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Fitbit is Struggling to Make A Smartwatch – And Maybe to Stay Relevant?

Wearables are a pretty hot item in tech right now, and from a business standpoint, it’s been an interesting journey to watch. When I was in junior high/high school (several years ago but also not that long ago), watches were the pinnacle fashion item. Specifically, Fossil watches. I couldn’t afford one, but I searched far and wide for a watch that LOOKED like a Fossil watch in the hopes that I could fool my friends into thinking it was, in fact, a Fossil watch.

A few years later, as always, watches were totally out of fashion and nobody wore them. I still had my Fossil knock offs, but who needs a watch when I have this phone in my pocket that tells me the time AND has my calendar on it? No thanks, old tech.

And now we’ve gone full circle, and having a watch is once again trendy and fashionable and a statement. But this time, it’s smart watches. And the evolution of watches to no watches to fitness trackers to smart watches has actually been a pretty fast and interesting development.

Fitbit is easily the winner when it comes to activity trackers. There are several others out there, but Fitbit holds the market share so much that the question is not, “What kind of fitness wearable is that?” but rather “What kind of Fitbit is that?” And that’s great for Fitbit. The problem is that in Technology, and several other industries, if you aren’t pivoting as the market changes around you, you’ll be dead before you even realize you’re in a downward spiral.

I’ve had a Fitbit for 5 years now. I was an early adopter – second generation, not first – but still before they really “took off”, so to speak. I’ve upgraded several times, from one that just tracked steps to one that also tracked sleep, manually, to one that automatically tracked sleep and exercise and now to one that also tracks my heart rate AND supports push notifications for calls and texts. It’s one step below a true smart watch. And I’m constantly debating on whether I should leave Fitbit and embrace the smart watch market by getting an Apple watch, or if I should just stick with Fitbit because I’ve been very happy with it.

In the last few months, Fitbit acquired Pebble, a smart watch company, and the rumors took off that Fitbit would soon be launching a real smart watch to keep people like me with Fitbit instead of jumping ship for something more, like the Apple watch. It doesn’t seem to be working out the way they intended.

“Pivoting” can be hard for a company. I’ve been there! In Fitbit’s case, they have a great product that is taking off among consumers, and then something comes along and threatens to completely disrupt their growth. If you don’t pivot, you don’t survive. But it’s not as easy as just adding in the product that’s threatening your business model, and Fitbit is a great example of that. Personally, as a FitBit fan, I hope they figure it out and protect their market share. But at the same time, as a tech enthusiast, whatever they come up with has to be absolutely amazing to keep me from jumping to the Apple Watch, and therein lies the problem.