How Fitbit Revamped Its Midpriced Fitness Tracking Line

August 29, 2016, 1:00 PM UTC

Fitbit introduced two new models in the middle price range of its popular line of fitness trackers and smart devices, aimed at winning the upcoming holiday shopping season from rivals.

The stakes are high for Fitbit, which still sells the most smart wearable devices of any company. Sales have grown strongly, increasing 48% in the first half of the year, but the market has grown even more quickly. Fitbit’s share of the market slipped to just under 30% in the fourth quarter of 2015 and under 25% in the first quarter of 2016, International Data Corp reported.

The new Charge 2, at $150, updates the best-selling fitness tracker on the market. The new model adds a much larger tappable touch screen, better sensors to automatically distinguish different forms of workouts, and closer links to a user’s smartwatch, including using the watch’s GPS sensor to track movement. The goal was to simplify the operations while providing more guidance to the user, Fitbit executives said.

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The upgraded Flex 2 at $100 is aimed at more fashion-conscious consumers who might not want to be seen with the clunkier trackers. The screen-less tracker now features a removable, waterproof module that can go in everything from a swimming-compatible plastic wristband to a gold-plated wrist bangle to a designer-made necklace pendant.

The two mid-priced models slot in between Fitbit’s smartwatches, like the $250 Surge, and its most basic models, such as the $60 Zip. And they also could slot in between competition from the high end, such as Apple’s smartwatch starting at $300 but quickly climbing to $600 and more, and cheap trackers from Asian manufacturers, like Huawei’s $15 Honor Band A1.

But Fitbit isn’t relying on new hardware alone to beat the market. It also introduced a line of fashion accessories and a new online component, dubbed Fitbit Adventures, to get consumers more involved and inspired. Fashion partners Vera Wang, Tory Burch, and Public School will be making bands and other jewelry to accompany the new trackers.

The online, virtual adventures will work with any of the company’s trackers and include hikes in Yosemite National Park and the New York marathon course to start. Each adventure superimposes a user’s steps on a famous path, showing via a phone app photos and other information about specific places the user would be passing.

“Being healthy and active is more than just tracking stuff,” Woody Scal, chief business officer at Fitbit, told a group of reporters last week. “It’s also staying motivated and getting guidance on how to get there.”

New software running on the trackers also adds several features to both new and older Fitbits. Trackers that already give some notifications from a smartphone, such as text messages, will gain the ability to give third-party notifications from apps like Facebook and Slack as well.

Software for the new Charge 2 will also extend the tracker’s ability to give guidance to the user. In Fitbit’s app, users will be able to see a new fitness rating and be measured against all other users. The app will give suggestions and prompts about how the user could increase his or her score.

Some features sound like features that Apple announced in June at its developer conference. Fitbit (FIT) introduced a mindfulness app that takes users through a guided breathing exercise, for example. Apple announced a similar app, called Breathe, that is aimed at helping users relax through guided breathing exercises. Apple (AAPL) also announced features Fitbit already had, like the ability to form user groups and share fitness tracking data.

Apple has made no official announcement about upgrading its watch hardware. According to a report by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is planning to release two different updated versions of the watch later this year.

Shares of Fitbit have risen 11% since it reported promising second-quarter results on Aug. 2. But at Friday’s close of $14.67, the stock remains about 27% below the price from its initial public offering last year.

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