Flic button review

Last week, I had a delivery of a set of Flic buttons.  They're simply small, low-energy bluetooth buttons that can be used to control... well... almost anything you like!

The form factor is really nice - they're about the size of a stack of 4 US quarters, come with a sticky back and are covered in nice, soft silicon in a range of colours.  You can also additionally add a clip to the back so you can wear the button on clothing or clipped to a bag.  The production values on them are really good and they feel like quality buttons.  They have a pleasing LED red light inside them that glows through the inset text when they're being configured and the button press feels responsive and "pleasingly pushable", if you know what I mean.

To try them out, I set up a button for my husband.  You see, in our bedroom, I control all the lights via a small remote (the Aeon Minimote), however I often fall asleep first and then my husband grumbles that the remote is "all the way" on my side of the bed and he has to fumble with his phone, find the app, turn everything off, blah blah. 

So, I gave him the first Flic button to do the same things on his side of the bed - the button is stuck to the side of his night stand.  A single press turns off all the lights, a longer press turns the night stand lights on.  It took less than a couple of minutes to set up the whole process, including creating the IFTTT channels to talk to SmartThings.

The buttons took seconds to pair with my phone (Android Marshmallow, Nexus 5x) and the app itself is nicely designed with lots of ready-to-use options, plus having IFTTT and a HTTP channel means that if you're into DIY/coding you've got an even wider set of options.  The app has some cute details including wobbling the buttons in the app as they're pressed in the real world.

Conclusion

The buttons are nicely made, easy to use and convenient for shortcuts.  They take normal coin-cell batteries and should last a good long time.  They do however need to be within 50 metres of the paired phone, so if you want to set them up to work when the connected phone is not in range, you're out of luck. 

The cost is somewhat prohibitive.  They're $34 each!  I bought my on pre-order way back in July - getting a set of 3 + clip for $99 + $10 shipping. They're currently selling packs of 4 for the same price ($99 + $10), so given that I pre-ordered and waited 6 months for them, I'm not exactly over the moon that they didn't give me the option to change my order to a pack of 4.  If you're looking for buttons to control a z-wave system, the Aeon Minimote is less than $30 and has 4 buttons with multiple modes and doesn't requite a permanent phone connection.

If you don't mind the money and you intend to use them as a companion to your phone's presence, the buttons are sound, nice to use and the software so far is good.  I've heard on the grapevine that iOS users are having trouble getting them paired (the Amazon reviews are certainly leaning that way), so you might want to check on that before shelling out, however.

Amazon Dash button review

Amazon finally worked out that I didn't want to spend money to have a button that helps me spend more money, so they are currently offering Amazon Dash buttons for $4.99, but giving you back that money on the first order.  Better than nothing and the excuse I was looking for to try them out on things I'd have to buy sooner or later anyway.

Amazon has a range of nearly 30 branded buttons now available.  I picked two buttons - one for ordering Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and one for Cottonelle.  Arguably, I probably should only have got the latter, but I've had a soft spot for Kraft MnC since I met my American husband.  My motherland would never have created a thing of such luminous cheesiness.

 Minimalist packaging for the buttons.

Minimalist packaging for the buttons.

 Cottenelle and Kraft buttons.

Cottenelle and Kraft buttons.

 The blue strip is the sticky backing.

The blue strip is the sticky backing.

The buttons are a little larger than I expected - surprisingly thick and heavy - but I like that they can be stuck to a surface or hung somewhere, as they come with a removal black outer shell.  You could feasibly put them all on a keychain or some such, but they're bigger than most modern electric car-keys.  I've stuck mine to the inside of the doors that house the products for optimum clickability.

 You can choose from a range of appropriate products during setup.

You can choose from a range of appropriate products during setup.

 Multiple-item ordering is off by default, preventing over-ordering.

Multiple-item ordering is off by default, preventing over-ordering.

Setup is super fast and easy using Amazon's shopping app. You press the button to put it into pairing mode (blue light) and the app does the rest.  During the process, you're able to select the specific product type and quantity you want the button to order as well as confirming delivery and payment details. You can also enable multiple orders, allowing the button to send for more of the product even if one order is already in progress.  

The button LED flashes green for a successful order and red for a failed one (presumably when it hasn't been able to connect to the service).  If no order had been made for that item, or you had allowed for multi-orders, then the order just goes through without interaction, but the app will let you know it happened (you can turn the notifications entirely off, too, if you'd prefer) so you can change your mind before the order is processed.

They're pretty basic, but they do what they say on the tin.  My concern with them comes from my experience with a similar Amazon service; Subscribe and Save.  Instead of a button, you can ask amazon to regularly send you items you need, but I've found that I use the service so infrequently, that every time it comes around to the week it wants to send me something, the original item I chose is no longer available and I have to go and manually select and order the item anyway.  

If the same proves to me true for the Dash button orders, then the system may just become a "press the button to remind me to order that thing", but we shall see how it goes.

Sleep data - Comparing Hello Sense, Fitbit Charge and Bellabeat Leaf

Thought it might be fun to run a comparison of sleep logging on a few of my devices.  

For reference, I wore the Fitbit Charge on my left (non-dominant) wrist, the Bellabeat Leaf clipped to the neckline of my night vest and the Hello Sense is of course clipped to my pillowcase. I sleep primarily on my side/smushed partially face-down and I'm quite a light-sleeper.

In terms of data points I've recorded, here's a break down:

  • Sleep score - This is a number the software gives, generally a percentage of total sleep time.
  • Total sleeping time - The time the software said I was asleep in some way (with caveats, see next item).
  • Deep sleep - This seems to vary by system, some counting what I presume they're inferring to be REM time, but it looks like Fitbit is counting this as all the time I was "asleep" with "total sleeping time" being time in bed total, asleep or not.
  • Times woken - Exactly what it says.  I wake at least once a night, every night, for sure.
  • Fell asleep - The time the software believes I, well, fell asleep.
  • Wake up - The time the software believes I was first awake in the morning.
  • Out of bed - The time the software believes I physically got out of bed.
  • A ? indicates - The software doesn't offer a value that fits the category.

So, let's have a look at the numbers!  

I've got 3 full days of data, and one partial. Why so little? I forgot to record the Sense data each morning for a few days and it turns out you can't go back and look at previous nights.  Major fail for the Hello Sense right there.  I'm also missing a night of the Leaf's data because I forgot to put it on. Update: The friendly Hello Sense people just emailed me to let me know I can go back and see previous nights data! The gesture was a little non-obvious - but a slide right will go backwards. 

 Fitbit ChargeHello SenseBellabeat Leaf
MondaySleep score96%77-
 Total sleeping time7h54m6.7h-
 Deep sleep7h2m2.5h-
 Times woken20-
 Fell asleep23:560.31-
 Wake up07:5607:12-
 Out of bed?08:35-
TuesdaySleep score93%8197%
 Total sleeping time10h11m8.9h9h24m
 Deep sleep8h49m2.7h?
 Times woken201
 Fell asleep22:4123.5823:07
 Wake up08:518.5208:42
 Out of bed?8.48?
WednesdaySleep score97%7898%
 Total sleeping time9h36m9.9h8h58m
 Deep sleep8h56m4.8h?
 Times woken302
 Fell asleep23:3923:1700:19
 Wake up09:1409:1309:39
 Out of bed?09:24?
ThursdaySleep score95%8176%
 Total sleeping time10h7m7.6h5h32m
 Deep sleep9h35m3.1h?
 Times woken200
 Fell asleep22:4323:0601:36
 Wake up08:4906:4207:08
 Out of bed?09:01?

 

On Wednesday, the Sense alarm failed and didn't wake me up, so I overslept and on Thursday only 1 of two Sense alarms went off (I reported the outage, and I think they know what it was and fixed it). Thursday night I *definitely* got up at least twice.  I had a Leaf alarm set every morning, and although I felt it go off once (because I was already awake), it was never the thing to wake me up. The Fitbit alarm works well and has yet to not wake me up when used.  For reference, my first alarm in the morning goes off at 8:00am (lucky me) and then a second to get me up at 8:25 if I haven't shifted by then.

Which feels more accurate?  

Based on what I know about my own sleep habits and routine (don't judge my lazy ass), the Fitbit Charge data fits best and I'd take that one as feeling most accurate - not having any proper professional equipment strapped to me, I can't be certain, of course.  

Comparing the BellaBeat Leaf to the Fitbit data, it does seem to be pretty far off the mark - often not noticing that I've fell asleep until after the other systems.  It was also the weakest in terms of the amount of data and breakdowns in the 3 systems. 

The Sense seems intermittently accurate and is prone to believe I'm awake a lot earlier than I generally am.  I'm very surprised that the Sense hasn't noticed when I've been out of bed at night, but I wonder how much bed sharing effects that (it often just notes "you and your partner were both restless" at certain times that I suspect may be when I've been up or awake).  

Having said that, I don't think any of them are accurately recording how much time I spend in quality sleep, but I don't particularly expect a system that relies solely on tracking movement to be able to do that.  Make of this data what you will , but the bottom line on sleep data by fitness trackers should probably be to take what they tell you with a large pinch of salt.

Bellabeat Leaf Unboxing

My BellaBeat Leaf arrived today. The device is designed to track movement, sleep quality and breathing.  Here's what it looks like straight out of the box.

The box itself is meant to be used to store your device in, apparently.

The leaf comes with two ways to attach it to your human meat body - a leather bracelet and a simple chain.  For certain features the device is supposed to be worn clipped directly to your clothing.

Up close, you can see that the leaf is made up of a wooden box - housing all the accelerometers and bits and bobs - and a metal leaf motif that acts as a clip.  The package came with a rather stern additional sheet of paper warning not to extend the clip past 4mm (the maximum thickness of material it will fit on to is 2mm), which I assume means it will break if overstretched and the additional after-box warning means they've been having issues with that. 

The reverse is a very shiny metal back, where you can more easily see the small loop on the lower side intended to attach the leather strap as it's wrapped around your wrist, and some fairly functional looking screws to allow you into the device to change it's battery (which should last round 6 months).

I had to look at the instructions to work out how on earth to wrap this thing around my child-like wrist.  I think it looks ridiculous.  I'll be trying it out over the next few days most likely as a pendant and clip. 

Back soon with a review!

Wearables wearing out their welcome

I had a draft of a post ready to go where I was going to do a comparative test of the sleep tracking of the Hello Sense, the Misfit Flash and the Fitbit Charge this week, but in the last 2 days the button has snapped off the Charge and the Flash no longer syncs (have tried on both android and iOS, multiple installs and wipes, new battery, no idea what's up with that thing). So, that plan is probably a bust, therefore I have no choice but to declare the Sense the winner of my little sleep contest due to forfeits... For now.

Something has broken on every single "wearable" I've had.

  • 2nd Generation Jawbone UP - had 3, all died. One had the button break, the others had internal faults. First one was bought in May 2013, none lasted more than a few weeks. Retailed $129.95.
  • Fitbit Flex - Band split apart after 2 months, had to get a replacement. Retails $99.95.
  • Fitbit Force - Non-replaceable band split apart within a year, and then they withdrew them for sale because of skin irritation complaints. A gift, was retailing at $129.99.
  • Misfit Flash - Unknown syncing fault. Bought November 2014 for half price during their Black Friday sales. $49.99 retail.
  • Fitbit Charge - Button snapped off while I was asleep. Got that January 2014. Bought for $110 with a discount code from my broken Force, retail $129.95. Currently in a back and forth with customer support to hopefully get it replaced.

I'm 7 for 7.  Seven wrist-wearable devices in 2 years!  (Just to be clear - I only wear them one at a time.)

I feel like a mug. I don't treat these devices badly - I don't wear them in the shower like some heathens do, asking for trouble. These relatively expensive toys appear to just expire.  Sure, they pretty much all have a 1 year warranty and mostly thoughtfully die within that window, but that doesn't really make it OK - it's a pain in the ass to keep chasing up tech replacements for things that really shouldn't be keeling over within their warranty period.

Am I just unlucky?