Buying Fitbit does not help Google overcome Apple's biggest smartwatch advantage

Google reportedly wants to buy Fitbit as a way to strengthen its wearables strategy. Trying to figure out what this could mean for Google, the Wear OS platform and the customers of Fitbit (apologies for the fitness pun) exhausting.


This is where I ended up: assuming it will come true, I think this acquisition predicts a reboot of wearables instead of supporting Google's current smartwatch strategy. I think this is mainly because Fitbit does not help Google's current smartwatch strategy at all. Unless Google has completely lost the thread, this acquisition only makes sense if the company is ready to try something completely different.

It should certainly be.

Let us briefly summarize how bad it is with Wear OS. Google's most productive partner in making Wear OS watches, Fossil, had one market share of less than five percent in North America in Q2. Even if you give Google credit for part of the "Others" in Canalys estimates, the OS OS market of Wear OS remains somewhere in between shiver and impact.

Simply considered a piece of software, Wear OS itself is actually better than many (including me!). It has earned it, but it has been so long gone that its software ecosystem carries all the features of a platform in decline. Nevertheless, in terms of basic usage and functions, Wear OS is a fairly solid platform to be rebuilt – if there was only hardware.

That hardware is not on the doorstep. The best Wear OS watch hardware currently available is the latest generation of Fossil. When looking at one of those watches, I discovered that many of the OS's performance issues are easily solved by adding more RAM, although that is not necessarily very fast.

But even with enough RAM to run (which some Wear OS watches have), the convolutions that the new Fossil watches go through to get through a full day of use are among the craziest I've seen on any device. There are settings on settings, which should never ever be visible on a smartwatch, much less necessary.


Those convolutions to be necessary because Qualcomm still has to provide a processor for smartwatches that is worth the effort. We have waited for years for the Snapdragon 3100 that powers the aforementioned Fossil, but it is still outdated in terms of both speed and battery management.

A more recent rumor XDA suggests that Qualcomm is developing a new chip that would mean an important step forward – but it just brings us back to where we started. Do we really want – and does Google – wait (again) for Qualcomm?

When Android Wear was first launched, Google bet it could replicate the Android model with watches: distribute free software to companies that could easily use available components to create their own devices. LG, Motorola and even Samsung all took a chance on that vision and it went well for none of them.

That model did not come true. I can be convinced that this is because the only way to make a great smartwatch is to integrate vertically from silicone to software. You also don't just have to quote the Apple Watch to make that case. The Galaxy Watch Active line from Samsung is successful, not because the Tizen operating system is great (although not bad), but because Samsung is almost Apple-like in its vertical integration on the smartwatch.

I could just as well be convinced that the original Google bet could have led to good smartwatches in the same way that it led to good Android phones. The problem in that scenario is that, since the ecosystem has not developed, there was no incentive for component makers to support smartwatches. You could call it a chicken and egg problem, but it's actually easier than that. There is no reason for Qualcomm to breed chickens if nobody buys the eggs.

There is only one way to solve Google's current smartwatch problems: it's silicon, stupid. And while Google & # 39; s lack of control over processors did not cause any damage to Android phones, it certainly seems to stop Android smartwatches.

I don't blame Qualcomm in full – from where I am, the company has acted rationally. It certainly earns a lot more money by focusing on smartphones, high-end chips that can lead to Windows on ARM, and small chips that are about to power a whole generation of noise-canceling earplugs to compete with the just announced AirPods Pro.


All this history leads us to 2019 and the Fitbit rumor. I sincerely doubt that Fitbit is on a revolutionary processor that can save Google's smartwatch efforts. The current smartwatch problems of Google cannot be solved with Fitbit.

I think it is much more likely that Google intends to just turn to where Fitbit is already: sell cheaper, cheaper fitness trackers and simple smart watches.

It is a much better strategy than trying to cope with the Apple Watch (or even the Galaxy Watch). Maybe Qualcomm will come out with that new chip, but Google would be stupidly betting its entire wearables future. (If you are wondering where that mysterious $ 40 million Fossil smartwatch technology acquisition fits into this, join the club. We have hats!)

There is another reason why Google would like Fitbit: its dedicated user base. Hopefully Google sees them as a core group of customers to serve well with extensive, improved fitness offerings, so that they can evangelize Fitbit again. Hopefully it is not to collect all fitness data that Fitbit has collected and collected and to use for worrying purposes. Even with the rumors about a buyout that is still very fresh, that is something Fitbit users are already worried.

I can't fully blame them. Because it's so hard to know what exactly Google would do with Fitbit, it's easy to assume the worst. If the acquisition turns out to be real, I hope that Google will communicate its intentions better than with Nest.


And I hope Google know his intentions are also better than with Nest.

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