Unleashing The Power Of Wearables: Can They Really Help You Achieve Your Life Goals? (Part 2)

8 min read
Maddie Zahir
Traffic Manager
Design Research
Behavioural Science

We got back in touch with the same users to find out how their wearable devices fared over the past month.

Last month, we delved into the world of wearable devices and their impact on our health and well-being, especially in the context of working from home. We gathered real-life experiences from 12 users and explored the effectiveness of wearables like Fitbit, WHOOP, and Garmin in helping us form and maintain healthy habits. But what we’re particularly interested in is how these wearables perform over time.

So, we got back in touch with the same users to find out how their wearable devices fared over the past month. Are they still reaping the benefits of their gadgets, or have they hit a plateau? Have these wearables helped them stick to their fitness goals, or have the initial sparks of motivation fizzled out?

Join us as we continue our wearable journey and uncover the truth behind these devices’ long-term effectiveness in helping us achieve our life goals.

Wearables enhance awareness of habits and activity levels, but it’s ultimately up to the user to initiate change

Since our initial conversations with users, approximately half of them have reported positive shifts in their lifestyle and habits. These changes include more consistent exercise routines, adjustments in eating habits, and improved sleep. Reflecting on the first part of this blog series, it appears that our users have largely remained committed to their health and fitness goals:

“Most users mentioned wanting to exercise more regularly, eat healthier, and improve their sleep patterns. A tool to help them stay on track and motivated was the first step in reaching that goal.”

But is it the wearables themselves that have spurred these healthy habits? Or do these devices merely serve as tracking tools, making users more aware of the beneficial changes already taking place in their lives?

An accountability partner

Positive reinforcement from their devices has been an important part of users’ health and fitness journey. By tracking and congratulating users for daily steps and time spent “in the zone,” wearables offer a sense of accomplishment for everyday activities like walking to the shop or cycling to work. This can serve as a powerful motivator, encouraging users to stay consistent and committed to their goals.

However, for users who have experienced a decline in fitness levels over the past month, their devices have served only to remind them of their declining fitness and wellbeing.

As one user described, “It’s not really been supporting my goals/habits because I’ve not really had any fitness/wellbeing goals and habits this past month. It’s simply been showing me how bad I’m doing.”< – Fitbit user

However, being aware of reduced activity levels, sleep health and other wellbeing metrics can make users more likely to initiate certain changes in their lifestyle to get back on track.

As this user goes on to say, “I don’t really enjoy seeing how little sleep I’m getting, but at the same time I like being aware of it because it helps explain why I feel a certain way on some days and makes me want to try get to bed earlier.” – Fitbit user

Another user revealed that, although the data gathered from their wearable doesn’t drastically alter their habits, it still plays a valuable role.

They shared, “I don’t feel like observing my data changes my habits that much. It gives me information which helps me focus on how I design my life. Sometimes the data from my wearable encourages me to form new habits or try new behaviour.” – Oura user

This perspective emphasises the subtle yet meaningful impact wearables can have on users, offering insights that guide lifestyle changes and inspire personal growth.

The impact of WFH on activity levels

A notable discovery (which may not be too surprising for those who often work from home) was the significant contrast in activity levels between working remotely and commuting to the office.

“The most interesting thing I have observed from my wearable is the difference in inactivity WFH compared to going to the office. It has really made me want to go into work. If I work from home and have an evening in, I can have upwards of 10 hours a day of inactivity. In comparison, if I cycle in and stand all day I can get to the night with under 30 mins of inactivity. I often feel much better going into work and this could be a big reason.” – Oura user

Activity levels while WFH can be a challenge for some. As another Fitbit user describes, “Challenges include my goal to move my body in some way every day whilst working from home. It’s easy for the day to slip away. But I don’t put pressure on myself to do it, it’s just something to keep in mind.” – Fitbit user

I frequently notice a similar pattern in my own activity levels when working from home compared to heading into the office, and I suspect many others can relate. When I go to the office, my Fitbit rewards me for the walk I take just navigating the tube station! Add in the stroll to the market for lunch, walking to meet a friend after work, and it all contributes to my ‘active zone’ minutes, making me feel accomplished for staying active throughout the day.

The graphs below showcase the difference in activity levels between working from home and going to the office, as illustrated by data from Oura and Fitbit users.

Oura user

Fitbit user

Improving wearable technology: Key considerations for companies such as Fitbit, WHOOP, Mi Band, and Oura

In our initial research phase, users identified concerns such as onboarding difficulties, battery life, inadequate goal-setting, and tracking accuracy. As users have continued to engage with their devices over an extended period, have any new issues emerged? Are the initial concerns still as crucial, or have more pressing issues come to light?

Lack of customizability and poor interfaces

Navigating the app has been a struggle for users of certain wearable devices, who find the user interface lacking and the information hierarchy unclear. As a result, they are less likely to explore or make use of its features.

“The UI is poor and the info hierarchy isn’t clear in the app, so I either don’t want to look or miss out on features that are hard to find.” – Mi Band user

To improve the user experience and encourage more frequent usage, they suggest enhancements to the app, including a better UI, more gamification, illustrations, and notifications for sleep data and other metrics to remove the need of manually checking the app.

Other users suggest more customisable homepages to tailor their experience better:

“I want more flexibility to curate your homepage – it currently has 5 default views depending on different goals. I want to drop/reorder tiles.” – Oura user

Software and hardware challenges

Hardware issues with the devices appear to be causing inconvenience and frustration for some users. For instance, a Fitbit user mentioned discontinuing the use of their watch due to a hardware problem:

“Something isn’t working – the DND keeps switching on and it no longer shows me the time when I turn my wrist. I have not been wearing it.” – Fitbit user

Users have also suggested improvements to the charging and alerting system:

“It would be nice if it had a charging case like your headphones. The charging cradle is a bit annoying to use and relies on an energy source.” – Oura user
“More intense alarms to warn me if it’s about to run out of charge or has already run out.” – Oura user

Tracking issues

As per our initial research findings, tracking features seem to continue falling short of users’ needs and expectations.

Fitbit could improve its tracking system by allowing users to instruct their device to stop tracking when needed, improve its sleep tracking accuracy, and increase the usefulness of the menstrual tracking feature by allowing users to add journal entries:

“I dislike how you can’t suggest to your device when you would like it to stop tracking. Sometimes I just want to wear it as a watch.” – Fitbit user
“I still wish you could add journal entries, especially to go along with your menstrual cycle tracking.” – Fitbit user
“I also wish it was more accurate in its sleep metrics, as sometimes it says I woke up at 5am and that’s it, but I actually went back to sleep for another hour after that, and it doesn’t record that. And so it looks like I got 4 hours of sleep when in fact I got 5 for example.” – Fitbit user

For WHOOP users, one frustration seems to be the band’s focus on athletic activities such as running over other activities such as weightlifting, leading to potentially inaccurate and discouraging data:

“I mostly lift weights but the app/band seems much more focused on more athletic activities such as running (which it excels at). It doesn’t seem to account for weight lifting well. It seems that doing a lot of weight lifting doesn’t seem to lift your ‘strain’ metric very high but a 30 mins run basically fills your daily activity.” – WHOOP user

Developers should concentrate on enhancing tracking metrics and functionality, as these are the core purposes of these devices. The more insightful and user-friendly the tracking metrics offered by these apps, the more likely users are to stay motivated in pursuing their fitness goals and continue using their devices to monitor their progress.

Our final brand comparison and recommendations

Now that we’ve tracked our users’ experiences with their devices for over two months, what is the verdict?

Well, there is no clear cut answer. The device one chooses to purchase depends on each individual’s priorities. But our updated brand comparison table might be able to help you make an informed decision based on other users’ experiences.

Brand comparison

You can also check out our original table from our first blog here.

MORE from us
View All
headshot of Ben, Director of Spotless
Got a project in mind?

Ben is on hand to answer your questions.