Tech for your connected self

Fitbit Pay arrives in the UK to take on Apple Pay and Android Pay (kind of)

Only two banks are on board around the world so far

Fitbit Pay has landed in the UK to compete against alternatives from Apple and Android, but the service will initially only be available to customers of Starling Bank.

The service launches close to a month after the Fitbit Ionic, the company's first smartwatch, hit the shelves. However, instead of managing to secure deals with the UK's major banks, challenger bank Starling, which gained its license just last year, will be the provider to debut the Ionic's contactless payment smarts.

Read this: How to set up Fitbit Pay

The move does mean that the mobile bank is the first in the UK to offer support for Apple Pay, Android Pay and Fitbit's alternative. But still, since customers have only been able to access the bank's app from March, seemingly only a handful will be free to take advantage of the service.

In comparison, Apple Pay on the Apple Watch was available on Nationwide, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, Ulster Bank and MBNA upon launch back in 2015. Android Pay, too, had eight similar banks on board when it hit the shores last year.

If you're a customer of one of the scores of bigger banks yet to get on board with Fitbit Pay, don't panic just yet. A spokesperson for the company has said it is in discussions with more UK operators to expand its current roster.

But just when those discussions turn into developments, of course, remains to be seen. Elsewhere, we've seen Fitbit secure United Overseas Bank - whose branches are mainly in Southeast Asia - as another outlet for Pay.

It's a solid step that the service has landed in the UK and Fitbit is now exploring wider territories, but it's also another example of the company being unable to partner with external players and, in turn, leaving customers waiting for features.

Fitbit was unable to reach a deal with Spotify as its offline music service support, instead offering its users Pandora, which is only available in the US. Add this to other half-baked areas of the smartwatch, such as its Coach platform, unused SpO2 sensor and paltry third-party app selection, and there's plenty of reason to hold fire on the Ionic until Fitbit begins to flesh things out.

Fitbit Pay arrives in the UK to take on Apple Pay

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  • RamblinSydRumpo says:

    Patronising article. Starling is a bit of a rising star and becoming very popular. There seems to be an awful lot of Fitbit bashing going on at the moment, in most cases unfairly. Any alternative to going all in with Apple is a good thing. Most people I know who are using the Ionic are very pleased with it. Granted most of them are upgrading from previous Fitbit devices so haven't experienced another smartwatch for comparison but there's nothing wrong with the Ionic that a few updates won't sort out.

    • SimonT1 says:

      I'm a big fan of Fitbit and plan on buying the Ionic in a couple of months (hopefully in the January sales) but I do think they actually deserve some of the criticism that's been aimed at them for the Ionic. It does seem to have been released too early and that's why (in the UK at least) there's no Pandora music service, very few apps and incredibly limited availability for Fitbit Pay. For a £300 watch that's actually a pretty poor service.

      What does annoy me though is the criticism that the Ionic is receiving because it isn't the Apple Watch 3! I think there's a lot of people (myself included) that like the fact the FB Ionic is different from the AW3 and actually puts battery life over lots of apps running in the background.  In fact, the main reason I'm buying the Ionic is due to its long battery life, its fitness focus and the onboard music storage. I've got absolutely no interest in replying to messages, playing games or receiving phone calls on a tiny little 2 inch screen.    

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