Right before the holiday shopping season, Google announced that its plans to purchase Fitbit, Inc. for $2.1 billion. The major news sent tech and fitness blogs into a frenzy, and put data-shy consumers a bit on edge. What might this mean for the future of fitness tracking?
“If completed, the move would spell the end of an independent Fitbit, a 12-year-old hardware firm credited with popularizing the self-quantifying phenomenon that has so many of us comparing our daily step counts against our friends and loved ones,” writes Patrick Lucas Austin for TIME.
As a company at the intersection of fitness and tech, we’ve got a few thoughts.
First, what does this mean for Google? For Fitbit?
Fitbit hasn’t released a brand new fitness tracker since the introduction of the Versa, and this summer’s slightly upgraded Versa 2.
Meant to contend with the Apple Watch and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, the sales of the fashionable Versa—and the bulkier Ionic—never quite matched up to the competition.(Many tech blogs still recommended even the older Apple Watch models over a newer Fitbit.)
Meanwhile, Google has its own growing assembly of smartphones and laptops, and its own fitness tracking mobile app…but has yet to build a fitness watch.
Buying Fitbit would give Google an immediate leg up here, along with access to Fitbit’s more than 27 million active users.
Our prediction? Not a rebrand of existing products. Google will use Fitbit’s staff, experience, and expertise to build their first Google Fit smart watch to compete with Apple Watch. We should see at least one new smartwatch or other innovative fitness wearable by the end of 2020.
What might this mean for you?
Today’s consumers are wary of major corporations acquiring too much personal information, with good reason (hello data breaches!). Though most don’t understand just how much you’ve already shared just by clicking around the web.
“Fitbit devices have been tracking wearers’ health metrics for over a decade, cataloging behaviors like steps taken, calories burned and exercises performed. That’s just the kind of thing Google, fundamentally an advertising company, needs to further build out its profile of, well, you. Advertisers already take educated guesses at your health status, with apps like period trackers sharing your info with Facebook and others,” writes TIME.
For their part, the companies are trying to get ahead of consumers’ (and regulators’) concerns already: “Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change,” according to the sale announcement statement. “The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”
Our prediction: Google’s protection of private health data will be a major concern. The key to swaying folks to adopt new wearable tech will be in protecting and ensuring privacy from outside parties.
What does this mean for IncentFit?
Not much, yet! We still continue to support Fitbit’s mobile app and entire collection of devices to sync activities and data. You can also still use Google Fit! And we still never never never sell or share our customers’ personal health data. That’s not our thing.
In the meantime, we’d recommend you hold out on buying a new tracker until spring or summer 2020 collections are announced (or review one of our previous buying guides). If buying the latest model is important to you, you’ll likely see updated models in coming months; if not, slightly older but still powerful models may be discounted.