Fitbit unveils Ionic smartwatch earlier than expected. Their ‘Hail Mary’ pass?

click to enlargeSurprisingly, Fitbit has formally unveiled today (28 August) its first smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic, on its 10th anniversary of its first tracker. It’s a slow news week in the US, being the week before the Labor Day holiday 4 Sept and in the UK this Monday with the summer bank holiday. The announcement also feels a bit like a soft reveal in a slow period. However, the industry expected an announcement later this year, so this is considered to be positive.

There’s plenty of functionality, though the watch itself from the photos (this is Engadget’s, as the press release did not supply close up pictures) is rather brick-like on the wrist. Balancing that out is a knockout of a 1.42-inch, 348 x 250 px display, the best and brightest yet in the reviewer’s estimation. It also curves a bit through nano-molding technology (NMT) to fit more comfortably on the wrist than the previous Alta tracker.

Engadget‘s test drive of an early version of the Ionic is thorough. It confirms that Fitbit went with its own proprietary OS, contactless payment and a subscription-based custom workout guide called Fitbit Coach, a rebranded Fitstar. More functions related to healthcare are:

  • Updated heart rate monitor
  • A new SpO2 blood oxygen sensor. There’s a bit of tease in the release which gives its potential in health use: “…a relative SpO2 sensor for estimating blood oxygen levels opens the potential for tracking important new indicators about your health, such as sleep apnea”
  • Sleep tracking through monitoring pulse and movement for stages of sleep (deep, REM, light, etc.). The Engadget reviewer noted the uncertain quality of tracking.
  • Integrated connection to the new edition of the Aria weight scale (release), also due in the fall

Pricing has been set at $300/£300 with the usual extra accouterments of dress and sport bands. If you can’t wait, pre-sale starts today on Fitbit.com with retail on-sale globally starting October 2017, without a specific date. For developers, the Fitbit app software development kit (SDK) will be open to developers in September 2017. 

Will this ‘Hail Mary Pass‘ save Fitbit? Like most smartwatches, it feels like a solution in search of a problem. It depends on how many true believers will upgrade from the Alta to the Ionic, or buy this rather than an Apple Watch, where first-half sales are up 50 percent versus last year to an estimated 2-3 million new units, partly on Fitbit’s faltering back. The big roll of the dice is going with a proprietary OS. Health and other apps are dependent on developers, who are going to have to make a business decision on the watch’s sales and acceptance to commit to a one-off app. 4th Quarter sales will tell….Our earlier coverage of Fitbit and related smartwatches is here.

 

Categories: Latest News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *