My Experience with Fitness Trackers

AKA: My experience as a rescue shelter for abandoned wearables

For the past two weeks I have been testing two fitness tracking wristbands. I sent an email to my classmates looking for anyone who might be able to recommend or lend me one. I got a huge response very quickly. A lot of people bought or received a tracker that they quickly abandoned. Of the responses I got, only one person still used their tracker regularly.

I was able to acquire a Fitbit Charge HR and a Misfit Shine.

wristbands

wristbands lit up The Fitbit Charge HR (left) displays numbers, while the Misfit Shine (right) uses a more abstract display.

Fitbit Charge HR

Abandoned due to faulty charger.

Display

The Charge HR has a screen for displaying exact numbers. It tells the time, the number of steps I've taken, my heart rate, the distance I have walked, the number of calories I have burned, and the number of flights of stairs I have climbed.

Form

This band is enormous on my wrist. I have it on the smallest band setting. It would not be a problem since I like big watches, but the flat and rigid face of the band is taller than my wrist is wide, so the band bends awkwardly around it. I am not a big fan of the material. If it sits in one place on my arm for too long it begins to stick. I started taking it off while at night because it is uncomfortable to sleep in.

Charging

This band stays charged for several days, which is better than I remember from my last Fitbit. The band requires a proprietary charging cord. The owner of the band who let me borrow it stopped using it because his charger broke. He also said he didn't like that it didn't tell him the battery level. It doesn't indicate that the battery is low until it's almost too late. It could easily die before you got home to the charger.

Experience

I was interested in trying this band because it detects heart rate. I would like to try detecting the effect of knitting on heart rate.

In order to switch between data on the display, you must keep pressing the button on the side. I didn't realize this, so I would only press it once to see the time. I was only checking the numbers on the app. Luckily the owner, who let me borrow this band did eventually show me how to use it. I don't know why it wasn't intuitive to me.

One really unexpected feature of this band is that it can detect when I lift my wrist to check the time. It automatically lights up.

Misfit Shine

Abandoned because it was an unwanted gift at the time I received it, it hadn't been synced in 76 weeks

Display

The Misfit calculates my activity on a point system. I get to decide how many points I'd like to aim for, but the suggested amount for me is 1000 points. I will meet this goal by getting points for different levels of activity. The display lights up LEDs corresponding to what percentage I've earned. When I've reached my goal, the entire circle lights up.

The Shine also displays the time. It has 12 LEDs in a circle, one for each number on the clock. When the time displays, the 12, 3, 6, and 9 light up, then the hour hand, then the minute hand blinks. It was very strange when I first realized it was telling me the time, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

Form

I really like that all the electronics and sensor are located the one disc. It can be removed and switched to different form factors. It came with another clasp that I could use to clip the device to my shirt, shoes, or pocket. I'm also not a big fan of silicone bands. I would think about buying a nicer band for long-term use.

Charging

There's actually no charging. The device runs on a 3 Volt coin cell battery. I'm not sure how convenient this would be for the average person, but I always have those batteries around for my wearable projects.

Sleep

I actually started using the sleep tracker on this one because it's comfortable to wear to bed. It differentiates between restful and light sleep. I noticed that almost all my sleep was light after around 5am. This is when my street starts picking up traffic. Because of this realization I invested in a white noise machine for my bedroom. I hope to notice a change in my sleep patterns.

Experience

Overall I really like the experience. The point system allows me to focus on overall goals, instead of numbers. I like the display that shows me a rough percentage of my daily progress.

Overall

This relates to research I am doing for both my Wearable Tech Design class and my thesis. I am curious about the experience of quantifying my wellbeing and becoming more connected to my natural movement. The precision of the Charge was certainly insightful. I was able to watch my heartbeat drop while I knit, and to question the value of exact readings versus abstraction.

If these trackers can tell the difference between walking, running, swimming, and sleeping, there is no reason they could not detect knitting or weaving. We could encourage people to have dexterity fitness where they are encouraged to work with their hands and avoid wrist strain, especially from typing all day.