Fitbit, You Frustrate Me

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Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of my Fitbit device. I like the idea of accountability. It may not motivate me to be more physically active, but that’s okay.

My problem, nay my supreme life struggle lies with getting my Fitbit to sync. It’s almost as if it was designed to not work.

Let me explain.

I’ve been told that more times than I’m willing to admit.

This all started some time ago when I wanted to update an alarm I set on my Fitbit Charge HR. It should be easy enough:

  1. Open Fitbit App.
  2. Tap the device, tap Silent Alarms.
  3. Set alarm.

That sounds super easy, don’t you think? Usually, when you open the app, it’ll want to sync with the tracker and does so, successfully, in the background. Here’s where the problem lies: if the sync never completes, anything else you want to do has to wait. In this case, my alarms never got pushed to my tracker because the sync never completed before my phone went to sleep.

Fitbit says that’s not an issue and it’ll continue to sync after the screen goes dark, but my experience tells me otherwise. I re-visit the app and see the sync process has started over and my alarms are not set. So what do I do?

Sit and watch it. It’s almost like watching paint dry, at this point. The progress bar moves so incredibly slowly, the engineer in me wonders if it’s stuck on something. My suspicions seem correct after about five minutes, the progress bar jumps to the end and we’re finished within a few seconds.

Odd. Well, can I set my alarms, now? Sure I can. There’s nothing to indicate a sync never took place becuase my data is updated on, my challenges, and it’s streaming data in as I walk around (indicated by the step counter increasing in real time).

What’s interesting, now, though, is All-day Sync is turned off. I swear I turned that on a while back. (flips the switch) I have to pair first? Ok, so pair… or don’t, that’s fine, too. the Fitbit app won’t re-pair and All-day sync never turns on… after we do the five minute sync dance, again.

My next thought is to check my bluetooth status. Is it on? Yes. Can it see my tracker? Yes. How do I know? It’s already paired.

As the kids say: dafuq?

So let’s un-pair it and let Fitbit re-pair. That seems to work just fine. All-day Sync is back on. I can also seem to update my alarms, now, but the sync process still takes an eternity.

Is there a next course of action? Of course there is, because this is technology… there’s always one more thing to try.

In this case: let’s nuke it from orbit. Not literally, though, just virtually. Still lost? Factory Restore is the term.

How do we do that? Good question. It’s not a well known thing and Fitbit doesn’t recommend it in pretty much any circmstance, but they document it anyway on their help site. The steps are pretty easy, but the timing they suggest is way off. Seven to nine seconds? More like 20.

Ok, I’ve wiped my tracker, lost all my unsynced data to the ether. Now I need to re-add it to my Fitbit account and app.

Oddly, this is painless. It’s almost like my tracker is brand new! /scarasm-sorta.

You’re probably wondering when I’ll get to the part about the sync message I so masterfully crafted into a GIF above. Don’t worry, this story isn’t over, yet.

——— fast forward some time ———

The remedy lasted all of a week and my sync problems arose, again. I’ve stopped caring so much at this point and am starting to shop around for new devices. Maybe mine is just screwed up? I don’t know. Fitbit won’t likely give me a new one as this was a corporate gift for a company for which I am no longer employed. Receipt? hah.

But guess what? I have a firmware update available! What does it fix?

Version 18.122

This release provides bug fixes and stability improvements.

Great. In other words:

Version 18.122

We didn’t really do anything you’ll ever notice, so whatever your major problem is, it likely still exists.

Advice: if you’re a software company, you don’t need to tell us everything, but give us something. Give us some sort of real incentive. Those “bug fixes” could be “improvements to app-tracker communication” or “making data gathering more accurate.” Own up to your mistakes. If all your fixes are on the backend, where no one sees them (not applicable here, remember, because we’re talking about a consumer-facing device), then be generic all day. As someone who is actively having trouble with their Fitbit on a regular basis, and have heard several of the same stories from others, you owe me this.

For the record, the previous version: 18.102, came out sometime in November, I believe, if not sooner. The device I had came with 102 pre-installed, so it could have been a lot earlier than that.

So let’s try to update the firmware, shall we? tap tap tap Hmm. I’ve invoked the update from the app, and it says it could take 5-10 minutes. Given how many times I’ve seen Fitbit do poor estimation math, I’ll say it’ll take an hour.

The Next Day

I left it updating when I went to bed. Did it finish? Nope. Progress? Zero. Well s–t. Now what? Update via computer? I guess we could try that. Like I said, there’s always one more thing to try.

Launches the Fitbit Connect app.

I’d like to update my firmware, but I have to sync first. (here’s where that looping GIF comes in) This might take a few minutes. Ok, I don’t mind.

This is where, if you know me at all, I would furrow my eyebrows and tilt my head as if to say “that shouldn’t happen.” And in all reality, it shouldn’t. Except for the fact that it doesn’t sync that way. It needs the little USB Bluetooth nubbin, because for some reason it can’t use the native Bluetooth present on my laptop.

Too bad I lost it a long time ago.

So now what?

It’s present day, and I’m currently struggling with this as I wrote this blog post, so let’s do this in real time, now. The last thing I can think of is to factory restore, again, and do the firmware update from the App. If that doesn’t work, I’ll probably just toss it for a new device.

After doing the ERASE dance, again, I’ve powered the device back on. It’s currently 0:00 in the morning. I’ve added my tracker back to the app and I’m immediately prompted to update it. Let’s give it a shot.

Hmm, this is a different update screen. It looks more legit, and it’s actually f*cking updating. This time, it invoked the update on the tracker and the progress bar appeared, something that never happened before. Perhaps my sync issue was the reason I couldn’t update my Fitbit before? That’s my theory.

It says it may take up to ten minutes, but so far it’s only taken about two to make it through the update. My hopes are starting to rise.

The update is done. It took about three minutes. All-day Sync is on. Alarms re-set.

But like last time, this is what I saw for about a week. Some follow up will be required.

In summary, I hate to think this is how those who have the same issue as I have to fix their problem. What baffles me is Fitbit makes no effort to let you know there’s a problem with the device when it can’t sync, nor when it can’t update the firmware. It seems like Fitbit literally gives zero f*cks. That’s a terrible user experience. That’s a terrible design process. It’s terrible everything. They’ve been in the game long enough to know better.

I’m excited in hopes that this will solve my problem, but I’m also near the end of my patience with Fitbit as a whole. This comes after they send me a shitty Aria scale that after less than a week forgot how to weigh. (Paraphrased; It lost the ability to calibrate on its own.) The replacement works great. Per their instructions, I threw it in the trash. They literally didn’t want it back. That literally tells me they literally know it’s an issue, literally know what causes it, but literally haven’t been able to prevent it from happening.

Last chance, Fitbit. Don’t let me down. I’ve been with you since September 2, 2014.