Fitbit Brings Amazon Alexa to Smartwatches with Versa 2
Fitbit debuted its newest line of smart fitness devices and software this week, including the Versa 2, its first smartwatch with built with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. The Fitbit partnership gives Amazon access to a large potential market of mobile users for Alexa, without needing to create a watch or mobile operating system.
Fitbit Listens, Doesn’t Talk Back
The Versa 2, as the name implies, is an upgraded version of Fitbit’s Versa smartwatch, with new features and hardware improvements. One of the most significant is a small microphone in the watch. Once the watch is connected to a smartphone by Bluetooth, wearers can speak into the microphone in the watch to communicate with the Alexa voice assistant integrated into the Versa 2.
While users can talk to Alexa on the Versa 2, the voice assistant cannot respond by audio as there is no speaker in the watch. Instead, it pulls up visual responses to requests. Alexa can still perform most of the tasks it does on an Echo smart speaker such as checking the news and weather. What makes having the voice assistant on a Fitbit smartwatch useful is that it streamlines things like starting exercise programs and connecting with Spotify to organize playlists for working out. The microphone also allows wearers to dictate messages into text form, but for now, that facet of the watch is limited to Android phone users.
Premium Voice Features and a New Premium Service
From a short test, the Alexa connection works well, much like any other wearable with the voice assistant on it. It can integrate with smart home devices, which could be convenient if you want to turn on the air conditioning right before you get back from a run, for instance. Having Alexa on your wrist could also be appealing with the Versa 2’s other new features, such as timing lights with the upcoming smart wake feature, which is supposed to ensure your alarm wakes you when you are in a lighter stage of the sleep cycle.
Presales for the Versa 2 watch have started, and it will be available on September 15. The watch costs $200, the same as the first Versa when it debuted.
Fitbit’s strategy to offer more features to users with Alexa isn’t the only thing it is working on, however. In addition to the Versa 2 and the Aria Air, a lower-end version of the Aria smart scale that costs $50, Fitbit revealed its new Fitbit Premium program. Fitbit Premium is a subscription service aimed at personalizing health using all of the data Fitbit collects from users. It includes customized workouts and diets, a lot of new health reports and guides, and other tools that are supposed to adapt to the individual using them. Fitbit Premium is $10 a month or $80 a year.
Amazon on the Wrist
Rumors of Amazon and Fitbit working to bring Alexa to the new watch was not much of a surprise considering the push Amazon has been making to bring its Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit (AMAK) to new devices since it launched at the beginning of 2018. Before Fitbit, the only smartwatch to integrate Alexa was the Xiaomi Amazfit Verge, announced this spring. When it comes to the U.S. market, Xiaomi is all but invisible, while Fitbit is already very popular, and could carry Alexa to a wide, wearable customer base.
Amazon has worked at integrating Alexa into wearables besides smartwatches as well. The company approved earbud and headset development kits by Qualcomm last year, and by Knowles a few months ago, and reports suggest that the company’s 126Labs is working on Amazon-brand earbuds too.
Since Amazon has no smartphone or mobile operating system, wearables offer the company the best chance to recreate the seamless Alexa access on Echo devices for on-the-go users. And, Fitbit’s popularity should offer access to a far larger user base than Alexa’s earlier wearable integrations.