I was at a corporate event a few weeks back and they had the usual "prize table grab". Numbers were called and people got to come up and grab the prize of their choice. Before the great parade of people, I went to check out what was donated and it was interesting.
The event was held by a company in the technology space, so it makes sense that not only were the gifts that they provided heavily focused on technology but many of the attendees brought technology-focused gifts as well.....and no gift was more popular than the FitBit.


I stopped counting at 15 Fitbits, and they were not the only ones represented, as products from Garmin, Polar, Nike and others were all there.  One could have started their own technology store with the haul of devices if one was so inclined. 

Got me to thinking two things....First, how many of these will still be on someone's wrist at Christmas?    The second thing is....if we don't pretty these up, this trend is going to end. 

What is wrong with the current generation?
I wrote in another blog about how I had moved towards a different device, the Withings Activite, for its simplicity.  While I do want to keep track of my health, I don't always need something flashing at me or beeping.  As well, I have enough ways for people to get a hold of me now, so the idea of true SmartWatch does not appeal to me. 

Based on the less than stellar response to the Apple Watch, I am not alone.  Sure, Apple sold a ton of them, but one only has to look at the lacklustre reviews of the product to see that Cupertino did not hit a bullseye with this product. 

So, what will make it better? 

Better aesthetics will help 
Fitness trackers look quite cool...in the gym.  They are not all that cool when one is wearing a suit.  I guess at first, the people that wore them were seen as trend setters, so in that way, they were cool, but nothing looks out of place more next to a business suit than a plastic wrist strap with a big LED display on it.  The Apple watch was a good move towards where the industry needs to go.  Devices from companies like Alpina, Tag Heuer and Frederique Constant will also help, at least for the higher end market.  Look for companies like Swatch and others to take care of the lower end market.

 Improve battery life  
One device that always seems to make its way back onto my wrist at some point when I am testing some of these devices out is my Garmin Vivofit.  Why?  Because I don't have to charge the battery, it uses a watch battery.  No serious watch wearer will put up with charging a battery every night.  This is part of the reason why most wearables get put in the drawer....people forget to put them on after they are charged and end up leaving them at home.  After a while, you figure that it is not worth it....

Use sensors and a smartphone instead  
Ok, I guess you can determine by this statement that  I am not an investor in Fitbit.  Their approach, while they talk greatly about software, is still too hardware-centric for my liking.  One thought that I had is that since most of us carry around a smartphone when we leave the house (and are usually close to our phones at home), would it not make sense to move towards some sort of sensor solution that better utilizes our smartphones?  Withings seems to have embraced this, as they use the camera on the phone to check your pulse, but I think we can do so much more.  People will leave their home without their Fitbit, but rarely without their iPhone. 

The Bottom Line
As someone who is in their 3rd year of wearing some sort of device, I have long made it past the trial phase and won't be giving mine up anytime soon.  However, most people don't think the way that I do, so manufacturers need to do a better job or face extinction.  This may make the gift table look a bit different....can you really go wrong with a good bottle of wine?