The success of Google Pixel Watch could come at the expense of another brand. Even more surprisingly, it’s another brand owned by Google. Of course, I’m referring to Fitbit’s support role in Google’s first smartwatch.
We first learned that the Pixel Watch would take advantage of Fitbit tracking when the device was teased at Google I/O in the spring. This 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 – 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 updates to Fitbit’s two smartwatches. While the Versa remained one of the best smartwatches for several years, the original Fitbit Sense appeared in 2020 with a certain ambition that we hadn’t seen in the market before.
That very ambition is limited by some glaring oddities on the Fitbit Sense 2, which I reviewed in the weeks leading up to the Pixel Watch’s October 6 launch. For one, the Sense 2 lost support for third-party apps and Google Assistant. It also comes with a USB-A charger, which is a bit odd for a $299 device. In the middle of my tests, it came out that Fitbit will require a Google accounttoo.
So when the Pixel Watch arrived with all the smarts that had disappeared from the Sense, I couldn’t help but wonder about Google’s intent. For $50 more than the second-generation Sense, Google Pixel Watch now offers third-party app support, as well as virtually all major Google programs.
When it comes to fitness tracking, Google promises that Pixel Watch’s heart rate monitoring is best-in-class. Pair it with a suite of health tools that were once exclusive to Fitbit, and I might not see the need for dedicated Fitbit smartwatches.
That said, the entire collection of Fitbit devices has two important features that the Pixel Watch currently can’t replicate: compatibility with iOS and Android, and multi-day battery life. (The Pixel Watch only works with Android and has 24-hour battery life.) The Fitbit Sense in particular also has an Electrodermal Activity Sensor (EDA) that could be shielded somewhere behind the scenes.
While these benefits have survived the non-stealing Pixel Watch debut, there are both fewer Fitbit-only features and fewer smartwatch features for Fitbit. It’s reasonable to believe that more will be taken from Fitbit and more will be given to the Pixel Watch in future versions of Google’s smartwatch.
It might not happen quickly, but from what I’ve seen with the Fitbit Sense 2 and what I know of the Google Pixel Watch, Fitbit probably isn’t done harvesting for what worth.
It’s undoubtedly a smart move on Google’s part, given that its version 1.0 smartwatch looks great from the get-go. I can’t help but wonder how Fitbit users will feel down the line.