A Wish List for the Fitbit App

Sometimes I really like the Fitbit app and sometimes I think it’s weird. Like I’ve said before, the data and information presentation are great, but certain organizational things don’t make sense to me. Notification settings being in multiple places (I mentioned in my first post) is a good example, though that’s not a big deal since I only needed to set those up once.

Overall, I stand by my statement that Fitbit did a good job presenting a lot of data in a digestible way. It may be too many taps for some people, but my guess is Fitbit was trying to split it up so users weren’t met with a wall of text or table full of numbers they didn’t know how to read.

But as much as I like it, the app isn’t perfect, and the more I engaged with it, the more places for improvement I found. Here are some ways I’d like to see the app improved.

This is part of a series about my experience with the Fitbit Sense 2.

Click a link below to jump to that section.

  1. General comments about the app
  2. More tracking
  3. Dark mode
  4. A more reliable Weather app
  5. Hourly Steps customization and progress
  6. Better use of the bottom nav
  7. Keep SpO2 data together
  8. Add ECG graphs in the app
  9. In closing: Better organization in general

Photos taken by the author; images of any apps or watch faces are property of their respective owners.

General comments about the app

Even weeks after getting it, I still have to search online for certain features because they aren’t the first, second, or even third place I’d think to check. For example, I thought SpO2 percentage would be in the Sleep tile since that’s when it’s recorded, but it’s actually in the Health Metrics tile, which I didn’t think to check (more on this below). I only found it because of Fitbit’s help center.

The Discover tab sort of seems like the equivalent of a junk drawer. It has videos for guided meditations, workouts, and nutrition with thumbnails of the videos and recipes, which make sense and look good.

But it also has Assessments & Reports and Clocks & Apps Gallery. The clock faces and apps can be accessed in device settings, so I’m not sure why that’s here, although in a broad sense, yes, they are something you might want to “discover.”

At the bottom of Discover is also a list of all these sections. I usually support being able to view or access things in different ways, but having duplicative information at the bottom is almost like admitting that this page doesn’t make sense.

In general, this tab gives me the feeling that they threw everything in here that wouldn’t fit under Today. I also don’t see a way to rearrange or customize this page, which would be super helpful.

The Community tab seems like a social media site where you can post updates and things, but I’m not entirely sure. I can’t see public posts or a general public feed and I don’t have any Fitbit friends, so this is another tab that I’m not using at all and adds no value to my experience. They’re no longer allowing people to create new open groups, so maybe they have future plans for this page.

More tracking

This is the one thing from Apple Watch that I miss. I used to log my supplements every morning on my watch, and it was super convenient. Since I left the Apple Watch behind, I’ve also been forgetting my morning supplements.

Apple also asked to log symptoms whenever I did an ECG scan, so it would be nice to have symptom tracking available as well.

Fitbit is about health and fitness, so tracking symptoms, supplements, and medications would be a natural addition to the Today tab.

The rest of the items on my wish list are improvements to the app, but this is the one thing I want that is missing.

Dark mode

I’m always surprised when an app doesn’t have the option for dark mode, but even more so when it’s an app that has anything to do with sleep. Because the Sense 2 tracks my sleep, the Fitbit app is one of the first apps I open in the morning because I want to sync right away. I also sometimes open the app as I’m settling into bed. Dark mode would be super useful so I’m not blinded by the bright white screen in my purposely dark bedroom. It would be also beneficial for battery life.

This was first requested in August 2017 and is marked as “Not currently planned,” so I don’t have a lot of hope that votes will do anything here, but here’s the link to vote just in case:

Vote for dark mode

A more reliable Weather app

I don’t appreciate the commentary in the Weather app.

When I first got the Sense 2, I had some issues syncing the Weather app, and even now it still doesn’t like to sync properly. The weird thing is that sometimes it’ll sync and sometimes it won’t; I haven’t noticed any pattern to when it does or doesn’t sync. Often when it happens, it’s easier to look at my phone’s home screen for the weather instead of force-syncing the watch.

But my trick to turn Bluetooth off and on then syncing still works to fix this issue, so that’s the good news. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s an extra step I shouldn’t have to do.

To be fair, I sometimes need to cycle Bluetooth to get my ŌURA ring to sync, so I suspect this isn’t necessarily a fault with the Fitbit.

In addition to the syncing issues, I don’t like how the Weather app adds its own commentary on the current weather. I don’t want my Weather app labeling a day as “dreary” since I rather enjoy rain, and sometimes I like cloudy days too. Certainly, I’m not the only one, so let’s keep our weather apps to statements of fact instead of opinion, please.

Hourly Steps customization and progress

One thing I miss about the Apple Watch is the reminders to stand up and move for a bit each hour. Fitbit has a similar feature called Hourly Steps, but it’s a little more rigorous than I’d like.

I can set how many hours per day and during what time period I’d like to meet the hourly step goal, but to get credit for the hour, I have to take 250 steps. My apartment is not that big, and I work at home, so 250 steps is kind of a lot. I’d like to customize my hourly movement goal, and then I would use this feature more. The Apple Watch gave credit for standing and moving around for a certain number of minutes per hour, which seems like a better system. With the 250-step goal for each hour, I felt like I was spending half my day cleaning up and, when that was done, just sort of wandering around my apartment.

I’d like to see progress towards the hourly goal too, but right now, it only shows when the goal is reached. If I want a break from my desk and do all 250 steps at once, that’s fine since I can check my step count before I start and do some simple math. But if I’m walking around a little bit at a time throughout the hour, I have no idea how many more steps I need to complete the goal, unless I have alerts turned on and wait for the reminder to see steps remaining.

I did get a message in my app saying 2 minutes of walking for each hour you sit during the day may. be connected with longer life expectancy. Fitbit says 2-3 minutes of walking is about 250 steps, so I guess that’s why this isn’t customizable.

Better use of the bottom nav

I could see why the company would want to highlight premium features in the Premium tab. It’s helpful when you’re trying to decide whether or not to subscribe since it clearly shows what you get for upgrading. The problem is that accessing features from here is a bit clunky.

The gif shows the flow of using the Premium tab to access premium sleep features:

  • Tap Premium in the bottom nav > Premium page is displayed
  • Tap Sleep tile > Sleep animal and info is displayed
  • Tap X button to exit > Info from the Sleep tile is displayed
  • Tap back arrow > Return to Premium page

What’s problematic about this flow is that the page after tapping the X button to exit is identical to the one from the Sleep tile on the Today screen — except now we’re trapped in this flow without the bottom nav. I sent a message to Fitbit customer service, who confirmed this is intentional.

I’m guessing the thought behind this tab is to make premium features centralized and easily accessible, which could make sense for users, I suppose, but to me it seems more in service of helping the company sell subscriptions. I don’t mind that, but I would prefer that the premium experience be more integrated with the rest of the app so I can access premium features where all the other features are.

What really bothers me about this tab, though, is that the bottom nav is prime real estate. Usually it’s reserved for features users will access frequently. They did such a good job with the Today tab, and that gives the option to see most of these too.

I don’t think Premium makes the best use of this space, but it’s possible I object more to all the unnecessary redundancy rather than the Premium page itself.

Keep SpO2 data together

Fitbit’s Estimated Oxygen Variation graph in the Sleep tile.

SpO2 is measured during sleep, so I expected it to be in the Sleep tile, and it is — sort of. The Sleep tile shows a graph called Estimated Oxygen Variation, with the line being different colors to indicate low and high variation over time.

But I was looking for a percentage because I wanted to compare the Sense 2’s SpO2 measurements against ŌURA’s SpO2 percentage. I had to check in Fitbit’s help center to figure out that Fitbit stores SpO2 percentage in the Health Metrics tile.

But as I mentioned, Fitbit does a great job providing more information when I want it. I tapped that Learn more link in the upper right corner to learn about estimated oxygen variation, and I was able to read an article, how Fitbit measures it, and what results might mean.

Add ECG graphs in the app

Another strange placement is the ECG results in the Discover tab instead of the Today tab. I suppose it makes sense since you’d want to see ECG results over time, not just today, but you can’t seem to customize the Discover tab like you can for Today.

To get to the ECG results: Tap Discover > Scroll down to Assessments & Reports > Swipe left to find Heart Rhythm Assessment button.

This message cannot be permanently dismissed.

And every time this is opened, Fitbit displays a screen with a lot of information about this feature. As far as I can tell, we don’t get the option to dismiss it permanently. I understand the need for a disclaimer, but the Apple Watch does a better job of making the disclaimer obvious but not intrusive by showing it on the watch before you use the feature. Fitbit shows the disclaimer on the watch and before you can view results.

The results are also a bit of a pain to look at. You get a list of results by date with an indication of whether the results was normal or not (I assume, but I thankfully haven’t had an abnormal result). This is useful if you want to glance at it quickly, but if you want to actually see the graph, you have to tap the recording, then export a PDF. So. Cumbersome.

It seems like the assumption was that users would only need to look at the graph if 1) the result was abnormal and 2) they wanted to share it with their doctor. This makes logical sense, except for the data nerds like me who want to see it all just for fun.

The good news is, I don’t have to deal with this much because I’m not using the ECG data for anything right now, but I would like to see graphs in the app instead of having to export a PDF. And for people who actually monitor and record their ECG for their health, I imagine it would be nice to see the graphs in the app too. Or if you could at least export all the graphs together, that would be nice.

In closing: Better organization in general

In general, the Fitbit app is user friendly, but I’d definitely like to see better organization of the features and better use of the bottom nav.

If I got to choose what would go in that last tab instead of Premium, I would go with Health Metrics, SpO2, and everything under Assessments & Reports (remove from the Discover tab). And while we’re dreaming, I’d remove the apps and watch faces from the Discover tab too, though I imagine the apps section is more interesting to people who have devices with third-party app support. I’d also like to customize the Discover tab and remove workouts or meditations that I know I don’t like.

None of the areas I’d like to see improved are deal breakers or reasons not to recommend Fitbit, but when recommending Fitbit devices, I usually mention they might need to visit the help center a few times.

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