My New Garmin Fitness Tracker

Two Boxing Days ago, I bought myself a Fitbit. I really enjoyed having it for the first year – it tracked my steps, my sleep, my heart rate. So much data to play with! It gave me notifications if I got a text or a phone call, which was super handy since I usually have my phone volume off (a habit from working in a large office where it was super annoying when people’s phones went off.) It vibrated if I hadn’t done at least 250 steps in 50 minutes, giving me a reminder to not just sit at my desk unmoving for hours at a time. It was great.

Just before the one year mark of having it, the wristband snapped. It was within the 12 month warranty, so they sent me a new one.

Then, about a month later, the screen stopped working. It still tracked all my steps and my heartbeat, but I had to look on the app on my phone to see it. I also couldn’t use any of the features that require the screen to function – like tracking an activity in real time or setting an alarm. When I inquired to the company about it, they were basically like “it’s not under warranty, so we don’t need to give you anything, but we are so magnanimous that we’ll give you 25% off the purchase of a new Fitbit”. But if a $200 product can’t even last 13 months, why would I want to buy another product from this company?

I went on their forum and found hundreds of other people complaining about the same issue and the company marked the issue in the forum as “resolved” even though it clearly is not resolved. They provide instructions of basically turn-it-off-and-turn-it-on-again that doesn’t seem to work for most people, and they will send a replacement if you are in warranty and will tell you about the 25% discount if you aren’t, which to me is not an adequate “resolution”.

Anyway, I ended up wearing that Fitbit for another year – like I said, it still did its main job of tracking my steps and heart rate – though over time it stopped vibrating so was no longer useful as an alarm (it was still going with the daily alarm that I had to wake up every day) or to remind me to move throughout the day.

Then, about a week ago, I woke up and the watch strap had snapped. Like, just from sleeping! And there was no way in hell I was going to be giving Fitbit any more of my money by buying a new strap for a device that doesn’t even have a working screen. So I decided it was time to buy a new device.

I considered an Apple Watch and at first my main hesitation was that I want to be able to wear my fitness tracker when I play hockey (assuming we’ll even be allowed to play hockey again. Stupid COVID.) and the Apple Watch seems a little too fragile for that and way to expensive to want to risk its fragility. And then I read that the battery on the Apple Watch only lasts 18 hours! Since I want to use my watch to track my sleep, it’s not like I can just plug it in overnight like I do with my phone. So that was a deal breaker.

I ended up settling on a Garmin fitness tracker. Garmin makes pretty great running watches, so I’m hopeful that this will be a good product too. It does everything my Fitbit did, but it also can measure oxygen saturation (which seems particularly relevant during a respiratory virus pandemic) and also notifies me of all the notifications on my phone, not just text and phone (e.g., my sister and I chat on Google Hangouts rather than text and those notifications wouldn’t come through on my Fitbit, but they do on my Garmin).

Also, the Garmin is quite a bit smaller than the Fitbit – put side by side, it makes my Fitbit look comically large. When I read reviews online before I bought it, some people complained about the screen being too small and I could see that being true if you had big hands, but I have teeny tiny child sized hands, so this size works just fine for me.

Fitbit watch band snapped for a second time
Temporary Fitbit watch strap repair

While I waited for the Garmin to arrive, I kept wearing my Fitbit – I had to sew the watch strap together (I tried duct tape first, but it didn’t work). Right now I’ve got both of them on – want to get a couple of days of data on both devices to do a comparison. #nerd

Testing Fitbit vs Garmin fitness trackers

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