Fitbit: A Product Case Study

 

I will be the first to admit, I never saw the point of owning a Fitbit. I have never been much of an athlete, and that was the type of person I associated with the term “fitness tracker.” I did not discover what a Fitbit was, or who actually used them, until this past summer at work when I saw people walking laps around the daycare where I work, in order to “get their steps up.” After watching my coworkers walk in circles for about a week, I finally asked a friend I worked with to explain what was happening. My friend explained to me that not only did the Fitbit record the steps you take and the distance you walk, but it also recorded the flights of stairs that you climb, the calories you burn, your sleep patterns and – in the case of some models – your heart rate.With this information, the Fitbit syncs with the smartphone application that coincides with it,  and you can compete with friends in challenges. After explaining this, my friend went on to tell me that all of our coworkers who owned a Fitbit (which was most of them), were competing in a weeklong challenge, to see who could get the most steps. All of this sparked my attention, and I did my own research to see if the Fitbit was something I could benefit from.

While looking into the seven different models that Fitbit offers, I discovered the Fitbit Charge HR. This model is one that I had most commonly seen among people who owned a Fitbit, and seemed to be one that would fit my needs best. This model has the the same capabilities as the lower models (Fitbit Zip, Fitbit One, and Fitbit Flex), and it also has the capability to track your heart rate and displays Caller ID. This information is displayed on the screen of the Charge HR with a simple double tap to the device – users can tap the device subsequently to scroll through the information available. Another convenient feature of this device, is the aforementioned smartphone application. The Fitbit syncs to the application all day, records the data it gathers, and displays it in various charts and graphs so users can track their progress. With this collected data, users can compete against themselves to beat their past records or, in the case of my coworkers, compete against one another in order to win a “badge.”

This video shows some great snapshots of how information is presented on the Fitbit App, and how the application works with the device:

(Source)

Although companies like Apple are currently struggling to convince people to adopt their wearable tech; some say Fitbit’s $4.1 billion IPO in 2015 sparked the interest in creating smart watches with features similar to those of the Fitbit. Despite the fact that the phenomenal debut onto the New York Stock Exchange did not happen until eight years after the company’s founding, investors saw promise in this wearable tech from the beginning. When at the TechCrunch 50 conference in 2008, Fitbit founders James Park and Eric Friedman were hoping to get 50 pre-orders of their wearable devices; however, by the end of the day, Park and Friedman went home with an unexpected 2,000 pre-orders. When production of the early Fitbit finally began, 5,000 units were produced, with another 20,000 orders still yet to be filled. As these wearable fitness trackers became more popular among the public, other companies tried to get in on the action – hence the Apple Watch.

The Fitbit Ultra, an early model of the fitness tracker that helped shape an industry:

fitbit_ultra_inline1

(Source)

The Apple Watch first came on the wearable tech scene in late April 2015. Unlike the emergence of the Fitbit and previous Apple products, the Apple Watch did not have much hype around it from consumers. As for those who did invest in the Apple Watch, there were quite a few reports of issues that have never affected the Fitbit – specifically the Charge HR. For instance, the Fitbit’s battery life it significantly longer than that of the Apple Watch. It’s been reported that the Apple Watch’s battery can last up to 18 hours, the Fitbit however, advertised a maximum time between charges of 5 days. The issue of Apple Watch’s battery life is so common in fact, that any Google search of “Apple Watch battery,” leads to a copious amount of articles with titles such as; “Fix Apple Watch Battery Life Issues,” “10 Annoying Apple Watch Problems and How to Fix Them,” and “Apple Watch Battery Life Problems? Here’s the Fix!” With this issue in mind, it is clear that there are a few things Apple could learn from Fitbit when it comes to battery life. However, battery life is not the only thing that the Fitbit has over the Apple Watch; in the grand tradition of Apple products, the Apple Watch shatters when dropped. From personal experience, I know that the Fitbit is very durable. In fact, one of my coworkers who would participate in the weekly competitions, would tie her Fitbit onto a child’s shoe and let them run around, so she could get extra steps. While my coworker’s Fitbit got a little dirty from this, the screen never shattered.

A likely end to an Apple Watch if it had been tied to the shoe of a child:

smashed-iwatch_thumb800

(Source)

Unlike consumer complaints that have surfaced about the Apple Watch not being user friendly, the Fitbit is incredibly straight forward, and gives people the opportunity to find the device that best fits their needs. The company offers seven different models of their wearable device, which all pair with a mobile phone application – or online account for those who still have not yet adopted a smartphone – which provides instructions on how to set up and use the device. From my personal experience with the Fitbit Charge HR, I can confirm that the set up of the device was quick and easy. After downloading the application onto my phone, I was instructed to use the button on the device to power it up, and was then prompted to input a code that was – at the time of setup – displayed on the screen of the Fitbit, into the application in order for the device to pair via bluetooth with my smartphone.

Moreover, it’s safe to say that the Fitbit has a slight edge on the Apple Watch. From the beginning, there has been a great amount of support behind the Fitbit. While Apple has made some great successes in non-wearable teach, some see the Apple Watch as a flop. Fitbit has seen such great success in their field, that the company does not need to make large changes to their models, while Apple had to give it’s watch an internal overhaul – in an attempt to flip their flop. In fact, the Apple Watch Series 2 which was released a week ago, is rumored to fix the issues mentioned in this blog post. All in all, the Fitbit has seen such success due to its ease of use and the amount of continuous use between charges. It seems strange that a company that has been around since 1976 would have to catch up with a company that started out as a circuit board in a wooden box, but it’s what needs to happen. Maybe the Apple Watch Series 2 will redeem Apple’s name in the wearable tech world, but unlike Fitbit, it will never be known as “wearable tech’s biggest success story.”

 

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