To most people, the entire self-quantified revolution (in which you track and break down everything you and your body does, into a number) started with a Fitbit. While I would dismiss that as just fan clubbing, there is no stepping away from the fact that Fitbit really did bring idiot-proof fitness wearables to the mass market.
They took the large, frustratingly inaccurate and very unwieldy pedometer devices, shrunk them down, got them connected to an app and made them really easy to use.
That’s one of the reasons why they are known as the Apple of the wearable market: they have the largest share in the category and were valued at about US $8 billion after their recent IPO. Thus, when Fitbit chooses to come into India officially, it’s huge news.
Mi band’s (above) lack of a screen is a downer.
But it also raises many questions: is there such a large market in India that Fitbit chose us over many other countries? Are they coming in too late as some of the others have established a stranglehold already? And what exactly is the competition for Fitbit in India in terms of products as well as price points?
Let’s strap things on tight, sprint through the wearable market in India and see what numbers the screen throws up. Fitbit has come in swinging hard with its full range and fairly aggressive pricing. Let me break down the range with a quick hands-on review of each.
Surge is the flagship device at Rs 19,990. It’s called a Super Watch, does everything a normal Fitbit does (steps, distance, calories, floors) plus adds on a GPS to track your run and map it. It can also track your heart rate 24x7 (a very big deal). Battery lasts about seven days.
It’s a little thick, the screen is almost 1990s-digital-watch level, and notifications are restricted to calls and SMSs received on your smartphone. Heart rate, floors climbed and sleep-tracking are uncannily accurate. Overall, it’s excellent if you are a frequent runner but otherwise it’s overkill.
The Charge and Charge HR
Both are pretty much the same, other than the fact that the Charge (Rs 9,990) doesn’t have 24x7 heart-rate tracking and the Charge HR (Rs 12,990) does. Both can quantify all your activity metrics as well as smartphone notifications.
But the Charge HR is easily the better of the two just for the fact that it can track your heart beat and resting beats per minute day and night, and still give you about five days battery life. Keeping it connected with your smartphone for notifications reduces battery by about a day.
Aria Weighing Scale
A weighing scale that can tell your weight, your fat percentage, BMI and a whole lot more, and connect to your app, to mesh all your fitness activity with your weight goals. But a connected weighing scale costs a whole lot more than your normal bathroom scale.
Still, it’s simple to use, the battery lasts for quite a while and all your family members can use it, and it’ll recognise each of them automatically. The device is priced at Rs 9,990.
There are other devices like the Flex (Rs 6,990) and the Zip (Rs 3,990), but in essence, these are the four that form the top layer of what Fitbit is all about. Time now to run the Fitbit through the competition.
This is the brilliantly thought-out wearable with the big advantage of a live coach, that trains you based on your data. GOQii has a huge price advantage, 15-day battery life, first mover momentum plus the coaching USP.
There is a rumour though, that Fitbit users can use their data to get GOQii coaching. If that happens then that’s a strategic advantage move for both Fitbit and GOQii.
Xiaomi Mi band
Brace yourself for this one. If Fitbit leads the world, then who is number two? None other than our Chinese iPhone ‘giant killer’ Xiaomi. Having crossed shipments of a million Mi bands worldwide and still going strong, this is a player on the move. The Mi band has price on its side but the band has no screen to display your numbers, no heart-rate tracking and the ecosystem is just its own app.
If there is a number one and number two in the world, then there must also be a number three. That’s Garmin which rules the roost with Vivofit and Vivosmart. The Vivofit has an exceptional battery life of more than a year while the Vivosmart is a cross between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. Vivo entered India almost a year ago and is pulling in some big numbers.
Micromax YuFit band
This is the Xiaomi killer with a similar price point, a screen to see all your data, a food app that can log your food by just taking pictures of what you eat and a battery life of 15 days.
The only problem: it’s still missing in action. Despite the announcement quite a while back, the band isn’t out yet. That, in short, is the crowded and very aggressive India market for Fitbit to negotiate. Conventional wisdom would dictate that Fitbit should have entered the Indian market at least a year ago, when the competition was literally nil.
But then, this is the world leader of fitness wearables. They can afford to gently jog through the market at a marathon runner’s pace. We’ll check out the numbers and data they accumulate at the finish line.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, July 5
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