A little more than a week ago, on a Saturday, I lost my Fitbit One fitness tracker device. I have had it for well a year, and used it quite religiously, so it was a real disappointment. My family and myself had gone out to play tennis, went to a restaurant (5:30 PM), and then to shop at Target (6:30 PM). It was at Target when my wife asked how many steps I had thus that I discovered that I didn't have the Fitbit any longer. I simply assumed that it was left at home, but upon returning at night at about 7:45PM, could not find it anywhere.
One of the best ways to locate a lost Fitbit is to use its iOS app itself. So that evening I carried my iPad Mini all over the house and garage to try to locate it, but to no avail. Looking at the steps history, it showed that it last synced at around 3:20 PM, the time when we left home for tennis, which mostly likely meant I brought it with me. It showed that I had about 11K steps at that point. After a few days I had pretty much given up hope, but on Friday I decided to check the app to see if it somehow synced, and to my surprise it did- 2 days ago on Wednesday
. My Saturday steps counts count had been updated
from 11K to 16K!
I then logged into Fitbit.com to see the time-based step history, and noticed that the final steps were registered at between 5:15 and 5:30 PM. There were ZERO steps registered on Tuesday or Wednesday when it synced. My first reaction was that the Fitbit is in the house somewhere! But, more analytical reasoning determined it wasn't so. If I had carried it back into the house unknowingly, it would have registered steps, but the the lack of any steps showed that it was dropped somewhere after around 5:30 PM that night.
So I thought the Fitbit must be in the car. I must have dropped it in there, and despite looking thoroughly inside the vehicle before, I must have missed it. So I checked the car again, using the iPad to scan for it, but again no go. Confused, I fired off an email to Fitbit, asking whether it was possible for my lost Fitbit to sync through another person's phone/tablet, even though the tracker did not belong to their account
. I also provided my home IP address, hoping that they could simply confirm to me if the sync occurred through my house. Unfortunately, they didn't answer my question, though they were nice enough to offer a replacement if "qualified" (not sure what the conditions were, but likely if within the one year warranty window):
We're sorry to hear you lost your Fitbit One tracker.
You're on the right track. That's how we investigate if it is still syncing when a Fitbit trackers gets lost.
After checking within our system it hasn't been paired to any other Fitbit account other than yours and it doesn't sync since the date you stated (11-26-2014). So apparently it could remain on the same spot where you lost it or it might be that the person why found it doesn't know how to sync/set it up.
We'll need the following information to review your replacement options:
- A copy of your purchase receipt. If you purchased your tracker from an online retailer, please attach a screenshot of your order history page.
- If your product was obtained through your employer, please tell us the name of your employer and the month you received your tracker.
- Your preferred shipping address
- Your phone number
- Your product's color
We will evaluate your case based on the information provided, and may provide a replacement as a gesture of good will. You can view our warranty at http://www.fitbit.com/returns.
Once I pretty much eliminated the possibility that the device was in the house or its immediate vicinity, I had to assume that somehow it performed the sync through someone else's phone/tablet that had the app installed
. It must have been left at the Thai restaurant we went to after Tennis. So last night, I returned to the same restaurant to grab some to-go food, while holding my iPad Mini with cellular 4G LTE enabled, and the Fitbit app fired up. Sure enough, after standing at the front counter for less than 30 seconds, a sync had occurred! I then asked the worker there and showed him a picture of the device (conveniently shown on the app), and sure enough he produced my Fitbit from a drawer near the kitchen of the restaurant- they had found it lying on the floor just a few days ago near the table where we sat.
Through this experience, I discovered some interesting and important behaviors of Fitbit Syncing.
- At least for the Fitbit One, the frequency of sync is pretty often, perhaps even once a minute, with your bluetooth-enabled iOS device such as the iPad or iPhone. No movement is necessary on the tracker itself in order to "wake it up" per se. So even if the Fitbit is stationary, e.g. sitting on the desk somewhere, it would still sync frequently.
- Perhaps most importantly, the Fitibit will sync through another person's iPhone/iPad that has the Fitbit app installed.
- Its sync range is pretty impressive at 15 to 30 feet away. Obstacles such as walls and doors will shorten that distance, however.
The best way combat the loss of a Fitbit is to well, prevent it in the first place. It's a good idea to:
- Have a routine and always keep it in the same area/pocket, and check to see if it is still there every now and then.
- If possible, tape a small address label on the back of the device. This is easy with the Fitbit One, though is a bit trickier with the smaller Zip and the wrist-worn Flex, Force & Charge.
- Put in as much of your name in the Greeting option of your Fitbit Device, or your phone #. It is a shame though that the greeting, at least for the Fitbit One, is limited to a paltry 8 characters.
Tips to help You Find/Recover the Lost Fitbit
- Don't give up. Even if you do not find it the first few days, at least check the app and see if it synced
- Walk around with the Fitbit App open, and keep using the "Scan" feature to look for it.
- If applicable, call and ask the places you were at to see if anyone found it. I did this but unfortunately no one did the day when I called. Though you can always call again later because sometimes it could be camouflaged somewhere where it could not easily seen.
- Download the LightBlue (Bluetooth Low Energy) iOS app which will tell you about nearby BLE devices, including of course any Fibit trackers.
- Contact Fitbit's excellent customer service. They may even replace your device outright if it is still under warranty.
What Not to Do
Do Not waste your money and time to buy and use the $5 Find Fibit App in the iOS App Store. It did not do diddly for me, and could not even see my wife's nearby tracker (Fitbit Charge). I used the Fitibit recommended LightBlue (Bluetooth Low Energy) app from the App Store which was free, and it was able to easily sense the presence of the Charge from over 20 feet away.
Enable the Silent Alarm like some recommend, which may drain the battery and give you a smaller time frame for you (or someone else) to find your Fitbit. In my case, the excellent battery life of the tracker allowed the opportunity for someone to unknowingly sync it, giving me the critical clue to its location.
I hope that this lost and found story helps anyone recover a recently disappeared Fitbit. I do wish, though, that Fitbit Inc will eventually add a lost/stolen feature on their devices in the near future, in which case at least a custom message could be displayed on the tracker. Having it beep akin to the Find iPhone app would be great as well. Perhaps the the upcoming Fitbit Charge HR or the Surge will usher in this much needed functionality, though I wouldn't bet on it.