Software problem: Wahoo mobile application

I wanted to make a bike trip, planned it on komoot and, just before the trip, tried to synchronize the route to my Wahoo ELEMNT. It didn’t work, the Wahoo device couldn’t connect to WiFi. WiFi problems with Wahoo are not uncommon so I tried to use Wahoo mobile application to download my route.

The Wahoo application generally works but this time it welcomed me with the following screen:

image-wahoo-application.jpg

What?! Why an account is needed to do things like upgrading firmware, changing my device settings (which can be done only using the application, not in the device itself), seeing incoming phone calls, or fetching routes from komoot? It must be either company stupidity or a bad intent, clearly software problem of category 2.

Nevertheless, what could I do at the moment? Creating an account requires agreeing to complicated privacy terms that, to my understanding, permit Wahoo to gather anything. A missing summary explaining the terms in an easy to understand way is probably a GDPR violation and stops me from trusting the company. And stopped me from creating the account at the moment. My primary concern is that I don’t want to upload my recorded data anywhere. While Wahoo could technically already get them using their application before, maybe the whole thing with the account is to get my explicit consent to do that. No, Wahoo, no.

BTW what’s the “seamless ELEMNT Experience” they promise thanks to the account? For example that data can be transferred 100% wirelessly, without the need to connect the device via cables. What a bullshit, don’t they realize that the device cannot be charged wirelessly? I have to connect the device to my computer anyway in order to charge it and then it’s easier to transfer the data using the cable connection than using a mobile application and some web application.

Now back to the planned route, how to transfer it from komoot? komoot allows to download routes, but only without embedded navigation instructions, which is not very useful. Another software problem of category 2, software deficiency.

I couldn’t re-plan the route on my computer in BRouter because I had reinstalled my computer recently and BRouter wasn’t running there yet. I admit, relying on proprietary SaaS is a problem of category 1, user stupidity. Well, it wasn’t a trip into unknown and I decided to ride without navigation, which was OK after all.

But what’s the long term solution? I’m against throwing away usable devices and replacing them with “better” ones, for multiple reasons. So I’ll probably create the account, to be able to use the device in future, and I’ll connect the device with the application only when all the recorded tracks are deleted from it. I hope that Wahoo won’t remove the ability to transfer and delete the tracks privately with a future firmware update (I’ll try to avoid firmware updates if possible). And I’ll ask Wahoo from time to time to tell me what data about me they keep, to be sure. GDPR is a very useful tool to deal with such companies.

I made a mistake when I bought a Polar device (their heart monitors are good but their other devices really suck and are miles behind the competition1). Now I can see I’ve made another mistake when I bought a Wahoo device, I’ll never buy anything from Wahoo again. Instead of trying to save money, I should buy a Garmin device, which is the only remaining option. Garmin is also not anything great, considering they produce and use proprietary FIT formats without freely accessible documentation, but at least last time I checked, it was possible to use Garmin devices, unlike Wahoo or Polar, without any application. Can we still hope that one day there will come a company making sport devices respecting user freedoms? Looking at e.g. the smartphone market, I would say that no. Most people are happy with what we have.

Footnotes:

1

It’s unbelievable that one can still make a device that can be configured only using a proprietary Windows application, doesn’t have enough memory to store data from a multi-day bike trip and can transfer recorded data only using the Windows application or, ehm, a cloud account. The primitive and confusing handling is another problem but maybe some users like it.

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