Report: Apple to drop Fitbit from its retail stores

By Jonah Comstock
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Fitbit Flex__ColorsAccording to a report in Re/Code, Apple will stop selling Fitbit products in Apple stores in the near future. Apple didn't make an official statement as to the reasons for the decision.

The timing of the report comes on the heels of Fitbit's surprising decision not to integrate with Apple's HealthKit. The company said it found the technology interesting but it didn't yet see the value in integration for its customers. In a statement issued after our coverage of that decision, the company also emphasized the device's multiplatform approach.

"Fitbit remains committed to supporting all of our users, whether they sync their Fitbit products with iOS, Android or Windows Phone devices, Macs or PCs," the company wrote in an email to MobiHealthNews. "While HealthKit works only on the iOS platform, we also plan to maintain direct integrations with our partners so that Android, Windows Phone and PC and Mac users in addition to our iOS users can benefit from our partnerships."

MobiHealthNews proposed at the time that Fitbit might be posting up against HealthKit, which it might see as a threat to its business. Viewed in that light, this would be a bold retaliatory move from Apple. 

But while it's easy to look at this as Apple punishing Fitbit for not buying in to HealthKit, it's equally possible that Fitbit is the first of many activity trackers to be given the Apple Store ax in preparation for the Apple Watch, which also has fitness tracking capabilities. The Apple Store currently carries Jawbone, Withings, Nike+ Fuel, Lark, iHealth, and Wahoo devices in addition to Fitbit. The Apple Watch launches sometime next year.

This leak also comes on the heels of another leak, this one from Fitbit, announcing its long-awaited follow-up to the Fitbit Force, which was voluntarily recalled in response to complaints of skin irritation. Promotional materials for two new devices were leaked, the Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR, and the second notably sports a heart rate tracker, one of the standout features of the Apple Watch.

If the Re/Code report is true, there are any number of reasons for it, though the fear of competition for its new device is a strong hypothesis, given that Apple is also reportedly stopping sales of Bose noise-canceling headphones -- a direct competitor to its recently purchased Beats by Dre line.

The one thing that it's safe to say is that Fitbit isn't getting the ax because of poor retail sales. According to a January report from the NPD Group, Fitbit shipped 67 percent of all activity tracking devices in 2013. The company’s devices also accounted for 77 percent of the “full body activity trackers” shipped during the five weeks leading up to Christmas. At the time, Fitbit devices were stocked in more than 20,000 North American retail stores and a total of 30,000 stores around the world.

Sharing that data has also, unsurprisingly, been Fitbit's response to the report.

"As the #1 selling connected device with 69 percent year-to-date 2014 market share (source: NPD), Fitbit is currently sold in 46 countries and in over 37,000 retail stores, including Amazon, AT&T, Best Buy, Bloomingdales, Brookstone, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohls, Microsoft Store, Nordstrom, REI, Target, The Sports Authority, Tory Burch, Verizon and Walmart," CEO and cofounder James Park said in a statement. "Fitbit looks forward to a robust holiday season as the connected health and fitness category continues its rapid growth."