Fitbit has announced that its community features Adventures, Challenges, and open groups are being discontinued from March 27, as part of a ‘streamlining’ effort to integrate the Fitbit app with Google.
Owners of any of the best Fitbit watches or fitness trackers will no longer be able to take part in group challenges with other users. Step count, distance and time challenges such as the ‘Workweek Hustle’ are some of the most common, although anyone could join an open group based around a common interest, such as rock-climbing or yoga.
Adventures were a unique subset of Challenges, encouraging users to explore a different ‘Daily Destination’ and complete virtual courses based on famous trails in the likes of Yosemite national park.
Now, all three of those features are set for the axe, along with any ‘trophies’ or virtual rewards users have received by completing those challenges. Users are still able to join smaller closed groups, but the open groups feature is where people would go to connect with other like-minded Fitbit users all over the world, all joining in the same Challenges and Adventures.
A statement from Fitbit on the community forums (opens in new tab) said: “We’re working hard behind the scenes to enhance the Fitbit app with Google technology this year. As a result, we’re streamlining areas of the Fitbit app”, including Challenges and Adventures.
Fitbit did state that users could “still create a closed group with your friends and connect with other users in the Fitbit Community on our Health & Wellness forums” and “still compete with friends on your leaderboard and earn badges for personal achievements.” It also provided information on how to download your data before the features vanish (fitbit.com/settings/data/export, if you’re curious).
9to5Google (opens in new tab) also reports that Fitbit Studio, the browser-based way to create third-party apps and watch faces for Fitbit, will be shutting down on April 20. We could see this coming, as Fitbit’s most recent watches, the Fitbit Sense 2 and Fitbit Versa 4, both lack third-party app support, and Google has its own Wear OS to look after. However, no mention of this was made in the above announcement, most likely because this is not a user-facing change but a developer-facing one.
However, users are not happy with these changes, especially the scrapping of Challenges. A post on Reddit (opens in new tab) shows Fitbit’s Features Suggestions page overflowing with pleas to keep Challenges, and the Fitbit community forums are similarly up in arms. Although Fitbit is keen to emphasize that some features are still up, such as the forums and closed group, the logical question is ‘how long for?’
Analysis: Better integration, but at what cost?
In its haste to integrate Fitbit into the wider Google ecosystem, parent company Alphabet has been axing important Fitbit feature left and right. The cutting of Fitbit’s music capabilities are another example of Alphabet leaving Fitbit owners stranded, pushing them towards to the Wear OS Pixel Watch, and now Google has struck again.
Fitbit owners are right to be angry as many of these features were advertised as being included with the device, and people based their initial purchases on being able to use them. People use the Challenges features to motivate themselves and each other to stay active, and open groups allow participants to connect with fellow Fitbit users all over the world. It gives the app a sense of community, and rather than incorporate that community into the Google family, Alphabet has chosen to uproot it in favor of progress.
Google’s message seems to be that it doesn’t need or care about current Fitbit users. It’s not surprising that, when you read the forums and Reddit posts, many people are looking at switching to Apple or Garmin. Google’s treatment of Fitbit does nothing to inspire a sense of loyalty to the brand. It even included a link at the end of the email and forum post, informing users how to delete their accounts if they were unsatisfied with the change.
Although there is a significant overlap between Fitbit’s watches and Google’s own Pixel Watch, it seems the two brands cannot sit side-by-side for very long in Google’s stable. Fitbit accounts will require Google logins from this year, and we’re likely to see more changes very soon. Alphabet is going scorched-earth with Fitbit, content to burn it down and alienate the existing userbase as it does so – a baffling move from a business perspective and a heartbreaking one in the eyes of longtime users.