Wearables are hard to make. That's obviously not based on my own personal experience of trying to build one, but I've spoken to enough major tech companies and startups over the last few years to know that. Whether you have millions to spend on R&D or you're squeezing every last dollar out of that bank account and working all the hours of the day, the struggle is real.
If ever there was a week that proved that, it was this one. On the one side you have Under Armour, a sporting brand giant with an ambitious CEO at the helm that had bold ideas about revolutionising connected health and fitness tech. Then there's Doppler Labs, a startup that aimed high, enjoyed crowdfunding campaign success, created a truly innovative hearable, but ultimately saw the money run dry and had to close its doors.
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Anyone reading this that's currently in the process of making a wearable might be wondering if there really is light at the end of the tunnel. Our answer to that would be to look at the whole host of companies that are still making wearables work and are continuing to innovate. It's easy to forget that a 10 year old company by the name of Fitbit went from showing potential investors its idea with a circuit board inside of a wooden box to building a billion dollar company. Amazing, exciting things are still happening with wearable tech and I have no doubt that will continue for some time yet. Okay, so let's get into it.
Under Armour steps back from wearables
Just like Nike and Adidas, Under Armour dabbled in making its own wearables but it just didn't work out. UA's CEO Kevin Plank confirmed the company would stop making more devices like its UA Band fitness tracker, smart scale and connected running shoes after experiencing its first quarter sales decline. You will still be able to buy the connected tech that falls under its HealthBox platform until the end of the year, but after that it's game over.
It will still push on with its software platform, something we always considered to be one of UA's strongest assets. Partnering with Samsung to put its suite of apps on its wearables was a smart move and in MyFitnessPal, it still has one of the best food tracking apps out there. While the hardware will be no more, the software will live on - and that's definitely a good thing.
Fitbit plans more smartwatches
While Under Armour prepares to scale back its hardware business, Fitbit already has plans for life after Ionic - its first smartwatch. CEO James Park confirmed that there's plans to launch more smartwatches in an investors call to announce the company's Q3 earnings.
When asked whether Fitbit would iterate on the Ionic in the future, or have multiple devices he said, "We are going to have a fuller product lineup of smartwatches, ones that co-exist side by side, not just ones that we're upgrading,"
It also announced a revenue profit for this quarter although it was lower than what was reported the same time last year. But we are excited to find out what it has planned for its next round of smartwatches. The Ionic is by no means the finished article but we feel like it's on the right path. It still needs to have that Fitbit Gallery brimming with apps - which should be the case by Christmas - and roll out a few more of those promised features to improve its chances of competing with what Apple, Samsung, and Google's Android Wear watches currently have to offer.
Doppler Labs calls it a day
Doppler Labs, makers of the Here One smart earbuds decided to call it a day. After four years and raising more than $50 million to keep the dream alive, CEO Noah Kraft made the decision to shut things down.
The startup apparently only shipped 25,000 of the latest version of it augmenting audio hearable and had big plans on seeing how it could play a part in the future of smart hearing aids.
Our US editor Hugh managed to grab some time with Kraft after everything was made official to find out why Here One failed, what was in the works for Here Two and why he is going to take a break before deciding on what to do next. If you want an insight into tech startup life, defo give it a read.
Let's finish things off on a high note and talk about all the good things that happened this week. Like the Ava fertility wearable that could one day detect pregnancy, or Fitbit partnering up with One Drop to bring diabetes management to Ionic users, and the piece of smart clothing that aims to prevent injuries for athletes of all levels. Oh, and for Apple Watch fans, you can now start putting that LTE to good use with the arrival of music streaming and track workouts better with GymKit.
If all of that doesn't make you feel optimistic about the future of wearables, we don't know what will.
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