A bad day to buy a GPS watch

Google announced the developer preview of their new Android Fit Platform and with it the new Fitness Data Store.

This is pretty big news for three reasons:

1) It will be accessible from a REST API (hopefully with push notifications). If Apple follows suit, I think this will mean that all of the apps that have been ruthlessly siloing their data are suddenly left without clothes and on the defensive. In the end, there will only be 2 silos: Apple and Google. Users just won’t use apps that don’t integrate with the Fitness Data Store, and Google and Apple will be in a position to simply prohibit them from the App Store.

2) Combined with the new Google Wear SDK announcement, this means that app developers can compete with the big hardware manufacturers on their home turf, a watch on someone’s wrist. With a price point at or below $200, there’s virtually no reason I can imagine why someone would want a dedicated fitness watch. They’ll go the way of dedicated phones dedicated to making calls. Maybe not this year, but in 2 or 3 years I don’t see how Garmin, Tom Tom,  Suunto, Polar or any one else can stay in this business without making Android watches. They’ll have to fight tooth and nail or go the way of Blackberry or Nokia.

3) The new Sensors API looks like it lowers the bar to making a fitness app to essentially a UI exercise. Which is great for everyone, because developers can focus on adding value above and beyond logging data from sensors. That should free them up for all kinds of innovation. But even more importantly, up until now, most of the major apps have been able to keep a pretty tight hand on their user’s data by either crafting terms of service that made it impossible for competitors to use their APIs, or deliberately crippling their data exports in subtle ways to sabotage the data quality. With the new Fitness Data Store and Apple Healthkit, that’s likely going to become much more challenging. All of a sudden, they’re going to have to compete on quality rather than lock in, and that’s going to be great news for everyone.

Nothing like a little market disruption to get the blood flowing. I can’t really see how this isn’t incredible news for runners everywhere and, of course, for those platforms that have aligned their interests with runners as closely as they can, of which Smashrun humbly aspires to number among.
I think I’d already be coding an integration tonight if the REST API was available. But unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to wait for the Official release for that.

2 thoughts on “A bad day to buy a GPS watch

  1. I’m still not sure that the GPS quality in the Android environment or the battery life with it on is good enough yet to squeeze out the specialty watches. If those things can be resolved, I think that’s when things get really interesting.

  2. Agreed. Not sure always on GPS is feasible in a watch without some advancement in battery tech. But I suspect a “sport watch” version from Samsung or LG competing head to head with Garmin, TomTom, etc is just a matter of time. The smart watch seems to many to be cool tech in search of use case, and I have to imagine the major manufactures must be looking to the established fitness market, especially when Android and Apple have made it clear that fitness is going to be a cornerstone of their APIs. Anytime dedicated hardware goes up against software, software is going to win, just a matter of when.

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