By Dwayne De Freitas
If there’s one site I really enjoy, it’s The Wirecutter.
What makes them different from other technology sites is the way they use the “meta review” (A review of a product with significant findings based on other people’s opinions of a product) to determine what the “best” item of a particular segment is.
The idea’s great if you’re looking for something simple, The Wirecutter can save you a lot of time and energy researching one item or another. But every once in a while it’s clear that the people that they’re working with to write the reviews of products are out of touch with my opinions (happens all the time) along with the opinions of many of my colleagues.
Such is the case with the Garmin Vivofit fitness tracker. For The Wirecutter, Garmin’s new fitness tracker unseated the Fitbit One device they once called “The Best Fitness Tracker” because :
“There’s also a “move bar” that flashes red anytime you’ve been inactive for too long—a feature we, along with other reviewers, found highly motivating. It is currently the only fitness tracker that combines these features with the added benefit of never having to be hooked up to charger. Unfortunately, since the Vivofit relies on disposable battery power, the display is not LED or backlit for low-light conditions and the current mobile app/desktop software is still pretty basic. But we have four words for you: one-year battery life.”
This is a description of a device that I would never want. We’ll go from the bottom up–
1. Battery Life. A year is great. But having to:
- Go to a jeweler to get the device re-sealed after you’ve replaced the battery isn’t worth it.
- Find the exact-right battery to replace the current battery with isn’t worth it.
- Pay a high premium for that via Garmin’s site (or anyone else’s site since they know it’s the only batt to work with the device) isn’t worth it.
Where those hassles are concerned I’m OK with needing to charge my Fitbit One every now and then. Especially because I don’t think the fact that I have to charge the device every two weeks makes it a hassle.
2. Software. I don’t want basic software. Fitbit gives me an excellent desktop (Web) and mobile (app) experience. It’s robust, functional and far from basic. In a world where Google Fit and Apple’s Health Kit API suite and Health app are showing the mainstream just how sophisticated wellness software can be, taking a step back on the software side doesn’t make great sense. Ecosystem is everything and Fitbit’s built a pretty good one. On the other hand, Garmin’s disappointed. Garmin should have been a leader in this space and on both the software and hardware side they’ve been consistently behind. Their track record doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that they’ll ever get the software right.
3. The display is not LED or backlit for low-light conditions. Huh? How can a technology enthusiast, who’s bent on using the wrist-based wearable device want to lose ground in this category. The lack of low-light access means that yes, you might be able to wear it inside of a movie theatre without bothering someone else, but other than that, I’d like to see my data anytime I want.*
4. The move-bar seems interesting. But honestly, if I’m locked in thought or otherwise focused elsewhere, a vibration would be best. Fitbit doesn’t provide a random vibration but others do. A flashing bar? That’s just not good advice!
Now the Wirecutter does include an honorable mention for the Fitbit One, but given the hyperbole about the Vivofit being “he Best” from The Wirecutter, a brand that’s so quickly become esteemed, I’m left confused. It’s either the dreaded Clickbait or just bad advice. Either way, I’m left feeling disappointed. Especially since this Garmin device, at $130 is nearly a third more expensive than the well thought out Fitbit One’s $100 price
When I joined The Drilldown it was because Andy offered me an opportunity to get to the truth of the matter about the day’s tech. And since its launch, I’d always thought that The Wirecutter was on the same mission. Now I’m forced to re-think that. It’s a little like losing trust in a close friend.
*One might remark “Well, the Jawbone UP doesn’t include any display!.” The difference here is that Jawbone made a distinct stylistic choice, paired to a fantastic piece of mobile software. If I’m going to wear something with the visual heft of providing me (and apparently anyone else next to me) with a readout, then it better provide that information on request – regardless of whatever light I’m in.