Fitbit’s Blaze Launch Clouded by Class-Action Lawsuit

by Harry Wang | Jan. 7, 2016

Fitbit launched its “Apple Watch killer”—the Blaze Smart Watch—on the first day of the CES week. On the same day, the leader in the fitness wearable market was hit by a class-action lawsuit from consumers who accuse Fitbit of false/misleading marketing about its Surge and Charge HR’s claim that they track accurately people’s heart rate.

The company’s stock price tanked in two consecutive days—amid overall market volatility and almost wiping out Fitbit’s IPO premium that it enjoyed since last July. It is not clear whether investors are disappointed about the Blaze or spooked by the lawsuit that could potentially undermine its user base’s confidence and trust in the Fitbit brand.

When I walked on the CES show floor on the first day, the Fitbit booth was not particularly crowded, and the Blaze section was not either. You can’t judge a product by its show floor traffic, but I still have question marks in my head after having a closer look at it. Three things jumped out:

1.       The watch has a unisex look and I am not sure it is a good thing or not.  My first reaction is this watch is perhaps designed for men since it looks big on the wrist.  But it also comes with bands that feature feminine colors. Even with more color choices, I doubt women shoppers would find the Blaze’s size and shape meet their fashion taste.

2.       It doesn’t have built-in GPS. This is also a perplex choice given that Blaze’s predecessor--Fitbit Surge--already has built-in GPS. It may be a trade-off for better battery life, but for outdoorsy folks, GPS is a killer feature that improves their exercise experience. To be fair, Fitbit has a connected GPS feature on Blaze, which sync location information with the phone’s GPS. But if I am going to wear the Blaze for a 5 mile run, I expect to ditch my phone if all possible.

3.       Integration of workout modules on screen. This is a potential innovative area by Fitbit as the company is integrating its FitStar fitness modules directly onto the watch. When I swiped the screen, modules such as “10-minute abs” or “7-minute workout” start to show. But since it is a demo unit and not directly connected to its app on the phone, I wouldn’t tell how easy it is for consumers to use this feature on the watch.

This software aspect can be an area of contention between fitness technology providers and consumers down the road. Consumers are getting smarter, and they are looking for results, not just a week of “feel-good” when they buy wearables. The lawsuit that Fitbit is facing should be a wake-up call to all fitness technology vendors that consumers will validate vendor’s marketing claims through their own experience and many will not shy from speaking out if they feel being misled. I applaud Fitbit’s recent software improvement efforts that enable its products to automatically detect different exercises and track these activities accordingly. At the same time, Fitbit had better validate and be ready to defend its claims to win consumer’s trust in the long-term.

As to the Blaze, it is probably a transitional product on Fitbit’s strategic roadmap. I look forward to Blaze 2.0 in the future.



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