Fitbit Inc (NYSE:FIT) has been hard at work on its answer to Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Apple watch. Yahoo Finance dug up details on the new Fitbit smartwatch and accompanying Fitbit earbuds — code-named “Project Higgs” and “Parkside” — including images. With Fitbit stock down 22% since the start of the year, a January layoff and the Apple Watch Series 3 expected this fall, there’s a lot riding on these products.
Here’s everything the big leak revealed about Fitbit’s crucial smartwatch plans.
Project Higgs: The New Fitbit Smartwatch Is Clearly a Fitbit
Any Pebble fans who had hopes the new Fitbit smartwatch would draw inspiration from smartwatches released by that defunct company — whose software assets and engineers were snapped up by Fitbit last year — will be disappointed.
So will those who aren’t fond of the Fitbit Blaze design.
Yahoo Finance’s images of Project Higgs show the new Fitbit smartwatch looks very similar to the Blaze. It has a square face, similar button placement and the familiar Fitbit elastomer wristband. The primary visual difference is that the new smartwatch doesn’t appear to have the same clunky frame mechanism for swapping bands, although users will be able to change bands.
Other features include GPS, heart-rate monitor, touch-less payment support, 1000-nit display and four-day battery life. Pricing is expected to be around $300.
Overcoming Manufacturing Difficulties
Yahoo Finance specifies the manufacturing problems that have been plaguing the design of the new Fitbit smartwatch, threatening to delay the release. Its sources say the two big problems are the integrated GPS and water resistance.
Apparently the antenna was poorly placed, preventing the GPS from working properly. That forced a redesign of the Fitbit smartwatch. The company’s engineers are also reportedly struggling to make Project Higgs waterproof.
At this point, Yahoo Finance is unable to confirm whether the final version Fitbit launches will be fully waterproof or merely water-resistant. If it’s not waterproof, that’s going to be a problem when comparing against the Apple Watch, which can be worn underwater.
Software and App Store
Even if it didn’t contribute to the hardware and design of the new Fitbit smartwatch, the one big area where Fitbit’s Pebble acquisition was expected to pay off was with software and an app store.
However, according to the Yahoo Finance leak, the software running on Project Higgs matches the UI on the Fitbit Blaze. Any app store is not expected to arrive in time for the fall launch and the smartwatch will instead ship with a collection of customized apps — like the Blaze.
One key new feature is integrated music storage and playback, but even that seems to have not gone according to plan. Instead of Spotify, Fitbit was apparently forced to go with Pandora Media Inc’s (NYSE:P) Pandora instead.
Parkside Fitbit Earbuds
In addition to offering the ability to store music for playback, Yahoo Finance dug up the details on “Parkside” the Bluetooth Fitbit earbuds that will be released alongside the new smartwatch.
It makes sense that Fitbit might want to get in on this action and capture some of the dollars that might otherwise be spent on a pair of third party Bluetooth headphones. The Fitbit earbuds follow a standard design, but with metallic accents that will give them a little premium flare and help tie in to the aluminum case on the Fitbit smartwatch.
Unlike Apple’s AirPods, they aren’t true wireless — there’s a cable connecting the buds themselves — but the connection to the streaming music device is Bluetooth and wire-free.
Is This Enough to Right the Ship?
The new Fitbit smartwatch is close to being a make-or-break product for the company. FIT stock is off nearly 70% over the past year alone. Its sales have been down despite the launch of new fitness trackers like the Alta HR. The U.S. market for fitness wearable is becoming saturated, and Chinese companies are flooding the global market with cheap trackers.
At the same time, Apple’s pivot to make the Apple Watch more focused on fitness tracking is attracting Fitbit’s core demographic.
The Project Higgs images and details revealed in the Yahoo Finance Leak don’t bode well for a big Fitbit stock rebound. The Fitbit smartwatch seems like an incremental upgrade to the Blaze, rather than the innovative new design people were hoping for. If it lacks an app store and the ability to install third party apps at launch, that will reinforce the perception. Pandora music and FIT earbuds are nice, but people are going to ask where Spotify support is.
We’ll find out come the fall when Project Higgs is expected to launch, but against the Apple Watch Series 2 it doesn’t look great — especially at the expected $300 starting price.
And if Apple does release the Apple Watch Series 3 in the fall, the new Fitbit smartwatch is going to face an even tougher slog as the previous generation gets discounted.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.