I did my homework via Google and web reviews, and tried the following: Garmin Vivosmart HR+, Fitbit Charge 2, TomTom Spark Cardio GPS, and Samsung Gear Fit 2.
Garmin Vivosmart HR+ – I chose this model because, c’mon, it’s Garmin, right? Built-in GPS, Move IQ: “automatically tell the difference between movements like walking, running, biking, swimming and even using an elliptical,” a quote from their site, and many other features. Turns out it’s not very bike friendly, so you’ll have to enter your miles into their tracking system manually.
When I contacted customer service, they told me their site never said anything about bicycling, and they don’t support power meters, cadence, etc., something which I never asked for, but whatever. I do have a copy of the correspondences between customer service and myself, should someone wish to see it.
Suggestions to Garmin: Make your device activities customizable – Bicyclists want to see their miles accrue, and their tracks, without having to manually enter them.
Verdict: Seemingly good tracking, except it doesn’t work for what I want (bicycling).
Fitbit Charge 2 – Okay, here’s another famous company. To be sure they’re all famous, so I won’t repeat for the other two below. Anyway, thought that this would be a good one, because everyone knows that Fitbit is all about activity tracking, right? Yeah, not so much. Although it was not waterproof, irksome to say the least, it seemed to work right out of the box. It did rely on my phone’s GPS to do its tracking, but I’m a bicyclist, and I always carry my phone for emergencies, so not a big deal.
The first day it seemed to work okay. The second day I noticed that the device was having issues staying connected with my phone, thus losing GPS tracking. My rides started recording as ten cents on the dollar, so to speak (10 percent – an exaggeration to be sure, but you get the point).
When I started researching the issue, I encountered many people complaining of the same thing (mostly runners) on Fitbit’s own forums. Another issue that popped up is that it woke me from a sound sleep (around midnight ???) to tell me I had met a goal for burned calories. Seriously? You’re going to wake me from a sound sleep (it also does sleep tracking … for your health) to tell me about calories burned for the day? Wednesday, Thursday, Friday?
Suggestions to Fitbit: Fix your connection issues, and make sure they never raise their ugly heads again. Also, turn off notifications (by default) when someone is SLEEPING!
Verdict: Tracking is, how do I say it politely, for the birds. Unfinished UI app.
TomTom Spark Cardio GPS – So, I ended up on their site (via some search agent), didn’t realize they had a newer model. Tried to place an order, and it was rejected because of a supposed bad CSV. I then tried to purchase the same item with another card, and it was accepted.
When I attempted to look at my order, it showed two orders outstanding. Note, this was on a Saturday, and you cannot call them on the weekends. So, I put in a support ticket, contacted support via e-mail, to make sure the bad CSV order was cancelled.
I later discovered the newer model on their site (let’s just say their site is not user friendly), and then put in another ticket to cancel both orders. There was no contact about either e-mail over the weekend.
Monday rolled around, and when I got home from work, I had a message on my answering machine from a shipping manager at TomTom. She suspected a duplicate order. I returned her call, and she said she would try to cancel the shipment. I asked why no one from customer service cancelled the order, or contacted me? She didn’t know, “they’re in India … although they are on the job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” The shipping manager said that if she could not cancel the order, I could always refuse the shipment (when the delivery was attempted).
I had some errands to run, and went out for a couple of hours. When I returned home, there was no message from the shipping manager, so I called customer service. The initial response was, the item had been shipped, the duplicate order was never completed, and thus cancelled, have a nice day. I asked why no one had contacted me, and he said he would have to look at each contact, speak with each agent that was dealing with my ticket, and then get back to me. He put me on hold for a short time, and when he answered again, he basically said it was due to call volume, and that he was closing all the tickets, have a nice day.
I asked if there was someone to whom I could complain. Was there a phone number or e-mail address, perhaps? He assured me that there was not, but that this was all noted in the system.
I would have liked to have spoken to him about their ticket system failure, vent my frustrations a bit, but his accent was so thick I could barely understand him. With that I decided to not have anything further to do with TomTom. I mean, if they don’t even care when you’re buying their product (and the service shows), how are they going to act once you have the item?
Suggestions to TomTom: Get better customer service, or maybe put the shipping manager in charge. At least she seemed to care enough not to just phone it in.
Verdict: Customer service is so bad, I just sent it back without opening the box. Not going to take a chance.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 – Beautiful color screen, although it’s not viewable in bright sunlight. Can tailor the activity to bicycle – great! And then the issue of connecting to my phone reared its ugly head.
I guess Samsung is not really all that keen to support users when it comes to connectivity. This really sucks, because you cannot directly connect to it from your computer. Read that as “Hello, Samsung, we should be able to connect the activity tracker to our computer.” I wrote that out, because they don’t seem to be smart enough to have figured it out on their own.
Anyway, when I tried contacting customer service for a list of compatible phones, I was told that all Android phones that have Android 4.4 and above, 2 Gig of RAM, should work. When I asked about sites that had lists, including one of their own, I was told that different countries have different spec’s for phones.
I looked into upgrading my phone and found the cost prohibitive.
Suggestions to Samsung: Try to make your app more phone friendly. Also, crazy idea here, but how about making an app that tells a person if their phone is compatible with a given device or not. Maybe even suggest a potential customer download and run the app before considering a purchase. And if the app finds the phone lacking, suggests a list of alternatives. Wouldn’t that be wild?
Verdict: If you have a Galaxy S5 or higher already, you’re probably okay. Probably. If you don’t, you might not want to take a chance, unless a new phone is what you really want.
I only touched on the highlights of my experiences, and although I fully expect you to ignore my post, perhaps there will be some of you smart enough to learn from my misfortunes. At this point I am going to stop pursuing this idea any further. I guess the market is just not mature enough to give me what I want for the price I’m willing to pay at present. Anyone who tells you different has either never really used one, or has very low standards indeed.