The most significant part of this article is going to be a rant about my horrible experience with the Google Pixel Watch and Google’s customer support. However, you can skip down to learn how I returned it and got a brand new Fitbit Charge 5 at 60% off. Also, to balance out the negative product review for something I got at Christmas, I want to tell you about two awesome things I DID get for Christmas. If you aren’t interested in a Google Pixel Watch (maybe you have an iPhone), just scroll down to the next big heading.
The Disastrous Google Pixel Watch
To start, I’ve always been a bit of a Google fan. I don’t like to pay the “Apple tax” and think that competition works better when hardware and software can be separate companies. I’ve read that Samsung makes a good watch, but Samsung likes to put its own apps that compete with Google’s apps on my Samsung S10 phone. Samsung makes the best Android hardware, so I accepted that annoying aspect. For a watch, I have been looking forward to the Pixel Watch for over a year.
I would have been happy if the Google Pixel Watch only functioned as a watch. Unfortunately, it did not.
The battery on the Pixel Watch would die after five hours. That would happen even in power-saving mode. It would happen in bedtime mode (it’s supposed to measure sleep).
So I did my best to charge the watch three times a day. It would usually die for an hour before I could get to the charger, and then charging time would take most of an hour. I reached out to customer support after about three days of this. My wife had bought it over Black Friday and given it to me for Christmas, so I was concerned I might not have a long return window left.
The Google representative in the online chat pointed to all the Google resources online that I had already gone through. My phone has a way to see which apps are using the most battery, so I asked for a similar diagnostic tool. Either one doesn’t exist for the public, or they wouldn’t give it to me. Google customer support just changed the subject.
The person in the customer support chat set me up with an email ticket. I gave them all my account information so that they could look into it. The representative said that they escalated it to a higher tier of engineering. Three days went by with no email. Then the first week passed, and no response. I emailed and asked when I could expect an answer. Another three days pass, and the original customer support person responds that he did indeed escalate it. The second week passed, and I emailed again to tell them that they really needed to respond. Two weeks simply isn’t reasonable.
After another few days without a response, I’m getting angry at them. That’s a long time to have to charge your watch three times a day. That’s around 50 charges which would have been enough to get through a year with my old Fitbit.
Then I got a strange text. My wireless provider said that I used up all 16GB of my data plan. I typically use only 4GB a month because I’m almost home (since I work from home). It was also only the 25th day of my billing cycle. I went to look at my phone’s data usage, and the Google Pixel Watch had churned through GB after GB. Not only that, but the Google Chrome app also used several GBs of data – more than five times as much as I typically use in a whole month.
I suppose this was the diagnostic app that I was looking for. Something on the Pixel Watch was connecting to my phone constantly and making huge data requests. I don’t know what kind of data it was asking for. I tried to reach out to Google customer support one more time, but I admit that I was even angrier than I was previously. With my data plan used up, I was reduced to only extremely slow data speeds. I couldn’t navigate to a web page on my phone without waiting at least a minute. The alternative was to buy more data from my mobile provider, but I knew that Google’s lack of customer support was going to make reimbursement for that a non-starter.
I told customer support that I’d have to return the watch. My wife looked, and we had two days, so we rushed it off. Customer support got back to me a few days later with a one-liner, “Just to confirm, we do not have to initiate the replacement on our end anymore, is that right?” There was no apology. There was no offer like, “I understand how bad this has been for you. Let us give you a 20% discount on a Fitbit, so you can get back to what worked for you.”
The escalated customer support representative never entered the email thread in the entire three weeks. I had pleaded with them multiple times that I just wanted to donate my time to help debug their device. I was happy to be a QA (quality assurance) engineer for them for free and they simply couldn’t respond back to the email.
I can only imagine the situation will only get worse as Google, like many big tech companies, is laying off thousands and thousands of people. I am used to poor customer support from Google for their free products, but for the hardware that I purchase, I have a much higher standard.
Get 60% off a Brand New Fitbit Charge 5
With the Google Pixel Watch returned, it was time to get back to a regular old Fitbit. I have loved Fitbit as far back as 2012. Back then, you’d clip it to your pants or put it in your pocket. I ended up putting quite a few through the wash. I’ve been through a couple of wrist trackers. The Bluetooth died on the first one, so it would no longer sync my data with the web. The screen died on the second one making it useless for telling time or seeing my step count. At least I got 2-3 years out of each.
The good news is that by switching to the $150 Fitbit Charge 5, I’d save $200 over the $350 Pixel Watch. The Charge 5 has been around for a little while, so I thought that maybe I could hunt for a deal on a refurbished one. In hindsight, I don’t know why I thought going refurbished was a good idea for a product that seems to be designed to break. In any event, it led me to eBay, where I found that I could buy just the Charge 5 core (they call it the pebble) for $50. A bunch of sellers had them – all brand new. Maybe they fell off the back of a truck because they don’t come up with boxes, watch bands, chargers, etc.
I bought the Fitbit Charge 5 “Pebble” ($50), this watch band for $6.75, and these two chargers for $9. I didn’t need two chargers, but I couldn’t find a way to save money buying just one. Add it all together, and I have a brand new Charge 5 (with an extra charger) for about $67. That’s a lot better than a new one for $150 or a refurbished one for $100. (If you buy anything from the Amazon links, I may earn a commission.)
That’s almost $300 less than the Pixel Watch.
The Two Best Things I Got For Christmas
My wife has been on me for owning a long black wool winter coat. It’s not a good fit if you have a dog boarding business. I don’t need to bring the dog hair everywhere I go. Last year she invested in an expensive winter coat and was so happy with it that she thought it would be a good idea for me. She got a Vineyard Vines coat that looked very nice, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be warm enough. We did a little more research and found that it wasn’t going to be warm enough.
I did a little research and found a “best of” Travel+Leisure article that mentioned LL Bean’s Maine Warden’s 3-in-1 Parka. The article mentioned that the coat might be too warm, according to their reviewer. I’ve been out in 30-degree weather without zippering it (though I usually do). It’s been a warm winter, so I haven’t had the opportunity to test that aspect too much. It has about 200 pockets in all the right places. The standard ones (where you would normally put your hands) are perfectly angled in such a way that nothing falls out.
The best feature is that you can take out the liner and wear it separately as its own coat. As we move into spring, I’ll separate the liner from the GORE-TEX shell. The shell can be a raincoat, and the liner as a spring jacket. At $400, it isn’t cheap, but I’m getting to the stage in my life where I’ll pay extra for quality.
My other favorite Christmas gift was the The Green Bamboo Brush by Bass. It’s weird to be excited by a hairbrush. Nonetheless, here I am, excited to brush my hair. Kids love it, too, and they normally hate to brush their hair. My hairbrush from a few years ago was plastic, and it had a good run for about a decade. It was cheap, though, and it was time to move on. My next brush had metal brushes with soft rubber tips. It was fine until the soft rubber tips fell, and I was scraping my head with knife-like spikes. The curved bamboo wood is much softer, and the handle is a much better grip.
Did you read through my rant or just skip through to the good stuff? I was really torn on what to do with this blog post. On one hand, I wanted to warn everyone to avoid the Pixel Watch at all costs. On the other hand, who wants to read an article that’s all negative?
I read through whole rant;) I too hate it when tech seems to work against me, especially when I so badly want it to work. Glad you’re happy with your Fitbit. My wrist is smart watch free and I’ll probably keep it that way for ever. Reminds me of this XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1420/
Lazy Man says
I did go with a naked wrist for several months. It’s fine either way.
Thanks for the post. I’ve had a Fitbit for as long as you I think. I was considering stopping using one a couple of years back because though I exercise (quite a bit for an old guy) I had to wonder if it was really “helping”, like the people posting Ring videos on Nextdoor, do you actually feel better having that information? But before I gave up on Fitbit my wife got me a new 4, then my work gave me points once and I upgrade to a 5, which is quite nice. My wife has one that’s like an Apple Watch(somewhat) that is nice, but since I keep banging my 5 into things the last thing I need is something bigger. I have found that tracking my heartrate is a good thing, noticed my “resting” heartrate had gone up so adjusted a medication and it’s back to normal.
Regarding support, do you remember the days when if you contacted Fitbit about any problem they would just send you a new device? I guess those days are gone for good.
Lazy Man says
I was going to say that you can get similar deals to what I mentioned on other Fitbits. In hindsight, I wish I had looked for the more “smartwatch” version because that was only about $15 or $20 more. The Charge 5 is still better than what I had before, so I am sure it will be good enough.
I don’t think I bothered with Fitbit customer support until my Charge 3 died and it was just after warranty, so they sent me a 30% off coupon. If this Ebay Pebble trick continues to work, I’ll probably just save time and buy a new one if/when it breaks.
The pebble trick is genius. I’ve looked at them on eBay as I’ve scratched mine a bit, but haven’t done it yet.