Some stars shine so bright they burn out before their time. Such is the case of McDonald’s Step-iT “activity bands,” a wearable that the fast-food chain started offering in Happy Meals earlier this month. Almost as soon as they were released into the world, vigilant moms began posting photos of burns, blisters, and skin irritations that the gadgets caused their children. Recognizing a PR disaster that was, astoundingly, big enough to overshadow a Kanye West poem about its food, McDonald’s voluntarily pulled the trackers from meals last week. But the McDrama continues: On Tuesday, the company said it would work with the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission and Health Canada to formally recall all 33 million wristbands manufactured, after receiving more than 70 complaints of irritation.
The lucky few who managed to snag a band pre-recall are now invited to return it to McDonald’s in exchange for a “free replacement toy” and a choice of a “yogurt or apple slices.” But the public is left with many unanswered questions. Is this a fair trade? How can we be sure this is not another faux narrative fabricated by the dishonest liberal media in order to ruin a great American corporation that embraces capitalism? Will the aforementioned apple slices also cause burns? To investigate, I tapped a fast-food industry source and acquired my very own Step-iT bracelet. My review of the product follows.
The Step-iT wristbands are made of a transparent plastic that comes in two models: a “light-up band” that furiously blinks based on the pace of your movement and an “activity counter” that displays the supposed number of “steps” you’ve taken. I tested a green version of the latter, a gadget with a face that is roughly the same dimensions as a fun-sized Ghirardelli chocolate square, but that is not nearly as delicious and not recommended for consumption.
The creators of the Step-iT have honored their wearable predecessors by choosing material that consistently causes rashes. And yet, its band is made from something wholly unique, what I can only assume is a heat-conducting plastic made from the melted corpses of discarded Baby-G watches.
The face of the tracker contains a dim, rectangular LCD screen, a green button, and the words “STEP-iT” in a questionable rainbow-colored font — a boldly low-tech arrangement, but an impressive one considering Happy Meals cost only about $3, give or take.
Some parents have posited that the battery, a square that’s permanently screwed into the body of the wearable and is not rechargeable, is the source of the burning. But what it lacks in the ability to stay cool, it makes up for in longevity! I began tracking my steps Tuesday afternoon, and left the gadget on overnight. Come Wednesday morning, the band was still alive and pumping after clocking a good 14 hours. This is more than I can say for my iPhone.
Theoretically, the Step-iT contains a pedometer that logs your steps as you take them. Realistically, however, even the slightest of movements adds to this step count. The moment I put it on, for instance, it rewarded me with 17 steps. A minute later, after walking a block, I was at 99. After an hour at the gym that did not include any time on the treadmill, I was at a staggering 7,637. Sitting lifelessly on my couch and shrugging my shoulder earned me two steps. I found that these exaggerations, as my fast-food industry source put it, were “great for self-esteem.”
You might be wondering: Will this gadget burn my flesh? In the short time I had with it, the band made my skin extra hot and uncomfortably sweaty, and even earned me stares from judgy hot people at Equinox, but ultimately it didn’t cause any noticeable irritation. Does this mean the moms of America are liars and cogs of the lamestream media? Maybe! Or perhaps, in years of reviewing rash-prone gadgets, I’ve built up a tolerance.
There is none.
The face of the gadget has a button that, when pressed, will reset your steps. There is also a clasp to secure the bracelet around your wrist that only occasionally comes loose. If you shake the wristband, you can hear the faint “clickity clack” of its alleged “pedometer.”
3.5 Stars (out of … 5? Sure, 5!)
The Good: Long-lasting battery, a step counter that instills blind confidence, a price tag that is less than most cups of coffee in Brooklyn.
The Bad: Could possibly burn your skin off. Still not gonna rule that one out.
The Bottom Line: Step-iT gets a lot of things right, including the ability to stay powered on, and stay on your wrist. But its bold design is not for everyone, and at least one government organization wants to collect and destroy every single one of these wearables.