Versa Lite, Ace 2, Inspire wearables headline Fitbit's spring product line

The newly announced devices are courting consumers who have not yet delved into the world of fitness wearables.
By Dave Muoio
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Fitbit has pulled back the curtain on its latest collection of health and fitness wearables. Chief among these is a scaled back take on the company’s popular Versa smartwatch called the Fitbit Versa Lite. Other new device announcements include a second version of the kid-focused Fitbit Ace, as well as wider consumer availability of the previously revealed Fitbit Inspire and Fitbit Inspire HR.

In describing each new device, the company explained how it is looking to win over new consumers who might be casually interested in wearables for fitness or health, but intimidated by excessive and pricey tech. From there, the company’s software platform and partner programs aim to keep users engaged and thinking more mindfully about their wellness and health.

 “It’s not just about the device anymore, but it’s about the combination of devices, data, software and [an] amazing community of users who are all coming together to help each other reach their health and fitness goals,” Fitbit CEO James Park said during a preview event held yesterday.

Among the devices driving these goals will be the Fitbit Versa Lite. The new smartwatch contains many of the same features as the full-fledged Versa, such as step tracking, a heart rate monitor, automatic exercise tracking and apps, but cuts certain functionalities like on-screen workouts, music support and a floors climbed tracker to achieve a price point of $159.95 (roughly $40 less than the Versa). Of note, the watch also foregoes WiFi connectivity, and instead gradually downloads its firmware updates each time the user syncs.

“When we designed Lite edition, we really wanted to go after some consumer groups that we feel had been left out of the smartwatch market to date,” Melanie Chase, VP of marketing at Fitbit, said during the event. “These are first-time smartwatch buyers who are looking for something that’s affordable and focused. A lot of these consumers are younger, so these are folks who are really focused on making health and fitness more connected, but they might not have hundreds of dollars of disposable income to go and buy a smartwatch.”

The Fitbit Inspire and Fitbit Inspire HR may have been unveiled earlier this year, but purchase of both devices was limited to employer and insurance plans. That no longer appears to be the case, as Fitbit announced new plans to make these trackers available to consumers at $69.95 and $99.95.

Although both were initially designed to meet the specific tracking and data collecting needs of health plans, Chase said that the Inspire devices would act as the spiritual successors to the Alta line — lower cost bands with a minimalist design and simple features that can support a user who is just beginning to think about their health and wellness.

“Our Alta line of products have been on the market for over two years, and people loved it because it was super slim and super sleek and very simple — it’s for someone who wants a discreet wearable device,” she said. “So we wanted to build on that success, but for who? There is a really important part of the market that we can’t forget, and those are users who are just getting started on their fitness journey. These are people where the threshold for getting started can sometimes feel feel really high. … This product, at under $100, reduces the threshold for people getting into fitness because it’s incredibly affordable, it’s a high value and it starts giving you that positive reinforcement immediately and continuously when you take the steps to reduce your stress, to eat better, to move more, to lose weight.”

The Fitbit Ace 2 ($69.95), the successor to Fitbit’s first child-friendly wearable, looks to be a bit more durable thanks to a bumper casing that the company says will protect the device inside from rougher play. Along with increased water resistance and new colorful bands and accessories, the tracker’s face will include animated clock faces that change throughout the day as the wearer logs more and more activity — in this case, a rocket ship taking off or a tiny creature that grows with daily steps.

“One in five kids in the US is obese today, and a lot of that comes from not forming the right healthy habits at an early age,” Chase said. “Our whole Ace lineup is about helping kids form those healthy habits early, and also empowering parents to see what’s happening with their kids’ activity and sleep so they can help keep them on that right path.”

Why it matters

Fitbit has so far been very forthright about its long-term interest in expanding it data and services businesses. These new consumer devices appear to be right in line with these goals, with designs and price points largely geared toward bringing new users into the Fitbit ecosystem.

What’s the trend

Fitbit revealed strong sales numbers during last week’s earnings call, with Q4 2018 representing the company’s first year-over-year increase in sold devices since 2016. And although Fitbit’s business has taken some hits over the years, 2018 proved itself to be a pivot for the company best known for its wearable fitness trackers — its decision to pursue the smartwatch market has earned it the number two spot in the space behind Apple, while the launch of Fitbit Care has further shored its healthcare-focused programs for payers and employers. The year also saw the launch of the original Fitbit Versa and Charge 3, as well as new female health and sleep health tracking features.

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