Fitbit to Stop Selling and Recall Its Force Wristband; Fitbit CEO Says Recall ‘Out of Abundance of Caution’; Huawei’s Answer to FuelBand and Fitbit

Fitbit to Stop Selling and Recall Its Force Wristband

Fitbit CEO Says Recall ‘Out of Abundance of Caution’

KATHERINE ROSMAN

Updated Feb. 21, 2014 7:00 p.m. ET

image001-27

One user says she developed this rash after wearing the Fitbit Force. Kim Reichelt

Fitbit said it is halting sales of its newest fitness-tracking bracelet and recalling the product after months of complaints from consumers who say the band has caused rashes on their wrists.

The voluntary recall of the Fitbit Force is a serious setback for a startup that markets its products as a way to “help people lead healthier, more active lives.” It is also a public relations headache, coming days before Fitbit shows off its products in Barcelona at next week’s Mobile World Congress, an annual confab for the mobile industry with tens of thousands of attendees.

The San Francisco company said in a statement that it was conducting the recall of its newest bracelet “out of an abundance of caution” and repeated an offer to refund consumers who purchased the $129 Force.

In a blog post, Fitbit Chief Executive James Park wrote that 1.7% of Force users had reported an irritation. In the company statement, Fitbit said “affected users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction” to materials in the bracelet.

Mr. Park wrote that “some users may be reacting to the nickel,” a component of the stainless steel used in the device. Others, he wrote, “are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product.”

Mr. Park repeated a statement he made in January that an independent lab had ruled out problems with the battery or electrical system.

A Fitibit spokeswoman said the company is working with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding the recall.

The Force is Fitbit’s newest product, designed to track people’s activity, such as steps taken, distance traveled and calories burned. At night, it tracks users’ sleep patterns. Data can be seen on the wristband’s display or on a smartphone or computer.

Soon after its release in October, wearers began complaining about blisters, rashes and itchy dry patches on their wrists. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that some of the skin problems required medical attention and prescription medication. At least one person said that she had been offered a financial settlement from Fitbit.

Since that report, the Journal has received emails from others who say they developed similar rashes from Fitbit’s earlier products.

Vera Shanley, a 59-year-old medical doctor and health coach, says she developed a rash from the Fitbit One, a clip-on device that tracks fitness, sleep and nutritional patterns. Ms. Shanley bought the device when it launched in August 2012. She clipped it inside her waistband and within about a week noticed an itchy red rash developing on her right hip.

She moved the One to her left side where she also developed a rash. Now, she clips the device to her bra so that the product doesn’t touch her skin. “I’ve had no problem with it since, whatsoever,” she says.

Yvonne Beckley, 72, began wearing the Fitbit Flex bracelet in 2012. Late last year, she ordered from Fitbit different colored bands that can be used with the Flex device. When she wore the black version of the Flex band, she said she developed a rash.

Ms. Beckley saw a doctor who told her to treat the rash with an over-the-counter cortisone cream. The rash got worse, she said. Ms. Beckley returned to the doctor who then prescribed Triamcinalone, a topical steroid. The rash subsided and Ms. Beckley turned to a blue band for her Flex, which she has worn since without reaction.

A Fitbit spokeswoman said users may experience skin sensitivity with any type of wearable product, and that any issues consumers have reported with the Flex and One are unrelated to the reasons associated with the Force recall. “We take all of our consumer complaints seriously, and if any user experiences skin irritation while wearing a Fitbit device, he or she should either discontinue wearing the device or wear it attached to an article of clothing,” she wrote in an email.

Fitbit is scheduled to be an exhibitor at Mobile World Congress, which starts on Monday and runs through next week. The conference has promoted on its website a contest called the Fitbit Challenge, in which attendees can buy a discounted Fitbit Flex from the Fitbit booth and win prizes based on the wearer’s activity. One of the prizes was supposed to be a Force, but the company is replacing that with Flex products.

Fitbit was founded in 2007 and is backed by a number of venture-capital firms, including Foundry Group and True Ventures, which last year invested $43 million. The venture-capital firms didn’t respond to requests for comment.

image002-11

The Fitbit Force is displayed in the Fitbit booth at the 2014 CES in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, 2014. Getty Images

 

Feb 21, 2014

Huawei’s Answer to FuelBand and Fitbit

JURO OSAWA

Just days before its product launch event in Spain, China’s Huawei is teasing its upcoming wearable device.

Zheng Xiao Yun, who works in one of Huawei’s business units, posted two photos of a wristband-like device this week on her page on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese microblog site. The light-blue device, worn around the wrist, looks more like Nike’s FuelBand, Fitbit and Jawbone Up — rather than what we would call a smartwatch, likeSamsung Electronics’ Galaxy Gear.

Earlier this month, Huawei told The Wall Street Journal that it was planning to unveil a “smartwatch” at the annual Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, set for Feb. 24-27. Huawei also said that it planned to unveil a new smartphone and two new tablets at the event.

On the Weibo page, the caption for the first photo read: “My new toy. Do you like the color?” The next post suggested that the device may have exercise and fitness-monitoring features, like Fitbit and other health-related wearable devices. The device in the photo displayed some numbers, and the caption said: “This is my best record this week. Sporty people may laugh at me.”

A Huawei spokeswoman declined to confirm whether the device in the photos posted by the executive is what the company is planning to showcase in Barcelona.

Huawei’s push into wearable devices comes at a time when the fledgling market is just starting to take off. Other than smartwatches from Samsung, Sony, Pebble and others, there is an increasing number of wristband-like devices that focus on features that allow users to keep track of their physical fitness and health conditions.

Despite the buzz, most consumers still don’t see any urgent need to buy another smart device to wear around their wrist, when smartphones apps already offer a broad range of services and content.

Some analysts say fitness-related devices are likely to become the main driving force behind the development of the wearable device market.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: