Here I am with an old Fitbit Ultra looking to replace it and move up in the fitness tracking game... And there appear to be many players on the field these days. Nike just released its new FuelBand SE. Fitbit has both the Flex and the Force now. And then today, Jawbone announces the UP24, their first wirelessly syncing fitness tracker (yes, both previous versions of the UP band required a physical connection to your phone to sync their data).
So what's a guy to do?
Well, as an Android user, two options are already out the window. Both Nike's FuelBand and the Jawbone's new UP are iOS only. Yes, you read that right... the mobile OS with 80% global market share is flat out not supported by two of the largest players in the fitness tracker market.
But WHY? Nike basically says "because fragmentation." Well, essentially they're blaming the lack of broad Bluetooth 4.0 LE support among Android devices and software. And at first glance that makes some sense... I mean Android as an OS didn't event support it until version 4.3. And many devices are yet to receive an update to 4.3. Then there's also the fact that a lot of the hardware doesn't support it yet.
But let's look at the hardware that DOES support it and either already has Android 4.3+ or is going to be getting it VERY soon... Samsung Galaxy S3, S3 Mini, S4, S4 Mini, Note 2, Note 3... as well as the last two Nexus devices (and their sister LG devices, the Optimus G and G2) and HTC's latest flagships, the One, One Mini and One Max. And let's not forget the new DROID line as well as the Moto X.
That's just a handful of devices in the Android world... so why would anyone make a product just for those? Let's look at some numbers... even just the Samsung devices. The S3 has sold over 50 million units and is shortly to receive it's 4.3 update. The S4 has already sold over 40 million units and many of the variants already have updated to 4.3. The Galaxy Note 2 has sold over 30 million devices and should again be receiving it's 4.3 update soon. The Note 3 actually shipped with Android 4.3 and while I don't have up-to-date sales, it did sell over 5 million in just its first MONTH. So just with 4 models, in one brand, we're looking at a potential 125 million units.
Sure, a large majority of those people probably don't care about a fitness tracker - but take a look at most of the models that do support BT LE... they're all flagship models, ie, not cheap. If anyone is going to be buying your fitness tracking products, it's going to be the people getting new flagship phones on a regular basis (I'm on my 4th phone in 2 years!).
My point is... you can't ignore hundreds of millions of potential customers for too much longer. Jawbone today has said they expect their Android app some time in 2014, but Nike hasn't really said too much either way. I find this fucking absurd. Two years ago, OK, I get it. Android wasn't ready. Last year? Eh, a few devices were kind of there but it might be still a bit early. In late 2013? Android 4.4 coming out? Every flagship (and lower) device supporting BT LE?
So to go back to my original question... what do I do? Do I settle for one of the Fitbit products (which actually aren't bad) that already support Andoird? Do I suck it up and buy one of the other products and sync with my work iPhone hoping that eventually I'll be able to switch it over to my personal phone if an Android app is ever released? I don't know. Nike and Jawbone's current positions on Android actually make me want to not give them money, so it's a tough one. Maybe by Christmas this will work itself out and I'll know what I want... until then I guess I'll just wait for my Ultra to die or get lost or something.