Adding physical buttons to Fitbit's next generation devices is a smart idea

Adding physical buttons to Fitbit’s next generation devices is a smart idea

To button or not to button? When it comes to wearables, the answer is that you should always opt for the physical buttons. And while it’s abundant in smartwatches, fitness trackers tend to prefer touch screens and capacitive buttons. But it looks like there might be some good news for fans of physical buttons. A new leaked image of the Fitbit Versa 4 suggests the side button is back, baby.

The picture comes from 9to5GoogleAnd, for the most part, it looks almost identical to the Versa 3 – unless you focus on the right side, where you can see a very small raised button.

It may not seem like it, but this is actually a major design change. Previous iterations of the Versa – one of Fitbit’s most popular devices – had a physical side button. Then, with the Versa 3 in 2020, Fitbit ditched that in favor of seamless indentation. This was technically a “button”, but it wasn’t something you could press in the traditional sense. Instead, when you press it properly, the Versa 3 will vibrate. The Fitbit Sense, released the same year, also shared the same design.

You can see a tiny little button on the right side of the so-called Fitbit Versa 4 watch.
picture: 9to5Google

On the surface, this seemed to make sense. In theory, no buttons means no accidental presses and a sleeker profile. In fact, it was made for a bad user experience.

If you use very little pressure on the Sense or Versa 3 button, it will do nothing. And if you use a lot of pressure, it may do nothing. Or instead of waking up the screen as you like, you might end up running the long press shortcut instead. For whatever reason, the top half of the button tends to be more responsive than the bottom. If you check out the Fitbit forums and Reddit, you’ll find plenty of customers taking and sharing tips on how to make this button work.

This is not a new problem. There are a lot of fitness trackers not available Which Some kind of button or crown. Instead, they rely entirely on touch screens. For example, with the Garmin Vivosmart 3 and Vivosmart 4, you had to tap the screen to confirm your choices. This means achieving the perfect cadence and pressure every time. If you haven’t mastered it, then a simple two-second task may take several minutes to figure it out. And while Garmin Vivosmart devices are the example I’m using here, there are many touch-only fitness bands that have the same issues.

This button on the Garmin Vivosmart 5 took a good product and made it great.
Photography by Victoria Song/The Verge

Finger sweats are also a problem. Touchscreens often don’t register wet fingers, and they make it more difficult to use capacitive buttons. The irony is that these devices are meant to be worn during exercise, so it becomes more difficult to use them when you need them most.

A well-designed physical button is a simple solution to all these problems. When you see a physical button, you don’t have to learn how to use it. All you have to do is press and it does the thing you want. If you want to get fancy, you can program cool shortcuts – like pause music – and never have to look at your watch. The physical button doesn’t care how much your fingers are sweating. It will always do its job.

I recently reviewed a Garmin Vivosmart 5, and one small change ended up being a game-changer in a tracker series that has always been tricky. This change? Add a physical button. The combination of touch screen and button was perfect. I use the touch screen when it makes sense, like scrolling through menus. But I can always count on the button to bring me back to the home screen, the previous screen, or to end my workout. Adding the button alone eliminated one of the worst pain points in the tracking chain.

This is the most likely reason why – if this leaked image is to be believed – Fitbit has reverted to the old design. It’s a smart decision if so, and further proof that you’re getting the best wearable experience when using both touch screens. And Physical buttons.

2022-05-06 15:08:46

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