Google has acquired Fitbit. Here’s some thoughts from a sometimes Apple Watch fan, sometimes Wear OS fan, sometimes Fitbit fan (and eternal Pebble fan).
For the past few years many of us suffering Wear OS smartwatch fans have been hanging on to hope.
Hoping that Google doesn’t completely kill off Wear OS (it’s on the ropes and losing badly to WatchOS and the Apple Watch).
Hoping that Google doesn’t give up on wearables (after all Google Assistant is still the best).
Hoping that some day Google would make its own “Pixel Watch” to take on the Apple Watch once and for all.
All told, all three of those wishes appear to have come true today. At least partly that is.
As most know by now, Google has acquired wearable maker Fitbit for $2.1 billion. There’s not much surprise there. Suitors at this scale are few and far between and include Microsoft and Amazon.
So, yes, there’s hope.
I expect Google to quickly integrate Fitbit fitness tracking capability into its Fit app. Users can likely expect tight integration with Android for things like step tracking, heart rate monitoring and workout tracking as well. That’s been there already with Fitbit, but Google can take it further obviously and enhance the Fitbit DNA with the core Android experience.
Then there’s Google Assistant. It’s not much of a stretch to believe we’ll see this on future Google Fitbit products. A voice assistant will be needed if Google wants to to take a serious run a the more comprehensive Apple Watch which has Siri built-in, not to mention a myriad of far more advanced smart features which make it the best smartwatch on the market (with price to match).
What does the Fitbit acquisition mean for Google’s ailing Wear OS platform?
Hard to say for sure. I’m not convinced having two wearable platforms makes zero sense long-term. Odds are Wear OS will get killed in my estimation. Fitbit will become the all-in favorite. Given how little attention Google management has given to Wear OS (it gets little to no mention at public launches and conferences) over the past few years I’m expecting Wear OS to go the way of Google ARA.
If that comes to pass that would mean our much-wanted Pixel Watch is now the Fitbit — made by Google.
I actually think this is a pretty decent outcome.
Fitbit runs on both Android and iOS — like Wear OS — giving it a wide addressable market. The hardware supports NFC payment with Fitbit Pay which can be updated to Google Pay. Overall design of the latest Fitbit models such as the Versa is quite nice, so there’s lots of potential here to satisfy the fashionistas who care about colors and straps and so forth.
“Over the years, Google has made progress with partners in this space with Wear OS and Google Fit, but we see an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market. Fitbit has been a true pioneer in the industry and has created engaging products, experiences and a vibrant community of users. By working closely with Fitbit’s team of experts, and bringing together the best AI, software and hardware, we can help spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.”
Source: Google Blog
Google Fitbit — Just like Google Nest
Perhaps Google can offer the basic Fitbit watch for casual wearable users who care about notifications and fitness tracking and then provide a step-up model with Google Pay, Google Assistant and a bunch of more advanced stuff to take on the Apple Watch at the $300-$400 price point. Seems reasonable and do-able.
Given the negative winds swirling around the Wear OS brand I’d expect it to die and Google to continue to develop Fitbit OS, using either the same name or possibly a rebrand (but why not just carry on with Fitbit OS given its market recognition)? Note: the announcement from Google regarding the Fitbit acquisition (see quote above) would suggest otherwise.
At the end of the day, Google made a smart move. Where it goes from here we don’t know. But at least this gives the wearable team some serious hardware, software, talent and patents (Pebble anyone?) to mount some kind of challenge to the market leading Apple Watch. And let’s not forget Google immediately inherits a decent-sized install base of Fitbit users along with a significant amount of data.
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Just like Google Nest, it will be interesting to see how the team integrates the product portfolio into the Google line-up.
We didn’t quite get a Pixel Watch, but I think we may be close. Just give it another year or so.