Fitbit Force: First Impressions

November 25, 2013 3:14 pm
Posted By: Anant Bhatia


Was very excited to get my hands on the Fitbit Force. I have been reading, comparing and following different wearable fitness devices for a while now but this was the first one that I could get my hands upon. The order took around a month to arrive. I wonder if some people decided to choose the competitor devices because of the long wait times. However, the Fitbit being one of the latest offerings in the market, there was a good reason to wait.

Upon opening the box, I was amazed to find no setup manual but a card indicating that I go to an online page to configure my fitbit. This was similar to my Jawbone Era bluetooth headset and I believe that this is the present trend for most electronic devices- either make them so easy to operate that an operating manual is not required or let people configure the device through an online manual.

After setting up the fitbit application on my Macbook Air and plugging in the wireless sync dongle, I went through certain steps to setup my account and the device. I chose to login with the Facebook account- a convenient way to avoid the hassle of setting up yet another account and remembering one more password. Though the setup was easy, it wasn’t quick. Rather than showing a waiting symbol after each step, the page just froze and at first I ended up clicking the ‘Next’ more than a few times; neither a good design practice in terms of usability or operations. I was reminded of our operations management class where our Professor (Yi Xu) taught that if there is an unavoidable waiting time, the best one can do is assuage one’s clients by providing them some kind of indicator on how long they have to wait or provide them a distraction that makes the wait time appear shorter. Priceline.com for example displays a suited man ‘negotiating’ for the best available deals. Everytime I use it, I cannot avoid a quick smile of how priceline gives me a (not so transparent) view of what it is doing at the backend while I wait a few seconds.

Other than the freezing screens, the setup was a breeze. However, when I was asked to clasp the band on my wrist, I had to click on ‘need help’ button to find a video on how to put the band on to my wrist securely. I couldn’t securely wear the band even after multiple attempts. I felt like a child when I went to my mom to put on the cuff buttons of my shirt. After watching the ‘how to wear video’ a few times, I could finally wear the fitbit. Overall, the device does sit comfortably on my wrist and feels like a sports watch.

Next, I went through the application but was a bit disappointed that the downloaded fitbit application on my Mac did not have the dashboard and I essentially needed to go to the fitbit website to set my goals etc. In fact, the fitbit application on my desktop provided me with a link and the link challenged me for my login credentials again. At this point of time, I realized that my Mac app was only a bluetooth sync app with no other business logic built into it.

The fitbit dashboard app looks good. Haven’t explored it much but I like the default goal settings and default privacy settings overall- no complaints there. Yet to explore the mobile app but being a mobile buff, I am sure I’ll be doing so very soon. Overall, a good first impression of the package. Only bit that I find cumbersome in the device design is the placement of the button. The button (and the only button on the device) on the fitbit to power on the display and the device itself is placed on the left. Being habitual to wearing watch on my left hand, it is a little cumbersome to reach out to the left-side to power on the display. Maybe, fitbit should offer a left-handed and a right-handed option- may not be feasible from a design perspective or from manufacturing perspective. Nonetheless, they should give it some serious thought while designing to make their next product ambidextrous.