Consumer Reports finds conflicting data in the market for fitness trackers
By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Diabetes Week — Consumer Reports once again assessed fitness trackers and well-worn devices. The folks who spend billions buying those items each year say they’re far from perfect. In fact, some of the best trackers didn’t even make the list of best tools. The survey of nearly 150,000 subscribers, who own “tens of millions” of fitness trackers, shows three things that run in direct conflict with one another: a tendency to over-rely on high-tech items, a desire to have the latest and greatest without necessarily seeking the most accurate data, and emotional responses to technology – qualities seen in wearables that are easy to replace (see also MindShift).
“People shouldn’t assume that fitness trackers are ever going to work miracles and that every possible anxiety can be solved through them,” said Candice Ehring , senior science editor for Consumer Reports . “My biggest concern, and the one that Consumer Reports gave to number 1 most frequently, is the habit people get of expecting things to be different because they look different.”
Consumers spent roughly a quarter of a billion dollars on fitness trackers in 2016, a threefold increase from the year before. Despite their growing popularity, too many users complain about expensive and lightweight technology that doesn’t help them live healthier lives. In fact, Consumer Reports data on more than three hundred readers’ fitness trackers found 36 percent were overwhelmed by their inaccurate, incomplete or no data (21 percent), roughly 30 percent had some of the bugs and glitches that the monitor manufacturers say are fixed (19 percent), and 11 percent didn’t allow the wearer to accurately track sleep.
“Some people don’t have good data from a particular product, and if they do, the amount of accurate information available to them may be less than the manufacturer hopes,” said Ehring. “Then there are other products people think work for them that, when examined, they find don’t truly work.”
Optimists (those who like the tracking features) and pessimists (those who don’t) fit into the same slice of tech ownership: around one-third fall into both camps. Meanwhile, those who bought trackers for the promise of night-time monitoring and sensor accuracy scored poorly. They took an average of 33 percent longer to correct an off-track alarm, slept one hour and 25 minutes less than they would have expected, and only 10 percent could track sleep accurately from their activity logs.
“Healthcare providers and consumers alike need to ensure people get quality data and have accurate tools to use it with.”
And even though people said they would take longer to correct their off-track alarms, it turns out they were worse off, waking up 18 minutes, 30 seconds later than if they simply couldn’t get out of bed. They also took an average of 2.75 minutes longer to correct their overeating when they were eating on an active day.
Consumer Reports concluded the average user of a fitness tracker typically spends just a few minutes on most of the features the device was designed to track. Of course, many of those are related to people’s activities, not sleeping. But the recommendation of trackers: scan the user’s activity logs regularly, and sleep and activity logs routinely, to determine the most accurate data for many of the features, particularly for tracking sleep.
But there’s a catch: More than half of readers in the survey said they wished they could improve their sleep, and had a better understanding of what may cause their sleep problems. In essence, people who say they would invest more in their sleep were less likely to use fitness trackers, while those who didn’t sleep well were more likely to use the product – an implication that may not be a good one for fitness trackers.
Said Ehring, “Healthcare providers and consumers alike need to ensure people get quality data and have accurate tools to use it with.”
Keywords for this news article include: Energy, Visual Appeal, Consumers, Fitbit.
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