You’ll be surprised why we stop using our trackers and sports watches

Why we stop using our trackers and sports watches

A 2019 study from Chemnitz University of Technology with 159 former owners of trackers revealed several reasons why we bin our fitness tech.

Via: @DrSianAllen

It’s worth pointing out that the researchers stated their users previously exhibited intense usage patterns and their abandonment of fitness/health tech, in general, was probably not permanent.

If I’m honest, I was extremely surprised by these results and would be keen to see a more extensive and more up-to-date study that specifically splits out ACTIVITY trackers from full-blown sports watches. Whilst such a study would merely titillate our interest for a few hours of reading, this sort of insight into user behaviour must be of significant value to the brands who make the tech, especially when you look at the surprising reasons people gave for moving on with their tech choices.


Headline Reasons For Activity Tracker Abandonment

The researchers took these as the most significant causes of abandonment.

  • Demotivation
  • External factors were interrupting/deprioritizing tracking.
  • Data inaccuracy/uselessness.


Fine. We’ll come back to those. But now scan to the bottom of the list of all factors ie MINOR reasons why people abandon their fitness tech: SOCIAL tech interaction; cheaper alternatives; not enough time; change in health status. From many of the brand messages we see every day, you might assume that brands are focussing on the less important abandonment issues like these. For example, how often have we seen a fitness tech company stress its (non-existent) social opportunities within their app but then produce a totally inaccurate device? #Often! Maybe tech companies often focus on the wrong tech and the wrong messages.

My Take Out

Going through some of those responses in descending order.

  • Motivation – I guess that’s a relatively obvious one and many app/tech CEOs are probably sporty themselves and realise the intrinsic importance of motivation.
  • (Perceived) Measurement Inaccuracy/Incorrect activity tracking/measurement distrust – Some brands do focus on sending out messages about how accurate their devices are but, as readers of this site know, many are being economical with the truth. Eventually, it looks like one-third of lost customers realise this, so just imagine how they then feel about the brand that possibly deceived them. Would they go back to it? My take had previously been that most people were largely oblivious to inaccuracy and that may still be true but judging from the above, those that realise their device is not accurate are probably not happy.
  • Tracker No Longer Visually Appealing – I mean who would have thought that aesthetics are important on a 24×7 wearable? That said, it shows the importance of customisable watch faces. Whilst the watch/tracker still might be inherently ugly, allowing aesthetic customisation might create a positive effect in the user toward the device if they have been actively involved in personalising its appearance.
  • Forgot to wear it – This sounds silly at one level. Yet people have incredibly busy lives and a key part of product acceptance is its routinised, automatic use. This point again comes back to charging time. If you have to leave the device on the charger for two hours or overnight then people will simply forget to put it on again in many cases. This reiterates the importance of QUCIK CHARGING; for more organised people if you can remove your jewellery and watch for a 10-minute daily shower and come back afterwards to a device that will keep going for another 24 hours until your next shower, then you have the making of a tech routine that will work. (That’s me with the Apple Watch!)
  • Data can’t sync to other apps – Another obvious one. If app and hardware companies continue to insist that you buy their stuff and then change your tech lifestyle so that you are bound to their app and only their app then the tech company is in for a rude awakening. Advice to startups: Many people are just not interested in your app’s social experience and insights, they want your data/content in a sports data platform that they already use eg Strava, Apple Health or even a simple smartphone notification or widget.
  • Privacy – I sense that people are becoming more concerned about data privacy when once it might have been the realm of the paranoid few. Tech seems to be generally much more secure now when it comes to log-ins, passwords & the like, but privacy normally means something else to most people. They just don’t want untrustworthy organisations accessing and possibly sharing stuff they haven’t had permission for. When you hear stories of former Facebook employees who say that their platform specifically took over the microphones of some smartphones and, effectively, listened in; you can see why. (Personally, as me, I’m a trusting soul and generally less concerned about privacy which is somewhat ironic when I run this blog anonymously!)
  • Allergic reaction to band – 18% …wow. I have occasionally had a bad ‘allergic’ reaction but put it down to not washing properly on that particular day. #DirtyAthleteSyndrome (I clean normally…honest!)
  • Useless data interpretation – Well..there’s a lot of that. Smoke and mirrors rule! Sometimes a great app interface can hide totally awful and scientific incorrectness behind the facade (many HRV interpretations are just this)
  • Tracking took too much effort – Yep…tech should be seamless and the results and interpretation should just appear as if by magic telling you exactly the right kind of thing in exactly the right kind of way at exactly the right time of day. It’s hard! but your products are expensive so make it work.




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7 thoughts on “You’ll be surprised why we stop using our trackers and sports watches

  1. My issue is that when we have a sports injury, the device doesn’t adapt and expects us to keep improving. I’ve had a torn Achilles since May and am just now back up to 6 miles a few times a week. All i’ve heard from my Garmin and Apple devices is how poorly i’m doing. Well Frack them. That’s the whole problem I see.

    It would be great if you could input the injury and time for recovery, then they adjust expectations accordingly.

    1. But the watch is accurately representing your current level of fitness. You’re perceiving that as an insult because it’s not the news that you want to hear. I would take it as an opportunity to be more at peace accept my current situation, and forgive myself for the loss of fitness. Dont get angry, get zen!

    2. I have heard many people complain about Apple not understanding injuries and illness and ruining their ring streaks. I’m not sure how that is supposed to work. I mean the reason a streak is hard is that as the length increases so does the chance of something difficult getting in the way.

      The training status in Garmin is kind of training roulette and I think it is generally irritating and driven by the wrong signals. It is also judgey language.

      I once years ago had the “Move!” alert come on an hour after completing a marathon and it made me furious. I turned that off.

      I also removed the training status widget from GCM and my watch years ago. Because I found the Training Status doesn’t track at all with my training plan and seems to punish zone 2 training with targeted intervals. It also punishes cross training and brick workouts and it encourages hour-plus long threshold runs.

      I turned off the training status more than a year ago and forgot about it. You still have all the same metrics when you want them but just not in your face at the end of every workout.

      Giving Garmin the benefit of the doubt, I think all of those training nudges and alerts are skewed to extremely casual athletes and come from the vivo line.

  2. Range anxiety is number 6! 🪫

    Which must also be highly correlated with “forgot to wear” and “not visually appealing”. (Those imply using a tracking device only during sport or the device was on a charger or in the drawer.)

    I think that the allergic reaction contact dermatitis one is actually far too high. People are more likely having dermatitis under the band from fungus and bacteria growth (ew 🧫🔬).

    More fundamentally I wonder if this is really the gym membership effect? Most gym memberships sold are to people who plan to get fit but never or almost never use the membership. If people used the memberships, the business model would collapse. Fundamentally more people start trying to have a fitness lifestyle than sustain it more than a few months, but we have a consumer culture which means when you start you have to get the kit: shoes, outfits, fitness tracker, etc. This all goes back to number 1 and 2. A lot of those other items are corollary to intrinsic loss of motivation and something disrupting your new fitness lifestyle routine.

  3. Hi Tim,

    I know about that ability on Garmin. But that’s not exactly what I mean. I don’t really give much credence to the numbers, but get annoyed when I get messages telling me to do things I’m not physically able to do because of an injury or sickness.

    I know on my AW I lower my goal and that is a GREAT way to make achieving the daily goal possible. thankfully i’ve found activities that don’t aggrivate my achilles. Remarkably a stair climbing machine is a hell of a workout when using intervals for 45 minutes at a fast pace. It’s more of a workout than running. Then also Water Running and indoor bike at a low resistance setting.

    Back to the problem. I love fitness trackers, and really don’t get “demotivated” to wear them. With all of the smarts and LTE of the AW, I like wearing just because I’m always connected and don’t have to carry a phone. The Ultra gives me close to 3 days between charges, so now I’m good.

  4. My daughter is now on her second Garmin watch in 6 years. With both of them she had an allergic reaction to the watchband. When I changed the bands to a nylon watchband, she was fine. (and yes, she did wash the area where the watch is) With some trackers, it seems the bands are not changeable.

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