Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The end of my FitBit love affair

Today marked the end of a relationship. My fitbit and I are breaking up. I loved my fitbit. I told everyone I knew they had to get a fitbit. As someone who has been in the healthcare space for a while, I lauded the ease of use, data integration, and behavior change it could empower. I really believed in the device and the service.

I was not rewarded for that loyalty.

From a "let's learn a lesson here we can apply to start ups" angle (which, by the way, is the most annoying of all angles. Lessons, learning? Meh. Being angry would be easier. But I digress) , they broke two really important rules.

First, they have a very low quality device that sells for $99. For $99, the device should work, all the time.

You want to know my experience? I'm on my 7th device. That's right, SEVEN. That's how much I believed in them. To be fair, one I broke wearing in a ice hockey game, and one I lost. So I've had five that did not work. That's five hundred dollars worth of pedometers. For reference, that's a 16 GB WiFi iPad2 + shipping via a gold-plated Ferrari (not exactly sure about the details of that shipping option).

Before you start to think I'm the only one, the forums and poor Amazon reviews have many, many people all with the same issues and same phrases, over and over: broken, good support, low quality, great when it works. It appears I'm neither the most loyal, or the most frustrated, of their customers. There are a lot of good Amazon reviews as well, but the overwhelming feeling is the product violates most important rule: "just work."

Now, to be fair, Fitbit replaced the last two free of charge. They are making up for quality issues with great customer support; for me, the support team has been top notch. They've told me that this happens a lot, and they are quick to set replacements without a lot of questions, and they are always nice - even when I got a little impatient the last few times. Why was I impatient you ask? When I got my most recent  free replacement in the mail, it promptly broke within 24 hours. That's right - within 24 hours, the screen was no longer displaying data, and within 48 hours, it was no longer syncing. Again. After waiting a week for a replacement to come.

Which brings me to lesson number two. Don't make me feel stupid for buying your product.

I know, that sounds simple, right? Well, somewhere around Fitbit number four, friends starting saying "you bought another one of those things? What did you expect?" Remember that relationship analogy? Well, it sticks. You know when your friends say "Really, you're still with (or going back to) him/her? What did you expect?" - and then, when the same thing that always happens, happens again, you feel like a moron. Well, today, I feel like a moron. Maybe I thought number seven would be lucky. I can't explain it.

The good news is, there are many new startups on the horizon, with products like the Basis Watch and the Jawbone Up looking like worthy competitors, or at least something else to try to offset my disappointment. Even different failure would be easier to take than the same thing, over and over. Maybe they will work, maybe they won't - but my fierce loyalty to Fitbit has eroded to the point that it's time to look elsewhere. If they actually send me a replacement that works for more than a month, I'll post an update to this entry. I really do want them to succeed.

Today, ironically, they launched an upgraded device, the FitBit ultra. It  not only brings you choices of color (blue! plum!), but improved sensing. TechCrunch wrote a not-so-glowing review today, but for me, it's simple. You know what would be Ultra? One that worked.

Update 10/4/2011: - Fitbit offered to return my money, or provide me a new Ultra device, if I send back the  broken devices to their support team. Given I've been through this process with them for a while, this seems like a proactive and very fair response, and I was a little shocked at the offer of a financial return. Like I've said, the support team has been great, but that doesn't make up for all the issues. That said, it does make it hard to leave.