Fitbit’s move into smartwatches apparently hit hurdles, including struggles delivering a supporting app catalogue at launch. According to Bloomberg the problems are “putting in peril the company’s most important product in years”.
The vendor is coming to market with its first-generation product at a point when its rivals are able to boast experience from earlier commercial launches. Competing smartwatches have a supporting catalogue of apps available, increasing the attractiveness of the proposition.
Launching a smartwatch is particularly important to Fitbit, considering it has experienced weakness in its core fitness tracker business. Underlining the importance of smartwatches, Strategy Analytics said Apple displaced Fitbit as the largest wearables vendor in Q1, in what was essentially a high-priced watch versus lower cost band battle.
Among the assertions made by Bloomberg was that an intended partnership with Spotify failed to come to fruition for Fitbit, and “technical challenges” may mean an app store is not available at launch.
Third-party developers are also more focused on smartwatch platforms where commercial products – and therefore customers – are already in the market. In the face of competition from Apple, Google (Android Wear) and Samsung (Tizen), creating a new alternative platform is a brave move by Fitbit.
Fitbit responded to Bloomberg by arguing “any claims that the developer programme is struggling is false”.
The report also said some of Fitbit’s smartwatch team – which was bolstered by its acquisition of Pebble – have now left. Pebble’s strong community was given as part of the rationale for the buy, but the report said the new owner “has done little to keep the relationship going”.