Picking the least bad fitness tracker
My philosophy on possessions is minimalistic. I have plenty of gadgets anyway (most recently, I bought the Muse meditation device). But I try to be extremely careful about new items.
I've been eyeing trackers for years, but I've held off due to the paradox of choice, mixed reviews, and the impending dawn of the next new thing.
In the end, I chose the Fitbit. Other than Pebble, they were the only one which showed open engagement with their users.
In reviewing the landscape again this time, I started with Wirecutter fitness tracker, perusal of landing pages, Amazon reviews, specout (formerly findthebest), and so on.
But before long I sought out the place that I always look first: the feature/issue request list and community forums.
If a company does not publicly expose a feature request list (something like Uservoice), it is a major strike against them. Feature request lists are scary for companies as they allow the public to see the most critical omitted features. But they are also a clear competitive advantage.
With the exception of a few open-source companies or developer-facing companies such as Jetbrains, most companies do not expose their bug trackers. Community forums, however, allow us to get a sense of bugs and regressions.
It's interesting to see which companies do and don't have public feature request databases exposed. It makes you wonder if any of them have a flexible architecture and use test-driven development. The connectedly forums page is also helpful.
Survey of user feedback channels
Fitbit: available here; the requests/issues listed are troubling and longstanding, suggesting that the company is not responsive to their customers. Editing exercises, for example, was removed about a year ago and remains unavailable despite being in the top 5 of requests. However, at least the list is there, and reasonably functional. When first perusing the Charge HR general forum, I also quickly found complaints about serious regressions after a firmware update.
Basis Peak: available here; again, listed issues are troubling and longstanding. Significant bugs reported in the last few days. The database seems to be a pretty bad handrolled forum, with no progress indicators: consequently, the highest-voted feature request was already implemented but you had to read deep into the comments to discover that.
Withings: none. Ugh! Not even a forum as far as I can tell. Disappointing given that it seems like a well-run company.
Garmin Vivosmart: has an ugly forum, but no feature request system.
Jawbone: none. Red flag, especially since there are lots of reports of issues.
Pebble: decent forum, good developer documentation, and pretty cool overall. Too bad fitness isn't the focus and I couldn't find much about their sleep tracking.
Samsung (for the Gear S2): none? I've been generally happy with Samsung quality, but if they had a feature request list I'm pretty sure it would be revealing, with sleep tracking near the top.
Motorola (for Moto X 360): again, none. Yet this is considered the leading Android smartphone, and presumably it has few issues. Many of the important features are driven by the apps, such as Sleep on Android (which apparently has issues, mainly around battery drain).