A Google Fitbit suggests brand-new possibilities and concerns for the smartwatch

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Revealed: The Secrets our Clients Used to Earn $3 Billion

The Fitbit Versa 2 has Alexa. Now picture that with Google Assistant.


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The anticipated thing took place: Google is obtaining Fitbit for $2.1 billion. What this all methods, well… depends upon who you are. Fitbit? Google? The user of a Fitbit or a Wear OS watch? Google’s hardware head, Rick Osterloh, verified the news Friday early morning and likewise straight verified that there are Made by Google wearables to come.

Having evaluated lots of, lots of Fitbits, consisting of the just-released Fitbit Versa 2, and having actually used lots of Wear OS watches, I have ideas on where this is going. And why it’s taking place.


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Osterloh’s confirmation of a Made by Google wearable isn’t surprising: We’ve been expecting one for years. Much like Nest was to Google’s smart home ambitions, Fitbit’s going to offer a clear, existing, solid fitness platform for that watch to be part of. 

Maybe forget about calling it a Pixel watch, and just call it a Fitbit?

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There have been so many Wear OS watches, I’ve lost track.


Josh Miller/CNET

So many watches, powered by Fitbit

Fitbit is about data. The company’s years-long collecting of steps, sleep, weight, heart rate and more builds databases that turn into insights, demographic observations and a lot more for the company.

That data will belong to Google now. How that gets handled, well, we don’t know yet. But the more devices that collect data, the better the data is. Fitbit has a lot of fitness trackers, but Google has dozens and dozens of Wear OS watches, including tons from Fossil Group.

Now imagine all those watches, saying “powered by Fitbit,” and funneling into one database.

Wear OS gets its brand recognition

Google tried to expand its footprint by partnering with traditional watch brands like Fossil, but that didn’t necessarily make more people aware of Wear OS. Fossil makes plenty of smartwatches, but many of its smartwatches look just like regular watches.

Fitbit, however, is a known quantity. People say “Fitbit” instead of “fitness tracker.” Fitbit was a top 5 wearable company this year. Maybe Google should keep Fitbit as a product name, and get rid of the name Wear OS.

FDA-cleared health possibilities

Fitbit was supposed to be pursuing FDA clearance on both sleep and heart rate measurements, most likely for heart arrhythmia and checking for signs of sleep apnea. Fitbit never unveiled any of this, or an electrocardiogram like the Apple Watch has, on its fitness wearables. But maybe Google will.

Gartner analyst and Senior Director Alan Antin sees some advantages to Fitbit already being in an FDA clearance fast track program, but adds that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, “already had something like this going with Verily and Project Baseline. I don’t know that they added a ton there.”

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Fitbit CEO James Park discussing Fitbit’s collected data at an August event.


Scott Stein/CNET

Did I mention data?

I remember attending Fitbit’s Versa 2 event late this summer and being reminded of Fitbit’s massive amount of collected data. Fitbit’s footprint in enterprise and health insurance and wellness programs is also massive. Let’s assume Fitbit’s existing hardware eventually gets replaced. It’s the data and the subscribers to Fitbit’s service that really matter. Fitbit today has over 28 million active users, according to the company. Fitbit’s app has a lot of community features. If Google can find a way to harness all of that (and not make it creepy or invasive), that’s a big kickstart to wherever Google’s planning to go with wearables next.

“This is really more like a long term play. Fitbit has, because of tens of millions of users, quite a database of health information,” says Gartner’s Antin. “It instantly gets Google a big footprint.”

“By buying Fitbit, Google is acquiring customers and data. I think it’s a good move given Google has failed so far in wearables and Apple is so far ahead with [Apple] Watch,” concurs expert Patrick Moorhead, who likewise sees lots of factor for customer issue. “I think customers need to be asking the question about privacy and what Google is going to do with all of their personal health information.”

In Fitbit’s news release revealing the Google acquisition, it specified that the business “never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.” A Fitbit representative decreased to comment even more on the acquisition. 

“Fitbit will come under Google’s privacy policy,” stated Heather Dickinson, head of business interactions for Google Cloud. “Similar to our other items, consisting of Fit, we will be transparent about the information we gather and why. We will never ever offer individual info to anybody. Fitbit health and health information will not be utilized for Google advertisements and we’ll empower Fitbit users to examine, move or erase their information.

“We’ll likewise honor the personal privacy dedications that Fitbit has actually made. User personal privacy is extremely essential to us as we offer user option, control and information mobility. We offer tools for users to manage their information, consisting of removal and correction. Google has actually been a leader in supplying users with the capability to export their information if they desire and we’ll be bringing Google’s robust information security and mobility requirements to Fitbit,” Dickinson stated.

Read more: How to download and handle your Google information

And, AI

“I likewise believe wearables are an essential piece in ambient computing, which is another location where we saw Google’s interest,” states expert Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies. Ambient has actually been Google’s catchphrase for the previous year, in between emerging innovations like Jacquard and Soli and wise house services. 

Google has actually had prepare for much deeper training and AI-driven assistance in health and wellness, and this is what Google’s next watch (or, Wear OS platform) was anticipated to present. Fitbit’s Alexa-allowed Versa 2 attempted to glom an assistant on, however it didn’t weave it into the watch’s core functions at all. 

Fitbit’s current dip into membership training services might open another course. So far I have not been wowed by Fitbit’s Premium offerings, however Google might bring more broadened abilities.

My most significant issue, and I’m sure Fitbit owners will concur, is where all this physical fitness and health information goes next. While Google is promising personal privacy, it’s a great deal of extremely individual details that’s all of a sudden living inside a much larger community. It’s uncertain what will occur next. Gartner’s Antin sees very little factor to panic: “These people are very mindful about anonymizing information. People do not require to stress.”

The information, in the long run, might be more about training and membership services. “I understand there is a great deal of discuss information and search and marketing, however I began to believe that not whatever Google will be performing in the future will have to do with that,” says Milanesi. “Data will matter more for AI than advertisements and I anticipate Google to move more into paid services.”

(Updated at 3: 15pm ET with remarks from Google on the acquisition)

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