, and got a really good idea of how much I walk, sleep, and workout.

Wearing a Fitbit didn't dramatically change my life. It was mostly just a device that recorded everything I did. I did modify my behavior a bit since wearing it but nothing drastic enough that all of a sudden I'm losing weight or sleeping better. But having a Fitbit, and knowing, on a ballpark, how many calories I burn was crucial to my later successful use of the Lose It! app to lose weight.

And to my shock and heartbreak, I found out this week that my Fitbit is falling apart.

Okay, maybe "falling apart" is too strong a term. But I saw with horror last week that the covering on the side of the band (right beneath the plastic display screen) is peeling off and bulging out as a result.  It was ugly and spreading, and since I'm on vacation I can't just go online and get a replacement cover.

Which I learned, over the course of a few google searches, you can't actually do. I thought that because there are 4 tiny screws on the back of the band that I could just simply buy a new strap, unscrew the tracking part and stick it into a new strap.  But apparently you can't do that with a Charge. After reading a few forum posts I realized that in order to fix my problem I must get a new, replacement tracker all together. Since I had a warranty and it's still within a year of my original purchase I would easily be qualified for a new tracker.

Which I did. After a brief phone call, during which the operator person was super helpful and efficient, I now have a replacement track on the way.  Hopefully by the time I get home it will be waiting for me by the door.

But it didn't really erase the underlying worry I have for Fitbit. I asked the guy what if in another 8 months the same thing happens again with my new tracker.  My warranty will have run out by then and I'll have the same problem. He didn't give me any specifics but said they will try their best to help and one of the things they may do is to give me a discount when I buy a new tracker.

Which left me here wondering several things. I was encouraged to bring the old tracker back to a BestBuy or Target for recycling, and I wondered what they are going to do with it. Ideally they would strip the tracker from the broken band and repackage it as a refurbished item or something. But if they just bury it in a landfill somewhere I would be really upset. Also, the Fitbit is designed for the person to wear it round the clock in order to better track of everything. It seems that the hardware is perfectly capable of holding its end, and it's ironic that the part that's the weak link (since many people seem to have the same problem I do) is the strap. Maybe the issue is addressed in their newer iterations and I'm just the cheapo who could only afford the older version.

It also saddens me to realize that my Fitbit will not last forever. Not just forever, but past one calendar year. As with any electronic device I don't expect my Fitbit to last long enough to become an heirloom but I thought with the amount of money they charge for the device they should last as long as the technology would allow. And as with any watches if the strap gets old and falls apart from overuse you could just get a new set and stick it on. But no, if you strap breaks you got to replace your whole watch. I don't get the logic in that. Even if it's an older model Fitbit it seems like a weird design flaw.

Now I have to mentally prepare, whenever I get a new electronic device, that whatever I'm paying upwards of 100 or 200 dollars for will only be an annual fee for using this device, instead of a solid investment toward my health or fitness. And as with everything else disposable, this is so bullshit. We can no longer own anything anymore. Everything is out there in some mysterious cloud and we shell out money just to have access to it, like renting. I know nothing lasts forever but still, it's very upsetting.