What it is: Fitbit recently released their Ionic smartwatch to challenge the Apple Watch.
Before the Apple Watch appeared, Fitbit ruled the wearable market. However, Fitbit was more of a dedicated health tracker than a smart watch, so when the Apple Watch appeared and did more than just health tracking, Fitbit decided to come up with a rival called the Ionic.
The huge problem with any Apple Watch rival is competing from both a hardware and software perspective. Unlike cheap smartphones that can run Android, building a cheap wearable computer means limited functionality. Building a more functional wearable computer means higher cost to the point where people will simply choose an Apple Watch instead.
That’s the dilemma. Android Wear hasn’t skyrocketed in popularity as much as Android because manufacturers still need to design and make hardware to run Android Wear. It’s easy to slap together parts and make a cheap smartphone. It’s much harder to slap together parts and make a cheap wearable computer because such a computer needs sensors crammed into a small form actor.
Fitbit’s Ionic runs its own operating system for greater control. The huge problem with this approach is that now they need developers to embrace their operating system. There’s an army of developers familiar with iOS which is the basis for watchOS. To create watchOS apps, developers use the same Xcode tool they use to create iOS apps. The principles are the same so any iOS developer can easily create watchOS with minimal training.
Fitbit’s operating system is trying to attract developers but without giving developers a large enough market share to make it worthwhile. Microsoft’s Windows Phone failed to attract developers despite Microsoft’s name and army of developers. What chance does Fitbit have?
Regardless of the Fitbit Ionic’s hardware features, it will fail to compete against the Apple Watch if it fails to develop a thriving and larger market share. When compared against the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Ionic has a huge uphill challenge ahead and it’s not going to get any easier over time. Fitbit is fighting alone and their chances of success diminish with each passing day.