A device with potential, but choked by a flawed app

Pivotal-Living-Band

Pivotal Living Band ★★★☆☆

$12 seems like an amazing price for an activity band, but that price is a little deceptive. What if I were to tell you that it will cost you $1 a month for life? To me, that is a bit less attractive. As of this review [11/2015] that’s what Pivotal Living is planning. When you buy this band, you are paying for one year of use. Want to continue using the band after that? Then you need to renew your membership subscription for another 12-months, which will cost you another $12. And the year after that, and after that, and after that…

What you are really paying for is access to use the Pivotal Living app. Without it you cannot transfer and track your band’s stored data, nor can you make any setting changes to the band [such as adjusting the time of the wake up alarm]. Of course this means they use a closed platform so that 3rd party apps won’t be able to access the band; thus you are stuck with a continual subscription fee and a flawed app.

Pivotal-Living-Band-fitting-wrist
Fits snugly around wrist, but loose at the sides

The physicality of the band itself is actually fairly decent. The rubber’ish band snaps securely and comfortably around my wrist. It doesn’t feel too heavy and has the traditional stylish activity-band look. I’m impressed with the close proximity of the holes (11 in total) on the band, which allows for a good fit. Some watches and bands have larger gaps in the attachment, making the fit either too loose or too tight. Not so with the Pivotal Living band. The clasp remains firm too, never unexpectedly falling off my wrist. The only real negative here is that the device is wider than my wrist. I can fit my pointer finger between the band and my wrist at the side. Sure, it fits snugly overall, but this side gap makes the band look a little large on my wrist. Keep in mind that this is a problem I have with most watches / bands. I may be a 6’ tall, 199lb man, but I have thinner wrists than most men my size.

Pivotal-Living-Band-LED-Outdoors
Difficult to read LED outdoors

The screen / display has some flaws. Firstly, it’s very reflective, which makes viewing while outdoors difficult (I see the reflection of the sky in it). Secondly, the dim LED lights also make it hard to see when outside, especially in sunlight. Inside my house, I can see the LED lights just fine, but outside it’s a struggle. This makes using it as a “sport band” a bit limiting. Especially if you are using it to track steps while going for a long run. Worse if you want to check the time when out and about. Thirdly, the face already has a scratch on it. I’m not sure where or how I bumped the face, but it only took a few days of owning before it got scratched. Apparently, it doesn’t take much; it’s not like I was moving anchor blocks or anything.

Pivotal-Living-Band-USB-charging-cable
USB charging cable

As far as charging the device, you need a special USB clip. The band comes with one, but if you want another (such as for the office) you’ll need to purchase it separately. Thankfully, the USB charging cables are only [currently, as of 11/15] $2.00 on the manufacturer’s website. Still, I’d have preferred to have a standard micro or macro USB plug so that I wouldn’t have to have yet another cable sitting around.

Navigating on the device was a little confusing at first, but I got it down after reading the instructions. Tap the button twice to go into sleep mode. Tap two more times to view a stopwatch. Two more to return to normal mode. I like that there is a stopwatch, but it has a flaw: you can only start and stop it, not reset it. Not without cycling through all those options again.

As far as sleep mode goes, it has to be done manually. On the My Basis tracker [that I own], it is able to detect when I fall asleep on its own. Here, you have to remember to click it before falling asleep, which means you do it when you are tired and more likely to forget.

traditional-electronic-pedometer
Traditional pedometer

When testing the band’s accuracy with tracking steps, I attached a traditional electronic pedometer to my belt. After three or four hours of testing, there was a huge gap in the two numbers. The Pivotal Living band recorded less than half the steps the pedometer did. So, if the band showed 2,000, the pedometer showed over 4,000. I can’t say which one is most accurate as I did not count in my head at the same time, but suffice to say the Pivotal Living band was on the low side.

Battery life is pretty good on the band. I went several days before charging, and even then the device still had a fair amount of juice in it. This makes having the custom charging cable less of an irritant.

Now I come to the real annoyance with the Pivotal Living band; the app.

Pivotal-Living-app-ratings
Pivotal Living app rating on Google Play

Currently, it has a low 2-star rating on 1,961 reviews in the Google Play store. This is for good reason. I had nothing but trouble setting it up and getting it to work. When I created my Pivotal Living account, I couldn’t even enter my correct height. The app uses these annoying scroll bars to increase or decrease #s. That scroll bar went as high as 5’11, then, one space higher went down to 5’ — a bug. Entering my weight was a real pain too; I had to try multiple times to get it to land on the correct number. They need to make this WAY less sensitive and more user friendly. Even when adding my profile photo it looked stretched and distorted. If I were Pivotal Living, I’d be embarrassed at releasing this app with so many bugs and flaws. There was clearly a lack of user testing, and that’s just the beginning of my complaints.

Next, the device kept showing the wrong time. It took me googling to figure out how to fix this, which ended up being a feature in the app that reset the time on the band. And when I did, the time went wrong again the next day. Eventually the time stayed for a while, but every so often it occasionally messes up and needs to be rest again. For example, this morning at 6:00 a.m. it showed the time of 13:00 (didn’t know it even did military time). The biggest issue is that I had the wake up alarm set and it didn’t go off. This is bad if you are depending on it to get you somewhere important.

The iOS version of the app was confusing. It took me searching the Pivotal Living website to figure out that I had to pull the screen down for it to sync with the device. The interface is pretty much the same as the Android one otherwise. Unfortunately, there is no iPad version of this app. Yes, you can run the iPhone version on an iPad, but it does not take advantage of the screen size and internal keyboard. It would be nice if Pivotal Living would create a tablet-friendly version of this interface to make entering and checking numbers easier (eg. minus the need to scroll the screen down to access all the tools).

 

Pivotal-Living-Band-app-login
Login screen

Another problem I had with the app initially is that it would not remember my password. I had to keep entering it every time I opened the app. This bug eventually disappeared, but how and why I’m not sure. It is important to note that you cannot use the app without logging in. This means that if you are away from Wi-Fi, don’t have a data plan, or are in a dead-zone and can’t access your data plan, you won’t be able to use the app. Thus you won’t be able to sync the information off the device. Want an inexpensive health band? You better be sure you are paying for an internet connection too.

Speaking of which, there are no solutions for syncing the device to a PC. The My Basis tracker I own provides software that can sync data and interact with the tracker on a Windows or Mac, not so with the Pivotal Living tracker. They don’t even have a website that you can view or enter your data in a web browser. It’s Android, iOS or nothing.

I also don’t like that there is no auto-sync feature. With the My Basis tracker, I can set it to sync every few minutes or so. The Pivotal Living tracker not only requires manual sync, but you must click the button on the band to wake it up before doing so. Since the device stores several days of data, it’s not that big of a deal. But in a user-friendly market, I find the lack of auto-sync limiting.

Overall, I find that the band is decent. It fits well enough and feels comfortable, however the dim LED makes viewing data on the band outdoors difficult. I’d have liked to have the current date as an option alongside the time too. The app is in big need of improvement, there is no online dashboard that you can view in a web browser, there is no PC version of the software, no auto-sync feature, no custom iPad version of the app, and you need an active internet connection (and membership) to access the app. Clearly, this device comes with a few flaws. The good news is that much of this is software based, which means it can be fixed by Pivotal Living in the future, assuming they invest the time and money in programmers and beta testers — because really, at this point, it’s generous to call the app in beta testing mode, let alone a full release. Here’s hoping improvements are to come for a device with potential.

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