The success of the Google Pixel Watch may come at the expense of another brand. More surprisingly, this is another brand owned by Google. Of course, I’m referring to Fitbit’s supporting role in Google’s first smartwatch.
We first learned that the Pixel Watch would use Fitbit tracking when the device was teased at Google I/O in the spring. The news didn’t come as a complete surprise given that Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit closed in January 2021. In fact, the move seemed promising – otherwise, fitness tracking has always seemed like an afterthought in Wear OS.
But that was before the launch of the Fitbit Versa 4 and Fitbit Sense 2, this year’s update of two Fitbit smartwatches. While the Versa has been one of the best smartwatches for several years, the original Fitbit Sense arrived in 2020 with a certain amount of ambition that we haven’t seen on the market before.
Those very ambitions are curtailed by some of the Fitbit Sense 2’s egregious features, which I reviewed in the weeks leading up to the Pixel Watch’s Oct. 6 launch. First, Sense 2 has lost support for third-party apps and Google Assistant. It also comes with a USB-A charger, which is pretty odd for a $299 device. Halfway through my testing, it turned out that Fitbit would also require a Google account.
So when the Pixel Watch arrived with all the features that had disappeared from Sense, I couldn’t help but wonder about Google’s intentions. At $50 more than the second-generation Sense, the Google Pixel Watch now offers support for third-party apps, as well as virtually every major Google app.
When it comes to fitness tracking, Google promises that the Pixel Watch’s heart rate monitoring is best in class. Pair it with a set of health tools that were once exclusive to Fitbit, and I may not see the need for a dedicated Fitbit smartwatch.
However, the entire Fitbit collection of devices has two important features that the Pixel Watch cannot currently replicate: iOS and Android compatibility and multi-day battery life. (Pixel Watch only works with Android and has a 24-hour battery life.) In particular, the Fitbit Sense also has an electro-dermal activity (EDA) sensor that can be secured somewhere behind the scenes.
While those perks survived the unstolen debut of the Pixel Watch, there are fewer Fitbit-only features for Fitbit and fewer smartwatch features. It’s reasonable to think that more will be taken away from Fitbit and more will be given to the Pixel Watch in future versions of Google’s smartwatches.
It may not happen quickly, but based on what I’ve seen with the Fitbit Sense 2 and what I know about the Google Pixel Watch, Fitbit probably isn’t reaping what it’s worth just yet.
This is no doubt smart business on Google’s part, given that its version 1.0 smartwatch promises to be great from the get-go. I just can’t help but wonder how Fitbit users will feel in the future.
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