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Android Central
Android Central
Michael L Hicks

This Fitbit-breaking update feels like the last straw

Fitbit Charge 5 Outdoor Hike.

What you need to know

  • In December, Fitbit updated the Charge 5 with new exercise modes, clock faces, on-device Daily Readiness score, and right-to-left text language support.
  • The forum post announcing the change now shows hundreds of complaints from users claiming the update has "bricked" their Charge 5s.
  • Google "can confirm" that the issue isn't caused by the firmware update, but that doesn't explain the source of these widespread problems. 

Fitbit updated the Charge 5 with a few useful features back in December. A month later, it appears that the update was ground zero for a critical bug that burned through its "7-day" battery in a matter of hours. And Google has no answers for what's causing the issue, except to say that the update isn't to blame. 

The Charge 5 Firmware Update 194.91 forum page has an innocuous list of feature updates, such as new clock faces, new languages, and bug fixes. It lets the tracker access more than six exercises on your device at a time, which the Fitbit Charge 6 first offered. And it lets you see your Daily Readiness Score on your wrist, instead of the app alone.

Behind the scenes, however, it appears update 194.91 may have kicked the Charge 5's processor into constant overdrive, burning through the battery life. Many users report needing to charge their device once or twice a day, or the device won't turn on anymore. 

For those who can still access their Charge 5s, users report that the device can no longer track your sleep overnight — one of its most important features. Others say that the Charge 5 shows the words "NO DATA" under every field, or that they can no longer sync their trackers to their phones after the update, essentially "bricking" them.

(Image credit: Christine Persaud / Android Central)

When asked about this issue, a Google rep told BBC, "We're still investigating this issue, but can confirm it is not due to the recent firmware update." That seems unlikely, given how widespread the complaints are. We've contacted Fitbit for comment, asking if they've pinpointed the issue or have imminent plans for a hotfix. 

Most users say that when they contact customer service, they are offered the option to buy a new Fitbit for 50% off rather than any way to resolve the issue. Others report that they followed Google Support's instructions to reboot the Charge 5, then after this bricked the device, they were told that their Charge 5 was no longer under warranty and to buy a new Google product, with no discount.

Given the fact that Google hasn't managed to fix this problem a month later, it isn't giving long-time users much impulse to stay within the Fitbit ecosystem. Many posts show people asking for alternatives to Fitbit for health or fitness tracking while lambasting Google's stewardship of Fitbit.

Fitbit leadership recently left Google, so it's unclear who will be resolving this problem or what Fitbit's next steps are. Google also chose to cut the countries where it sells Fitbits in half to align with its Pixel territories. 

Even though the Fitbit Charge 6 is an excellent device, this fiasco makes us pessimistic about its long-term prospects — or about whether the Fitbit brand will keep any loyal customers after this. 

Ultimately, this issue is exactly why we wrote that fitness trackers need to promise proper post-launch software support. A $160 fitness tracker with a monthly subscription shouldn't be falling apart from the strain of adding new clock faces and languages — and Google shouldn't be shrugging its shoulders and telling customers to buy another one instead of fixing its own mess. 

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