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Buying a Fitbit Will Not Help Google Overcome the Biggest Advantage of Apple's Smart Watch

Google is reportedly looking to buy Fitbit as a way to strengthen its wear strategy. Trying to figure out what this could mean for Google, its Wear OS platform and Fitbit customers is (sorry fitness box) exhausting .

Here's where I landed: Assuming it came out, I think this acquisition foreshadows a reboot rather than shortening Google's current smart watch strategy. I think mostly because Google's current smartwatch strategy is not supported by Fitbit at all. Unless Google has completely lost the subject, this acquisition only makes sense if the company is ready to try something completely different.

It certainly should be.

Let's just summarize how bad things are going for Wear OS. Google's most productive partner in the production of Wear OS watches, Fossil, had less than five percent market share in North America in Q2. Even if you give Google credit for being part of the "Others" in Canalis estimates, this leaves Wear OS markets rotating anywhere between wince and woof .

Taken simply as part of the software, Wear OS itself is actually better than many (including myself!) Who have given it credit, but is tired so long that its software ecosystem bears all the hallmarks of a platform in decline . However, in terms of basic usability and features, Wear OS is a pretty solid platform to rebuild on ̵

1; if only it had the hardware to go with it.

This hardware is not inevitable. The best hardware for Wear OS watches is currently the latest generation of Fossil. Looking at one of these clocks, I found that many of the Wear OS performance issues are solved simply by adding more RAM, though it does not necessarily do so very quickly.

But even with enough RAM to boot (which has several Wear OS clocks), the spins that new Fossil clocks go through for all day use are among the stupidest I've ever seen device. There are settings for settings, none of which should ever be seen on a smart watch, much less needed.

These convolutions are needed since Qualcomm has not yet provided a smart watch processor that is worth the hell. We've spent years waiting for the Snapdragon 3100 to power the Fossil, which I quote above, but it's still outdated in terms of speed and battery management. More recent rumors from XDA suggest that Qualcomm is developing a new chip that would be a significant step forward – but that just brings us back to where we started. Do we really want to – and Google do we really want to wait (again) for Qualcomm to pass?

Back when it first released Android Wear, Google made a bet that it could copy the Android model with watches: distribute free software to companies that could use easily accessible components to create their own devices. LG, Motorola and even Samsung took a chance on this look and it didn't turn out well for either of them.

This model just didn't disappear. I could convince myself that this is because the only way to make a great smart watch is to be vertically integrated from silicon to software. You don't just have to quote Apple Watch to do this. Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active line is successful not because OS Tizen is great (though not bad), but because Samsung is almost Apple-esque in its vertical integration into the smart watch.

I can just as easily be convinced that the original Google bet can lead to good smart watches in the same way as it did to good Android phones. The problem with this scenario is that since the ecosystem did not evolve, there was no incentive for component manufacturers to keep smart watches. You can call it a chicken and egg problem, but it's actually simpler than that. There is no reason for Qualcomm to raise chickens if no one buys eggs.

There's only one way to fix the current woes of Google's smart watch: it's silicone, stupid. And while Google's lack of control over processors won't hurt Android phones, it seems to be holding back Android smartwatches.

I don't blame Qualcomm entirely – from where I sit, the company has acted rationally. It certainly makes a lot more money by focusing on smartphone chips, high-end chips that could lead to Windows on ARM, and small chips that are about to power a whole generation of noise-canceling earphones to compete with the current the AirPods Pro announced. 19659016] This whole story brings us to 2019 and the rumor about Fitbit. I honestly doubt that Fitbit sits on a revolutionary processor that can save Google's smartwatch efforts. Google's current smart watch problems cannot be solved with Fitbit.

I think it's much more likely that Google intends to target where Fitbit is already: selling cheaper, lower-end fitness trackers and basic smart watches.

It's a much better strategy than trying to get the Apple Watch – or damn it, even the Galaxy Watch – to go on. Qualcomm may go with this new chip, but Google would be foolish to bet its entire wearable future on it. (If you're wondering where this mysterious $ 40 million acquisition of Fossil smartwatch fits into all of this, join the club. We have hats!)

There's another reason Google may want Fitbit: its dedicated user base . We hope that Google views them as a core group of customers who can serve well with advanced, enhanced fitness offers so they can re-evangelize Fitbit. Let's hope it's not but to take any fitness data that Fitbit has collected and collated and use it for alarming purposes. Even with buyout rumors still very fresh, this is something Fitbit users are already worried about .

can & # 39; I don't blame them completely. Because it's so difficult to know exactly what Google would do with Fitbit, it's easy to guess the worst. If the acquisition turns out to be true, I hope Google does a better job communicating its intentions than with Nest.

And I hope Google knows its intentions better than with Nest.

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A quick note on the newsletter. I apologize for not sending one on Monday morning – or rather, not to warn you on Friday that I may not do it. As always, I welcome your feedback – dieter@theverge.com

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