Last Friday, I woke up with a Fitbit Surge rash.
I noticed slight rashes from wearing Fitbit's 'fitness super watch' ($250) a few times before, usually after prolonged, sweaty exercise, but they were minor and short-lived. This time, though, the rash was bigger and redder, and it developed while I slept. (The photo of my wrist you see here was taken about an hour after I first noticed the rash and removed the watch. Two days later, the rash had significantly faded but was still noticeable.)
I'm fanatical about tracking every step I take, and I've been a committed Fitbit user since November 2012, so the March 25 release of Fitbit's multi-tracker support was excellent timing for me — and for my rash.
Multi-tracker support makes it easy to sync multiple Fitbit trackers to your account simultaneously. This means I can take off the Surge to give my wrist a much-needed rest and keep tracking my steps with a Fitbit One in my pocket, without the hassle of manually switching devices on my account.
If you have an iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, or an HTC One smartphone, you can also use Fitbit's MobileTrack feature, which is part of the free Fitbit app. MobileTrack uses your phone to record steps, distance and calories burned so you don't need a dedicated Fitbit device. Thanks to multi-tracker support, MobileTrack can be one of five Fitbit trackers connected to your account at any given time. It's also worth mentioning that a recent study found smartphone apps to be more accurate than wearables for step counting.
Multi-tracker support, in my tests, works well, though it is a good idea to sync a device before taking it off and swapping to another, to avoid lost steps. The new feature has a clear benefit for Fitbit, of course. Why have just one Fitbit when you can easily switch between two?
[Related: The definitive Fitbit buying guide]
However, there are other benefits for users too. For example, you sometimes need to give your wrist a rest, as I'm all too aware. (In the future, I'll also pay closer attention to Fitbit's 'wear and care' guidelines.) If you leave the house for the day without your Fitbit, your iPhone or HTC One phone can track your steps and sync the data to your Fitbit account.
Fitbit's multi-tracker support also means you can keep collecting steps on one Fitbit while a dead device recharges. That's a good thing, because in my experience, the Surge and Charge HR need to frequently recharge. For instance, my Surge doesn't last more than 24 to 36 hours, as I have continuous heart-rate monitoring on and use the GPS function almost daily during exercise. Both are battery drains.
I don't fault Fitbit; I ask a small device to do a lot of battery-intensive things. However, I take strong exception to Fitbit's claim at the top of the Surge landing page that the sports watch has "long battery life" of "up to 7 days." Only when you drill down into the specifications at the bottom of the page do you see this: "We recommend charging your Surge every few days to ensure you are always tracking." Why would Fitbit make that recommendation if Surge truly held a charge for "up to 7 days?" At best, the "long battery life" claim is misleading and opaque.
Back to my Surge rash. Fitbit acknowledged in February that some Surge owners were reporting rashes. The company suggested users keep the sports watch clean and dry, and "give your wrist a rest," according to TechCrunch. Fitbit also said "the reactions we are seeing with new products are not uncommon with jewelry or wearable devices that stay in contact with the skin for extended periods."
Bottom line: Fitbit gave me both a problem — a rash — and a possible solution — multi-tracker support. For me, it's pretty much a wash, but for those with more sensitive skin, the potential for rashes could be a deal killer.
This story, "Step up your Fitbit game with new multi-tracker support" was originally published by CIO.