Fitbit Labs, the company's branch that builds apps and watch faces for its smartwatches, has announced it will retire several of its creations.
Fitbit says it will be removing the New Parent, Tennis and Think Fast apps on 15 June, as well as the Mood Log clock face. If you already have them on your device, they won't disappear, but Fitbit says functionality “will be reduced”.
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Fitbit told us it's retiring them to make way for “more experiments in the future”, but the decision strongly implies users simply weren't using these apps very much. We're hardly surprised: smartwatch apps, particularly third-party apps and those that don't come “baked into” wearables, have struggled to find a footing. Fitbit has fostered a decent community of people designing watch faces, but its app ecosystem feels immature next to the Apple Watch and even Wear OS.
“Since its launch in 2017, Fitbit Labs has developed and tested potential Fitbit features through a variety of experimental apps and clock faces designed to motivate users and help drive behavior change,” Fitbit told us in a statement. “Apps and clock faces from Fitbit Labs are designed to be available for a limited time to help us gain valuable feedback and insights for developing future features that enhance our user experience.”
Most of the apps being killed off launched late 2017, to coincide with the arrival of the Fitbit Ionic, while New Parent launched in time for the Versa smartwatch in March 2018.
Fitbit also tells us that some elements of these “experiments” may appear in future smartwatch features. In fairness, Fitbit has, in the past, been open about the possibility that some of these experiments could fail. In a blog post from December 2017, the company spoke quite candidly about Labs and noted that some apps could be discontinued if they weren't a success.
The news comes just days after Apple announced it will launch a standalone App Store for its Watch – a move we've interrogated on the basis that we've seen several major apps remove Apple Watch support, which again asks the big question here: are apps really that vital for smartwatches?