Fitbit's smartwatch sounds like a disaster but I'm not losing all hope just yet

The leaks have underwhelmed but the writing is not on the wall
What Fitbit's smartwatch needs

Making a smartwatch isn't easy. Apple, Google and Samsung are into their second and third iterations of their devices and they've still not come up with the perfect smartwatch.

That's why the recent leaks of Fitbit's first smartwatch and the apparent problems it's having with building it are not all that surprising. I'm sure there'll be a fair few Fitbit investors not exactly impressed with what they're seeing and reading right now. I'll admit, I'm not entirely sold on a design that essentially looks like the Blaze and the Surge married together. I think everyone was hoping for something a little more revolutionary in the looks department.

Some of the supposed software issues are concerning as well. No Spotify support for music streaming? That's a massive blow and the uncertainty around whether a dedicated app store will launch in time is disappointing. Third party app support, specifically around notifications, is the lifeblood of any good smartwatch and needs to work much, much better than it currently does on Fitbit devices like the Blaze and the Charge 2.

But I really don't think it's all doom and gloom. There's reasons to be positive, especially if you're already sold on the Fitbit ecosystem. Like the fact this upcoming watch should match the Apple Watch Series 2 for waterproofing, heart rate monitoring and built-in GPS. Okay, so not groundbreaking features, but after spreading these features across the Fitbit range, they're all coming together in one device. Talk of a four day battery life is promising as well, although I'm intrigued to find out how having a display that's as bright as Apple's can manage to do that.

The big question that really needs be answered is what exactly is going on with an operating system that's being built from scratch. Misfit had big, bold ideas to make its own OS for its Vapor smartwatch, but it didn't take long for the company to ditch that idea and go with Android Wear instead.

We still don't know how Fitbit's acquisitions of Pebble, Vector and Coin will factor into this Fitbit watch OS, but if it can emulate what Pebble did then it'll be on the right track. Fitbit has already shown that it knows how to make a great companion app, so at this point I have faith that it will get this right, having paid close attention to what Apple, Samsung and et al have got right and wrong.

It sounds like what will launch later this year will not be the fully fledged smartwatch the world is expecting to see. As a result I'm finding myself altering my expectations. That's because it sounds less Apple Watch rival and more Polar and Garmin sports watch alternative right now. Relying on software updates to add extra features and enhance existing ones it seems will be the blueprint. Let's just hope that Fitbit keeps those updates coming thick and fast and doesn't keep us waiting for the smartwatch that will really shake things up.


  • jswalker1981 says:

    First off, I don't hate the design.  The design isn't something to go write home about, but it isn't terrible either.  I hear people complain about the bezel, but a lot of watches have bezels, so it isn't some kind of strange occurrence.  I just hope that they continue with removable bands.  $300 for a watch that can only have one band is a no go.  Also, I did read that they will have Pandora support for music, hopefully you will be able to save a playlist to the device so you could go phone-free.  It really is a shame that this is the first device that fills in the gaps of other Fitbit devices.  Blaze doesn't have interval workouts, but the Charge 2 does.  The Charge 2 can't control music, but the Blaze can.  The more money each device costs, the more it should be able to do.  I feel like Fitbit has dropped the ball with software/firmware updates to their devices.

    I just hope that with the device comes the ability to do run/walk running workouts.  I know you can do interval workouts on the Charge 2 and the connected-GPS works during the workout, but that isn't quite the same thing.  Basically, I want the same functionality that a free couch to 5k app gives me, or an app like RunKeeper gives me.  Let me set my intervals, repeat until I stop the workout, and track my pace for each interval.  Then display on the device my current pace, average pace, and total distance.  I don't think that is too much to ask for.  Garmin and Polar both have that functionality, and quite frankly, it is a shame that it isn't already available with the Fitbit Surge.

  • alevenso says:

    Cant someone just make a smartwatch with a round face that competes with Apple and works well with iOS? The Garmin 235 is close except no touch screen....

  • datalore says:

    If this watch has 4 days of battery life and is waterproof I'm in. If fitbit can't manufacture a waterproof watch with GPS they have some problems. I love the fitbit ecosystem and love the app. I think this watch has the potential to be a winner and I hope I'm able to get one soon. The design I've seen, while not forward looking, isn't all that bad. I know a ringing endorsement. 

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