The Apple Watch Is Poised to Wipe Out Fitness Trackers

Just like e-readers were, for the most part, replaced by the iPad and other tablets that could do the same thing, everything you might find embedded within a wristband fitness tracker will ultimately be possible with the Apple Watch.
It’s certain that existing smartwatch manufacturers like Sony, LG, Motorola and Samsung are re-evaluating their product strategies now that they’ve seen the Apple Watch, which, for starters, offers unmatched promises of customization and personalization with more than 34 models to choose from.
But wristband fitness trackers, which also reside on wrists but are a different kind of gadget, are fearing for their livelihood.

Apple Watches

“Over time, the Apple Watch will come with most of the must-have features available in fitness trackers,” Waqas Makhdum, VP of Marketing at mobile solutions firm Kii, told Mashable. “Combine that with a rich set of third-party apps, and you can see the dedicated fitness trackers following the same fate as portable GPS devices.”
It’s been a strong few years for the tracking tech category. The gadgets, which usually reside on a wrist, can daily activity, including steps taken and sleep patterns. Paired with an app, they can also help monitor calorie intake.
Now Apple promises all of that and more — phone calls, notifications, text messaging and even buying things will all be possible from your wrist. 
Fitness trackers will need to evolve to survive the smartwatch wave.In May,Fitbit accounted for 50% of the 2.7 million wearable bands, including fitness trackers and smartwatches, that shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2014, according to research firm Canalys. Fitness tracker company Jawbone has also seen a jump in sales, thanks to growth overseas.
But studies have shown many people abandon their wearables, smartwatches included, just a few months after purchase, so the longevity of the devices on the market (regardless of the smartwatch boom) is also up for the debate.

An instant response from competitors



In just a few hours after Apple’s announcement, Jawbone posted a message on its official blog addressing what everyone wanted to know: how it will impact their business.
The company, the David in the Goliath scenario here, said it welcomes “the entry of Apple into the wearables, or to be more specific, smartwatch, market. It’s good news for us because it is another device that will connect to our UP system.”
From a software standpoint, that’s certainly on point, allowing Apple Watch users access to its greater system of personalized health and fitness coaching, not just with iOS but Android too. But what about the hardware?
“Our vision is not about winning a hardware arms race, or just moving more units than the other guys,” Travis Bogard, vice president of product management and strategy at Jawbone, wrote via the blog. “It’s about people, and the thing we all cherish the most — our health, and the health of our family and friends. By opening UP to everyone we have the best chance of realizing our vision of helping people to live better — and we look forward to working with others on the market to achieve that.”
Basis, another wristband fitness tracker company, saying there’s room for more niche products in the wearables market.
“Anytime a major brand enters a market, they are absolutely influential in driving awareness,” said Jef Holove, general manager at Basis. “We think more awareness of and credibility in the market is good for consumers and good for the growth of the category. We still see a significant opportunity for more specialized, needs-based products and Basis is a prime example. We’ll continue to focus on advanced offerings in the fitness and sleep tracking category.”
But while the Jawbones of the world see Apple as a huge disruptor, Apple’s footprint, legacy and customer loyalty makes these companies seem like just a drop in the bucket. Fitbit has not yet responded to a request for comment.

App integration

Apps like RunKeeper say they’re thrilled about Apple’s first step into wearables, giving them a high-profile platform to get their software in front of more eyes.

Apple unveils new gadgets


Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Sept. 9 at the Flint Center.
“Having a company like Apple proclaim that health and fitness is an important strategic category for their business is both scary and exciting — scary because it means the innovation bar is very high, but exciting because Apple commits to a category only when it is poised to become truly mainstream,” said Jason Jacobs, CEO and founder of RunKeeper. “It will be great for market-leading companies within the health and fitness space, and great for the world when this happens. We are excited to work with Apple and others to help make this a reality, and together, we are getting closer every day.”
Some of the companies behind fitness trackers have rolled out platforms with developer APIs that let others integrate apps (that work with other products) with their platform. But Apple is replacing that, too. Apple’s HealthKit will aggregate data from third-party apps, letting them share data amongst each other and visualizing it all within an app called Health.
The Apple Watch provides an additional advantage: It displays that information directly on your wrist. Popular fitness trackers like the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit Flex require you to download an app and create an account to see the collected data. No doubt those companies will create apps for the Apple Watch, too, but if you already have the tracking sensors in the watch, the platform in HealthKit, and the app in Health, why would anyone want a middleman?

The tracker advantage: sleep data

One area that Jawbone and Fitbit has on the Apple Watch, and other smartwatches, is size. The form factor of fitness trackers are significantly more slim, and battery life can last up to a week. That lets users comfortably wear trackers while they sleep, plus they don’t have to worry about charging every night..

Apple has been relatively mum about the exact abilities and battery life of its smartwatch, and the sleep monitoring abilities haven’t yet been outlined. But given its many sensors, it’s safe to assume the Apple Watch will be able to monitor sleep, either out of the box or via third-party apps.
The question of whether or not someone will sleep while wearing the Apple Watch is up for debate, though. Mashable editor-at-large Lance Ulanoff, who got his hands on the Apple Watch at the company’s launch event earlier this week, said the Apple Watch Edition collection (the upscale version of the models that come in 18-carat gold) is especially heavy on the wrists.
Watch expert Bill Geiser of Meta Watch says weight won’t be a deterrent for users: “Weight won’t be an issue,” Geiser said. “Many people like heavier watches because the weight conveys a sense of quality.”
Geiser is talking about general use, however, not wearing it to bed, and he admits people will probably be inclined to take it off while they sleep. In that respect, Jawbone and Fitbit have an edge — at least for now. Still, it’s not hard to envision a future Apple Watch Sport that’s even lighter than the one Apple unveiled, potentially something users could wear while sleeping.
Although many believe the Apple Watch will hurt the wristband fitness tracker category, Julian Highley, Global Director Customer Knowledge at UK-based consumer behavior analytics firm Dunnhumby, believes there is still a place for the devices in the market.

Apple Watch Edition


The Apple Watch Edition lineup.
“Smartwatches will make a moderate impact on the fitness tracker category, but not kill it,” said Highley. “Fitness trackers such as Jawbone and Fitbit are more popular with consumers who are neither overtly healthy or unhealthy in their purchasing habits, and this is the area where I would expect smartwatches to have the most impact.”
Fitness trackers also have the Apple Watch beat at price point, coming in at less than $140 compared to Apple’s price tag of $349 and up. And the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition, we’re thinking, will be priced much higher.
“At a price point that is three times that of the Fitbit and Jawbone, smartwatches are at the premium end of the market,” Highley said. “For the seriously health committed, they’re looking for more features like heart rate monitoring that the majority of smartwatches don’t provide today. Interestingly, twice as many people use their smartphone to measure their activity levels than use wearable tech.”

Trackers: time’s up

Although fitness trackers have the advantages of price, size and a clear audience, it’s easy to see smartwatches erase them over time as smartwatches get cheaper, smaller and more sophisticated over time. Factor in the dominant platforms of Apple, Google and others, and it’s hard to see any other future for the category but a long decline.
“It won’t kill the fitness tracker right out of the gate, but a few iterations in, it will have done some serious damage,” Seth Traum, partner at Vivaldi Partners Group, a global strategy consulting firm. “It won’t be an immediate kill because of people’s distrust of first-generation tech. But Apple will continuously enhance and find ways to make the watch better by decreasing thickness and heaviness, enhancing battery life, improving the interface and making it faster.”
Sure, e-readers, MP3 players and portable GPS systems still exist today, but for the most part, our smartphones and tablets come with all of those technologies built within. The same fate likely awaits the fitness tracker.
And with the Apple Watch due to arrive early next year, the clock is ticking fast.

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