It all started with an innocent vergecast hotline question. The gist was: what are some non-screen wearables that offer health tracking along the lines of Fitbit Flex but they were not expensive like the $300 Oura Ring?
Not a single good answer came to mind.
For better or worse, the simple fitness bracelets of a few years ago are no more. The aforementioned Fitbit Flex and other bands like the Jawbone Up or Misfit Ray don’t really have modern analogues. The closest thing I’ve seen these days are devices like the Amazfit Band 7, the Fitbit Inspire 3, the Garmin Vivosmart 5 and Xiaomi’s. my band 7. The problem is that they all have screens.
The only response I had to our caller was the equivalent of an apologetic shrug because unfortunately the expensive Oura Ring was the better option. (That, or cobble together a bunch of half-measures that would be more expensive than the Oura Ring.) The whole experience left me uneasy. When I started using fitness trackers in 2014, I was a die-hard fan of the Fitbit Charge and had no shortage of alternatives. These days, I can hardly find any interesting ones to review. He left me wondering: where have all the fitness bands gone?
Smartwatches offer more for your money
You’d think there would be more fitness bands because, frankly, they don’t have many of the problems that plague smartwatches. Fitness trackers can last for weeks on a single charge, while most flagship smartwatches from Apple, Samsung and Google need to be charged daily or at least every other day. They are discreet, can be worn in conjunction with your modern mechanical watch, and are perfect for 24/7 wear. You’ll never find a fitness band as bulky as the Apple Watch Ultra. Notification fatigue is real. Generally speaking, smartwatches are also more expensive than fitness bands.
Even so, the fact remains that smartwatches can do more overall. While fitness bands (no screen or otherwise) may last longer, you still have to look at your phone to see everything else. Smartwatches can’t completely replace your phone, but they can help weary techies look at them a lot less while staying connected.
“Smartwatches are much more useful than a Jawbone or a simple Fitbit ten years ago,” says Julie Ask, Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst. “You still can’t buy one for less than $100, but you can buy them for less than $300.”
The line between fitness bands and smartwatches has also blurred to the point where smartwatches seem to offer more value.
It’s not just that smartwatches have gotten cheaper. The line between fitness bands and smartwatches has also blurred to the point where smartwatches seem to offer more value. This has been going on for a while, but it really solidified in 2021. You don’t need to look any further than Fitbit’s lineup that year. The Fitbit Charge 5 launched at $180, an increase of $30 over its predecessor. He Luxury — his fancy fitness band — came out the same year, retailing for $150 for the regular version and a bewildering $200 for the special edition. Meanwhile, its midrange verse 3 smartwatch costs $230. Even if you didn’t actually use all of Versa’s extra features, felt as the best buy simply because it did more.
Outside of Fitbit, in 2021, Apple was selling the Series 3 and SE for $180 and $280, respectively. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 started at $250. by Amazfit GTR and GTS 3 smartwatches it cost $180 and did as much, if not more, than the Charge 5.
It’s no surprise, then, that smartwatches are the most popular choice among consumers. Forrester sent me some numbers from its 2023 Consumer Benchmark survey, which says 32 percent of online-savvy adults wear smartwatches compared to 19 percent who wear fitness trackers. Meanwhile, a IDC Report 2023 notes that bands only account for 6.4 percent of the market. While IDC expects fitness trackers to remain for the handful of people who prefer them, their market share is expected to decline to 4.8 percent by 2027. The report also notes that it expects smartwatches to grow from 31 .2 percent of the market to 32.8 percent in the same time period.
Fitness bands are not profitable
So for the bigger brands, fitness bracelets are not a smart investment. And for smaller, more experimental wearable companies like Oura and Whoop, it’s literally not worth creating affordable alternatives. These types of companies rely on high-tech, science-based products, and one-time sales of hardware are also not enough to keep servers running, fund necessary research, or get a product through the FDA clearance process. . That’s why you’re increasingly seeing smartwatch alternatives come with expensive monthly subscriptions.
“If I were a small company, the only way I would be funded would be if I had a service model,” says Ask. “And the only way I get more money is if I have a service model and I can show that I have a positive impact on consumers, which means they are paying for the service.”
Anecdotally, I can confirm that whenever I’ve asked wearable device manufacturers and healthcare technology companies why they’re looking for subscriptions, this is the answer I’ve gotten. (Garmin remains the only exception.) It’s not exclusive to the wearables category, either. The same reasoning applies to the smart house and any type of connected device in general.
Will fitness bands make a comeback?
If recent product launches are any guide, fitness bands are unlikely to be the dominant force they once were. However, there is a demand for portable devices without a screen. They are just different from the ones you once knew.
All of the non-screen wearables I’ve tested recently either focus on specialized wellness tracking or are very expensive. Sometimes both. None of the options I’ve tried in the past few years fit what the caller was asking for. The Bellabeat Ivy, for example, is designed for menstruating people who want to better understand how their cycle affects their overall well-being. He ava tracker is specifically designed to help people conceive. The Nowatch is a $300 tracker that’s meant to help you become more aware; not great for traditional health tracking. The Whoop 4.0 is for experienced athletes and costs between $16.60 and $30 per month, depending on your membership.
Meanwhile, Oura Ring isn’t the only smart ring out there. There are many people working on alternatives precisely because it is less obtrusive, more comfortable, and more discreet than a smartwatch. There’s Movano’s Evie Ring, which is currently seeking FDA approval as a medical device. ultrahuman it also has a smart ring. Happy Health is working on a smart mood ring to assess your mental health. Samsung has also introduced a smart ring patent. And while there’s a lot of interest in this form factor, smart rings have a long way to go.
At the end of the day, smart rings and other screen-less fitness trackers have the same problem as fitness bands. A smartwatch can simply do more. Any alternative has to give you a compelling reason why you would be willing to pay the same for less.