Amazon’s Alexa Wearable Strategy Could Include Fitbit
Android Authority reported last week on a new post by Evan Blass, that indicates the forthcoming Fitbit Versa may include Amazon Alexa access. Blass is a reporter at VentureBeat that also operates a popular Twitter account @evleaks that is currently closed to followers. An image posted by Blass showed a photograph fo the Versa and the front view includes an Alexa icon on the screen with the phrase, “How can I help?”
This rendering, if authentic, provides convincing evidence of Alexa integration. The presence of the Alexa logo is particularly noteworthy. This would also mean the watch will have a microphone and speaker of some sort to enable user communication. Fitbit has an Alexa skill, but to date has not integrated the voice service into a product for direct access to the assistant.
Amazon provides tools for mobile device makers for these types of integrations called Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit (AMAK). AMAK was launched in January 2018 and has been followed by vendor development kits for earbuds or headsets by Qualcomm and Knowles in late 2018 and earlier this year respectively. However, there has been little announced activity around smart watches adopting Alexa. An exception is the Amazfit Verge from Xiaomi which was announced in April 2019. Fitbit’s popularity in the U.S. combined with growing Alexa loyalty among early users could significantly expand Amazon’s presence in this category.
Amazon’s End Run Around Mobile
One way for Amazon to circumvent its lack of a smartphone platform is to become incorporated into popular wearables. Bloomberg reported in April 2019 that Amazon’s 126Labs was working on an AirPods competitor with Alexa embedded that could be a core element of its mobile Alexa strategy.
Amazon’s lack of a smartphone OS or popular device means that Alexa access will always be subordinate to the native voice assistant and only accessible when the user actively opens an app. That undermines the always-available, always-listening, low-friction access that Alexa pioneered. By incorporating directly into devices such as earbuds and smart watches, Alexa could achieve that easy-to-access state despite lack of its own mobile device platform. Fitbit benefits from adding new features for users and Alexa gets more distribution and easy access for on-the-go users. A Fitbit Versa 2.0 with Alexa has the ingredients for a win-win for the companies.