A Fitbit Might Get a Built-in Camera Before the Apple Watch Does
And oddly, it's not a Fitbit smartwatch for adults.
Fitbit’s next smartwatch might have a built-in camera. And interestingly, not one intended for an adult audience. Insider reported that Google and Fitbit’s next project was a cellular-connected smartwatch for kids in November 2022. Now, thanks to images acquired by 9to5Google, we have a pretty good idea of what that smartwatch might look like.
Setting aside the potential privacy complications of a wearable for kids with a camera, the device, if it is released, could be big. Both for Google, in terms of finding a new audience for its hardware, and Pixel smartwatches in general, which were pitched as do-everything devices and have become expensive versions of the fitness bands Fitbit was already good at making.
A Smartwatch — For Kids
If you’ve seen or worn Fitbit’s Versa 4, it seems like this kids' wearable could offer a similar experience. The smartwatch face is a rounded square, and Apple Watch-esque, save for the camera embedded in the bezel. The photos 9to5Google shared feature a model with a bright pastel blue finish and yellow and red buttons along the side. The band itself should also be removable, opening up other customization options just like Fitbit and Google’s more premium smartwatches offer.
According to Insider’s report, the kids’ smartwatch project (“Project Eleven”) was supposed to be focused on helping “older kids form healthy relationships with their phones” while offering parents the ability to “contact their children and know their whereabouts.” It’s not clear if this device is the one referenced in that report, but a built-in cellular radio and camera seem like just the components a Fitbit smartwatch would need to be able to do that.
It Makes Sense
It would certainly be unusual for Fitbit’s first smartwatch with a camera to be a device aimed at children, but the slightly more locked down and limited nature of a wearable does make sense as a first internet-connected device. Yes, your smartwatch can run apps on its own, but nothing as engrossing as you’d find on a smartphone. You might naturally form a healthy relationship with screens because you’re so bored.
Smartwatches are getting bigger and more independent of the smartphones they’re supposed to be accessories for. The Apple Watch Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro are the most recent examples, offering bigger screens and longer battery life, alongside more fully-featured apps. Competitors have tried fusing cameras with smartwatches before, too — Samsung’s early Galaxy Gear and at least one patent from Apple come to mind — Google and Fitbit would just be first out of the gate with a modern take on the idea and a unique use-case.
But that’s something Google, in particular, needs. It can make great hardware and software, but without a compelling case for why anyone should form a relationship with its products over much more popular others, it's out of luck. Maybe starting them young will change that.