Fitbit CEO says Apple Watch 'wrong way' to approach wearables

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in Apple Watch
James Park, chief executive at Fitbit, in an interview published Monday described how his company was able to withstand what many viewed as direct competition from Apple in 2015, saying the Cupertino tech giant took a wrong turn with Apple Watch.




According to Park, Fitbit's health-minded products are in a different category than Apple Watch, which also packs in specialized fitness tracking features, reports The New York Times. Fitbit products are often simple, single-mode devices, whereas Apple crammed a little of everything into Watch.

"We look at it from a consumer point of view," Park said. Apple Watch "is a computing platform, but that's really the wrong way to approach this category from the very beginning."

Limiting functionality to activity monitoring, step counting and other health-related tasks makes Fitbit a less daunting consumer product than a multi-function Apple Watch, and it also keeps prices comparatively low. Fitbit started with basic activity tracking features and added functionality one step at a time, a strategy embodied by eight wearable offerings ranging from the $50 Zip to the $200 smartwatch-esque Blaze.

Hitting niche demographics at multiple price points is a benefit for Fitbit, which sold some 21.3 million units in 2015, nearly double the 10.9 million it moved a year prior. Still, big tech companies like Apple boast hundreds of millions of installed users, numbers that can quickly erode a smaller firm's marketshare. Moving forward, Park says Fitbit will need to remain vigilant when it comes to adding in new features like mobile payments and integration with the "Internet of Things."

"We're going to be very careful with how we include these things over time," he said. "I think one of the general knocks against smartwatches is that people still don't know what they're good for, so they've crammed everything in."

That being said, Fitbit's current success is at least in part thanks to Apple. When the iPhone 4S debuted in 2011 with support for accessory synching via Bluetooth 4.0, Park realized real-time connectivity opened the door to a slew of new fitness tracking possibilities. Playing off iPhone 4S, Fitbit moved to integrate Bluetooth into its upcoming products, a decision that delayed production by about six months but yielded a number of best sellers. Bluetooth connectivity is now standard on most wearables.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,728member
    Apple sells more watches in a year, than the entire wearables industry (like FitBit) did since existence, and this wad is saying that Apple is doing it wrong?

    I know FitBit's CEO has to say that in order for his company to (barely) remain relevant.  I just wonder if he knows he's on borrowed time.

    It's not what the AppleWatch is doing now that makes him stay up at night, it's what it's capable of doing down the road, especially when the extended capabilities of that wristband port come into play.  Companies, especially the medical industry, are already cranking away on it and when that comes online, one can pretty much kiss companies like FitBit goodbye.

    Keep that poker face up FitBit.  We all know you're bluffing.
    edited May 2016 fotoformatchiapulseimagesbaconstangmdriftmeyerloquiturdamonfAirunJaeronnration al
  • Reply 2 of 43
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    sflocal said:
    Apple sells more watches in a year, then the entire wearables industry (like FitBit) did since existence, and this wad is saying that Apple is doing it wrong?

    I know FitBit's CEO has to say that in order for his company to (barely) remain relevant.  I just wonder if he knows he's on borrowed time.

    It's not what the AppleWatch is doing now that makes him stay up at night, it's what it's capable of doing down the road, especially when the extended capabilities of that wristband port come into play.  Companies, especially the medical industry, are already cranking away on it and when that comes online, one can pretty much kiss companies like FitBit goodbye.

    Keep that poker face up FitBit.  We all know you're bluffing.
    You've hit the nail on the head, but pay no attention to what he's saying now. He knows that Apple will be improving the Watch's durability and adding full GPS for the athletes and he knows that he has to make his own version of a multi-function, eco-system-driven wearable to keep up. 

    [quote]
    "We're going to be very careful with how we include these things over time," he said. "I think one of the general knocks against smartwatches is that people still don't know what they're good for, so they've crammed everything in."
    [/quote]

    Yes, but you WILL be adding it, because you know that unless you do, the Apple Watch is going to kill you sooner rather than later. 
    trashman69baconstangdamonfAirunJaeronnration aljbdragonpscooter63magman1979jony0
  • Reply 3 of 43
    says the guy who runs a company that manufactures essentially one-trick ponies
    trashman69baconstangdamonfAirunJaeronnjbdragonmagman1979jony0redgeminipa
  • Reply 4 of 43
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,188member
    The fitbit blaze demonstrates that this is matching the rhetoric to their limited abilities. They have already proven that they are not capable of producing an apple watch like device in complexity nor design. The Blaze has so few functions and a tiny screen, yet the design is still so aggressively compromised by its massive bezel and clunky plastic features that it makes one appreciate how apple were able to get their device to do so much in such a small housing.

    Fitbit exist because they sell junky, disposable trackers which are cheap enough to be trivially acquired as part of a health kick. It's a repeat of the pedometer fad of the 90s. Fitbit have few established competitors at this price point, and are likely to be eaten soon by generic brands that offer the same feature set.

    Meanwhile the first year sales of the Apple Watch have already eclipsed fitbit's entire company revenue. How I see it: Fitbit are already gone, now it's just going to be a few years of thrashing while the only valuable IP left is their brand name. (They'll probably be purchased by HTC or similar and have their logo slapped onto whatever copy-cat design they're working on at the moment.)

    baconstangAirunJaeronnration almagman1979redgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 43
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    15 times the profits AKA  : wrong way.... (sic) OK, if you say so dumbass.
    edited May 2016 baconstangmagman1979
  • Reply 6 of 43
    blitz2blitz2 Posts: 34member
    sflocal said:
    Apple sells more watches in a year, than the entire wearables industry (like FitBit) did since existence, and this wad is saying that Apple is doing it wrong?

    I know FitBit's CEO has to say that in order for his company to (barely) remain relevant.  I just wonder if he knows he's on borrowed time.

    It's not what the AppleWatch is doing now that makes him stay up at night, it's what it's capable of doing down the road, especially when the extended capabilities of that wristband port come into play.  Companies, especially the medical industry, are already cranking away on it and when that comes online, one can pretty much kiss companies like FitBit goodbye.

    Keep that poker face up FitBit.  We all know you're bluffing.
    So, Apple has at least sold 32 Mio watches the last 4 quarters?
    And they don't communicate on that?

    Mmmm...
    longpath
  • Reply 7 of 43
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    blitz2 said:
    sflocal said:
    Apple sells more watches in a year, than the entire wearables industry (like FitBit) did since existence, and this wad is saying that Apple is doing it wrong?

    I know FitBit's CEO has to say that in order for his company to (barely) remain relevant.  I just wonder if he knows he's on borrowed time.

    It's not what the AppleWatch is doing now that makes him stay up at night, it's what it's capable of doing down the road, especially when the extended capabilities of that wristband port come into play.  Companies, especially the medical industry, are already cranking away on it and when that comes online, one can pretty much kiss companies like FitBit goodbye.

    Keep that poker face up FitBit.  We all know you're bluffing.
    So, Apple has at least sold 32 Mio watches the last 4 quarters?
    And they don't communicate on that?

    Mmmm...
    The estimate is about 14M at the end of Q2 2016. Apple has actually hinted at the numbers indirectly. (Saying more than Ipad in similar timeframe in Q2 2015 (3M) in the analyst call and that all increase in OTHERS in Q3 2015(gives 5-6M sold up till then)was related to the watch, they said something else in Q1 2016 but can't recall and third party firms estimated from all that data that Apple had sold 5-5.5M in the holiday quarter. With the extra 2M in this quarter were up to the stated 14M.

    Apple has said, long long time before release that it wouldn't release sales info on the watch.
    BTW, who the fuck else releases actual sales numbers on ANYTHING : no one.
    Yet Apple is expected to spill the beans all the time.;

    You do know that the ASP of the Apple Watch is likely 4-5 that of a fitbit with massively more profits per watch too.

    Fitbit as but a tiny fraction of Apple's Watch profits : that's a fact.







    AirunJaeronnration alredraider11jbdragonmagman1979redgeminipa
  • Reply 8 of 43
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 738member
    S2, here we come, I'm in at $350...again...
  • Reply 9 of 43
    leighrleighr Posts: 219member
    .... So why is fitbit's Blaze trying to loo so much like Apple Watch?
    jbdragonpscooter63magman1979
  • Reply 10 of 43
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,808member
    Just another company man trying to create a narrative to rationalize his own company's non-dominant position in the market. One point he gets totally wrong and ends up sabotaging his claims is that "Apple Watch is a computing platform." Wrong ... Apple Watch is a connected watch. Watches are inextricably linked to time and everything that orbits around the wearer's relationship with time and time related events in their lives. As a watch thats not clad in rubber or festooned with spinning gizmos it also has to project an aestetic appeal that warrants an unapolagetic place on one's arm when they're not clad in gym shorts or swim fins. As a modern watch in a highly connected and mobile world the Apple Watch also has to keep wearer's connected to their lives as they move around. The fact that Apple Watch also provides high quality activity and fitness functions is a matter of convenience and practicality. Once you as a wearer have made the investment of occupying 50% of your arm-based real estate to a wearable device you want it to earn its keep and avoid having to strap on a separate device. The Apple Watch is an integrated device much like the iPhone, and just like iPhone subsumes all iPod functions, the Apple Watch subsumes fitness and activity functions to avoid having to wear two devices.

    Like it or not, the limited function fitness devices will increasingly fall prey to the integrated devices that provide more capability in a still reasonable footprint. Sure there will still be a market for limited function devices to satisfy the edge cases, niches, and price points, much like the iPod Nano and Shuffle hang in there as ultra portable and lightweight alternatives to iPhone. The iPod Touch remains as a lower cost phone-less version of iPhone but pulls in the vast Apple iTunes ecosystem. So there's still going to be a place for Fitbit to sell their products that were purposely designed to be fitness and activity devices. Sure they can add time and connectivity functions to their portfolio and start to encroach of Apple Watch from the other side. But Apple Watch started as a time and connectivity based device with integrated fitness and activity capability. It also leverages the Apple iTunes ecosystem because frankly that's now one of antes into the Apple product portfolio. Every Apple connected product has to extend the Apple iTunes ecosystem and create additional consumption points. Sorry Fitbit, that's going to be a tough mountain to climb if you want to put yourself in the same league as Apple Watch. Or you can try to create a new narrative that explains why your products are still worthy despite their apparent shortcomings against the dominant player. It's worth a try, but not everyone is going to buy into your argument. You could also recognize the niche where your product can be highly profitable and play to your strengths without denigrating the things that are outside of your happy niche.  
    damonfration aliSRSmagman1979nolamacguy
  • Reply 11 of 43
    larryalarrya Posts: 582member
    Despite the smugness on this forum so far, I will play devil's advocate.  

    Between FitBit and Apple Watch, which one "just works"?
    Which has the less cluttered physical and logical UI?
    Which provides a GPS option along with at least some notifications?
    Which is selling more devices?
    Which has better battery life?
    Which has the more "Apple" approach (carefully adding new features), and which has the more "Samsung" approach (throwing in the kitchen sink regardless of user experience, like 5-second app. load times)?

    Two yeas ago I would have replied exactly as you have so far.  But with the "new" Apple, along with my own decision to go Garmin instead of Apple, I am not as confident, and neither should you be.  In the end I would still like to believe Apple will get it right, but I no longer believe it is a given.
    longpathcurt12wiggin
  • Reply 12 of 43
    "You're wearing it wrong." - Steve Jobs
  • Reply 13 of 43
    AI_liasAI_lias Posts: 402member
    He is right. Apple's watch is selling this well only because it has the entire Apple weight and momentum behind it. For a small company, Fitbit is doing very well. The Apple watch is the first time when Apple wanted to do something, a watch, without there really being a good business/usability case for it, and this was admitted by Apple. Making it available in a $17,000 edition just made Apple look ridiculous. That's what I would think of anyone wearing a $17,000 Apple watch. If they had made a case which could have its innards upgraded every year, I could see the point of that. 
    longpath
  • Reply 14 of 43
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,034member
    sflocal said:
    Apple sells more watches in a year, than the entire wearables industry (like FitBit) did since existence, and this wad is saying that Apple is doing it wrong?

    I know FitBit's CEO has to say that in order for his company to (barely) remain relevant.  I just wonder if he knows he's on borrowed time.

    It's not what the AppleWatch is doing now that makes him stay up at night, it's what it's capable of doing down the road, especially when the extended capabilities of that wristband port come into play.  Companies, especially the medical industry, are already cranking away on it and when that comes online, one can pretty much kiss companies like FitBit goodbye.

    Keep that poker face up FitBit.  We all know you're bluffing.
    Right. I was in hospital last week and I never saw more Apple Watch owners in any other places from paramedics, ambulance guys to nurses and doctors and of course, patients too. Apple Watch really rules medical fields!
    edited May 2016 magman1979
  • Reply 15 of 43
    boriscletoboriscleto Posts: 159member
    Did you expect him to say "Our product is shit. Apple is doing it right"?
  • Reply 16 of 43
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 1,014member

    Fitbit exist because they sell junky, disposable trackers which are cheap enough to be trivially acquired as part of a health kick.

    Yes to this. My wife has the Fitbit Charge HR and at the rate she is chewing them up she'll need three per year. Durability is low on their priority list. The second one got a horrible scratch on the face after 4 days. #1 and #2 both had the plastic c-clip on the bottom break or fall off. 
    pte apple
  • Reply 17 of 43
    isteelersisteelers Posts: 738member
    larrya said:
    Despite the smugness on this forum so far, I will play devil's advocate.  

    Between FitBit and Apple Watch, which one "just works"?
    Which has the less cluttered physical and logical UI?
    Which provides a GPS option along with at least some notifications?
    Which is selling more devices?
    Which has better battery life?
    Which has the more "Apple" approach (carefully adding new features), and which has the more "Samsung" approach (throwing in the kitchen sink regardless of user experience, like 5-second app. load times)?

    Two yeas ago I would have replied exactly as you have so far.  But with the "new" Apple, along with my own decision to go Garmin instead of Apple, I am not as confident, and neither should you be.  In the end I would still like to believe Apple will get it right, but I no longer believe it is a given.
    You compare Apple to Fitbit and then say you bought a Garmin?  If you have problems using an Apple Watch I don't know what to tell you. 
  • Reply 18 of 43
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,541member
    Sure, smaller / lower cost / application specific devices have their place, but they generally end up as niches.  My wife bought a Nike Fuel Band back in the day, and wore it for a few months.  But it has been in a drawer ever since.  My Apple Watch has been worn every day since I purchased it, and am looking forward to getting more functionality on it with the next OS release.

    While I don't agree much with his assertions, I do believe that Apple made a (small) stumble by including 3rd party apps in gen 1.  This is the one function of the watch which gets the most (legitimate) criticism - slow to load, and with limited functionality.  It also perhaps diluted the message about what AW was solving in gen 1.  Anyways, not a mortal wound by any measure, and hopefully they have done some learning & fine tuning.

    I am really excited for Apple Watch's future - more so than I was when the iPad came out (although I use that device for at least a couple hours every day).  This device has strong potential - some of which we can already see and use - in fitness, health, sports, secure access / identity, quick communications, timely information.  All while looking good and telling the time in more interesting ways than ever before.

    It is the only product of Apple's that could even come close to the iPhone in terms of units & margins (though not likely getting to that total revenue).
    colinngapple head
  • Reply 19 of 43
    pte applepte apple Posts: 82member
    I bought my Apple watch not just for the fitness function but for the complete package.
    Everyone must evaluate their lifestyles and decided what works best for them.
    Some have and will by Apple Watch or Apple Edition simply for the 'status' value - again whatever moves your world.
    Some have and will by Fitbit for function and function is all it devise has to offer.
    I bought my Apple Watch for function and style - 42mm Milanese loop - stainless - have had since 2015 launch and have never gone back to my Tag of 5 years.
    Apple Watch is a complete package - it works for me, others will have to make their own decisions.

    brucemc
  • Reply 20 of 43
    jakebjakeb Posts: 559member
    Well of course he'd say that. What is he supposed to say, "Apple got it right, we screwed up" ?

    I kind of think they've all got it right. It would be awesome for Apple to buy Fitbit and integrate the product line like an iPod shuffle < nano <  touch < iphone. They could have Fitbits as the entry level wearable, all compatible and feeding info into Health and Activity. 

    edited May 2016
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