During its I/O 2022 conference, Google teased that a next-gen Fitbit device could run Wear OS. People really took that teaser seriously. And while I hate to ruin your parade, I’m here to say that Wear OS would ruin everything that’s great about Fitbit products.
Wait, do people want Fitbit to use Wear OS?
In 2020, people worried that Google’s acquisition of Fitbit would lead to disaster. They complained that Fitbit devices would be forced to run Wear OS. And these same people have totally changed: They’re mad that Wear OS isn’t included in the latest Fitbit trackers!
These are the same reactionary things that we always see in the world of technology. But it is true that the idea of combining Fitbit services with the Wear OS platform is something exciting.
Fitbit doesn’t make “real” smartwatches. Its products don’t have a robust app selection, a touchscreen keyboard for texting, or deep smartphone integration. But Fitbit offers some of the best health and fitness tracking services of any company.
Combining Fitbit’s services with a suitable smartwatch could lead to a great product. In fact, that’s the idea behind the Pixel Watch. But Google should use the Pixel Watch to test this idea instead of screwing Fitbit up with Wear OS.
Battery life is the biggest issue
In the world of smartwatches and fitness trackers, Fitbit is the king of battery life. Their products last 5-10 days on a charge, all thanks to Fitbit’s lightweight and efficient operating system.
By comparison, Wear OS devices are lucky to survive a full day on your wrist. Wear OS software drains battery life. Not only is it bloated and inefficient, but it requires a very power-hungry CPU. This is doubly true when you enable GPS, Bluetooth, or cellular service.
A Fitbit device running Wear OS would have terrible battery life. Sure, a larger battery might extend battery life a bit, but it would also increase the size and price of the watch.
This is the biggest problem with the whole “Fitbit should use Wear OS” gimmick. Why would anyone pay for a Fitbit that lasts a day on a charge when the $99 Fitbit Inspire 2 (which regularly goes on sale for around $65) can handle 10 days of activity?
Do you really want Fitbit to cost more?
If Google decides to put Wear OS on a Fitbit device, it will likely choose a model that has a large smartwatch-style display. This will accomplish two things: first, it’ll ensure the watch has a big screen for all those fancy Wear OS features. But it will also give Google more wiggle room in terms of pricing.
See, the recent update to Wear OS 3 raised the bar for Android smartwatches. To build a Wear OS 3 smartwatch, you need a pretty powerful usable chipset Such chipsets are expensive and virtually non-existent.
Fitbit products traditionally use cheap Toshiba CPUs. So if a Fitbit runs Wear OS, it will need a more powerful Samsung or Snapdragon chipset. And that means a price hike.
Google is in a decent position here: the latest Fitbit Versa 4 and Fitbit Sense 2 are $230 and $300, respectively. These devices are already quite expensive, and if the next-generation models go up in price, customers may not complain too much.
But here’s the thing; The Fitbit Sense 2 is not supposed to be an alternative to the Galaxy Watch or the Apple Watch. It’s a fitness-focused device and, at $300, it exists to compete with similarly priced fitness platforms like the Garmin Venu. The high price of the Fitbit Sense 2 is a reflection of its compact design, incredible battery life, advanced sensors, and fitness tracking software; has little to do Smart watch functionality.
Switching Fitbit devices to Wear OS would almost certainly lead to a price increase. And it would come with a loss of Fitbit’s best features. This type of compensation simply does not make sense.
Fitbit’s greatest strength is its simplicity
In early 2022, I had the opportunity to review a product called the Withings ScanWatch. It’s a health and fitness-focused smartwatch, but interestingly, its defining feature is an analog watch face. It doesn’t have a big OLED screen; it’s just a normal looking watch that has some smart features.
Our readers were very excited about ScanWatch – it’s a smartwatch for people who don’t like smartwatches. You don’t need to charge it every day, its interface is very simple and doesn’t force you to navigate through a bunch of confusing features.
Fitbit devices are a bit more developed than the ScanWatch, but they benefit from this same simplicity. People love Fitbit because it makes products that are simple and focused on health. You don’t need to be an idiot or a rocket scientist to get the most out of a Fitbit, and it won’t distract you with unnecessary features or beg for its charger every day.
If Fitbit were to switch to Wear OS, it would drive thousands of users away. Fitbit’s simple and accessible platform would become complicated, or at least unattractive.
Grab your Pixel watch and leave Fitbit alone
The idea that Fitbit devices should run Wear OS is ridiculous. But there’s one good thing that would come of it: Fitbit’s superior health and exercise tracking would finally make its way to a “real” smartwatch.
Or maybe you could just buy the Pixel Watch. It is the first Wear OS device to integrate with Fitbit services and will launch in late 2022.
Pixel Watch should give you the best of both worlds. Now, I can’t promise that “the best of both worlds” is good. Most Wear OS devices are objectively terrible! But if you want a combined Wear OS and Fitbit experience, pay for a Pixel Watch and leave the Fitbit products alone.
Unfortunately, Google teased a Wear OS-based Fitbit device when it announced the Pixel Watch. I’m not sure how such a product would be any different from the Pixel Watch, and frankly, I hope Google scraps the idea. If Google wants a sportier Pixel Watch, it should make a Pixel Watch Pro.