Apple launched its smartwatch wearable to the market in 2013 a year before Google launched its Android Wear (now Wear OS) and despite the latter partnering with big names namely Motorola, Huawei, LG among others who were leaders in the market it has remained less than a minority in the wearable market with Apple boasting a huge 37.9% market share in North America unrivalled by any other wearable OEM, the acquisition of Fitbit poses an interesting two-in-one question – Can Google now compete with Apple or are they too late? Another question that’s worth investigating is – what is the worst-case scenario for Google’s wearable ambition from here on and what’s the best?
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Figures from Canalys shows that Apple may soon monopolise the market at least in North America. Whether a Google/Fitbit collaboration would challenge that seems unlikely seeing that Fitbit as a company was struggling just before the acquisition with the stock hovering around $2.7 a far cry from the $30+ it was valued. But with Fitbit at ranking next to Apple in market share.
The acquisition of Fitbit could end Google’s failure in the wearable market. Over the years the company’s wearables have failed to garner followership but the search giant isn’t giving up. Over the years Fitbit has become known for its accessible hardware, but it was its software—its mobile app, social network, sleep tracking, subscription coaching—that made it stand out in an ocean of fitness wearables.
Fitbit position as the leader in wearables and healthcare products leader pre-Apple’s wearables has weakened over the years. It was for a long time the clear leader in activity-tracking wearables. It opened the floodgates for a decade of innovation around Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-connected wrist dongles, ones packed with sensors, displays, and batteries that got better each year.
Google says it is acquiring Fitbit to bring together “the best AI, software and hardware” in order to “spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.”
Apple, Xiaomi, and Huawei held the lead in the global wearables market as of the second quarter of this year—even with the marriage with Fitbit, Google may remain yet a small player and whether the new development packs enough power to punch through in a market dominated by such giants remains debatable.
To answer the question if Google has arrived too late to the after-party, that may not be true. Targeting a global market may be the best strategy for the tech giant though. While the North American market is being engulfed by Apple global market may be ripe for the picking.
If Google can somehow find a way to create the need for health wearables in Africa then it would have a huge market in its hand and may well begin to challenge the biggest players in the market. Eventually, Africa will have to get on the wearable train it’s time someone steps up and create that need.