The Fitbit Inspire 2 that Osterloh seems interested in.
The Fitbit Sense, which also got a reputation in Google's post.
The Fitbit Charge 4.
The Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatch.
Rick Osterloh, Google's senior vice president of hardware, announced Thursday that Google has completed the acquisition of Fitbit. The $ 2.1 billion deal, announced back in November 2019, launched a regulatory review process from governments around the world who are concerned about Google's impact on the internet and the data it can collect about users .
Ordinarily, Osterloh's announcement that "Google has completed the acquisition of Fitbit and I would like to personally welcome this talented team to Google" would mean that Google has resolved its global regulatory battle. Today's announcement by Google is highly unusual as the Justice Department has not yet finalized the deal. As the DOJ told New York Times reporter Cecilia Kang: "The antitrust investigation into Google's acquisition of Fitbit is ongoing." The Australian regulators have also not released a final decision on the merger. It seems particularly provocative for Google to do something like this while it's also an antitrust investigation by the DOJ.
When asked about the status of the DOJ's merger investigation, a Google spokesman said to Ars: "We have complied with the comprehensive review of the DOJ for the past 14 months and the agreed waiting period has expired without any objection. We are confident that this deal will increase competition in the highly crowded wearables market, and we have made commitments that we want to implement globally. "
Whatever the legal issues, the announcement doesn't reveal much about Google's future plans for Fitbit. Osterloh first praised the existing Fitbit range and names the Fitbit Sense smartwatch, the Inspire 2 tracker and various Fitbit health data. Google doesn't make cheap fitness trackers, but the company's Google Fit app overlaps here on both smartwatches and health data. Google wants to "make health and wellness more accessible to more people" and "we are confident that the combination of Fitbit's leading technology, product expertise and health and wellness innovation with the best of Google's AI, software and hardware will lead to more competition in wearables and make the next generation of devices better and more affordable. "
Fitbit CEO, President, and Co-Founder James Park also posted a blog post today saying, "Many of the things you know and love about Fitbit will stay the same. We will continue to work do the right thing and improve your health. " and wellness at the heart of everything we do and offering a unified approach with choices that are suitable for both Android and iOS. "
Fitbit and Google overlap
Enlarge /. The Fossil Gen 5 LTE, a Wear OS smartwatch announced in 2021 with the same CPU as a 2014 smartwatch.
Google's existing wearables platform, Wear OS, appears to be pretty dead. The last major update to the operating system was in 2018, and even before that, Wear OS never had a solid hardware foundation to build on. Qualcomm – the main Android vendor for SoC – never gave Wear OS a chance and instead chose to stifle the smartwatch platform with absolutely terrible SoC versions. Since the beginning of Wear OS in 2014, Qualcomm's marketing department has developed the Snapdragon 400, Wear 2100 and Wear 3100 models. At its core, however, it is a quad-core Cortex A7 SoC that is based on a 28 nm manufacturing process. It was only with the announcement of the Wear 4100 in 2020 that Qualcomm released a wearables SoC that has a higher benchmark than the original 2014 chips.
On the flip side, the Apple Watch, Wear OS's main competitor, has the luxury of Apple's in-house SoC division, which sees regular performance improvements every year. Apple doesn't officially talk much about chip specs, but it does say that the latest Apple Watch S6 SoC is based on the A13 Bionic, and since the A13 is 7nm, it's most likely the S6 too. As a 12 nm quad-core SoC based on Cortex A53, the Snapdragon Wear 4100 is still in no way competitive with what Apple is bringing out. Qualcomm only promises an 85 percent improvement in performance compared to seven years ago. However, when you starve it all looks like a delicious meal.
Google Fit has fallen victim to the impulsiveness of Google: The company claims to care for a certain market, but cannot keep the products in those markets focused, runnable and well supported. Wear OS used to have first-class strength training tracking, with which training movements could be automatically recognized and logged. However, Google inexplicably stopped this feature about two months ago. There used to be a Google Fit website that, like Fitbit, displayed all of your stats on a large dashboard. However, Google killed the Google Fit website in early 2019 after years of neglect. It ultimately never supported things like Wear OS weight tracking, which was introduced in 2017.
Enlarge /. The Google Fit app.
Neither Google Fit nor Wear OS was mentioned once in the Google and Fitbit Thursday announcements.
Fitbit is not a slam-dunk acquisition in the healthcare sector either. While the company was a pioneer in the original step counter market and could (perhaps) be considered a valuable brand, Fitbit's market share has dropped to single digits thanks to increased competition. Apple is attacking it from above with the Apple Watch, and Chinese companies like Xiaomi are dominating the cheap step counter market. How a Fitbit / Google team will solve any of these issues is unclear. Plus, Google Smartwatches aren't getting a stable, competitive hardware platform that they desperately need. This deal feels more like two companies joining forces in last place to survive.
Data protection and the example of Nest has left
A big question about the Fitbit acquisition, like the previous Nest acquisition, is what Google will do with all of the Fitbit data. This issue was a major battleground during the EU's investigation into the deal, and Google made a number of commitments to the EU to approve the deal.
Google's side of the story is set out in the blog post in which Osterloh says, "This deal was always about devices, not data, and we made it clear from the start that we will protect the privacy of Fitbit users. .. Fitbit User health and wellness data is not used for Google ads, and that data is separated from other Google ad data. "Google also says it won't do anything crazy with Android like all Android phones are exclusively for Fitbit -Block wearables, which apparently was something the EU was concerned about.
The part of the EU is here and mostly says the same: "Google will maintain a technical separation of the user data of the relevant Fitbit. The data will be stored in a" data silo "that is separate from all other Google data that will be used for advertising." This sounds a lot like the data segregation promise that Google has made for Nest, where Google says it will "keep your home video, audio, and home sensor readings separate from advertisements". The EU also says Google is required to allow third parties to access Fitbit data through the Fitbit web API. The term of the engagement from Google is 10 years.
Existing Fitbit data definitely needs to be protected, and you can delete your Fitbit account here if you wish. In the future, Fitbit's fitness tracking and Google's Wear OS fitness tracking will be so similar that Google will not receive a new data stream through the Fitbit acquisition. The only new line of products may be cheap Fitbit-style pedometers, but Android smartphones can already, as can Android smartwatches. Google will be gaining more users thanks to the existing Fitbit user base, but as we said earlier, that's not very big as all of the competitors have moved in.
Nest's Google Account Migration page.
Google wants you to separate all of your Works with Nest content, which is no longer working. To me, my favorite Nest app is dead.
It's still a big question what will happen to Fitbit accounts. If we follow the Nest story, which only merged with Google in 2018 after several failed years as a standalone Alphabet company, big changes are likely to come for Fitbit users. Nest users saw the Nest account system being turned off in favor of a forced migration to a unified Google Account. This also resulted in the loss of the Works with Nest API, which affected compatibility with other devices and services. As a brand, Nest has been hollowed out and used for general Google smart home branding. It replaced the Google Home speaker line, smart displays, and Wi-Fi access points and continued to be used on original Nest products such as thermostats, cameras, and smoke alarms.
It seems certain that Made by Google Fitbit branded devices will arrive at some point and Google will likely enter the cheaper fitness tracker market. However, this does not solve any of the problems that have so far kept Google from competing with wearables. If Google and Fitbit couldn't individually compete with Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi, it's not clear why they believe their chances would be better together.
Ars Policy reporter Kate Cox contributed to this report.
Listing picture from Fitbit