Fitbit has made a surprising move by announcing it is ceasing sales in select Asian countries. This development comes even as the company launches its new Charge 6 device, raising questions about the company’s broader strategy. What’s going on?
A brief history of Fitbit
Fitbit, which was founded in 2007, quickly became synonymous with fitness tracking. The company’s wearables have evolved over time, with features ranging from basic step counting to advanced health monitoring such as ECG.
The acquisition of the wearables manufacturer by Google in 2019 marked a watershed moment in the company’s history. This integration has so far resulted in a greater emphasis on software, with Google’s ecosystem becoming more central to Fitbit’s offerings. However, the full ramifications of the acquisition to Fitbit and its customers are yet to be seen.
Exiting select markets
The latest development is a strange one. According to an official statement from Google, Fitbit will no longer sell its products in Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
The cessation of sales became effective on August 11, 2023. Fitbit Premium memberships in these countries will not renew automatically. But they will continue to be supported until the end of the current billing period plus an extra 30 days.
The affected countries have a combined population of more than 200 million people, so it is not a small market. This strategic shift could be an attempt to focus on more profitable countries. Or it could be a shift towards a greater emphasis on software development.
The company has not explicitly stated the reasons for this decision, but one could also speculate that regulatory hurdles, market saturation, or the costs associated with maintaining a presence in these countries could also be contributing factors. Hard to say, exactly.
The Charge 6: A singular focus
In contrast to its market exit, Fitbit has launched the Charge 6 yesterday, its only hardware release so far in 2023. A pretty quiet year in Fitbit standards.
The new device leans heavily into Google’s ecosystem and offers features like Google Maps integration and Google Wallet. As far as build, it is made of 100% recycled aluminium and comes in a variety of vibrant colours such as Obsidian, Porcelain, and Coral.
Thanks to Google’s improved algorithms, Charge 6 promises up to 60% more accurate heart rate data during intense physical activities. There are a few more exercises it can track, and the device can broadcast heart rate to third-party devices via Bluetooth. The only other notable change is the return of the physical button on the side. So it’s not what most people would call a huge upgrade.
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The simultaneous release of the Charge 6 and withdrawal from specific Asian markets portrays Fitbit as a brand in transition. The company appears to be putting deeper software integration with Google ahead of hardware initiatives and global reach. It remains to be seen whether this dual strategy will pay off in the long run.
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