Fitbit Wants to Watch Your Step
Fitbit (NYSE: FIT) is finally on the clock. The out-of-favor wearable fitness leader announced on Monday that Fitbit Ionic -- its first full-fledged smartwatch -- is on track to roll out to retailers worldwide on Sunday. It retails for $300, just $30 less than Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) new Apple Watch Series 3 non-cellular model.
Fitbit is hoping to stand out in a market where Apple has been the only smartwatch maker to reach needle-moving success. Fitbit feels that it can carve out an audience with a five-day battery life, a sharp contrast to Apple's 18-hour ceiling. Fitbit's smartwatch is also operating system-agnostic, playing nice with Android devices.
Making its mark won't be easy. Fitbit will naturally push its activity-tracking strengths, but Apple Watch is no slouch on that front. Ionic is pushing its automatic sleep monitoring, something that can also be done on Apple Watch, but a challenge given the limited battery life that mandates overnight charging more often than not.
It will take time for app developers to offer the same kind of support that they do for Apple's platform. We also can't forget that Fitbit's first foray into what it called a smartwatch -- Fitbit Blaze -- started off strong by moving a million units during the first quarter of 2016 before fading from consumer fancy. However, it's still a gamble worth taking for Fitbit after three consecutive quarters of double-digit declines in revenue.
Counting on the second hand
Fitbit's Ionic won't be alone, and not just because its arrival coincides with Apple's updated smartwatch. Fitbit is also introducing Fitbit Flyer wireless headphones, a $130 splurge that works seamlessly with Fitbit's smartwatch as well as its Fitbit Coach smartphone app where folks pay $8 a month or $40 a year for customized fitness coaching. In short, Fitbit's new wrist hugger is a bigger play at getting people to go all-in on its ecosystem.
The odds aren't kind for Fitbit in this game. It's struggling to get its flagship activity trackers going again. Fitbit's guidance calls for revenue to plummet 22% to 29% this year. The brand is still making noise. Fitbit cleared 3.4 million devices in its otherwise brutal second quarter. The problem is that overall demand for dedicated fitness trackers appears to be waning.
There has been no shortage of products coming out of Fitbit, but success has proven short-lived if not outright elusive. Fitbit Ionic has a spec sheet making it a worthy rival to Apple Watch, but that hasn't been enough for Android-specific peers in the past. Fitbit needs a hit, and time isn't on its side.
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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Apple and Fitbit. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Fitbit. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.