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I’ll prefix this with my initial recommendation – don’t buy till they make it work.

First though, a little introduction.

I’m unhealthy. I like gadgets.
I’m up for trying something that will improve my health.
With that said, Arstechnica had a little opinion piece on a motion tracking device called the Fitbit – its a motion sensor that tracks how much excercise you do during the day.

My interest was piqued, and I bought one based on the writeup there.
Unfortunately my user experience was completely different to the one in the review.

Ordered and got mine online via Taobao, it arrived within 2 days, which was pretty good (although that has zero to do with fitbit, and more to do with the shop selling them here in China..)

Untitled

There are chinese equivalents to this on the market, but as people have found, the chinese generally spend more emphasis on the manufacturing side over the software engineering side. Mostly as factories here mostly do OEM work, rather than the longer term more lucrative, but riskier development.

FitBit

China pedometers/ health sensors or Japanese ones (Citizen, and Casio mostly) are in the 150rmb range with USB, and about 300-400 for wifi ones (from a cursory check in taobao)

As stated, software is generally the difference between these things – Chinese can make good hardware, but software usually takes a backseat, hence my getting a US made (well Singapore made) device like the FitBit.

This is 700rmb locally, which matches up with the 99$ price + some profit for the seller.

Build quality is not as good as you’d expect for the price. It feels cheap, and has that its going to break within a month or two feel. The clip that it comes with has sharp edges, and pokes into your sides if you wear it. A little more care on the moulding process, and use of a softer plastics mix would yield a much more consumer friendly device that the current one.

FitBit

Packaging is quite a bit too over engineered imho. The transparent box the device comes with is nice, but essentially useless once out of the box. I’d rather they spent the money on the clip and device instead of on the packaging used.

That’s the physical side, onto the hardware.

Out of box experience isn’t great (I’m a Mac user).

You get told to download the App, which I did, and install.

Unfortunately the App just doesn’t work. You can’t signup. You can’t bypass the App either to use the device. This isn’t a network issue, as its the same over a VPN or without (which often is the issue within China).

Looking at the console logs shows that their site is returning a site is offline message to the app, but the app doesn’t display this, nor does their site indicate in any manner that its down.

eg

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]: Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac.local MacUserInterface[5076] : Processing action 'http'...
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]: Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac.local MacUserInterface[5076] : Ignoring unexpected HTTP response [19].
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac fitbitd[5076]: : Request for http://client.fitbit.com:80/device/tracker/uploadData completed.
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac MacUserInterface[5076]: WriteHTML called with NULL target.
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]: Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac.local MacUserInterface[5076] : Processing action 'http'...
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]: Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac.local MacUserInterface[5076] : WriteHTML called with NULL target.
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]: Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac.local MacUserInterface[5076] : NULL-targeted HTML:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]: Fitbit - Maintenance
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

We'll be back soon!

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Fitbit.com is currently undergoing a little planned maintenance. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

P.S. Yes, we're still counting your steps!

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]: Fitbit Team
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:
Apr 11 12:34:08 Lozs-iMac com.fitbit.fitbitd[5076]:

Ok, so the app doesn’t work that well.

How about the website and integration?

Well, the very first thing I tried their also didn’t work.
Their Facebook signup sync doesn’t work either.

"Unable to finish authorization with Facebook. Received Facebook error response of type OAuthException: Error validating application. Invalid application ID."

I’d really like to like this, but so far I’m really underwhelmed.
If it actually worked I’d probably be introducing this to all my friends and expounding on the virtues of exercise and gadgets and such, but not in this case.

I haven’t been able to use mine yet, and I’m already fairly unimpressed with what I’ve seen so far. It has glimmers of brilliance – the unit has a neat display that shows steps counted, and possibly some other custom messages that I would be able to set if their software actually worked, but I can’t.

Will see what their support is like, and update this further when I get replies.

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