Fitbit users haven’t been too happy lately, but while there’s a lot Google could do to improve things, the latest announcement isn’t.
At the The Check Up event earlier today, Google announced that it is opening more of Fitbit’s Health Metrics Dashboard to non-subscribers. The company says that any user with a compatible device — known as a Pixel Watch or Fitbit device — can view their daily, weekly, monthly, and 90-day trends for respiration rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, oxygen saturation, and resting heart rate. Non-subscribers also get personalized insights when their data deviates from their long-term baselines.
It’s always nice to see companies add extra value to free tiers. That said, this step isn’t necessarily about that. At today’s event, Google hinted that increasing accessibility helps with product and feature development. It also praised Fitbit’s achievements in developing an FDA-approved passive A-fib monitoring algorithm and the insights gleaned from Fitbit’s Sleep Profile feature. As of the event, it’s not hard to see what Google considers Fitbit’s biggest strengths.
It’s also a sign that Google doesn’t fully understand Fitbit’s biggest problems right now.
For starters, today’s announcement isn’t as impressive as it first appears. When the Health Metrics Dashboard was first introduced, it was a Premium exclusive. Then, in 2021, Fitbit expanded dashboard access to some of its older products and allowed non-subscribers to view their daily and seven-day trends. What today’s move really does is add 30-day and 90-day trend views and all the associated insights that come with longer-term monitoring. It was only a matter of time before these stats were pulled from behind the Fitbit Premium paywall.
That trajectory also means that data itself isn’t enough to keep Fitbit users happy and willing to cough up the $80 annual Fitbit Premium fee. In the past month, Fitbit has experienced several server outages and outraged longtime users who were fans of its community features, which will be discontinued later this month. On forums and social media, Fitbit users have also shared stories of less than stellar customer service interactions, most notably of failed attempts to return recalled Fitbit Ionic watches.
Fitbit has been a leader in health technology software for a decade. However, those nifty features and FDA-approved algorithms were born from the data of millions of active Fitbit users, many of whom are increasingly fed up and told The edge to consider alternative options. Google is right that to keep innovating in the space, Fitbit (and with it Google) needs a strong, loyal user base to pull data from. But removing stats from behind paywalls will only do so much. Solve server problems, offer alternatives to outdated features and resist the urge to change too much at once? That probably goes a long way to keep the Fitbit faithful happy beyond a few extra data points.