Fitbit Inc., months away from the debut of its smartwatch, has misplaced a number of individuals engaged on the challenge and fallen behind on its app retailer — placing in peril the corporate’s most vital product in years.
Laborious hit by the sinking reputation of its health trackers, Fitbit has guess its future on the smartwatch. However such units are sometimes wedded to an ecosystem of appropriate units, apps and companies that lure then lock individuals in. Whereas Fitbit’s watch can play music and deal with funds, in keeping with individuals accustomed to the product, a mentioned partnership with Spotify didn’t materialize and technical challenges imply the app retailer is probably not prepared when the watch arrives this fall. Many app builders, in the meantime, are unenthusiastic about Fitbit’s watch.
“I’m extra centered on the massive boys just like the Apple Watch and Android Put on,” says Damian Mehers, who developed a model of Evernote for Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch. “I may think about growing for Fitbit if there was a compelling machine and a big sufficient consumer base. I believe it is going to be difficult to determine credibility.”
Like many different builders, Mehers says the problem is exacerbated by the truth that wearable units nonetheless haven’t caught on broadly, which means they’re much less fascinating to write down apps for than a smartphone.
In an emailed assertion, Fitbit mentioned the event of the smartwatch and third-party apps “are on monitor” and that “any claims that the developer program is struggling is fake.” The corporate mentioned it’s “properly positioned to succeed.”
The worldwide wearables market is predicted to develop about 20 p.c this 12 months to 125.5 million units shipped, in keeping with researcher IDC. However Fitbit’s watch will probably be competing with not simply Apple however dozens of cheaper Android merchandise. Fitbit just lately misplaced its place as the highest vendor of wearable units, falling behind Apple and China’s Xiaomi Corp. Buyers are skeptical of the corporate’s prospects, pushing the shares down 55 p.c up to now 12 months. They fell an additional 2.41 p.c to $5.27 on Friday morning. And whereas Fitbit has a loyal base of customers that it might probably push the brand new machine to, analysts say the corporate may battle to get traction outdoors that pretty slim area of interest.
Final 12 months, to assist jumpstart its smartwatch effort, Fitbit acquired know-how developed by watch maker Pebble, which shut down after failing to compete in a market that has taken off extra slowly than anticipated. Pebble builders helped type the core of Fitbit’s smartwatch staff in California, however most have since left, in keeping with an individual accustomed to the state of affairs (though a separate group of Pebble alums in Ottawa stays intact).
The Fitbit watch is predicted to promote for lower than $300 and can run a customized working system primarily based partially on the one which powered Pebble watches versus a extra ubiquitous working system like Android Put on. Selecting Put on instantly would have given Fitbit an unlimited ecosystem of functions, established builders and help of the Google software program model. As an alternative, Fitbit has devoted assets to making a customized working system, which requires the event of a complete ecosystem and dangers an absence of developer help.
Fitbit additionally plans to observe trade follow by placing its app retailer not on the watch itself however on Apple and Android telephones. Customers would obtain apps on their telephones, then beam them by way of Bluetooth to the Fitbit watch, the identical approach Apple and Google do it. The app retailer, whereas delayed, may conceivably be prepared for the watch’s launch.
After the partnership with Spotify foundered, Fitbit started working with Pandora Media. Touchdown Spotify, the world’s largest paid streaming service, would have been a coup. As an alternative, Fitbit is working with an organization struggling for relevance after clinging to an web radio mannequin. The function Pandora is engaged on will let customers retailer music on the watch, an individual accustomed to the plans says. Spotify and Pandora declined to remark.
Inside the corporate, skepticism abounds concerning the watch itself, which can are available one dimension and have a sq. touchscreen much like the one on the Apple Watch. Some members of the staff engaged on the Fitbit machine think about it sub-standard and a challenge the corporate ought to by no means have launched into, in keeping with a number of individuals. “They’re constructing one thing that individuals internally by no means believed in,” the individual says. “They give the impression of being reactionary not strategic.”
Fitbit hasn’t tied all its fortunes to the watch. Engineers are engaged on sleeker variations of the Cost health band, the corporate’s finest vendor, and the Blaze health tracker, which incorporates a big shade show, for subsequent 12 months. The corporate is also planning an up to date model of a weighing scale that syncs information to a smartphone by way of Bluetooth.
Fitbit initially deliberate to debut its watch this spring, in keeping with an individual accustomed to the state of affairs, however varied setbacks pressured the corporate to push the discharge to the autumn. Meaning the machine will in all probability go head-to-head with the newest Apple Watch, which has a longtime app retailer, tight integration with the iPhone, built-in music and funds companies, to not point out hundreds of equipment.
“This factor is designed to compete with the Apple Watch 2,” says an individual accustomed to the Fitbit machine. “However by the point it comes out, there would be the Apple Watch three.”