Last October, Fitbit received a rash of rave reviews for its latest wrist-worn fitness tracker – the Fitbit Force. This week, Fitbit recalled the Force because it was causing actual rashes.
Fitbit formally announced Friday a voluntary recall of the Fitbit Force, which was found to cause allergic contact dermatitis, a skin irriation that can range from mild redness to severe, disabling pain.
“While only 1.7% of Force users have reported any type of skin irritation, we care about every one of our customers,” said Fitbit CEO James Park in a letter posted on the company website. “On behalf of the entire Fitbit team, I want to apologize to anyone affected.”
The Fitbit Force was an instant success upon introduction as reviews deemed it the gold standard of fitness trackers. Among other standout features were the first the industry’s first OLED watch display and active-minutes tracker.
This particular model, however, contains a specific metal that is most likely causing the rashes. “Some users may be reacting to the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel used in the device,” said Park. Other possible irritants include the “materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble” the Force.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), “allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction in which a foreign substance comes into contact with the skin; skin changes occur after reexposure to the substance.” As is the case with the Fitbit Force, nickel is one of the most common metals to lead to this particular irritation. “Localized acute allergic contact dermatitis lesions are successfully treated with mid- or high-potency topical steroids.”
Only 1.7% of Force users have reported skin irritation due to the device, but the company wanted to act before a larger problem arose. “From the beginning, we have taken this matter very seriously,” said Park. The company even hired an independent firm to determine the problem. Their analysis did not find any problems with the Force’s battery or electrical system.
The wearable technology market is becoming an increasingly crowded and competitive field. Jawbone, Nike and Fitbit have been battling fiercely in the fitness tracker space as aggressively as Apple and Samsung compete for the top smartphone.
This recall may be a slight setback for Fitbit, although it’s not the first tracker to be recalled. Jawbone recalled its UP wristband in late 2011 due to technical errors. The company quickly bounced back with an improved, updated UP.
While Fitbit has not specifically announced a timeline for a new Force, Park said we’re working on our next-generation tracker and will announce news about it soon.” In the meantime, the company immediately halted sales of the Force and offers a full refund to all customers. A dedicated page with refund instructions has been posted on the Fitbit site.