Fitbit Premium offers lots of content – but here’s why it still irritates me

Should you have to pay for content that’s based on your own data?

Call me old-fashioned, but I liked it better when you bought a fitness tracker (or any other device, for that matter) and didn’t have to pay extra to unlock all its features. And while we’re now living in a time of subscription-based business models, I don’t necessarily have to like it. 

Fitbit Premium is irritating. Not because it’s bad, but because you’re paying for content you shouldn’t have to. To me, it’s less like buying a car and paying a subscription for heated seats, and more like buying a car and then having to pay for the headlights or the steering wheel. It shouldn’t be treated as an optional extra. 

The Fitbit Charge 5 pictured next to the Fitbit Premium appCredit: Saga Exceptional

Gym memberships have, of course, used the ongoing payment model for years. But the trend towards subscriptions on devices such as fitness trackers and their supporting apps is gathering speed.  

A Whoop fitness band is an extreme example. The device itself is free, but to access any of your data, you need to pay for an ongoing subscription. At the opposite end is Withings, which offers the Withings+ service for an additional fee, but none of your own data (or insights derived from that data) are hidden behind a paywall. 

Fitbit sits somewhere in the middle. You can get a lot of data about your health and activity without paying for Fitbit Premium. But if you want access to all the insights on offer, then you’ll need to pay. And this is where it starts to feel irritating. 

Fitbit Premium has a lot to offer

Screens from the Fitbit Premium Credit: Saga Exceptional

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Fitbit Premium has nothing to offer. There is an enormous amount of content, including workouts, recipes, and guided meditation. And I have no problem with having the choice of paying extra for all of that. For some people, it may be a great support in their health and fitness journey. 

But what if I just want access to the data and insights that relate to my own health and fitness? Features such as the Daily Readiness Score and detailed sleep stats? Maybe I already use a workout app such as Apple Fitness Plus, and have no interest in doing a Fitbit workout or trying a mindfulness session?  

Having been asked to pay for a fitness tracker or smartwatch to begin with, it’s really disappointing to essentially be told that if you want all those insights into your health, you’ll have to keep paying for access to them. A Fitbit Charge 5 has an RRP of around £130, while the Fitbit Inspire 3 is about £85 (both are available for less in sales).  

While these are far from the most expensive devices on the market, it isn’t pocket change either. So to be asked to pay an ongoing fee to benefit from some of the features just doesn’t sit comfortably.

It could end up being costly to access features available elsewhere for free

The Fitbit Charge 5 next to a workout available on Fitbit PremiumCredit: Saga Exceptional

In a year, your Fitbit Premium subscription at £7.99 a month (or £80 a year if you pay in full for 12 months upfront) could cost you more than the initial cost of your fitness tracker. And if you kept it going for a few years, you could see your fitness tracker plus Fitbit Premium costing as much as a premium smartwatch from another manufacturer. It doesn’t feel right that to get access to those extra features, you’ll potentially end up spending hundreds of pounds over the lifetime of the product. 

Both the Garmin Connect app and the Polar Flow app, to give two examples, offer equivalent metrics to the Daily Readiness Score and sleep insights, without needing a subscription. Fitbit asking you to pay extra to get a complete dataset from your fitness tracker feels like a backwards step, especially when many competitors don’t do this. 

It feels as though Fitbit is shooting itself in the foot

Fitbit does, to a degree, seem to recognise that holding back this data might be a bad idea. Back in March, the company made data in the “Fitbit Health Metrics Dashboard (previously only available with Fitbit Premium) available to all users at no extra cost. This includes metrics such as breathing rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature readings, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability.

Screenshots of the Daily Readiness Score on the Fitbit appCredit: Saga Exceptional

It’s a step in the right direction. But unless they make all their health metrics available for free, they’ll still be behind the likes of Garmin, Apple and Samsung in this respect. The irony is that for many people, the extra health insights probably aren’t enough to justify Fitbit Premium’s cost. Which begs the question, why put them behind a subscription at all? It’s annoying, and has the potential to drive consumers away from Fitbit’s devices, into the arms of rivals.  

You get a really good piece of hardware and plenty of health data when you buy a Fitbit, even if you don’t pay for Fitbit Premium. But you’re still being deprived of insights into your own health and fitness that other brands offer for free. 

Until that changes, I’ll still be really frustrated by Fitbit Premium.

Steven Shaw

Written by Steven Shaw he/him

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Steven Shaw has been a freelance writer for a variety of outlets, most notably TechRadar. His degree in Medieval History prepared him less adequately for his career than you might expect, but the years spent working in technology focused retail were much more helpful.

Outside of work, Steven is passionate about health and fitness, and particularly enjoys high-intensity interval training, weight training, and increasingly, spending time recovering. Steven loves reading, films and a wide variety of sports. A particular highlight was watching Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar batting together in an exhibition match.

He wishes he could travel more. He can also tell you a lot about the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Carolingians. Most of his non-work time is spent with his young children, who are the living embodiment of high-intensity training.