The Running Geek

I’m not angry … I’m just disappointed.

Two posts in a week. A relative flurry of activity it would appear. I had planned to write about running and the various bits of technology I use, or have used, in a future update. Circumstances have come together to persuade me to write it now. I like to do a bit of running. I don’t run very far, and I don’t run very fast. Some of this is due to heat and humidity of Hong Kong, but mostly it is due to not finding sufficient time. So, on average I get out for a 30 minute run, which means actual running time of between 20-25 minutes. This is just about perfect for a 3-3.5 mile run. Being able to run round the infield of Happy Valley racecourse is a bonus – whilst not the most exciting run to do it does provide consistency and I can get a general measure of how fast I’m running, and how well I’m lasting. My regular run is therefore 3 ‘external’ laps, and 1 ‘internal’.

That’s all incredibly fascinating, I’m sure you’ll agree. Times have moved on from the 1980s when a digital watch could have a stopwatch and ‘lap’ timer. Being the geeky tech guy I am, I bought a FitBit nearly two years ago (ok, I’m actually onto my second Flex as the first one died on me). I also like to listen to podcasts whilst running, and I also bought myself a Polar heart rate monitor. I don’t need all these vital measurements, this stuff, but I do kind of like knowing it, and as the OH would attest, I like my gadgets.

Running without wires

The wired earphones are annoying, and the chest heart rate monitor does sometimes feel a bit restrictive round the chest. It was with a degree of excitement when I saw Jabra wireless earphones that can also measure your pulse become available. This could be the perfect solution for what I want when running. I duly bought a pair at the end of January, and they were awesome. Working exactly as advertised – Bluetooth connection to listen to music or podcasts, and a Bluetooth Low Energy connection for heart rate recording. Apparently, the heart rate is measured by recording blood flow in your ears, I didn’t care how they measured rate though – these seemed great. And they were, right up until they broke, after about 15 runs, by the middle of March. The central power button had seemed to collapsed, and they could no longer power on.

The joys of warranty

There is a 12 month warranty period with these earphones – although you do have to go the warranty repair centre in Kwun Tong, with the original packaging, and the store receipt. I’ll admit I have a bad habit of throwing receipts away quite regularly, and that was the case here. Fortunately, the shop were happy enough to reprint the receipt, so all I had to do next was get myself out to Kwun Tong … First off; I know Hong Kong is geographically quite small, and incredibly well connected, so it’s a bit childish to complain about travelling whilst living here. However, that’s what I’m going to do. And yes, Kwun Tong is on an MTR line – although the warranty repair centre is nowhere near the station. Similarly there are plenty of buses going through Kwun Tong. However, it’s still an HK$150 taxi trip, or 45-50 minutes by bus/MTR to get to the warranty centre. In order to swap my now broken earphones over for a new working pair would cost me HK$300 in taxis, or 1.5-2 hours of my time. Did I mention the warranty centre only opens Mon-Fri, and is closed between 12:00-2:00pm for lunch? Brilliant – it’s only open during the working day, and you need to physically bring the earphones to swap them. No mailing in of broken equipment here. That’s a big negative for customer service right there.

Trip #1

A swap was duly made, and to be fair, this was as painless as I could have hoped for, and a new working pair of earphones was provided when I went to the warranty centre to swap them over. These earphones worked for about 3-4 runs before they too failed. This time, the power button (and volume buttons) were still working, but they would not charge, and the red charging LED would never light up green to show a full charge. I think this is symptomatic of a battery problem.

Trip #2

Having made the first trip using expensive taxis, I realised if I had to make six of these trips I’d have shelled out enough for another set of earphones. This time I took the bus from just outside my office during lunch to try and arrive just as they re-opened after lunch. Again, no hassles swapping the earphones over. I had expressed my disappointment in emails to the warranty centre that the earphones had failed again, and fruitlessly asked for the option to mail swap the earphones. Earphone set number 3 … lasted one run! On my second time wearing them, they would not switch on. Exactly the same fault as set number 2.

Trip #3

At least I knew exactly which bus to catch and where to get off this time. Another wasted set of email exchanges pleading to exchange via mail as well. The warranty centre ‘helpfully’ suggested I could get a friend to swap them. Because, of course, my friends don’t work, and have nothing better to do than traipse out to Kwun Tong for me … What would be more helpful is if the earphones actually worked. Earphone set number 4 were a 100% improvement on set number 3. They worked for 2 running sessions, and had failed by the time I went for a third run with them. They are now sitting on a table beside the couch mocking me every time I look at them. The OH has suggested that I simply ask for a refund this time, and I think she might be right.

What have I learnt?

Not a great deal – I suspect the first set lasted as ‘long’ as they did due to it winter here and less humid. As the humidity cranked up, the lifespan of the earphones dropped dramatically, and I, like my Dad, and it seems I’ve passed this delightful trait onto The Son as well, am a heavy sweater when exercising. Clearly the Jabra earphones aren’t up to working well in humid conditions. It’s a product I so dearly wanted to like and enjoy using, and it’s probably all the more frustrating that when they did work they were great, and meant I had no dangly earphone wire, and no chest strap heart rate monitor as well. Like I said, I’m not angry, I’m just so disappointed that a product that promised so much, ultimately delivered so little.

WordPress says that is 1100 words … Over a thousand words on earphones (that don’t work), to follow up a previous lengthy post on plugs. Fascinating stuff, eh? The readers will just be poring in at this rate.

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2 Responses to “The Running Geek”

  1. icaniwill Says:

    Hmm. I have a pair of Jabra Sport Pulse that I paid nothing for. (I won them for running a marathon really quite slowly.) I use them fairly regularly as headphones – and they do sound great and don’t have annoying dangling wires – but haven’t combined listening with running yet. I planned to do that today in order to blog about them, but forgot to actually wear them. As you do.
    You’re not exactly selling it as something I should do. Maybe I’ll just keep using them in their current relaxed environment…

    • jonnye Says:

      That’s quite a nice prize for completing a marathon – they’re not exactly cheap earphones. When they worked, they were great (bluetooth earphones are never going to be the audiophiles choice, but for me they were just what I wanted).

      It’s a product I really wanted to like and there seem to be plenty of people using them (with Ghostracer in particular) without problems. Maybe I’m just unlikely. Maybe Hong Kong got a duff batch. Maybe they’re just not up to working with the combination of me being a heavy sweater, and Hong Kong being so hot and humid right now (the last set I stored in my camera lens fridge to try to avoid excess humidity when not running).

      I’m almost tempted to swap them again … but I’m beginning to feel like a gambling addict ‘this time they’ll work, you’ll see …’

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