Smartphone manufacturers are increasingly focusing on health and fitness as part of their platform offerings, but HTC didn’t build its own homegrown health tracking solution with the new HTC One (M8). Instead, it partnered with category leader and successful startup Fitbit, the SF-based company that builds wearable trackers like the Fitbit Force and Flex, preloading their software on all new HTC One devices.
The pre-loading arrangement means that Fitbit will get first crack at a whole host of potential new users who receive their devices and take a gander at what they offer out of the box before heading to the Google Play Store. That’s a considerable achievement, and one that could help Fitbit become for fitness apps what Kleenex is for tissues, if it can formulate similar partnerships with other OEMS.
HTC is using Fitbit on the One in two ways: it can work instantly with the on-board suite of sensors HTC provides to track fitness levels without any additional hardware, or device owners can opt to buy some Fitbit hardware (including its scales and wearables) to increase the accuracy of the health tracking fed to the One. Either way, Fitbit wins; it gets device sales on the one hand, and access to a wider pool of data even if people don’t convert to hardware shoppers.
For HTC, it means keeping focus – the company doesn’t have to stretch its engineering resources trying to keep up with companies with a lot more access to capital and R&D time like Samsung, which can afford to build its own S Health solution from scratch and outfit their devices with experimental and potentially pricey new hardware components like optical heart rate monitors. Fitbit is also a debut BlinkFeed SDK partner, meaning data and milestone notifications will display live in HTC’s home screen news feed UI.
Fitbit’s Force recall was a black eye for the company, but this partnership with HTC offers a glimpse into how the company might fight back from that unfortunate reversal and continue its path of user growth. For now, the partnership seems limited to just the pre-install, but if HTC can lighten the load for HTC and other OEMs looking to keep pace with Apple and Samsung, it could lead to a lot more down the road.