Fitbit Premium: How the new subscription service will get you fit and healthy

The lowdown on how Fitbit is ready to get more personal about your data
Fitbit Premium: First look
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Earlier this year, Fitbit CEO James Park announced that the company would roll out a paid service called Fitbit Premium. Now Fitbit has unveiled what that service looks like alongside its new Versa 2 smartwatch, and given us a short demo.

In short, Premium feels like the convergence of Fitbit's various strands and acquisitions over the years; a junction of ideas in one paid-for app (well, technically two apps; more on that in a moment). The service will cost $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year when it rolls out this September. It will roll out in the US, UK and 15 other countries to start, with others to follow in 2020.

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But Premium is less about the data your Fitbit devices are collecting, and more about giving you targets and coaching to reach those targets. You’ll be able to launch programs specifically for weight loss, kicking your sugar habit, improving sleep, getting more active, or getting into running. Each will have its own set of goals; tell the app how frequently you want to be nudged to take certain actions, and tick off targets when they’re achieved.

Getting started

Fitbit Premium is launching this year - Here’s what it will do

Once you've picked a program, Premium will ask you a series of questions about your health and goals, and from there you'll have a daily series of items to cross off – think things like, "Did you avoid that sugary drink you usually go for at Starbucks?" and, "Did you avoid looking at screens an hour before bed last night?"

The app will monitor your performance as you go, taking into account your targets and pulling in data from your Fitbit device – and if you’re off course, it will readjust.

Fitbit Premium is launching this year - Here’s what it will do

Premium will also dish out daily insights, which is similar to its Sleep Insights, an existing feature that contextually advises you on improving your rest time using our data. It's a good idea, but one that's a little thin right now. With Premium, this now extends to advice about exercise and other healthier habits too. To start with, these insights will take into account heart rate, calorie and sleep data, but there are plans to make it more encompassing as time goes on.

Going big on sleep

Fitbit Premium is launching this year - Here’s what it will do

Premium is best described as a two-layer system. There are the underlying fundamentals such as the workout programs, coaching exercises etc; and then there’s the custom layer on top.

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One grievance is that Coaching sessions still have to happen in the Fitbit Coach app, so you’ll have to switch back and forth between them for those workouts. Coach was actually an acquisition for Fitbit (originally called FitStar) and Liz Abbett, director of product marketing at Fitbit, told Wareable that the end goal is to migrate it fully into the Fitbit app – it’s just going to take more time.

Fitbit's also changing how sleep data works in Premium. While it's bringing its Sleep Score feature from beta into a rolled-out feature, only Premium subscribers will have access to certain features. Sleep Score now gives you an overall score from 0-100 based on how well you slept the night before, taking into account the time slept, the amount of time spent in light/deep/REM sleep, and how restorative your sleep was.

If you're not a Premium subscriber you'll still see a breakdown of your sleep stages, as you do now, and you'll get the overall sleep score – but Premium users will also get to see a breakdown of that score, as well as a graph showing how their heart rate performed overnight.

Bringing in the experts

Fitbit Premium is launching this year - Here’s what it will do

The final, and perhaps most intriguing, aspect of the new Premium service is how it brings in other people, as well as healthcare professionals. In 2020 Fitbit will roll out a service that lets you talk to a coach one-on-one – something that puts Fitbit's acquisition of Twine Health into action.

But Fitbit is also trying to be a bridge between you and your doctor, and one feature of Premium is the ability to build a wellness report that you can hand to your doctor. “We’ve worked with leading physicians, and a lot of the advice is they don’t want to see reams of data,” James Park told Wareable. “They want to see actually what’s significant about the data. So it could be places where things have changed in your own history – your data is different today compared to a month or a year ago.”

But it also won't stop there. “Eventually it’s going to help people prevent and manage more serious chronic disease conditions,” Park added, listing off heart disease, hypertension and sleep apnea as a few examples.

Park cited Fitbit's wide base of users as a promising sign for Premium, but of course, there’s no way to know how many of its subscribers users will convert to the paid service. Premium certainly looks good at first blush, but as Fitbit transitions into a company that's leaning more heavily on services, it remains to be seen if its users will follow.

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