Fitbit, the leader in fitness trackers, decided some time ago that they would not allow data to be exchanged between their app and Apple’s HealthKit. Apple’s HealthKit is the framework behind the iOS Health app, which allows apps to communicate, sharing data, and allowing the Health app to collate and present that data. The Health app serves as a traffic controller: in it, you can tell which apps are allowed to serve as sources – whose data will be collected – and which apps can read from the HealthKit data.
Fitbit said, some months ago, in a statement posted on their forums:
“We do not currently have plans to integrate with HealthKit.”
As time has passed, it is clear that this was just waffling. Since Fitbit is preparing to file for an IPO, they are clearly hoping to be a competitor to the Apple Watch, and to the Apple ecosystem in general. (Or they’re simply trying to cash in before Apple crushes the company.)
The problem is that Fitbit is making a big mistake. Fitbit misunderstands that the data in their app does not belong to them, it belongs to users. And they are holding that data hostage, while many other companies provide ways to access, download, and transfer their data to other apps and platforms.
Platform lock-in is a big deal for computers and mobile phones, but it is also a big deal for fitness trackers and related devices. Fitbit also sells a scale, and will probably release other devices, all of which collate data in the Fitbit app. In comparison, Withings make fitness trackers, scales, a blood pressure monitor, and more, and they sync their data with HealthKit.
I have both a Fitbit One and a Fitbit Aria Scale, and find the Fitbit app to be excellent, but I want to be able to easily export that data to the Health app. If the company continues to prevent this, it’s unlikely that I’d renew either of these devices, or buy new devices from the company. While I’m not indicative of the average user, the 99 pages, as of this writing, in response to Fitbit’s forum post make it clear that they have plenty of users who want interoperability.
We are living in a world of interoperability. When you refuse to allow users to take their data and put it where they want, you will alienate those users who are the most interested in using your product.