As the market leader, Fitbit has always been regarded as being synonymous with wearables in general. Its launch as a public company was at a point when the hype of wearables was at a peak with claims of the technology bring about a revolution in healthcare.
Unfortunately, the revolution never happened and Fitbit itself has now hit a wall. Sales are down, and last week, Fitbit reported a financial loss and announced it would be laying off 6% of its staff. Its share price is around 90% down on its peak of US $51 in 2015.
For the last few years Fitbit has been the dominant player in the growing and lucrative health and fitness wearable market. They have built such a strong brand that fitness wearables are all called “fitbits” in the same way searching on the web is now called “googling” (even if you don’t use Google) or photocopying was called xeroxing.
But that market dominance is coming to an end. One of the largest companies in the world, Apple, is pushing its way into the health and fitness market with the Apple Watch. And while Fitbit integrates south many other exercise and well-being services, they are hanging on like barnacles to a grudge with Apple and won’t make their platform available to Apple Watch owners.
Why is this? To answer that we need to look back a few years.
Last week, Fitbit purchased the guts of smartwatch maker Pebble. Pebble has been THE crowdfunding success story until now. Each new model Pebble produced was funded through Kickstarter.
But the company has been struggling, with competition from the likes of Samsung, Fitbit, Apple and others. Like many market pioneers, they were overtaken and then beaten down by the second and third wave of market entrants.
In a blog post and email sent out today, Pebble has confirmed that Fitbit has purchased the company’s software and intellectual property. Sources say the deal is worth a mere US$40M – a pittance in Silicon Valley dollars but it reflects the reality of the smartwatch and wearables business.
Whenever a new market emrges, it’s not the first wave of innovators that get the glory. It’s the second and third waves who learn from the mistakes fot the early market entrants, listen to the complaints of cusomers and deliver products and services that better meet the market need.
Fitbit buying Pebble is the beginning of this stage in the smartwatch and wearables market.
Time magazine has conducted a study of 50 healthy adults up to an electrocardiogram (EKG) in order to test the accuracy of the Apple Watch’s haeart rate monitor.
The tested the Apple Watch against the Fitbit Charge HR, Mio Alpha and Basis Peak.
Their finding – devices using a chest strap were the most accurate (99%) with the Apple Watch cowing in second at 90%. The other devices into the low 80s acording to Dr. Gordon Blackburn, one of the study’s authors and director of cardiac rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic.
Like most other fitness band and smartwatch makers, Microsoft has had a two-pronged approach with a hardware component and a software service. In their case, the two parts are the Microsoft Band and the Microsoft Health platform.
According to a recent report, it seems Microsoft is pulling the pin on the Microsoft Band (I reviewed the Microsoft Band 2 a little while ago and found it flawed), preferring to focus their efforts on the Microsoft Health platform.
Fitbit has released FitbitAdventures, a new series of personal, non-competitive activity challenges that are designed to inspire you to move more and reach your health and fitness goals. With each step logged, you can advance and virtually experience iconic landmarks and trails in Yosemite National Park or participate in the TCS New York City Marathon, while being motivated by fun facts and inspired through immersive breathtaking photography.
Available in the free Fitbit app, Fitbit Challenges motivate users to increase activity, showing how small steps add up to big results, with Fitbit data demonstrating that users who participate in Challenges move up to around one additional mile per day, on average.
Fitbit has introduced two new fitness wristbands – Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2. Both products are available globally today for presale, with retail availability starting during the northern fall/southern spring.
The Fitbit Charge 2 offers PurePulse heart rate tracking, as well as enhanced exercise experience, new health and fitness tools, notifications, and a new design with a larger display and interchangeable bands.
The Fitbit Flex 2 is the company’s first-ever swim-proof fitness wristband. It retains a removable tracker that transforms with classic bands, elegant bangles or pendants, allowing you to effortlessly track all-day activity, exercise and sleep.
Fitbit has created a product portfolio that covers almost every entry level and intermediate use-case for those trying to live a fitter and healthier lifestyle. But I think it’s time for them to up their game.
For a new Apple Watch around the corner and Garmin upping the ante with the new Fenix Chronos range as well their new Face-It customisation, Fitbit is getting left behind.