It's fair to say it's been a much tougher twelve months for fitness trackers than it was in 2016. As more smartwatches and hybrid smartwatches arrive on the scene with features like step counting and sleep tracking now coming as standard, the outlook for whether these dedicated wearables will be here on the long term has come under question in 2017.
But that's not say it hasn't been an eventful year with new launches, new metrics, big buyouts and of course some casualties on the way.
We've sifted through the stories that grabbed the headlines for good and bad reasons. This is the year in fitness trackers.
New year, new launches, new looks
January. The month where the New Year's resolutions start, and for many end just days later. It's also a time when we get to see how companies are going to find new ways to get us fit and health courtesy of CES. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas sets the agenda for the rest of the year and it served up its fair share of new fitness trackers serving up different metrics and form factors. Take the Motiv, which packed its fitness tracking smarts (including a heart rate monitor) into a ring. A ring that we were big fans of during our review time with it proving that monitoring your daily activity doesn't have to be done from the wrist.
Biggest fitness tracker reviews of the year
- Fitbit Alta HR reviewThe new Alta HR plays to Fitbit's strengths with improved fitness tracking
- Samsung Gear Fit2 ProSamsung's getting the band back together
- Garmin Vivosport reviewGarmin's GPS-packing fitness tracker is back but not with a bang
- Polar A370 reviewFitbit Charge 2 and Garmin Vivosmart 3 rival delivers mixed results
- Garmin Vivosmart 3 reviewWatch out Fitbit, Garmin's going for an all-rounder
There were more traditional looking trackers as well like the Mio Slice, which focused on its heart rate based PAI metric. Unfortunately, the Slice didn't impress us all that much when we put it to the test, but the PAI metric, which does live on, does show promise and we won't be surprised if this is not the last we hear about PAI.
Away from the new launches, there was one piece of big news that fell in the month of January and that was the news that Fitbit had tried to buy Jawbone. The preliminary talks had apparently taken place at the end of 2016. A deal wasn't agreed, leaving Jawbone still in financial turmoil according to those familiar with the situation. This wouldn't be the last time that Fitbit and Jawbone would hit the headlines in 2017 however.
The fitness tracker that we will never see
This is the story of the wearable that was never officially unveiled and maybe never will. After first hearing word of the Adidas Chameleon fitness tracker designed for women back in 2016, the sports apparel giant itself appear to let the cat out of the bag themselves that it existed thanks to the press image above that was used to announce its new All Day health and fitness app.
The same source who confirmed to us that Adidas was working on the Chameleon also confirmed this was the tracker pictured. We were anticipating a launch alongside the women-focused All Day app, but fast forward to December this year and the company's decision to cut its digital sports division casting doubt if the Chameleon will ever see the light of day.
Fitbit looks ahead
2017 might have been the year of the Ionic, but like any big company, Fitbit clearly already had its sights set on what came next. Reports in June highlighted that Fitbit engineers were working on sleeker successors to the Charge 2 and the Fitbit Blaze. While no details were revealed about the Charge 3 or the Blaze 2, it is interesting to see that despite the arrival of Fitbit's first smartwatch, Fitbit still sees a place for its smartwatch-looking wearable that is not a smartwatch. It's perhaps less of a surprise that its flagship fitness tracker is in line for an upgrade as it continues to evolve into more of a fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrid.
Fitness tracker casualties
Sadly 2017 was the year that some high profile fitness tracker makers decided it would stop making them. The biggest being Under Armour who in October revealed it would be backing away from its HealthBox health and fitness platform, which included its UA Band fitness tracker and heart rate monitoring sports headphones. When we spoke to Under Armour's CTO Paul Fipps shortly after the announcement, he told us the company had learned lessons from its HealthBox venture and that it would continue to push forward with its software and pursue partnerships with other wearable makers like the one it has struck up with Samsung.
Read this: 2017 in review - The year in smartwatches
Mio was another company that decided that it would shift the focus from hardware to software while relative wearable tech newcomers TomTom also decided making wearables was no longer on the agenda. Alongside its impressive sports watches, TomTom launched the first fitness tracker to include a body composition feature. Sadly though, we will never get to see if TomTom could make a fitness tracker as well as it made its sports watches.
Hold the hydration
2017 didn't see a great deal in the way of new, cutting-edge sensors make their way inside of our fitness trackers, with one we were particularly looking forward to seeing put on hold until 2018.
BSX (formerly BSX Athletics) raised over $1 million on Kickstarter in 2016 and promised to deliver its wearable that used red light-based optical sensor technology to monitor hydration, which has multiple benefits including improving sleep quality.
Essential reading:This is what happened in VR and AR in 2017
Founder and CEO Dustin Freckleton wanted to deliver the fitness tracker in 2017, but all fell silent leaving backers concerned if the wearable would happen. In August, Freckleton finally talked and revealed it would have to delay the wearable until summer 2018. The question is now whether BSX has left the door open for another company to beat them to it, or whether it's still going to be a fitness tracker worth waiting for.
Fitbit Alta HR takes the big prize
In November it was awards time. Yes, the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards, where we highlighted the best wearable tech that launched over the past twelve months. In the Fitness Tracker of the Year category last year, it was Garmin that walked away with the big prize. But it was Fitbit's turn this year thanks to the Fitbit Alta HR, which might not have been the most groundbreaking wearable launched this year, but it packed in a whole lot into a slim body.
The Alta HR represented the best of what Fitbit currently has to offer the fitness tracking world and it wasn't just the Wareable team that thought that as well. The judges agreed. They also agreed on picking Fitbit's heart rate monitoring device as our Wearable of the Year too making it two big wins for Fitbit in 2017.
Why can't we be friends?
We started the year talking about Fitbit and Jawbone and we ended it with the long running patent dispute between the two finally being resolved. December was the month that Fitbit and Jawbone agreed to a settlement ending a dispute that has run for more than two years.
That now leaves Fitbit to go full steam ahead building its new fitness trackers and smartwatches while Jawbone shifts its focus to building medical-grade tech with CEO Hosain Rahman founding Jawbone Health a new company on very different path to help wearables make a difference in people's lives.
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