Fitbit users haven’t been too pleased as of late, but while there’s a lot that Google could do to make things better, its latest announcement ain’t it.
At its The Check Up event earlier today, Google announced it’s opening up more of Fitbit’s Health Metrics Dashboard to nonsubscribers. The company says that any user with a compatible device — aka a Pixel Watch or Fitbit device — will be able to view their daily, weekly, monthly, and 90-day trends for breathing rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, oxygen saturation, and resting heart rate. Nonsubscribers will also get personalized insights whenever their data deviates from their long-term baselines.
It’s always nice to see companies add extra value to free tiers. That said, this move isn’t necessarily about that. At today’s event, Google hinted that increasing accessibility helps with product and feature development. It also touted Fitbit’s achievements in developing an FDA-cleared passive A-fib monitoring algorithm, and the insights gleaned from Fitbit’s Sleep Profile feature. From the event, it’s not hard to see what Google views as Fitbit’s greatest strengths.
It’s also a sign that Google doesn’t fully grasp what Fitbit’s biggest problems are right now.
For starters, today’s announcement isn’t as impressive as it might seem at first glance. When the Health Metrics Dashboard was initially introduced, it was a Premium exclusive. Then, in 2021, Fitbit expanded access to the dashboard across some of its older products and allowed nonsubscribers to view their daily and seven-day trends. What today’s move really does is add 30-day and 90-day trend views and any associated insights that come with longer-term monitoring. It was only a matter of time before these metrics were moved out from behind the Fitbit Premium paywall.
That trajectory also implies that data itself isn’t enough to keep Fitbit users happy and willing to cough up the $80 annual Fitbit Premium fee. Over the past month, Fitbit has experienced several server outages and angered longtime users who were fans of its community features, which will be sunsetted later this month. On forums and social media, Fitbit users have also shared stories of less than stellar customer service interactions, particularly regarding failed attempts at returning recalled Fitbit Ionic watches.
Fitbit has been a leader in health tech software for the past decade. However, those nifty features and FDA-cleared algorithms were born from the data of millions of active Fitbit users, many of whom are increasingly fed up and have told The Verge that they’re considering alternative options. Google is right that to continue innovating in the space, Fitbit (and thereby Google) needs a strong, loyal user base to pull data from. But removing metrics from behind paywalls will only do so much. Fixing server problems, offering alternatives to legacy features, and resisting the urge to change too much all at once? That’ll probably go a lot further in keeping the Fitbit faithful happy than a few extra data points.