Fitbit pulled back the curtain on its fall launch lineup this morning, revealing a major new subscription health service called Fitbit Premium right alongside the latest versions of its tried and true consumer hardware products: the Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatch and Fitbit Aria Air Bluetooth scale.
In-app wellness support for consumers
Launching in September, Fitbit Premium is a data-driven health tracking program that records and responds to each user’s personal performance. For $9.99 per month (or $79.99 per year) subscribers in 17 countries will gain access to guided health and fitness programs focused on nutrition, sleep, relaxation and physical activity. These programs will adapt their messaging and goals based on the feedback of the user, and will feature “thousands” of video and audio workouts as well as social challenges and games.
“It’s really an important first step to making health accessible for everyone,” Fitbit CEO James Park said during a press preview event. “It’s an affordable paid service, a single experience that gives you everything you need to get more active, eat better, sleep better, all in one place, where users don’t have to download and manage multiple different apps and services depending on your app goal.”
Fitbit has been testing out the service in Australia and New Zealand, where the company said it has seen increased wellness engagement among users. The company said that it will be launching additional premium classes and resources later in the year that are being developed through partnerships with partners including Headspace, Daily Burn and Yoga Studio by Gaiam.
The tool also won’t just be collecting user data to adapt its programs — it will also collate relevant health trends into a wellness report that users can share with their practitioner, nutritionist or personal trainers. Developed in conjunction with “a range of medical professionals at leading facilities,” these reports will only include the data necessary for providers to quickly glean the user’s general health, but will be expanded down the road to provide a broader selection of reports focused on specific conditions or problem areas.
“Anecdotally, we’ll hear that customers bring their Fitbit app and show it to their doctor. So we collaborated with physicians to design something that would be useful for them, and that they would be able to understand, interpret and give those individuals results that help them on their journey to health,” Amy McDonough, COO for Fitbit Health Solutions, told MobiHealthNews following the presentation. “We see ourselves helping those 364 days of the year that you’re not with the doctor, and then also providing that next level of data to help your doctor in what is typically a very short window of time.”
McDonough also noted that while individuals currently enrolled within an employer or payer wellness plan offering Fitbit products will be able to sign up for Fitbit Premium like any other consumer, the company is eyeing an enterprise-specific rollout of the service for the months to come. This version would generally resemble the consumer offering in features, she said, but could also provide customers with a population-level health data management via dashboard, should users opt to share their data with the program.
Separate from Fitbit Premium is another upcoming health coaching service, where live coaches with access to users’ logged data will be able to provide motivation and guidance to those wanting an extra push to hit their goals. Described by McDonough as the consumer version of what’s already being offered to enterprise clients, the Fitbit Coach service will require an additional recurring payment and isn’t due to launch in earnest until next year (a pilot is scheduled for the end of 2019).
Wrapping up the software side of Fitbit’s announcements is a renewed focus on sleeping health. While Fitbit Premium will include a handful of sleep-specific programs, the company announced that all devices with heart rate monitoring capabilities will soon receive two new features: a smart alarm that wakes up users during an opportune section of their sleep cycle, and a nightly Sleep Score that grades users’ sleep quality on a zero to 100 scale.
Refined hardware devices
All this is to say nothing for the new devices Fitbit will be selling this fall. The headliner here is the Versa 2, a fitness-focused smartwatch that looks to build on the strong momentum of its predecessor. Its selling points include a faster processor, sharper display with an always-on option and a beefed-up battery that, according to the company, will run for longer than five days on a single charge (or a bit over two days when always-on is activated).
But outside of the new tech, aesthetic redesign and cornucopia of accessory bands, the standout update is an embedded microphone for voice-command functions that come courtesy of Amazon’s Alexa. By pressing the watch’s single button, the voice assistant can initiate exercise sessions, perform online searches, control smart devices and other tasks.
Hot on the Versa 2’s heels was the announcement of the Aria Air, a low-cost Bluetooth scale that uploads users’ weight and BMI to their Fitbit app. Of note, the company announced that its new scale has already been chosen by long-time partner Solera Health as the preferred smart scale device for the digital health marketplace’s various chronic disease management programs.
“We’re excited to expand our partnership with [Solera Health] in a way that we can not only incorporate our wearable, but incorporate our smart scale [to] give users a better picture of their health, so that they’re able to look at their nutrition, their activity and their weight in a single experience,” McDonough said.
The Aria Air comes in at a price of $49.95, and will be available at worldwide retailers by mid-October. The Versa 2 will run consumers $199.95, or $229.95 for the special edition that includes a 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium.
Device-driven services as a long-term strategy
The last few years have seen Fitbit pivot away from wearable fitness tracker-reliant business model to a company that splits its revenue between devices, enterprise services and — as of next month — digital health program delivery at the consumer level.
For the latter, the company said that its weight and brand awareness offers an opportunity that few other digital wellness companies can match. Specifically, the company highlighted that 14 million adults are already subscribed to some kind of digital health subscription service, and that 62% of Fitbit users said they are already subscribed to a service or would be interested in doing so.
“There’s currently a void in the market for one app that can do all of these things. … There are a lot of different point solutions, each one offering something different: weight loss, nutrition, meditation, sleep. It’s hard to know where to begin,” Liz Abbett, director of product marketing, software and services at Fitbit said during the event. “This is Fitbit’s opportunity. This is where Premium is poised to make an impact — to connect the dots between these services and offer our own solution that brings it together, in one place, from a brand users trust for health and fitness.”
In particular, both McDonough and Park stressed that Fit will be treating its newest platform as the foundation for software-based health services going forward. Aggregated data collected through Fitbit Premium will be used inform the development of new health programs for general wellness and condition management alike, they said, and could fuel more rapid content updates for consumer and member users.
“Our vision for Fitbit Premium is going to evolve over time … eventually it’s going to help people prevent and manage more serious and chronic disease conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea,” Park said. “And with 27 million active users on Fitbit, that’s an incredible foundation where the launch of this service on top of that will have an immediate impact on the health of millions and millions of people.”
“For us as a business this is an incredibly important launch, because we’re in the middle of a transformation of changing our business model — from one that’s based on episodic device sales, to one where we have a long-term beneficial relationship with our customers, where we’re really looking out for their health long-term,” he said.
Originally published in MobiHealth News by Dave Muoio on August 28, 2019