Since writing about my desire to chronicle the connected life I’ve done a lot of playing around with gadgets but not so much reporting of my findings. One of the health and fitness gadgets I’ve been less keen on trying is the Fitbit fitness band, partly because it just doesn’t appeal to me and partly because of their refusal to embrace Apple’s HealthKit concept.
(For those who missed it, HealthKit syncs all data from health apps to graph your progress in one handy place. Fitbit refused to be included, and Apple took their gadgets out of the online and retail stores.)
I can understand why some are turned off by Apple’s all encompassing closed garden nature, but with regards to HealthKit, it’s not a particularly demanding exclusivity deal. You give data, you can read data back, the user gets better control. So, all refusing to join does is alienate a subset of customers that might otherwise want to use the products.
Anyway, regardless, the news that Fitbit bought out workout app Fitstar was met by me with something of a howl. I have been in love with Fitstar for more than a year, and it’s one of the few fitness ventures I’ve tried that has stuck. (Running stuck but then it injured me.)
Both Fitstar and Fitbit claim that nothing major will change upon this acquisition, but it always does, doesn’t it? Fitstar’s email announcement included the worrying phrase: “The FitStar you know and love is not going away - in fact, it’s only going to get better with our friends at Fitbit.”
The most pressing improvements for them are a move to expand the app outside of Apple’s infrastructure. That’s understandable given Fitbit’s clear distaste for the system. But this worries me on two levels.
- If they’re busy updating the app for others, will the current version just stagnate? It being available on Windows phone doesn’t make any difference to me. The age old question of new users over loyal customers comes to the fore here.
- Will their expansion stop at simply inclusion? Fitbit don’t play well with others. Fitstar previously did work with HealthKit and connected to several other apps to share data. I am guessing it won’t sync with HealthKit in future, and other devices/apps may face a similar fate.
It’s easy to over-react when the news of a purchase comes along but more often than not, bad things happen to the apps I like that get bought out.
The news is even more irritating for its poor timing. Apple are set to update their software with fixes for the buggy HealthKit app that should make it usable. It’s been hit and miss since the introduction but the concept is a good one and I hope it can get more stable to increase the bigger picture view of my health. Whether Fitstar will still be a part of that vista remains to be seen.