Google purchases Fitbit for $2.1 billion

Fitbit Logo

Wearables, especially the Apple Watch, were a little slow out of the gate. It seemed like a solution without a problem. The focus was initially on bringing phone functionality to the wrist, which ended up meaning more annoying push notifications and less screen real estate to allow any meaningful reaction or response to these notifications. The design was nice (almost always true for Apple), but the need didn’t quite click.

Since the introduction of the Apple Watch, the wearable space has quickly matured and now it is seen as a way for tech companies desperate to access the multi-trillion dollar healthcare sector. No longer is the focus on giving you a Dick Tracey two-way wrist radio. Now the purpose is health analytics and insights.

The latest version of the Apple Watch shows a device that is more focused on health than ever. More importantly, the device dominates the wearable market.

This has encouraged Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to start sniffing around Fitbit, one of the earliest wearable manufacturers. Now the rumors have proven to be true and Alphabet will be gobbling up Fitbit to try and keep pace with Apple.

Fitbit goes all the way back to 2007, when it was known as Healthy Metrics Research, Inc. That title should tip you off to Fitbit’s value proposition. It knew, at a very early date, that a major key to health tech was data and the ability to make that data digestible and actionable.

Fitbit’s gadgets never had the design cache of Apple or even wearable competitor Jawbone. But Jawbone was not focused on health data (they marketed bluetooth headsets and speakers as well), and now they are only a memory. Fitbit, however, has endured with a reasonably priced ecosystem of health tech, including all manner of activity trackers, a bathroom scale and premium subscriptions to promote healthy living. 

Google’s wearable products have lagged behind Apple, despite there being an Android-like Watch OS that could be deployed on any manufacturer’s smart watch. The failure of Watch OS is highlighted by Samsung’s early decision to create its own watch operating system using a proprietary platform called Tizen.  

But now that is all in the past. Rather than building a better mousetrap, Google and Alphabet have just gone out and bought one. But will it be enough to challenge the dominance of the Apple Watch?