We knew this was coming since the first rumours started circulating about Google potentially buying Fitbit. As announced at Google I/O yesterday, Fitbit will be releasing new fitness trackers and health smartwatches running Wear OS. And while for the uninitiated this might sounds good news, in reality, previous Wear OS iterations were not famous for their responsiveness, so changing the perfectly fine Fitbit OS to Wear OS doesn't fill me with confidence.
Don't get me wrong, it was pretty much inevitable for Fitbit to be assimilated into the vast Google product and service portfolio sooner rather than later, yet I can't help but feel sad about seeing the Fitbit OS go. That's even considering that Wear OS has undergone its "biggest update ever" (opens in new tab) and that even Samsung is on board now providing its own expertise to improve the platform.
New Wear OS updates include the redesign of Google Maps and Google Assistant as well as Google Pay on the platform. YouTube Music will also arrive later this year, equipped with features like smart downloads. To be fair, even before, the issue wasn't the lack of features but the amount of time it took for apps to open and for watches to register interactions (so much lag). Thankfully, the new Wear OS is said to make apps start up to "30% faster on the latest chipsets with smooth user interface animations and motion." We'll see how that pans out.
Another big issue was the battery life but apparently, this has also been optimised which is great news as previous Wear OS watches barely survived two days on a full battery, which is less than half of the battery life of the Fitbit Versa 3, the best Fitbit nowadays. I won't be sitting here with baited breath expecting new Wear OS Fitbits to outlast the current gen watches but if they were at least closer in performance and battery life as they are now, it would be a great improvement.
What makes me apprehensive about the Fitbit x Wear OS situation is what it means for the greater Fitbit ecosystem. Both the Fitbit OS and the Fitbit App have been hugely successful and beloved by Fitbit users. The way Fitbit built its community in the past helped it establish itself as the go-to brand when it comes to fitness trackers and as a matter of fact, people use the words 'best Fitbit' and 'best fitness tracker' interchangeably.
Now that the Fitbit OS is getting killed off, does it mean that the Fitbit App will be replaced by the Google Fit app (opens in new tab)? Or will it be some sort of hybrid concept, something that Suunto 7 tried to implement, where you have use the Wear OS and the Suunto App simultaneously to update the watch? In case you haven't had the chance of giving that a try, it's a pretty confusing way of operating a running watch.
We'll have to wait and see what the future holds for Fitbit and whether it be able to retain its uniqueness over time, or will it just become the wearable division of Google going forward. Hopefully, as opposed to just killing off the competition, Google will actually try to incorporate best practices from Samsung and Fitbit into its Wear OS system.
It would also be great to see more AI integration and more health insights on future Wear OS watches. Fitbit has a huge database of health data and its algorithm is also pretty accurate, a combination which could form a base of a more robust Google health platform. Google has the resources and the know-how to translate data into something more digestible to the human mind, it would be great of we saw this materialising in upcoming Wear OS updates.
One thing is for sure: I'll be watching Fitbit's evolution over the coming months with great interest, if a little nervousness.