Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Warning: Pebble & Fitness Trackers

Some six months ago I reviewed my Pebble smartwatch and gave it a very favourable rating. Shortly afterwards my Pebble broke down but was quickly – and impeccably – replaced by a brand new one, posted to me through a very hassle free process by Pebble itself. So far so good.
Today I am here to tell you that I no longer recommend Pebble. In fact, I’d advise you to steer away. The reason is simple: our second Pebble watch, a Pebble Steel model, broke down as well, suffering from the exact same screen fault as well as a problem with its Bluetooth functionality. On the same week my Pebble Steel broke down, a friend’s Pebble Steel broke down with – again – the same screen problem.
As it happens, 3 out of the 4 different model Pebble watches I have daily encounters with, all active for 6 months or less, have broken down. Sure, Pebble has been very helpful honouring its warranties, but a lemon is a lemon and the Pebble is clearly a lemon.

This warning comes at a time in which virtually everyone I know has, by now, begun wearing watches/bracelets with tracking facilities. I regularly ask these people what they do with their gadget, and the universal answer is “I track my walking/running and my sleep”.
None of them seems aware that the data they’re tracking is also at the disposal of their gadget’s provider, usually Garmin or Fitbit. None of them is aware these companies make money off this data. And none of them has even begun to think of what their detailed location and activity patterns data can be used for.
But that is the manifestation of today’s out of sight, out of mind, Big Brother.

The Apple Watch is yet to make an impression on the market, and frankly I don’t expect that to happen until the second to third model. That’s what happened with the iPhone and later with the iPad.
However, with the direction the Apple Watch is heading for, I can actually start to see some benefit that will allow me to be happy with the fact I’m being voluntarily tracked. I’d be more than happy to wear an Apple Watch that looks at my heart rate if, in return, it would direct me to the nearest hospital well in advance of a heart attack it can see coming but I am not feeling yet.
Pebble watches are not that sophisticated. They offer an ecosystem of apps, but in general they are not much more than glorified smartphone notification systems. And their tracking applications can be easily blocked from calling home with my personal data.
Which brings me to say: why isn’t there a fitness/health app out there that prides itself on not divulging my data with anyone but me?

No comments: