The Daily Parker

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A tale of two fitness trackers

I have argued with Fitbit customer service for about as long as I've had a GPS-enabled device, to no avail. Their GPS chips die slowly until they die abruptly. And every time I've complained, they've instructed me on how to get a clean GPS reading. I've noted at those times that my phone, camera, car, and drone all connect to GPS within a few seconds (even from cold start), while my Fitbit Ionic can't connect no matter how long I let it try to find satellites. Or it does this:

I've even tried to troubleshoot this problem for them. I've run experiments on my Fitbit: battery level, sky conditions, clock synchronization (my Fitbit clock is almost always a few seconds behind GPS time). Nothing.

So you know what? I'm done with Fitbit.

Today I received a Garmin Venu, and in the first three hours of owning it, I've realized how far Fitbit is behind Garmin in technology:

  • The Fitbit only has GPS, and it almost never works. The Garmin has GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS. (You get to use two at once.)
  • Fitbit syncs time from phone; Garmin from GPS.
  • Fitbit's software has maybe half the features as Garmin's.
  • Fitbit has no concept of time zones, so all their data are stored as simple date-times, meaning traveling between time zones screws up your counts unless you take specific steps ahead of time. Garmin knows what a time zone is.

Plus, Garmin made it trivially easy to import all my step records, so I get to keep my personal records. (July 2018 was intense.)

I will say this, though: the Garmin led me down a garden path when I first tried to record exercise. I wanted to test the mapping features alongside the Fitbit, so I set them both to record walks and started a 3 km blast through my neighborhood. The Fitbit never connected to GPS, and the Garmin thought (for reasons I don't understand) that I was on a treadmill.

I'm about to try again, but with a shorter walk, because it's brutally hot out there.

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