CES 2016
Fitbit's Rough Week: The Perils Of Taking On Tech's Giants

Take chances. Swing for the fences. Reach for the stars. Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, embrace failure.

These are the types of rallying cries you hear a lot in the tech world. Of course there are perhaps some things you just shouldn’t do—or, if you do them, you have to be prepared for the consequences. If you run a red light, you can’t be shocked if you hear sirens or get your car towed to the body shop.

This week, Fitbit may have learned the hard way, the risks of taking on the big boys of tech—namely Apple, Google, and Samsung. Earlier this week at CES, the fitness tracker unveiled its brand new smartwatch, the Fitbit Blaze. The early returns on the device itself were mixed, at best. That, coupled with a lawsuit filed this week claiming the trackers’ heart rate monitoring technology is inaccurate, has investors skeptical, to put it lightly. On Tuesday’s market open, Fitbit’s stock was trading at 30.21. Then came the release of the Blaze, and by day’s end the stock price had dipped to 24.30. As of this writing, it’s at 22.43.

One need not be a market expert to understand that this isn’t exactly great news.

The Blaze smartwatch is a bold shot at Apple Watch and various smartwatches that run on Google’s Android Wear. It comes in at cheaper than the Apple Watch, but the reason for that makes sense: the Blaze simply does less than an Apple Watch. Firstly, the Blaze doesn’t have built-in GPS tracking, which means it needs to be near a smartphone and connected to Bluetooth in order to gather location data. Most importantly, the Blaze can’t tap-into the ecosystem of third-party apps, like the smartwatches from Apple or Samsung do. The Blaze is still, at its core, a fitness tracker. Most smartwatches also track fitness while doing a host of other things.

As for the lawsuit? If Fitbit is found to have wonky technology that provides inaccurate data, then what’s the point? I, personally, have found differences in the data gathered by different fitness trackers, even if both have been connected to me for the same amount of time. It seems that if Fitbit wants to stay a true market player for a long time, it should be able to boast that it’s the most truly accurate fitness tracker you can buy. If that’s not the case, why would you want a Fitbit smartwatch if another smartwatch offers so many other features?

The moral of the story isn’t necessarily that companies shouldn’t take any risks. But if you’re going to take on the Apples and Googles of the world, head on, you better come with more than a peashooter. Unfortunately, the Fitbit Blaze doesn’t seem to stack up to the artillery of the Apple Watch. By taking on the true behemoths of tech head-to-head, Fitbit might have suffered a crucial blow.

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  1. Ben Morris

    Great article. I agree FitBit’s future is questionable, but I like the brand they are developing where “Fit” weaves through all aspects of life. In addition, I don’t think the class action lawsuits will amount to very much. First, there are many counterfeit units that have flooded the US and it’s hard to determine that factor. Lastly, I think the story of digital health is broad and we are just at the beginning to tell this important story. There are many in need. Thank you for great work with these posts. – Ben

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