Fitbit's new smart watch, Versa, is not openly marketed to women. Doing that could alienate your male clients, who currently represent more than half of the Fitbit user base. But today Versa's release coincides with plans for a new feature of the application that is very clearly targeted at women: monitoring the period. It is another attempt by Fitbit to attract users to its ecosystem, even when the company has difficulty maintaining its leadership in the garment market.
This is how Fitbit's period tracking function is supposed to work when launched in April: it's free and will not only work on the Versa watch, but also on the Fitbit Ionic watch and the mobile application. If you indicate during the incorporation process of Fitbit that you are a woman, the application will ask you if you want to participate in the monitoring of your menstrual cycle. Once you do that and start counting the application when its period begins and ends, the application will show its week of predicted period as pink, and its fertile window predicted as blue.
You will not be able to manually enter anything in the application, but you will be asked to touch a series of icons that describe the premenstrual symptoms, the consistency of your body fluids, if you have headaches or acne, your sexual activity and more. If you get pregnant or take the pill the day after, both period switches, the application will also want to know.
All this is supposed to help inform its users, who, according to Fitbit, had been requesting the monitoring of the period as one of the "five main characteristics" for a while. And perhaps in the not too distant future, this could help people detect patterns in their periods and other health measures (although Fitbit will not account for data such as heart rate in the first versions of its period tracking function).
Fitbit says that this is not an aid to conception or contraception, and it is not clear what your long-term goals are when collecting this data. Over time, will this data lead to a more serious follow-up of fertility or will it fuel the company's corporate health initiatives? Unclear Everything is part of the "holistic image" of health and fitness, says the company.
In the short term, Fitbit believes that it can help users detect, at least, individual patterns over time. "The period can be the canary in the coal mine," said Dr. Katharine White, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Boston University School of Medicine. White partnered with Fitbit to help design this part of the application and create some of the medical content that will be published along with it.
"The application not only allows you to record the days you bleed, but how heavy the flow is, so if your period is heavier for longer than it should be, it could be a fibroid," White said, as an example. of how period tracking can add value. He later added that menstrual cycles are part of a category that is "little investigated at a high population level."
For Fitbit, however, that added value has to come quickly. Fitbit has had problems during a transition period during the past year, has just reported on the sad holiday gains and is no longer the best apparel manufacturer in the United States. Now he wants to enter a more serious health monitoring. Presumably, the more rigid a digital health application is, and the more people start pouring into it, the more inclined they will be to continue using their product. The question is whether a feature such as tracking the menstrual cycle will really add so much value to Fitbit or if it is a desperate attempt to catch up with applications, including Apple's Health, who have been doing this for years.
There is no doubt that there is a market for this type of applications, in spite of the imprecises that are some of those that focus on fertility. There are more than 2,000 applications related to obstetric gynecology in app stores, and Fitbit says that 24 percent of adult women in the US UU Use some type of period tracking application today. Once again, this has been one of the most requested functions by the user base of Fitbit. The company wanted to address the needs of the users. Fortunately, he did it in a more thoughtful way than simply putting on and taking off a smart watch.
More reflective than just painting and shrinking a smart watch
In addition to simplifying the functions of the application: Fitbit users now do not have to open a separate period tracking application, if they like this kind of thing, Fitbit is not getting the type of tone that differentiates it from another period. tracking applications. Period tracking application Clue has cultivated a loyal following base, and for good reason: as The Cut points out, the application allows users to track "up to 31 possible categories, including cravings, digestion, hair, skin, emotions, motivation , sex, and something interestingly, a call & # 39; party & # 39; ". When PayPal co-founder Max Levchin launched the Glow application focused on fertility in 2013, he launched a kind of mutual insurance fund that is supposed to help pay for fertility treatments if a person does not get pregnant within 10 months. to use the application.
Then there is Apple. Apple launched the monitoring of menstruation in its Health application in 2015, and other applications (such as Clue) can also share data with Apple's AppleKit. Fitbit does not share data with HealthKit.
In any case, it seems that Fitbit is careful not to define the purpose of the function from the boarding gate due to the controversy related to the applications and devices for monitoring fertility. The Fitbit app will show users their probable fertile window and period weeks, and yet Conor Heneghan, Fitbit's lead research scientist, said: "We are definitely not trying to say that we can predict ovulation or fertile periods [launch]. ] ".
"The only area in which both patients and doctors should be careful is when [an app] is used for contraception, whether it is natural family planning or fertility awareness, because that can literally affect the life of a woman, "said Nathaniel DeNicola, a faculty member at George Washington University Hospital and co-chair of the telehealth working group of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (DeNicola did not receive information about the Fitbit news). "Some applications have been marketed only as a contraceptive device, which could be misrepresenting its effectiveness."
So, version one of this feature really looks like your basic period tracking application. Maybe that's all Fitbit needs if its users decide it's easier to do all this period by logging into the Fitbit app, right next to their steps and sleep and calories and everything in between. It is almost certain that Fitbit has more important plans in mind for what it intends to do with all this information, even if at this moment it is about "educating people simply about what 'fertility' means," according to White.
Or maybe this is just another tactic for Fitbit to keep a large part of its user base returning to its application month after month, even if hardware sales are decreasing.