Are the Fitbit Charge 2 and Flex 2 worth buying?
On a recent episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode talked about whether you should buy the new Fitbit Charge 2 or Flex 2.
You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Transcript by Celia Fogel.
Lauren Goode: So Kara, did you hear there’s an Apple event next week?
Kara Swisher: I read about it on Recode dot net, yes.
Are you going?
No, I never go to them anymore.
You don’t? I have a picture of the two of us sitting together at an Apple event.
That was like five years ago, right? I’ve been to many. It’s sort of like Rolling Stones concerts, I’m pretty much done with them. I don’t need to see them sing “Satisfaction” again.
You mean U2 concerts, if we’re really relating it to Apple events.
No, I’m just saying, they’re like the Rolling Stones, right? Okay, here comes Mick.
You were at the Watch event, I think.
I was. One of the computer events was the last one.
I think it’s when they first announced the MacBook. Which is not the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro, it’s neither.
Whatever. That one. The skinny one they had hanging from the ceiling. Remember? It was so light and lively, it was hanging from the ceiling.
I have not gone in a while. But Dan Frommer and Ina Fried are going from Recode and they will enjoy themselves.
And a whole bunch of us are going from The Verge.
I’m gonna sit out. I’m going to do a Facebook Live. I’m just going to sit there and watch Nilay Patel have his head blow off when they introduce something you didn’t know about. “Ahhh!!! Scramble the jets, oh my God!!” I’m very happy you get a lot of traffic from it. It’d be nice if they came out with something interesting. But it’s like a new iPhone, right?
You know what? Tim Cook is going to roll out in his car, and you’re going to be so bummed.
He might roll out. Everyone’s always speculating that the invitation has headlights.
That was my speculation.
Oh was it? That was good. That was a good story.
Thank you. Of course I was about 24 hours late, it took me 24 hours to think of that after I got the invitation.
I don’t think he’s going to roll out a car. Do you think he’s going to roll out a car? That would be good. I would like that. That would be cool.
And you’re going to be sorry you missed it!
Not really, no.
See, this is what we like to do. We like to set expectations really high, and then everyone comes crashing down to earth.
I’m thinking of cutting my toenails that day.
You’re updating your iPhone.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m organizing my sock drawer. It’s going to be great. Oh my god, I forgot the socks today! I forgot to bring them for you.
Yeah, you forgot the Bomba socks.
I will bring them next week, sorry. I totally forgot.
Well, this week’s episode, we’re not actually talking about Apple, even though we may have led you down that path just now. So: My sincere apologies.
We’re going to do a special guest. I will be on your show though. That will be fun.
You’re going to be on my show? You’re going to be on our show.
Thanks, Kara. So next week we’re going to talk about Apple and have some special guests.
Apple, endlessly. Dongle. I’m going to say the word dongle as much as possible and give it a sexual tone. Dongle.
I think dongle inherently …
You know what, all tech terms have that. You know what I mean?
All of them do.
I will think for next week, there’s like ten of them.
Nothing gets me more excited than USB.
USB, no not that, but like …
That actually sounds like a sexually transmitted disease.
There’s a whole bunch. Someone was going over them at a party the other day. Like all the different …
Pixels. You know what I mean?
No. That’s not sexual in any way. Anyway, let’s move on. This week.
This week, we’re going to be talking about wearables.
Yeah. Which I call unwearables.
Kara calls them unwearables. They are my favorite topic, they are Kara’s least favorite topic, possibly.
They aren’t my least favorite topic. I just think they’re unwearable.
What are you wearing on your wrist right now?
A watch from Tissot. It’s very nice, it tells the time.
It’s an analog watch.
It’s an analog watch, it tells the time. It doesn’t have numbers on it, I just have to guess which one is 5 or 4, whatever. But I like it a lot, it works.
And it’s pretty nice looking.
It’s a nice watch. And I was wearing a Timex Indiglo the other day, and someone who was a little bit younger than me, it was ticking and they were like, “What is that?!” And I was like, “It’s a wind-up watch, and this is the way we used to have it back in the day.” So I like watches, yeah. But I don’t like my Apple Watch. Here’s what I’ve been doing lately with all of these unwearables. I found them all in a drawer and I put them on a table, and I’m going to go through them again and give them another chance.
I had the Apple watch, but I keep recharging them and never doing it. But I have them all. I’ve got the Fitbit, I’ve got the Jawbone, I’ve got the Apple Watch, I’ve got some other thing over there. And I’m going to try them on and wear each of them for a week and see if I don’t hate them as much as I thought I did. Like old relationships.
You know, the Apple watch, you’ll have to charge every single day. The others, you can get by for about five days to a week.
I know that. But I’m going to try them all, I’m going to see what I don’t like about them, and then I’ll report back.
Okay, well, let us know.
But it’s like an old relationship. I know it’s going to go sour right away.
Right, right. They just keep bringing you back.
Yes. But I’m going to try them. I found them in a drawer and I said, “I’m going to commit myself to trying.”
By the way, if our listeners missed the earlier podcast that we did — this must have been six months ago now, it was a while ago — we did an entire podcast devoted to Kara’s unlove of the unwearables.
Yes. So I’m going back. I’m going to try them just for you. That’s what I’m going to do. Because I know how much you love them. So you’re wearing one of those giant ones on your wrist.
I am! I’m wearing a new Fitbit.
Two new Fitbits were announced earlier this week. This is the Charge 2.
It’s ridiculously large.
What do you think about the Flex? The other one.
The one you showed me a picture of? It’s fine. It looks the same. It’s a little bit like a Jawbone.
That’s the Flex 2.
I know they put it next to jewelry, but it’s not jewelry. Let me just say that.
They’re jewelry accessories. The Flex 2 is like a little pod that you can pop out and put into a fancy bracelet.
I gotta say, that’s a big thing. I was watching “Elysium” last night with Jodie Foster and she had one like that on her wrist, because she was like blowing up the world with it and she kept like hitting it and killing people. And it was just …
Keep that one away from Donald Trump.
Yes, I know. It was eee-normous. It was enormous. It was just ridiculous. So it was a big square Bulova, that was the cute part. “Oh, ha ha — Bulova.”
I just got a notification.
Did you? What did it say?
“Run away from Kara Swisher.”
Oh my God. Why is that one better? That Fitbit?
So the Charge 2 …
There’s two, right?
Okay, explain the easy one.
The easy one is the Flex 2.
So it’s the same one they had.
That’s the successor to the Flex, which was one of the simplest Fitbits you could get. There are more than half a dozen now, there’s the Zip and the One, those are super simple, and then there’s the Flex, which is the wristband, and this is the Flex 2. It’s … I don’t know … It has a bunch of LED lights at the top, so it doesn’t have a display. It’s really simple. It tracks your steps …
So it just shoots lights that you don’t understand, again.
I actually don’t like that. I haven’t used it enough yet to …
Like, why is it lighting up?
The Misfit does that.
Yes, they all do. The Jawbone does it too.
I haven’t used the Flex 2 enough to actually get frustrated with it. But generally, any wearable company that puts out a product and says, “It doesn’t have a display, but it has a series of LED lights that will tell you when you’ve got a certain notification from Snapchat, versus your calendar, versus …” It’s morse code. I don’t know about you, but I don’t look down during my very busy day [and say], “Oh! Combination purple, green, red!”
So does it buzz at you? It doesn’t show you text or anything else?
There are five LED lights, and one is color coded. And when that one lights up, it’ll tell you a certain thing.
So that one, you like that it’s smaller.
Well, I haven’t really worn that one yet for an extended period of time, but it’s small and it’s for the type of consumer who says, “I like Fitbits, but I just want a basic $99 step counter.”
What does it do? What does it actually do?
Calories burned. Distance traveled. But because you don’t have the display, you’re really going to have to open the app in order to see all of the stuff.
I see, so it coordinates with the app in your hand. Calories burned, whatever.
Calories burned, distance traveled … So [it counts] your steps, which might be like 6,000 steps, but then you’re going to open it and will say .29 miles, or whatever it might be. Some people actually look at those types of activity trackers as supplemental, which I know is crazy because you’re such an unwearable person.
No, you know what? I use my iPhone a lot. I carry my iPhone. I just started this new Nike running club thing, and I’ve been using my iPhone, and I’m going to try to do it with the Watch. But I find out how many steps I do with my iPhone because I carry it everywhere, all day.
Let’s say you have a dedicated Garmin, because you’re training for a triathlon, or you have the Fitbit Surge, because you’re a runner. And so you have this big, clunky thing that you’re going to wear for your workouts, because you’re very serious about those workouts. But then, you want something that’s going to track you all day long, and you’re not using an iPhone app. Some people might actually invest in something like a $99 bracelet-like tracking-for-that sort of thing. I still think that’s not really the primary category. I think Fitbit wants to address the super-simple step-counting market, and this is that. The Flex 2 is that.
I just want an exoskeleton. If I could have an exoskeleton that would be useful.
And exoskeleton would just drag you down.
No, it wouldn’t. I’d be able to punch out walls and also understand my step count.
You’re talking about, like, a suit?
Yes, that just monitors everything.
I can’t possibly understand how a person who does not want to wear something on her wrist would want to wear something on her entire body.
My whole point, which is a really subtle and important one, is that these things don’t do enough. They don’t do enough.
No, they don’t.
They do just very little.
Well, they’re not FDA-approved, and that’s a whole other conversation. These aren’t like serious medical devices.
All right, let’s talk about the look of them. Because that thing is really … I’m not wearing that to a ball or a nice restaurant, right?
Are you asking me to a ball?
No, I’m not, Lauren. Never. Never.
I hoped so for a second. My heart rate just spiked, can you see it?
Yeah, move along. Do you wear that too? Because it’s big. It looks like you’re in witness protection … Not witness protection. Like you drank too much and you got one of those things around your … Like Lindsay Lohan. It looks like the Lindsay Lohan device. Right? Like they’re watching you carefully.
[Editor’s note: She means a house arrest ankle monitor.]
Am I Lindsay Lohan circa “Mean Girls?” Or like Lindsay Lohan after she …
After she went off the rails. She’s wearing, like, a tracker thing. Didn’t she have to wear a tracker? That’s what it looks like. It looks like something the court would put on you for misbehaving. Sorry, Fitbit.
Well, you’re going to find this hard to believe. This one right here called the Charge 2, it’s actually the follow up to the Charge HR, which has been the best-selling Fitbit of all time.
Wow, okay. So why did they need to do a 2?
So even though Fitbit now has more than a half dozen different Fitbits, and they came out with one this year that people call “the smartwatch” even though it’s not a smartwatch, they improved it in a few different ways.
The display is bigger.
Bigger and more clunky.
Before, it used to be a little strip, and now it’s …
A hundred percent more clunky. Go ahead.
It’s thick. It’s pretty thick on my wrist.
It also sits above your wrist.
The other one kind of did that, too.
Yeah, the Charge HR, the old one, had a heart rate sensor. So does this one. But this one actually tracks multiple specific exercises. So before the Charge HR, you [would] just say, like, “I’m going for a run,” [and it would go] great, here are your steps. This one, you can like program it to say, “I’m biking, I’m running, I’m doing treadmill runs.”
Treadmill runs never get recorded.
Yeah, this one, you can actually. There’s a mode, and I’ve used it. You can lift weights. I’ve lifted weights with this a couple times and you just go to the weights option and then you hold the button down and it’ll track your weight lifting session. Even though I think it doesn’t actually know what you’re doing. But yeah. Then there’s also a breathing function. It’s called “relax.”
Yeah. You may remember that Apple Watch recently announced WatchOS 3 for the Watch and there was a breathing [app]. So this is like becoming the thing, right? The irony escapes nobody that we’re relying on all these silly gadgets that tell us to calm our asses down. See it says “relax”? And then if I hold this button down, first it’s going to take my heart rate.
Take a slow deep breath. You have to watch it tell you to meditate? You don’t want to listen to it in your ear?
I think you have to just watch it. You look down and you breathe. And Fitbit is saying this is customizable breathing exercises, because they’re taking your heart rate first and then …
You know I meditated in an Uber today?
How did that go?
It didn’t work very well.
What did you do to meditate? What was your practice?
I’m trying these mediation apps out. We should do the whole meditation set, but I was just trying one of them out and it was exactly the amount of time to drive, where I was going to lunch. And so I see if it would work, in the car. It did. It was good.
It did work?
Yeah. It was fine. I mean, I was thinking of like a million things because I have a monkey mind, in case you’re interested. That’s what they call it.
A monkey mind.
What is that?
Read up on it. It’s like people who can’t stop thinking of things. It’s okay according to meditative people, it’s okay. You just bring it back to the breath.
Oh. Meditation is really all the rage. We had someone speaking at Code Conference earlier this year about the meditation app. It’s very expensive, what is it called?
Headspace. That’s what I was using.
Oh, you were using Headspace?
Yeah. It’s not that expensive. I’m just trying them all out. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I mean it’s a good thing to calm down. I actually do. I like it.
I have an idea. Why don’t we do …
But I don’t want my Fitbit to tell me to keep breathing.
Why don’t we do an entire podcast where we just meditate.
The whole time?
The whole time. Like 38 minutes.
No, I don’t think so.
And then we’ll take a break to talk about socks.
We’re going to talk about Fitbit now. But anyway, I don’t want my Fitbit to tell me to meditate.
This one’s $149. Ships in a couple weeks.
Wow, okay, so how many Fitbits are there now?
There are more than half a dozen. There are I think seven different offers.
Seven. So you’re confused in the Best Buy.
Two effectively replaced the old ones. This one replaces the Charge HR, the Flex 2 replaces the Flex.
Which is why you need the breathe thing, because when you go into Best Buy you’re like, “What the hell?”
There are so many now.
Yeah, there’s so many.
But it’s the same strategy, a lot of these companies are taking the same strategy as Garmin, which is, “Let’s throw new runners’ watches at the wall.” There’s Misfit.
I can’t even … I have to go back to high school to understand those. It’s past me. It’s too many buttons and stuff. So what’s the difference? Is there a real difference? They just have more features, each of them. For the 10 more dollars you get more features essentially, right?
Fitbit is very strategically trying to make a tracker that is just everywhere a consumer might be. Essentially.
Right. So they just go up in price.
Fitbit’s a public company now.
Right. How are they doing?
They went public a year ago, and so last year they put out, let’s see … I think they put out three new devices in 2015. That was the Charge HR, what was the other one? Oh, the Charge, the Charge HR and the Surge, which was a performance one. This year, they’ve come out on a couple of earnings calls and said, “We’re going to have more products this year than we ever had in other years.”
And basically what they do is — if you look at their product line very carefully, you realize that, oh, this one will have GPS built in, but this one only has connected GPS. Or this one has heart rate sensors, but this one doesn’t. Well, this one only tracks your steps, well, this one too, but this one looks more like a pretty bracelet and this one’s like a rubber bracelet. And you realize that they’re doing this really kind of classic product differentiation among all their gadgets and trackers, and they have incredible brand recognition, and they’re trying to serve everybody in the market that they can. I have to imagine some of that is coming from sort of pressure on the investor side to put out more and more stuff.
Yeah, absolutely, until they run out of air.
Try to keep innovating because …
It’s a little bit like the Dropcams or GoPros. They’ve got to keep exciting their audiences.
So what’s the competition? What’s the biggest competition?
Well, that’s a really good question. It depends on who you ask.
All right, I’m asking you. I said that to Steve Jobs once, did you know that?
How did he take that? Did he say, “It depends on who you ask,” and you said, “Well, I’m asking you”?
Walt did that, “I’m asking you,” yeah.
Oh, all right.
I can’t remember.
Does that mean I should be very mercurial right now?
No, I need you to answer the question.
Okay. So if you look at the smartwatch, some people will say, “Well, Fitbit is competing in the smartwatch space.”
No, with actual smartwatches. People like Apple who are making smartwatches.
Right, okay, yes.
And the Android Wear platform. And that’s on a bunch of different smartwatches now.
I call them differently abled watches, but go ahead. They’re not that smart.
Some people will say, “Well, Fitbit is still basically an activity tracking company and so they’re competing with other makes of activity trackers.”
Of which there are many.
Of which there are dozens. So many. Everybody has an activity tracker.
So what do you think?
Some analysts, when they’re looking at the wearables market, whether just in the U.S., like the NPD group does, or the global market, like IADC does, they lump them all together. They’ll position a Fitbit against a Xiaomi, against a Garmin, against an Apple, and they say, “Wearables are wearables, they go on the wrist and this is what they’re doing.”
Because analysts are so discriminating.
I just think right now, there actually is a pretty legitimate product differentiation between them. What smartwatches are trying to be is a new platform for third-party applications. Their battery lives tend to pretty much suck. They have different displays, they have touchscreen displays, and the value proposition is different: The value proposition is now: You’re going to have this little mini computer on your wrist. Something like a Fitbit, they’re offering some of those features, but I think at the end of the day, they’re positioning themselves as a health and wellness company. And a health and wellness software company as well.
Which is what Jawbone’s trying to do. Because I ran into Hosain the other day, and he was describing his company to someone, I was giving him a hard time as usual, and he was like, “Oh, we’re in the health area now.”
Right. And actually our Code Conference — not this past fall, I think it was the fall before, I forget exactly when it was — but Hosain did come onstage and [he] said, “We’re not a hardware company anymore, we’re a health and wellness software company.” And so they’ve been saying that for a while. I think maybe there will be this convergence eventually where just something that you wear on your body does all of these things. They’re a platform for apps, they do health and fitness, they do all this.
But right now there’s still a differentiation. So Fitbit’s competitor, it actually depends on the product in my opinion. If you’re looking at a super simple tracker, then it’s any other company that makes a simple tracker. It could be Xiaomi, which actually sells tons of their $15 trackers. It’s super cheap. But if you look at Fitbit Blaze …
I think the Chinese government is also tracking you in that case, but go ahead.
Oh, conspiracy theories. We should do a whole podcast on that.
I like the Xiaomi one.
But then if you look at something like the Fitbit Blaze, people say, “Oh, Fitbit’s trying to compete in the smartwatch market,” because that’s more like a watch.
So the Blaze didn’t do well, right? That ugly Blaze.
It actually has done fairly well to the point that Fitbit says that the new Fitbit Blaze and Alta, which came out earlier this year, accounted for more than 50 percent of their sales last quarter. But the stock took a hit. It was received in a very unflattering way when it was announced at CES.
Because people thought it was ugly, right?
Well, because people thought that the Fitbit was trying to compete with the Apple Watch. They saw this watch-like form factor, and this bright, colorful touchscreen display, and the way that Fitbit was saying, “Oh, it does this, and it does this, and it does notifications, and it does this.” And they said, “Fitbit is trying to be a smartwatch company now.” And it wasn’t as well received and so stock actually took a pretty big hit around that time.
And what’s the future of Fitbit? And then we’re going to get to questions from our audience.
Fitbit’s going to try and do a few things at once. I think they’re going to try and just put out more and more of these iterative products in the short term to maintain their market lead. Because they are by far the market leader in activity tracking and wearable devices right now. I think that they’ve also been trying to push their corporate wellness program. It’s still a very small part of their revenue, but they do have partnerships with Fortune 500 companies where they say, “Okay, distribute Fitbits to all your employees,” and you do, basically, employee tracking. Which I know you’re going to have another conspiracy theory about.
No, you cannot do that. Again, exoskeleton. Everyone gets a little thing behind their head.
Yeah, with VR headsets on so you never have to leave your office.
Something. Or never go to your office.
So there’s that. There’s this idea of, “We’ll become a wellness platform.” But then I think at the end of the day, Fitbit, like every other wearable tech company, has to have some cool stuff up their sleeve — no pun intended — in working at R&D.
I like the Nike stuff, I have to say. The Nike stuff is pretty cool. Their different apps are pretty well done.
You’re saying in terms of software.
They’re useful. I’m actually liking doing a 5K thing because you and I are going to run a 5K together, I don’t know if you know that.
Oh. That’d be great.
They have a training program, they have interesting articles. It’s more — I use the app, obviously, and it records, but it also is more than that. I need more.
Well, that’s the thing. All of these companies aren’t just selling devices. They’re trying to get people to buy into their ecosystem. And the way that they do that is through software. One of the things that Fitbit just announced with these new devices is they said, “Oh, we have this new feature on our app called ‘Adventures’ and now you go into the adventure section of the app and if you complete this trail in Yosemite, you set a personal goal or personal challenge for yourself,” and all this stuff. And look at a company like Strava, which has huge engagement because of the amount of community they’ve built up. The amount of users that just go on there because they want to compete with their friends that are cycling or running or whatever it is.
As Mama Rose says, “You gotta have a gimmick.”
I’m not saying that Strava is necessarily … I’m not measuring out their success right now, but I’m just using that as an example of a software company, [it] doesn’t have hardware, that has managed to build a community just within the app. I think all of the hardware companies ultimately wanted to do that, too, because the stickiness is in the software. I think Fitbit is going to have to figure out how they get people actually, you know, checking their app and being engaged, not just throwing these things in a drawer.
I like their scale, their scale is nice. Okay, this week we asked our listeners for their questions about Fitbit and really any other wearable or unwearable they might be curious about. Lauren, do you want to read the first question?
All right then.
First question is from Roger Fingas, @LonesWords on Twitter, who asks, “What’s the accuracy of the heart-rate tracking on Charge 2? Is it improved at all?”
Aw, so he’s saying it was bad.
Well, he wasn’t just saying it was bad, I’m going to read into this a little bit. I think he was referring to the fact that earlier this year, Fitbit was hit with a class-action lawsuit by a group of consumers who said that the heart-rate tracking claims were not accurate, especially when it came to things like intense exercisers.
That’s a problem.
Yeah, and so that’s something that Fitbit is still dealing with. I did ask Fitbit about this in regards to the Charge 2 and they said it’s the same exact heart-rate sensing technology that they’ve used before. Fitbit calls this Pure Pulse because they say it’s proprietary. But ultimately. it’s the same exact heart-rate tracking you’re going to get in the other Fitbit devices. It’s not changed, it’s not improved, it’s not worsened. It is what it is. I cannot comment on the accuracy of it yet based on my own tests, because I haven’t done those tests yet. Usually what we do is we will wear a Polar chest strap and compare it to a reading that we’re getting from that versus the wrist.
Right. Or just an old watch, with your finger, that works too.
Oh yeah, but who has time for that when your heart rate’s at 150 and you’re sweating and someone’s screaming at you to spin faster on a bike. But Fitbit says in their view that the study that was cited in that lawsuit is meritless and they’re going to continue to fight those claims and all that. And they always say that they’re constantly improving on their technology, but at the end of the day, Roger — that was his name, @LonesWords on Twitter — it’s the same heart rate technology as in prior models.
We have no idea if it’s improved at all, in other words. It’s ever improving, as Silicon Valley likes to tell us.
We don’t know yet.
Next one, Ms. Lauren Goode.
What’s the phrase…? I don’t know…
They’re lying most of the time. At least most people I cover. But go ahead.
No, “learning by shipping.” Okay. The next question is from someone who has sent in a few questions over the past few weeks, so I think that’s a good thing because it means you’re listening. Thank you, David, for listening, but also we’ll have to vary it up a little bit. This is from David V, @The0DD1: “My friend has a Fitbit, but I have a Watch.” Watch is capitalized so I’m assuming he means an Apple Watch. “Is there a way to view each other’s activity progress? #tooembarrassed” Kara, I don’t know, what would you do? I’m going to ask you. Even though I know the answer, I’m going to put this on you. What would you do?
Well, cross watching. Cross watching.
See, you make everything sound dirty.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Everything in technology… [laughs]
Not that there’s anything wrong. I feel, living in San Francisco, anybody should be able to watch anybody’s activity.
[laughs] Oh, you actually meant watching-watching, like with your eyes. I’m such a dork, I was thinking watches.
No I’m making a pun, it’s a little too hard for you, it’s above your ability to be witty. But I’m sure that’s possible. I bet you could sign into someone’s Apple, you can share. There’s probably some sharing thing on my Apple thing and vice versa, that would be my guess.
My solution …
Okay, what’s your solution?
Here’s my solution.
You can always share. It seems like they always want you to share.
Fitbit actually does not sync on the back end of their software with Google Fit or Apple Pulse.
Oh, why not?
Those are back end software systems that both Apple and Google have come up with to allow third-party app developers to patch into, and then they share data. Well, Fitbit doesn’t, because why would they share their data to their competitors?
Because it’s helpful to consumers?
Well, yeah. It would be great for consumers. I think they just want people in their software ecosystem. And then Fitbit has some partnerships directly with third-party app makers. So what I would probably recommend doing, to someone like David who has this question, is I would choose an app, a third-party app that both Apple Watch and Fitbit share data to.
Oh my god, it’s like the Mideast peace talks. We’ve gotta get this person in here to talk to this person because this person’s not talking.
It is, it’s super fragmented, it’s crazy.
It’s like a recent episode of “Madam Secretary,” which is my favorite show. That Téa Leoni.
I love “Madam Secretary.”
You know what? She does not wear a Fitbit, just saying.
She wears an Apple watch?
No, no, she wears just a regular classy watch.
I don’t know. No, I’ve seen wearables on that show.
I’ve noted them before because I’m a dork like that. I think one of them might even have a Samsung Gear watch.
In either case …
Maybe the hunky guy has one.
I know. He is hunky.
He always has an answer to the world crisis.
I know, he totally does. And he has no ego. He’s like the perfect …
“We should go to war with Russia and here’s why.” And everyone else is headed right to war and he solves it in like four seconds. “I don’t like this memo.” Anyway, go ahead.
Okay, so what’s Switzerland for software in this case? I’m going to go with something like a Strava or a Runkeeper. So they both pick an app that Fitbit’s going to share its data to and then Apple Watch is going to share its data to.
Do they care about consumers? It’s so ridiculous.
Well, that’s what we’re here for.
I know, but it’s ridiculous. You have to go to like Strava to get … anyway. I noticed that, Fitbit doesn’t coordinate.
They don’t work with Apple HealthKit. But you can share directly to things like My Fitness Pal or Strava, a whole bunch of them.
I don’t want to do that. Anyway, read the next question. I’m very irritated with these people.
Do you want to read the next one?
No, you go ahead.
This one is from Tim. He’s @reitz37. He says, “Need speed tracker, GPS, heart rate, elevation and time splits without being tied to a phone. Possible? #runner #tooembarrassed.” Kara, you’re going down this route with this 5K stuff and Nike running and all this.
Yeah, whatever. I don’t need all that stuff.
It’s a slippery slope.
I’m slow. Speed tracker, slow. GPS, I don’t know where the fuck I am. Heart rate, dying. Elevation, as flat as possible but there’s so many hills in San Francisco and I don’t even know what timed splits are.
There you go. Tim, my advice to you would be to go with a dedicated device like a Garmin or a Polar. You can get a Garmin Forerunner that does this stuff, you can get something like the Forerunner. The Forerunner 435, the Forerunner 735 XT if you’re more into cross-training. Polar has a whole bunch. They have a line that’s very basic, they have sort of a midrange line and they have a more serious line of wearables.
Wow, all those numbers.
Yeah, they’re like the Ms and the Vs. Off the top of my head, their naming can go over pretty terrible.
Just go over to like an REI and look at them for a while, right?
Or go to theverge.com because we write about a bunch of them. And I’d say, Tim, that’s going to be my answer for you.
Garmins. Those are the ones for really serious runners, right?
Yeah. I would say. And Polar too. And Suunto. There are a few out there.
I see them and I just walk past them very quickly.
I’m going to get you into one of them.
No, no, no, no, no. Never.
Never. They’re gigantic. You see my wrist lately?
You know what the best thing is about them? My Garmin lasts seven days on a charge. Which, by the way, a basic Fitbit will do, too. But a basic Fitbit is not going to do all of this stuff.
It’s way too complicated. I had a watch like that once and it gave me a headache and I threw it at the wall.
Did you actually throw it at the wall?
Yes I did, I do things like that. Like throw things at the wall. I do it all the time.
Wish I put that on your Flip camera.
No longer. All right, next one, I’m going to read this one. Jamie Favazza, @JamieFavazza. Oh, I like that name. Favazza. “Favorite wearable recommendations for tracking walking fitness? What should a first-time wearable wearer know?” A wearable wearer …
Tracking walking? Probably a Fitbit.
Or just one of those cheap little pedometers, right? What do you need all of that for?
Oh yeah, but then you have to wear that on your hip.
It’s like a clip on on your hip and it’s super dorky and ….
Just carry around your phone right?
Yeah, but the thing about a phone is that you don’t always have your phone on you.
Well, I do.
Yes, but you’re special. Let’s say you’re the person that works in an office, and then her phone is next to her desk, and then someone says, “Hey, want to go grab a cup of coffee?” And you say, “Sure,” and you run out and you leave your phone there. Are you’re running around the house and you leave …
What about a tiny little Fitbit that you just put on your clothes, or in your pocket.
Yeah, you can do a clip-on tracker like that, which is, I think, the Zip or the One, right? Those are the simple clip-ons.
You can put them in your pocket, too.
You can do something like that. My advice to you, Jamie, is going to be this: The thing to know about these wearables, if you’re a first-time wearable-wearer, and I love that you said that, is that you’re going to want to check the software compatibility first, because not all these trackers are going to work with every smartphone, so you want to go with something that is either going to work with iOS or Android or both depending on what operating system you’re on. You’re also going to want to look at price, because if you are a first-time wearable-wearer, I do not recommend spending more than $100 on one of these things, because it might end up in a drawer.
Yes, it will.
You’re going to want to look at the back end software integration, so if you’re someone that likes to track your food or track other things with other apps, see if these devices work with those apps as well. And then just be prepared to basically charge these things a lot. Because a lot of them — I mean, you could get something like a Garmin Vivofit which uses a coin cell battery and that lasts up to a year, you don’t even need to charge it. And that’s a pretty good value proposition right there. A lot of them, though, you end up charging and they’re like …
You don’t want to think about it, is what you want to say.
Yeah, you want to get the simplest thing when you’re first getting started.
Next one? We’ve got quite a few this week.
People really care about this stuff, Kara.
I see that, I see that.
Unwearables. This one’s from Mark Riedy, @markriedy on Twitter, “What’s the only wearable, wrist or other, that measures hydration in real time with cutting-edge tech?”
Oh, I have a feeling he’s shilling for whatever this band is. Hey, you know what, here’s my answer. Whatever yours is, it’s not the only one. I’m going to tell you that. A lot of people make those claims and it’s not. Second of all, I don’t believe at this point any consumer wearable really does this or has done this effectively.
It feels like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
I know Jawbone, when they first introduced the Jawbone Up 3, for a while they were saying, “Oh some of our sensors are going to be able to interpret hydration in some way.” I don’t think that has happened yet. Back in January …
Some Japanese toilets do that though.
They sensor everything. But I’m not going to go there right now. That’s another show.
Like, your butt’s wet?
A lot of stuff. Anyway, we’ll get into that later. This is about sweat.
Apparently, Mark, you should just buy a Japanese toilet. Every so often we’ll get a news report about a patch or some type of sensor that’s going to do this. Earlier this year, in January, we heard about a new sensor from University of California Berkeley that was supposed to be able to measure electrolytes and sweat and things like that. We could get really deep and nerdy on this, but at the end of the day, I don’t think there’s anything out there right now that effectively tracks hydration.
They’re going to have patches on everything and it’ll be able to tell everything about you. Eventually.
Probably. It’s how we’ll authenticate. It’ll be a series of patches. On our … what are they called? The suit that you want?
That’s different. That’s only for the heroes like myself who fight the power. Next question is — I’m not even going to pronounce this — Swostik Satpathy, @swostiksatpathy, I’m sure I mispronounced this and I apologize. “Why have they placed the button on the inside, what about people with full sleeves? Pull up and use? Do they track that too?”
Oh, okay. So the button … I actually just mentioned this to someone the other day, to a friend, and I said, “Why is the button on this side?” Because on Garmins, a lot of times the start button is on where your right index finger would be. And in the case of the Charge 2 that I’m looking at right now, the button is where your thumb is. So it’s on the lower side of the band. I believe this is because you’re more likely to trigger the button or cross some type of false positive when your wrist bends. Like you’ll notice a lot of surf-tracking watches won’t have buttons on that side near the top of your wrist and the other side of your hand because when you’re popping up on the board you’re doing this, and so you’re more likely to hit the button on this side than …
I have no idea what you’re talking about, but all right.
Kara is so interested right now. You want to go surfing?
I’m actually not a very good surfer. Do you want to go paddleboarding with me?
I’ve done that. That’s easy. That’s for old people.
You’re not answering my question.
Not with you, but yes.
That’s my understanding for the person who sent in the question about the button, it’s so you won’t hit it accidentally when you bend your wrist.
All right, next one.
The last question is from — this is actually an emailed questions. Joshua from Indianapolis, Indiana. Josh, thanks for emailing us.
So nice they named it twice, but go ahead.
Josh says, “My third Charge is on its last leg. Non-replaceable wrist band is being held together by superglue.” He loves this thing.
Quality in our time.
“Fitbit would not replace the band, gave me a 25 percent coupon off my next Fitbit. I don’t care for the questionable heart rate function on the Charge HR. More the slim design of the Alta. Should I wait for the new Charge or jump ship from Fitbit? I’m a Fitbit fanatic, keeping track of calories with Fitness Pal app, my weight loss with the Aria Scale, my daily steps with the Fitbit watch and app. I’m all-in with Fitbit but I’m disappointed with the durability of the product.”
It sounds like you’re kind of in for a dime, in for a dollar here, right? A lot of dollars.
So I actually, Josh, I wrote to Fitbit for you. And I said …
Wow, Lauren pulls at the strings.
I did. Well, I said we have a reader who has this question and I want to understand your return policy because it seems like he’s very disappointed with the durability of this. They said that the warranty policy includes first a 45-day satisfaction guarantee. So you have that 45-day window to return something. It seems like you’re out of that, Josh. Then a one-year limited warranty in which Fitbit will repair or replace a device with a hardware issue. But the problem is that they don’t actually differentiate between what is a malfunctioning band versus what is just very worn and torn. So you’re going to have to, it sounds like you’ve done this already, call customer service, get on the phone with them, explain to them there’s something not functioning.
It sounds like he’s beating the shit out of this thing.
Right, it sounds to me, Josh, like you’ve just used this thing a lot and unfortunately it’s not keeping it together and now you’re deciding whether or not you want to spend the money on a new one.
Yeah, so it looks like he’s in the Fitbit universe. You should just stay there, Josh.
That’s what I was going to say. Imagine if you paid for a gym every month. And you said, “I love this gym, it’s in a great location, it’s gets me motivated to go to the gym and all this stuff, but I’m bummed because the one bike that I really like to ride in the gym is broken right now.” I would say, “Stay in the same gym, find a different bike.” So my advice to you is if you really are all in in the Fitbit ecosystem …
Seems like it, yeah.
… you’re probably just going to want to buy another Fitbit.
Yeah, and maybe not be so mean to your wrist band. It sounds like you’re ripping it off or something.
Try not wearing it …
I’m not trying to blame you, Joshua.
Yeah, and I don’t know if you’re wearing it in the shower or anything else, but you may want to try to protect it a little bit more.
Be a little loving to your Fitbit. Be a little nicer.
Yeah, like Kara is to her Fitbits. I have an idea, hold on. Kara, you have a drawer full of unwearables, why don’t you send Josh …
I could send one to Josh. I think I have the Charge, I think I have a Charge. It’s black.
Well, if you find it let me know and we’ll get Josh a …
I know where it is. It’s sitting right there and I’m looking at it.
Kara’s going to go wait in line at FedEx for you, Josh.
No I’m not, absolutely not. Anyway, this has been fascinating, Lauren Goode.
Are you really fascinated?
I am! I love your love of these things. You have like such hopefulness about this.
It’s funny that you say that, because sometimes I think like five years from now I’m going to be looking back and saying — I tweeted this recently — like, I can’t believe the amount of time I’ve spent just live-blogging, tweeting, writing about wrist Tamagotchis, with like stains down my shirt, not having slept for days.
It’s an interesting challenge.
It is, and I’m fascinated by wearable technology. I think that between that and voice control and AI, this is all going to sort of be the next …
I think you’re going to have a little thing behind your head that’s going to monitor everything. Behind your ear. Something that’s going to be embedded and it’s going to do all this stuff. It’s going to tell you how to exercise, how healthy you are, everything else, that’s where I think it’s going. So these things are pointless. You’re not going to wear them when it’s going to be your body, that’s my feeling.
It’s just going to be your body?
Something behind the ear, something very subtle that you can hear things, get messages, it’ll talk to you, you talk to it. Like, “How am I feeling today?” “Oh you ate too many bagels this morning.”
Someone at one of our Code Conferences, I think it was Benedict Evans, said something really smart in a presentation, which is: A lot of the technologies that end of being game-changing start out looking or feeling like toys.
People wear them as toys and then they end up becoming pretty serious or disruptive technology. I’m not saying that is Fitbit, in terms of how it does as a company, I’m not like here to make projections about that. But I do call them Tamagotchis, right, because they just require so much of you right now, they don’t give you that much back. But I do think there’s something to be said about … maybe we will be looking back one day and saying, “Oh remember when everyone wore Fitbits, and they were ugly and everyone looked so silly.” But the next wave of big computing might be something in the veins.
Directionally it’s correct. Operationally it’s not. That’s what I feel like. Directionally, it’s absolutely right. That we want to monitor ourselves, the quantified self, I get that. And I understand why, I’m interested in it too. You know what I mean? But I just, at some level these are so underwhelming. That’s the issue. And I think in some way when they start to really do neural networks and some of the stuff that Elon Musk was talking about at the [Code] Conference …
… Injecting things in your veins …
Why not? There’s lots of issues why not, but it seems like something will be placed near or around you.
The human instinct for self-betterment will always be present in some way. It just may not be achieved through the particular devices we’re wearing right now.
But you sort of want something that’s like sitting behind your ear, and you go for the Doritos, and it says, “STOP! Put that down.” And zaps you, maybe, if you want it to. “Don’t eat that!” And you’re like, “Oh yeah.”
I need a smart belt.
Something like that.
I actually just got pitched one of those today. Another smart belt.
What, you’re fat and then it just …
Yeah, I don’t know, it tells you when your gut is hanging over your jeans.
There’s smart everything. Anyway, this has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask.