In recent articles, we’ve speculated about the inevitable clash between Fitbit, the current leader in fitness wearables, and the serious threat posed by the Apple Watch. While most other companies (Jawbone, Misfit) had tipped their hands by focusing on device-agnostic platforms, Fitbit’s plans were less clear.
However, the last week revealed news of a fully revamped lineup of Fitness trackers: the Fitbit Charge, Charge HR, and a brand new flagship “superwatch” Surge. Furthermore, rumors of tension between Fitbit and Apple in Apple Stores and Healthkit suggest that their prior partnerships are on the rocks.
Fitbit Surge: “Superwatch” to Rival the Basis Peak and Garmin GPS Watches
Marketing material discovered by The Verge revealed a product offering that signals a departure from prior Fitbit products into the market of advanced activity trackers, dominated by Garmin and Basis until now.
With a price point of $249, the Surge includes built-in GPS tracking, an altimeter, and continuous heart rate tracking (branded as “PurePulse”). These features position the Surge towards elite athletes and runners. Furthermore, the Surge will add basic smartphone notifications (Caller ID, text messages). While $50 more expensive than the recently announced Basis Peak, the Fitbit Surge offers synchronization with third party platforms (like MyFitnessPal, Pact) and GPS tracking.
Fitbit Charge: The Force, Reborn
The Fitbit Charge, first discovered by Gizmodo, appears to be a revision to their flagship Fitbit Force, which was recalled due to causing rashes in some users. Specification-wise and based on product images, it appears to be nearly identical to its recalled predecessor. Compared to the lower-end Fitbit Flex, the Fitbit Charge adds an altimeter and display, but is also slightly wider.
The only new feature with the reborn Fitbit Charge (in addition to presumably not causing a rash) appears to be the ability to display Caller ID from smartphones. While the Force promised to add support for Caller ID notifications, it was pulled from the market before they could be added via software update.
Fitbit Charge HR: Continuous Heart Rate Monitoring
More intriguingly, the Fitbit Charge HR adds continuous heart rate tracking in a feature called PurePulse, not unlike the recently-announced Basis Peak. Keep in mind that heart rate monitoring is absent in most fitness trackers, and most smartwatches (Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy) only use heart rate monitoring only during specified intervals.
The Charge HR will not incorporate the internal GPS tracking of the Surge, but might represent a sweetspot for quantified selfers who are looking to graduate from step data alone.
Fitbit and Apple’s Relationship Souring Over Apple Store and Healthkit
While Fitbit has historically been lauded for its third party support (and was even included on a slide of Healthkit partners during an Apple presentation), they recently have stated through various channels that they are not currently planning to support Healthkit initially, but will continue to evaluate the platform.
As the market leader in fitness trackers and therefore the most widely used activity tracking platform, it comes as no surprise that Fitbit might not be eager to hand the keys to the kingdom over to Apple.
Fitbit’s decision is a gamble. While the brand Fitbit is essentially synonymous with “activity tracker,” their lack of Healthkit compatibility could dissuade users from buying newer products. They already appear to be alienating Apple, with rumors suggesting that Apple will no longer sell Fitbit products in their stores. If Fitbit’s bold strategy is successful, however, they could bolster their position as the premier activity tracker company without having to play by Apple’s rules.