The update is slated to go live on December 3.

FitbitOS update to come with improved heart rate tracking, sleep health support, plus Wellness Reports for subscribers

By Dave Muoio
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New health tracking features are on the menu for Fitbit’s next smartwatch OS update. Unveiled this morning and set to go live on December 3, FitbitOS 4.1 brings some of the sleep health capabilities promised by the company back in August, refines the heart rate tracking algorithm on Versa 2 devices and adds new features to its subscriber offering.

In terms of the latter, Fitbit Premium users will be able to download a “Wellness Report” that contains their personal health trends and data, which they can then share with a practitioner or trainer. On-demand offerings are also getting a bit more meat with a mindfulness-focused collection of meditation sessions, breathing exercises and relaxing audio, while the more traditional workout offerings now included a slew of new branded workouts.

For the Versa 2, the company said that is has refined its in-house heart rate tracking algorithm to include machine learning, a move that it claims will improve reading accuracy for users of the newest smartwatch. Additionally, the onboard Amazon Alexa assistant will now understand and act upon more phrases.

And in regards to sleep health, December’s update will bring a smart alarm feature to the company’s devices that gently awakens users during a 30-minute window better suited to their ongoing sleep cycle. Additionally, the devices will display the wearer’s quantified “Sleep Score” directly on the device, as opposed to in the Fitbit app alone.

WHY IT MATTERS

Fitbit has been looking to make its consumer health tracking products stand out from the crowd. The sleep support comes at a time when Apple, its biggest competitor in the space, still hasn’t released any built-in sleep health features for its smartwatches. Fitbit is also still working to get its new premium service off the ground, and any improvement to heart health tracking is welcome at a time when the company has yet to match the built-in atrial fibrillation detection capabilities of its peers.

THE LARGER TREND

Many of these features expand on the long-term health and wellness focuses Fitbit outlined just a few months ago when it first announced Fitbit Premium and the Versa 2. However, the months since have been among the most momentous in the company’s history, as rumors regarding the company’s sale to Google circled and eventually came to pass just a couple weeks ago.

All the while, Apple’s more comprehensive and increasingly healthcare-focused smartwatches continue to hold the top spot among consumers, with others such as Garmin and Samsung also champing at the bit for a slice of the hardware market.

ON THE RECORD

“Staying motivated to maintain your health and fitness routine is really hard around the holidays. We’re focused on making it more achievable through a combination of affordable devices, engaging software and our Premium membership to help you stay on track,” James Park, cofounder and CEO of Fitbit, said in the announcement. “The new FitbitOS update and added Premium features give users even more support with innovative smartwatch tools, fresh workouts, new programs and more, setting users up for success going into the new year.”