Why Does Fitbit's New Watch Skip a Feature Fans Were Clamouring For?

By Alex Cranz on at

I’m a big Apple Watch user, and every time I strap on a Fitbit, I run into the same problem. Instead of opening the Fitbit app to look at my heart rate and sleep cycle, I open Apple Health and then am immediately disappointed because none of the data from my Fitbit actually syncs with Apple Health. Which means it doesn’t sync with my fluid tracker, WaterMinder, or Strava, the fitness app I use every few years when I decide I need to start cycling again so I don’t die. It’s kind of stupid, given that a Fitbit has all the sensors necessary to work with the Health app. It could integrate with Apple Health, and I’m not alone in feeling like, dammit, it should.

Image: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Apple introduced Health three years ago, and it has since become one of the more well-rounded fitness apps available on the iOS platform, syncing with nearly every kind of health monitoring and fitness app available from other companies, including big ones like Strava and Runkeeper, and most fitness trackers too, like those from Fitbit’s competitors, Garmin and Polar. Nearly everything out there works, in some fashion, with Apple Health. Except Fitbit.

The best-selling fitness tracker brand has yet to officially integrate with Apple’s Health app. If users want to sync Fitbit data, like heart rate, sleep, and steps taken, with other data in the Apple Health app, like glucose levels or medicine intake, they’ll need to pony up cash for a third-party app like the £2 Data Manager for Fitbit, that operates as a bridge between the two services.

The lack of options has left users angry. An epic thread from the Fitbit’s Feature Suggestion forum, titled “Integrate with iOS,” has accumulated more than 4,500 comments since a user created it in the summer of 2014. Every couple of days someone trots in to say the lack of Health integration will lead them to Garmin or an Apple Watch. Many express particular frustration with the mere existence of the thread as it has been three years without an update or official word from Fitbit.

Image: Screenshot

A Fitbit spokesperson (who I reached by email) told Gizmodo that the company “remains committed to supporting all our users.” Despite claiming that apps like Apple Health or Google’s similar Fit app are “really interesting,” the company won’t commit to supporting them in the future.

“At Fitbit, our mission is to help people lead healthier, more active lives by empowering them with data, inspiration, and guidance to reach their goals, so we’re always looking for ways our users can use their data to support their health and fitness goals. For the past few years, we’ve been the leader in developing direct partnerships through our open API with hundreds of the most popular health apps, wellness programs, incentive systems and other services that have enabled our users to make the most of their Fitbit products and data. Because of this commitment to connect with other applications, platforms such as Microsoft Health, Apple HealthKit and Google Fit are really interesting to us, and we’re evaluating integration with various platforms. 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.”

Fitbit hasn’t thrown out the idea of integrating with Health, but it’s not rushing to do so either.

While it makes sense that Fitbit wouldn’t want the Apple Watch or some other fitness tracker using its excellent software (then what’s the point of buying Fitbit hardware?), the failure to integrate with existing solutions from phone operating systems just feels like sheer stubbornness. While Fitbit might be a familiar name in fitness wearables that’s rapidly approaching Kleenex-like recognisably, it’s still a small fry compared to juggernauts like Apple and Google.

The Fitbit Ionic, announced on Monday, might help change that. With a great blend of battery life and accurate sensors marred only by an ugly chassis, it’s potentially a very worthy competitor to the Apple Watch. But Fitbit better be damn sure it can win over every user if it’s not willing to play nice.