Fitbit de-featuring – reading between the lines

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Fitbit – Reading between the lines of recent feature kills

Something unusual is happening over at Google Fitbit.

Mr Google and Mrs Fitbit have decided that their beloved children need some of their toys taken away as punishment for some misdemeanour or other. As is usually the case, the kids (devices/owners) don’t really know what they’ve done wrong.


After Google acquired Fitbit, they kept the Fitbit branding mostly the same and continued to release new Fitbit and Pixel-branded devices. Yet, Wear OS received considerably more new features after the acquisition and let’s not forget, Fitbits do not work on Wear OS.

Last month, Fitbit removed Pandora and Deezer from older Versa devices and removed WiFi and music capabilities from the new Versa 4 and Sense 2. Fitbit also announced the removal of adventures, challenges, and open groups to take effect in late March.

Furthermore, the Fitbit developer community faces cutbacks and restrictions. Fitbit will shut down Fitbit Studio, a web-based tool for building apps and clock faces for Fitbit OS smartwatches and Fitbit will not offer third-party apps on health and wellness-focused devices like Sense 2 and Versa 4

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Why? Reading between the lines

Fitbit’s decision to remove features going forwards may be driven by the simple fact that they are not being used by many people. Whilst potentially true that’s unlikely to be the reason.

The removal of WiFi capability from high-end devices is a significant change, as WiFi is integral to map downloads*, music streaming, and future playback of music to smart home speakers. Thus, the Versa 5 and Sense 3 likely won’t have these capabilities, indicating a shift of Fitbit’s focus more towards core sports and fitness tracking, perhaps reminiscent of Garmin-of-old.

Fitbit may be on the path to becoming a software platform, with their app and subscription services being their strengths rather than their hardware. CEO James Park has hinted at this possibility, which could mean fewer and less frequent new Fitbit watch models. This will open up opportunities for competitors like Samsung and Fossil to gain more market share by converting current Fitbit owners.

As a result of these changes, Wear OS-based Google Pixel watches may be focused as super-smart but peripherally fit watches, similar to the Apple Watch 7 (and earlier). This could necessitate the extension of the Pixel Watch brand to include lower price points or Google could leave that end of the market uncontested as a carrot to its Wear OS hardware partners.

The conclusion of all of this from someone like me offering opinions is, “Really folks, don’t buy a Fitbit until it’s clear what’s happening with the brand“.
* There are other ways to download on-demand and partial maps


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24 thoughts on “Fitbit de-featuring – reading between the lines

  1. Well. It’s Google. It bought a company, so the only question is how long until they kill it. And today the economy is in worse shape than usual, see the layoffs, etc. So it’s not surprising at all. But it is sad.

  2. If a firmware update removed music from my device I would be pissed. If they took away my badges, it’s torches and pitchforks time.

  3. Meh to Fitbits premium subscription. No way there’s enough there to charge $9.99pm for it. Couple of extra graphs with no scales on them and a bunch of pointless filler apps. Let’s see some real stats. Let me compare my 02 readings against my heart rate. Show me how much my heart rate went up during that big hill climb. These are the sorts of things I want with Premium, not cra* like what sleep animal I am. If only I could just download the raw data into Excel. I would actually pay for that.

    1. Lack of viable SPO2 real time readings is huge – and Fitbit / Google refuse to say why they won’t enable it. Many Fitbits have the hardware, and collect data while you ‘sleep’, but only let you see an average well hidden on the watch, and a mystery chart in the the phone app. People use it both for fitness tracking and health issues, such as asthma.

      Loss of wifi on a device with the hardware is a real slap at owners, and there’s no good reason for it.

      The Premium subscription added noise detection during sleep, which was a bit useful. Beyond that, it lengthened # of days for certain data to be available, and then, don’t laugh too hard, it quadrupled the boiler plate in the app, IOTW pages that do nothing and say little yet go on and on with no purpose. I turned it on for my Sense when new and a minute later turned it off – but was stuck with it for 6 months. It made it much harder to actually find your data.

      Coming from a former software developer, it’s one of the worst GUI’s I’ve ever encountered.

  4. Soooo you had these features and was using them, some being the reason you bought the watch… and now they are just taking them away… uh, there needs to be a reimbursement check in MY MAILBOX !!!

    1. And many people bought Fitbits believing the ‘hint’ in the sales spiel that suggested SPO2 data without saying they would never let you see it in real time (like a spot reading, maybe a once every 5 second sample). And so many new models came out hinting that.

  5. I wish they would add a recording app. I would love to be able to record much needed evidence which is very tough to do on a phone without being detected

  6. I ditched my FitBit Sense after it quit working. I have had 3 FitBits over years and they all failed. Time to move on. I think FitBit as we know it will just be incorporated into Pixel. The elimination of some features should be a warning of things to come for FitBit users.

  7. So mad to see this happening. I just replaced my Versa 2 with another one. If I’d known they were removing functionality that I’d had for the last 3 years, I would never have bought another. Glad I at least canceled my Fitbit premium (because they wouldn’t give me the free 6 months that comes with the Fitbit, because they already had me.). They won’t get another dime from me.

  8. Goodbye, Fitbit. I’m researching other watches after being a Fitbit user for over 10 years.
    Hello Garmin or Samsung!


  9. How sad! I have been a loyal nonstop Fitbit owner since March 2014. I have owned several however, if these changes come about this will be my last!!

  10. How can it be that you buy a device because of the features it has and then those features are slowly removed, become chargeable because they get reclassified as a premium service and the app is now worse for connectivity issues than its ever been……. And Google think this is acceptable! Its like buying a car with six gears and after a couple of years being told you no longer have access to third gear as you don’t use it very often! It’s a absolute joke. I’ve been a fitbit wearing since 2016 but this sense will be the last!

  11. If they want people to sign up for the premium subscription plan they need to make it less expensive or offer more enticing features. I use Fitbit on my Pixel Watch. Overall, I’m really happy with it. I actually think it’s an improvement over Google Fit. I don’t have any reason to pay for the premium version though. It just just really offer anything I’m dying to have. The standard free version has everything I need.

  12. I have had a Fitbit for 10 years and have always loved the challenges that I can do with friends. If they take them away, I won’t buy another Fitbit.

  13. I’m still upset that I got in line for the Sense 2 before it was even released and after I got my Fitbit, the dropped the price by $100! Not a way to keep a customer happy. Plus I’m still waiting for Google Maps to be enabled. We were promised when I bought mine that it was coming “soon”. Don’t know how long “ soon” is to them but it’s become later if not never.

  14. What happened to blood oxygen
    tracking as a useful metric? Does oxygen variation help understand apnea events, or hint at COVID onset thru decline? Not to me. This metric of oxygen variation is either an indication that it can’t find useful readings on the back of wrist, or that it violate some medical practice information only available to doctors? My next pda will track O2 levels 24/7. That’s it.

  15. It’s frustrating to me because I don’t have a ton of money and Fitbit was in my price range. It disappoints me that these companies never stop to think about the consumer and their lives. I have a grown autistic son and I can’t afford the expensive apple crap. By taking away the good features they are driving people into the arms of other companies. I may just save my money and go to another company just because Google I’d purposely driving people to their own more expensive watch. No way .

  16. My one Fitbit will be my only Fitbit. I bought it when i finally got serious about getting and staying fit while losing excess kilograms. I think the device itself is fine but the app is appalling. So many bugs that you can see people have been begging to have fixed for several years in forums, which seems to be the Fitbit recommended method of contacting them. Then moderators of the forums ask “Why are you asking that here, what do you think we can do about it?”, while closing the thread and choosing that as the best answer. In more recent times “upgrades” to the app have made graphing and tracking less useful and if you choose to use metric units, you’re in for a real treat for wildly inflated numbers and incorrectly scaled graphs. I was hoping the Google purchase might have garnered the app some love and attention, but we call all be that stupid sometimes.

  17. It’s sad really. Most of people decided to buy fitbit because of challenges availability. Lots of older customers uses it daily not only for fitness purposes but also for chat and support they get from each other while participating in daily goals challenges.

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