What’s the Deal with Fitbit?

Fitbit Surge

So last Thursday San Francisco-based Fitbit filed for a $100 million IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Good for them. But in this age of Android Wear and Apple Watch someone’s going to have to explain to me why their products continue to be so popular. For me the most vexing of all is the $250 USD Fitbit Surge™you see above. It supports notifications so it’s technically a smartwatch, but it does hardly anything else that you’d expect a smartwatch to do.

I guess I don’t really need an explanation; I know full well that Fitbit has become a generic term associated with fitness tracking, like Kleenex and Q-tips® for the things that they do. I also know that part of Fitbit’s appeal is the smartphone app and online account that you get with every device, so that you can track your fitness and compete with your friends.

But you know these things aren’t accurate, right?

A BBC Click presenter did a group test of activity trackers earlier this year. Here’s what she had to report about her experience with them:

I’ve spent a full week wearing four of the latest and best-known trackers to see if they all came up with the same results. My findings? They don’t.

At their worst, one day saw a variation between them of 23% in distance covered, and over the course of a week a difference in opinion between the Fitbit Charge and Jawbone Up Move of 2,649 calories burned – that’s more than an entire day’s calorie intake for someone of my build.

Fitness tracker manufacturers will all say that the numbers themselves are less important than the patterns they generate. I suppose I can accept that, to a point… Because I’ve also seen with my own eyes someone add a couple of steps to their Fitbit’s step-count just by flicking their wrist.

Look, I’m not going to knock anyone for wearing an fitness tracker if it gets them thinking about being more active. I just know that for the money there are far better choices—cough cough, Pebble, cough—than a Fitbit.

Unless there’s something else I’m missing…?

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