Last Christmas, I got a Fitbit as a gift.

This Christmas, I got an email saying that my 4th Fitbit has shipped.

The devices were great and the customer support was excellent, but the devices were just fragile.

That pretty much sums up my experience with wearables in 2015: I use them all the time and they break all the time.

This seems like a common experience with low-end wearables:

  • A family member went to BestBuy and got a Jawbone for $100. The BestBuy associate told her: “Please spend $10 on the warranty. It will break quickly and you’ll be back here asking for a replacement.” Indeed, she was back in 2 months after it fell apart.
  • I play soccer and my teammates are always testing out wearables: Garmin, Samsung, Pebble, Wahoo etc. They all break within a few months.

Maybe we’re just expecting too much. It’s a huge task to produce a reliable, comfortable fitness tracker with great battery life for only $100 to $150.

The only devices that seem to last at those in the $400 to $500 price range. My friend has a $400 Garmin that still works great after 2 years. Apple Watches seem to have few durability problems.

Overall, I can imagine wearing a smart watch / fitness tracker for years to come, but right now you’ve got two choices:

  • Spend $100 to $150 and make sure you buy the warranty.
  • Spend $400 and $500 on watch that might be obsolete next year.

5 thoughts on “My love / hate relationship with wearables

  1. I’ve got a Polar heart rate monitor/watch that has been in daily use for the past 10+ years – sure it doesn’t have a fancy touch-screen with a bazillion features and it predates bluetooth etc, but it’s survived fine with numerous battery changes and quite a few scratches! It’s fully waterproof, drop-proof and generally Ruth-proof! It still tracks my heart rate perfectly and works with all the machines in the gym as well. I think I’m getting a smart watch for Christmas so I’ll make sure there is a warranty with it given your article! Fingers crossed!

  2. Thanks Ruth. That’s really interesting to hear. They’ve been doing those heart-rate monitors since at least the 80’s right?

    Good idea on the warranty. This is an overview of Fitbit’s reliability, although it’s a little harsh:

    I still love the devices … but they sure do break easy. This guy was on 7 devices 🙂

  3. I ended up going for a Garmin Vivosmart HR – looked at the Polar ones but I wanted one which did all-day monitoring. Most of the other watches were not swim-proof, or did not monitor heart rate in water (Polar) which seems pretty pointless to me! Garmin watch seems to be doing well so far, fingers crossed!

  4. Thanks @RCheesley:disqus I’ll be interested to hear how well it works in a few months time. I’ve heard good things about the Garmins.

  5. Going really well but the lack of GPS is a problem, I’m going to upgrade to the VivoActive HR shortly as it has GPS and all the other features of the vivosmartHR.

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