They Can’t Even Spell ‘Idiot’ Right.
Yesterday Fitbit announced their idiot smartwatch called the Iconic.
It runs for $299.95. This is James Park’s Apple Watch killer. We will see.
When the Surge came out in early 2015, it was supposed to be the Apple Watch killer too. The Surge was priced at $250 nicely below Apple’s $369 price tag. The Surge had a GPS, played songs, displayed your text messages, and had a bunch of other zowie keen features. It also had brittle wristband that was integrated into the watch. That meant when the band broke, the watch was finished. And break the bands did. The Fitbit community site lit up like a Christmas tree with customer’s broken Surge band complaints by the summer of 2015; Twitter surged with Surge broken band twits. Fitbit’s fix – 25% discount on a new Surge!! A lot of the Surge broken banders took Fitbit up on that discount figuring, I guess, their experiences were uniquely rare. But no – within a year they were back complaining that the second Surge’s band broke too. A what did Fitbit offer them? Another 25% discount! By that time, these Surge customers tended to start calling crap crap.
The Surge put zero dents into Apple’s smartwatch sales. But Fitbit stock declined over 50% in 2015 while Surge was their top end ‘super watch’.
Your Typical Fitbit Blaze
Then, in January 2016, came the Blaze. (Note how Fitbit cunningly released the watch AFTER the Holidays, confounding marketing strategists to this day). Fitbit fixed the band problem – the Blaze had replaceable bands which Fitbit sold for half the price of a Blaze (Blaze $199; Blaze replacement band, $99). But the generics flooded the market with $10 replacement bands so Fitbits highway robbery was no big deal. However, the Blaze had a nasty little problem in that its glass screen cracked very easily. Suddenly, all the online Fitbit complaint platforms were flooded with stories about Blaze cracked watch faces after a month or two use. Fitbit’s fix – you could guess: 25% discount on a new Blaze. The watch case was not covered by any warranty.
Fitbit Can’t Fix A Cracked Blaze Screen. But You Can – Repair Kit Is $9.95 At Walmart.
The Blaze was not the market disrupter Fitbit was hoping for. 2016 saw their stock decrease by another 50%. Some lower end products were introduced – the Flex 2, the Altra HR, and the Charge 2 but none of them helped. 2016 was also the year of the consumer revolt – Fitbit was hit with one court suit that alleged their heart beat monitor results were mostly fiction, then a class action suit was filed claiming Fitbit’s sleep monitoring capability was more of an aspiration than a reality, and finally another class action suit was filed over Fitbit bands that caused skin irritation and chemical burns. Fitbit’s response to all the cases was that they were frivolous and unfounded though the company did recall over a million Flex/Charge/Altra bands after 10,000 customers reported skin blisters after wearing the devices. Coincidences indeed do happen.
So now we have the Ionic. This is the smartwatch that will topple the Apple Watch from its throne and relaunch fair sailing for Fitbit on Wall Street. The Ionic has a few little problems it has to grapple with first:
Price – At $300 it is 40 dollars more expensive than the Apple 1 Watch and doesn’t do most of the things that watch does. For $70 more, you can get an Apple 2 Watch which certainly does a lot more stuff than the Iconic. In two weeks, Apple will announce the Apple 3 Watch at probably the same price as the Apple 2 with even more stuff inside it than the Iconic has. Bad timing for Jame’s here. He should have at least waited until Apple made their move, then undercut their prices with some smart positioning. Now Apple gets to do that to Fitbit if they cared, which they probably don’t.
Applications – Well there aren’t any yet. The OS inside the Ionic is the Pebble OS. I am sure you have heard of it. Most non-Apple smartwatches use the wearable version of Android as their OS. It is powerful. There are scores of applications written in it. The license is cheap (i.e., free) from Google. But no, Fitbit bought a company called Pebble two years ago because they were developing a wearable OS to die for. Now you can own it on your Iconic. But with no applications.
Sport Features – At the end of the day, Fitbit strives to be a top notch sports watch. With the Ionic, Fitbit adds (finally) swimming as well as additional capabilities for biking and running. The problem these guys will run into is that right now Garmin, Nike, Samsung and Xiaomi do it better for about the same cost. The Apple 2 is nearly equivalent and the Apple 3 will surpass it. The Ionic is chocked full of things a Triathloner would love but it’s not the best of breed but carries a price as if it was.
The Big Break – What we don’t know yet is what breaks on this watch. Every Fitbit has a nasty design fault. Fitbit doesn’t have stacks of 25% discount coupons in their customer service offices for nothing. They use those babies. You can bet the Fitbit community board will be running amock in six months with some reoccurring Iconic problem or another.
James Claims His Blaze Never Ever Ever Cracks.
At the end of the day, the fact is there are dozens of smart watches out there that are cheaper and/or have more features and/or are more reliable than the Ionic. So who would buy an Ionic? If you were employed by Fitbit, got suckered into buying their stock and still own it, or you have some of those 25% discount coupons laying around, you might want this watch. Or if you were an idiot.