Can Fitbit Survive Apple In The War For Your Wrist?

At launch, the Ionic will feature just 11

apps, only four of them made by third parties such as Pandora and the Strava social exercise network–vs. thousands of apps for the Apple Watch. Fitbit is about to release a software development kit so more people can build its Java-based apps, and it claims to have a lot of interest from developers. But developers can reach far more people with Apple Watch apps, using well-established programming tools.

Developers also represent possible competitors. While Fitbit’s data science team toils on the technology to detect AFib, for instance, it’s competing not just against the Apple-Stanford effort but against any institution and programmer who might take up that challenge, or any other challenge, to harness any of the Apple Watch sensors in new ways. That’s been Apple’s killer advantage since it opened the App Store in 2008: Apple outsourced innovation to armies of clever developers whom it doesn’t have to pay. Fitbit won’t build a similar army overnight, if ever.

In fairness, the Ionic is more than just a big fitness tracker. About the same size as the Apple Watch models, it features a bright color LCD screen to display Fitbit apps like the new Fitbit Coach, with animated demonstrations of exercises for user-customized workouts. That screen opens up a comparable canvas for developers to display any type of fitness, utility, or entertainment apps.

Related: The Very Best Superlatives From Apple’s Biggest Event Ever

The Ionic’s 2.5 GB of onboard

storage can hold about 300 songs, loaded from a computer or synced from a streaming service (currently only Pandora is supported) and played over wireless headsets, including Apple’s AirPods. Like the Apple Watch, the Ionic also has an NFC chip for

wireless payments. Its new counterpart to Apple Pay, called Fitbit Pay, is building support with financial institutions like Bank of America, Capital One, and HSBC, as well as the major credit card providers.

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