Category: design

IoT device setup: easy until it’s not

Internet-connected devices are increasingly supplied without a USB tethering option. While I presume this cuts down on manufacturing complexity and improves form factor, the wifi setup user experience is often terrible.

I recently acquired a FitBit Aria scale which has the completely undocumented quirk of only being able to connect to 802.11b wifi. My router defaults to n. I had to dig through the router settings and enable dual-band. There is absolutely no way a muggle would ever figure this out.

To compound the issue, their activation API was suffering a bug that returned a cryptic JSON error when using a Mac or iOS Safari to register the scales. I have no Wintel, so I finally got it working using iOS Chrome.

Googling revealed loads of posts by angry consumers who had returned the product as defective. I wonder how much this poor design choice cost FitBit’s bottom line? Omitting a USB setup option might have seemed clever but it backfired badly – perhaps it would have been fine if their wifi onboarding experience wasn’t so flawed.

And after enabling dual-band support on my router my Kindle Paperwhite would no longer connect to the wifi network. I had to manually enable WPS discovery mode on the router to pair it again. Oy!