Fitbit Aria Scale

Aria

My relationship to my weight for the last five years or so has been one that isn’t entirely dysfunctional, but it doesn’t operate by any of the norms that characterize the rest of my life. I can make significant efforts for whole calendar sheets and see nothing in return. Or I can take a vacation from all discipline for a weekend and pay dearly. I’m someone who needs a scale, if only to remind me that discipline is a daily task.

So when my old scale died a watery death thanks to my toddler sending his bathwater skyward as if he were the tiniest cetacean going, I figured I’d upgrade to a scale that would give me solid body fat percentage numbers. Truth be told, while I wasn’t psyched to be buying another scale, the death of this one was just the occasion I needed to purchase something that could determine my body fat composition with at least rudimentary accuracy. The dead one claimed to do it, but the numbers were so high I don’t think it would have been accurate even on a sort of normal person.

I ran across the Fitbit Aria while in the Apple Store. My sense is that the few non-Apple items that are carried in an Apple Store are pretty well curated. If the Aria was the only scale they were carrying, well it must be okay, right? I will admit that the $129.95 price tag gave me pause, but I was already prepared to drop $80 or so on a Tanita unit and what intrigued me about the Aria was the ability to use the wifi in my home to send my daily weight to my computer and track it the way I track my time on the bike. Maybe, just maybe, that would give me the extra input I needed to better control, well, I’m not going to say just what needs controlling.

In broad strokes, the scale’s setup seemed simple enough. Pull out a battery and reinsert it to put it in setup mode, make sure the scale is within 12 feet of the wireless router and then a few other steps to make sure the computer was seeing the scale.

This would be where everything went to hell.

photo-13The scale on the left is new. The one on the right is old, and broken. They have in common the fact that neither can be used to weigh a human.

In short, I was never able to pair the scale—to anything. Not my desktop unit, not my laptop and not even to my phone, which struck me as a ridiculous suggestion, but one that came up in my reading through of their troubleshooting FAQ. After spending two evenings working on this rather than hanging out with my family, I emailed the company to ask what other suggestions they had. My worst fears about their tech support were realized when, despite a thorough description of actions I’d taken which included (from my email to tech support):

  • I have restarted my computer (as stated in my previous email)
  • I have placed the Aria within 10 feet of the router
  • My router is compatible with 802.11b protocol
  • My wifi password has no spaces and does not exceed 31 characters, nor does it contain any unusual characters
  • I have spelled the password correctly
  • I turned off my Airport Express during setup (as stated in my previous email)
  • I have tried setting up the scale using my iPhone

Tech support bro Fernando suggested, among other things that I might try restarting my computer and making sure my Airport Express was turned off. I even gave them the make and model on my wireless router and checked to make sure the scale’s firmware was up to date; I went so far as to provide them with the version of the firmware in question.

I should note that I made this purchase more than a month ago.

I’ll cut to the chase: I never, ever got the scale to work. Part of the tragedy in this for Fitbit is that because the scale won’t work at all until it is connected to your computer via wifi it does nothing. Had the device at least functioned as a traditional low-tech scale, I’d have been incented just enough to keep trying. However, because it performed none of its advertised functions, I harbored no hope for future success because following my most recent inquiry to tech support five days have passed with no response.

People wonder why they don’t see more negative reviews on RKP (for the record, until the publication of this post there had been exactly one bad review). The point I’ve made previously is that there is so little drive for it; I just don’t believe there are many products out there that you need to be warned against. It is entirely possible that there are scores of these scales out there and functioning as advertised. Some of them may even be in use among you. The point of this post isn’t that this product can’t work, it’s that if your tech support is monumentally ineffective, you can end up with an utterly unusable product.

Let me hasten to add that I was excited about this product; I wanted it to work well. This is not some Venus Flytrap of a review like the New York Times did on Tesla where they gave an electric car to a reviewer who hates electric cars. That review resulted in quite a lot of controversy, not the least of which is Tesla CEO’s accusation that the bad and inaccurate review cost the company $100 million—the actual value of canceled orders. Even the Times’ public editor found problems with the review.

I bring this up because when I read about the controversy, my feeling was that the Times had sandbagged Tesla. It looked to me like the reviewer could have spent some time talking to Tesla to better understand the car and thereby give it a fairer shake. It’s my personal belief that by the time you write a review of a product, you had better know it nearly as well as the company’s PR team, if not better. I didn’t believe that the reviewer, John Broder, had really done the job of a responsible reviewer; worse, his bias against electric cars suggests someone else with a more open-minded outlook should have reviewed the car.

Like I said, I wanted to like this product. After my final request for assistance to their tech support folks, 12 days elapsed before they got back to me with a half-baked excuse about their email not working right.

I swear, I’m not making this up.

Tech support and customer service are aspects of a company’s function that have the ability to make or break a brand’s reputation. I hear complaints from friends about various bike companies’ customer service departments from time to time. In nearly every instance, I’ve heard a countervailing experience from someone else. But bike stuff has the benefit of (usually) being so obvious in function and installation that very few people ever experience a problem that renders a product completely inoperable. That said, I’d love to hear some worst-case-scenario stories.

I’m still fascinated by what this scale might do, but it seems unlikely that I’ll ever find out. I will say that I’m grateful to Apple for extending me a full refund, though they were unwilling to do so until I showed the manager a photo of the Deuce in the NICU.

For purposes of my own entertainment, I plan to send a link to this review to Fitbit’s tech support guys. I’ll let you know if they ever respond.

,

19 comments

  1. jb

    For what it’s worth, I have the same scale (and an apple home wifi setup) and it works well. I don’t remember pairing being difficult.

  2. Clem

    Padraig, I’m sorry to hear you had such a crummy experience with the scale. I’ll offer though, that I’m currently using a Withings scale, which has all the capabilities you said you’re looking for, and more (it has the ability to track multiple profiles, and some social media tie-ins to boot).

    Setup on this was short and simple. It is wireless, and does connect to both the web and your phone. Hopefully you’ll be able to give this a shot for your self, but it’s something I’ll wholeheartedly endorse.

  3. Andrew

    I’d like a French scale that gives you body fat percentage in terms of the artisanal cheese that you most closely resemble.

  4. Michael

    Maybe this is a useless idea, but as a computer network guy by day I’ll throw it out there. If your Wireless Access Point will let you, disable all security including WEP, and enable broadcast of the SSID. (See if the thing will pair then.) That’s not a fix at all becuase while residential security, is not as important as enterprise security, you don’t want your network wide open for long, but it might make trouble shooting easier. Also, might be worth it to ensure your DHCP service hasn’t crashed, reboot the access point (assuming it’s the DHCP server)… Oh you did that. Well probably a security issue then.

    One day someone has to explain to me why Wifi is so popular, frankly its a big can of tech support headaches that more often than not could be resolved by the use of a cat-5 cable strategically located under the baseboard. (Hint, hint.)

    Hope it helps.

  5. Randall

    My wife has a Garmin 310XT and a Tanita BC-1000. I got a good deal on the scale, and I know that it would otherwise be crazily expensive, but the ANT+ capability is spot-on and dead-easy. If the scale doesn’t immediately tell us to step on it, I change the batteries, problem solved every time!

  6. Dave O

    Sometimes being on the cutting edge of technology leaves one bloodied and bowed. I say this as a former “early adopter”, former because I have tired of a closet full of stuff that seemed to work everywhere but my home. The wasted dollars!

    That being said do you really want a scale that only works when your internet is up and running?

    Do you know where the data that is being collected resides? Are there any limitations on how that data is used or how personal it gets? We have no idea how much information is being collected, who “owns” it and how it is being used.

    One more reason to stick with a scale that transmits information only as far as the LCD display.

  7. Carlos

    Padraig, about equipment that is supposed to work out of the box but doesn’t. Well, my GoPro 3 Black Edition is one example of something that age me MIGRAINES! Not headaches. I went skiing and try to use it for the first time on the trip. A complete disaster. Even though I asked for help from many others that were actually using GoPro’s, the usual answer I would get was that they are a bit “idiosyncratic” and have quirky issues. GoPro help was not. My ski vacation almost got ruined until I decided not to worry anymore…You are not alone!

  8. Heath

    I considered the fitbit or the withings scale. The latter comes with a USB cable and requires that it be connected to a computer to set it up. Some folks have complained about this fact. It seems to me that using that methodology to get the network setup might be an actual benefit.

  9. Kim

    I’m having the same problem setting up. Aria can’t connect to my wi-fi network and I’ve followed the instructions to the “T”, over and over. I have an “Err” message on the scale that I can’t reset. Fit Bit Aria set up refers you to their FAQs on setup, which I’m still looking for… I am unable to weigh. I just emailed the company and the cable guy is coming tomorrow to make sure its not a problem with my wi-fi.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      It’s not your wifi. It’s the scale. Return it. I don’t see me buying another Aria product, ever. And I’m never this down on a brand.

  10. Mary Adams

    I would normally assume it was the user too, until I had taken a look, but as you have stated that you did everything possible, including rebooting your laptop and your router, as well as checking password etc then I would guess it might be faulty. The only issue if it’s not “faulty” is that it might only work on lower encryption, as some wireless printers seem to. Sometimes a device will only connect to WEP as opposed to WPA2/PSK, but WEP is a hacker’s paradise so not wise to use it really. If your laptop and everything else in the house connects using WPA2/PSK then the brand new fancy scales should too (and printer). I would return it as faulty and buy another (different make) one if it were me

  11. Bradley

    I know I’m late to the party but I found your article doing a web search to find a resolution to the same exact issue that I’m having. I personally have a Withings scale at home that I ordered and received last week. Setup took less than 5 minutes and it was simple. My boyfriend bought the Fitbit Aria today because he wanted a similar scale. We’ve spent hours trying to set this up to no avail. I have I.T. background and am a huge gadget person so in a normal situation, this would be right up my alley. I’ve checked all the settings on the router that I’ve found online, we’ve tried using my computer (wirelessly as indicated and both the downloadable desktop application AND the web) and his mobile phone (like you, I read in the FAQ that is a suggested alternative if you can’t activate it via computer – I think it is silly for a company to offer a desktop and mobile option for something and say the mobile version should be tried when the desktop doesn’t work-obviously they know something is wrong but I digress). Like you, I wanted it to work! It would’ve been great to be able to help him set up something he was so excited about purchasing and I was looking forward to using it as well. And I agree with the fact that it should function as a scale even if the more techie features don’t work. One of the great things about escalators is that they still function as stairs when they’re not turned on.

    Anyway, I just wanted to post to let those commenting that it’s probably “user error” know that it’s not. I do know that in the tech support world, the majority of issues people call about are user error/pebkac but this isn’t one of those instances. Restarting is also a helpful default first step that also doesn’t work in this case. Good thing he bought the scale at Target. He can return it tomorrow and purchase something that works.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for joining the conversation. It’s oddly reassuring to hear another intelligent person tell me they can’t make the thing work.

      And in other news, I’ve got the Wahoo Fitness scale coming. I expect better luck with that.

  12. heather

    I’m having the same problem and my husband a Tec guy can’t even get it to work he even changed our WiFi password, he tried for 2hr s today and will try again tomorrow, here’s hoping I can use it since I have the fitbit one now after returning the fitbit force that left a nasty rash on my wrist for weeks

  13. Deb

    I bought mine yesterday and returned it today. They had actually given me a scale that someone else had returned. the battery tag had been removed and the orginal purchase date was handwritten on the set up instruction card! Nonetheless i tried to connect it to my system. Impossible, and I am fairly computer savvy. Love my Fitbit so am really disappointed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>