Wearables Week in Review

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Week In Review

First Pixel Watch Rumor (of the month)

Another month, another rumor: yes, we’re still seeing Pixel Watch rumors swirling around, but there appears to be more substance to them at this point. Firstly, there’s a strong suggestion that the Watch will be launched on May 26. But more interestingly, according to Android Police the wearable has been spotted in US carrier back-end inventory systems. Under the codename “Rohan”, the device appears to be listed in gray, black and gold colors with 32GB of storage. Little else seems to be known, but the very fact that it is (perhaps) in a carrier inventory strongly suggests a cellular version of the watch.

The NPD Take:

  • The expected launch date is the Google I/O event, which is usually held in May. Further, we would expect to see the Pixel 6a smartphone launch at the same time, allowing carriers to bundle together the two Google devices.
  • Google needs to ensure that the watch market opportunity is far larger than simply the consumer base that own Pixel phones if it wants to make a significant impact, although demand for the watch could drive more sales of the smartphone too.

Too hot to handle?

Fitbit has recalled all its Ionic smartwatches due to a risk of burns caused by an overheating battery. According to details published by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Fitbit has received at least 115 reports of overheating issues in the US (and 59 internationally). The company is taking a very proactive approach to the recall, offering a $299 refund to customers (that’s pretty much the full price of the original device) as well as discounts on other Fitbit devices and accessories for a limited time. Indeed, Fitbit is offering a discount code for up to 40% off up to five Fitbit devices, which is a good move indeed (although it certainly increases the financial impact of the recall, with a full price refund AND presumably most of the profit shaved off the new device too). Still, while it may be expensive, it is necessary to keep the consumer within the Fitbit ecosystem.

The NPD Take:

  • Recalls are never good news for a manufacturer. They shake the consumer’s faith in the brand (even when the recall is handled well – and generously – as Fitbit is). Further, with fresh cash in the pocket from the recall, some Fitbit customers could take this opportunity to switch allegiance to an alternative brand, such as Apple.
  • Apple has historically benefited the most when consumers transition from activity trackers (where Fitbit dominates) to smartwatches, with many Fitbit customers morphing over to the Apple brand. With Fitbit having a relatively low share of the smartwatch consumer brand, this latest recall is a tricky time that they need to navigate carefully.

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