Fitbit Adds Google Assistant to New Versa 3 and Sense Smartwatches, Keeps Alexa Option
Fitbit added Google Assistant to its smartwatch line for the first time on Tuesday when the company introduced its new Sense and Versa 3 smartwatches. Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will still be an option on both smartwatches after first appearing on the Versa 2 a year ago, despite Google announcing in November that it will buy Fitbit for $1.2 billion and Amazon’s own new Halo fitness wearable.
The two new smartwatches include a host of new and updated features. In terms of voice technology, the biggest change is that both the Versa 3 and the Sense incorporate a tiny speaker. The Versa 2 has a microphone, but would only respond with text on the screen. Now, Alexa and Google Assistant will actually be able to speak aloud, albeit very quietly. Both also include GPS, which the Versa 2 does not. The Versa 3 costs $230, while the Fitbit Sense is priced at $330, the most expensive Fitbit device ever produced. While the watches are available to buy today, Google Assistant won’t be available until later this year, according to Fitbit. The delay is odd, though Google Assistant’s inclusion is not a big surprise considering the acquisition plans. That Alexa is still available suggests either that Google is open to having including a rival voice assistant option as it does on Android devices, or perhaps that Amazon and Fitbit signed a contract for adding Alexa to more than just the Versa 2.
The Sense does have some unique features to go with the price point. The smartwatch includes an electrodermal activity sensor. Wearers put their palm over the watch to measure essentially how sweaty you are by how well your skin is conducting electricity. Combined with heart rate, skin temperature, and other data, the smartwatch will try to analyze stress levels to paint a clearer picture of the user’s health. The Sense is also the first Fitbit device to offer an electrocardiogram for tracking heart rates more accurately than the standard pulse timing, but that sensor won’t be active as the FDA has to approve it first. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Apple Watch Series 5 already received approval for the same kind of sensor, so it likely won’t be inactive for very long.
Google’s acquisition of Fitbit isn’t complete yet, so the new devices lack much in the way of Google’s imprint. In the next iteration of devices or the one after that, Google’s Wear OS might be a part of Fitbit watches, if only to connect them to other Google wearables. The company acquired Fossil’s smartwatch technology almost two years ago and has been pushing out upgrades to the Pixel Buds earbuds that suggest an interconnected ecosystem is the goal. Controlling the software people run on their devices on a daily basis is the point. Google wants people to build out Google Nest-powered smart homes. Offering Google Assitant and Google apps on smartwatches and other kinds of wearable tech strengthens that pitch.
“Our mission to make everyone in the world healthier has never been more important than it is today. COVID-19 has shown us all how critical it is to take care of both our physical and mental health and wellbeing,” Fitbit CEO James Park said in a statement. “Our new products and services are our most innovative yet, coupling our most advanced sensor technology and algorithms to unlock more information about our bodies and our health so you can be in control. We are breaking new ground with our wearables, helping you better understand and manage your stress and heart health, and pulling your key health metrics together in a simple and digestible way to track things like skin temperature, heart rate variability, and SpO2 so you can see how it’s all connected. Most importantly, we are making health accessible, surfacing new data that you may only get once or twice a year at the doctor’s office that you can use to focus on your holistic health and wellness, at a time when it’s needed most.”