As fitness trackers converge, everyone’s sprinting toward confusion

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Fitbit Alta Fitness Tracker GG
Is it an activity tracker, a sport watch, a smartwatch or all three?
Photo: Fitbit

2016 has been a tough year for fitness trackers, with scientists questioning their effectiveness and headlines boldly proclaiming that “fitness trackers don’t work.”

And yet, sales of fitness trackers are healthier than ever, while struggling smartwatch makers are desperately trying to reposition their gadgets to muscle into the fitness market. So what is going on? If fitness trackers really don’t work, why are consumers still buying them?

Fitbit surges as Apple Watch stumbles

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Simple fitness trackers from Fitbit, Xiaomi and Garmin outsold Apple Watch during the third quarter.
Simple fitness trackers from Fitbit, Xiaomi and Garmin outsold Apple Watch during the third quarter.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Apple Watch may be the most recognizable product in the wearables space, but it isn’t the best-selling.

Sales of Apple Watch are down more than 70 percent, according to IDC Research, which cites third-quarter sales figures of the wearables market.

Are smartwatches doomed?

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swimmer wearing apple watch
Is fitness really all that Apple Watch is fit for?
Photo: Apple

The writing has been on the wall for smartwatches ever since Cupertino chose to focus on sports and fitness features for Apple Watch Series 2. Smartwatch sales are plummeting, and fitness seems to be the only profitable area remaining in the wearables sector.

More evidence of this trend emerged this week, with smartwatch trailblazer Pebble reportedly being acquired by fitness wearables specialist Fitbit. We might very well be witnessing the demise of the smartwatch as we know it.

So how did we get here? Is Apple Watch really only fit for fitness, or could it still one day fulfill its destiny and become a true wrist-based computing platform?

Apple Watch heart rate monitor is a beat ahead of the competition

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Update your fancy wrist computer to the latest watchOS.
Apple Watch blasts your wrist with green light to read your pulse.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Fitness fanatics that want a good heart rate reading from their wrist better get an Apple Watch.

A new study of the four most popular wearables on the market found Apple Watch to be the most accurate smart watch for tracking heart rate. And it wasn’t even close.

Weary of your wearable? Sell it to us!

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broken wearables buyback
It's time to turn tour trashed wearables into cash.
Illustration: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Ever open the drawer and go, “Oh yeah. I own a Jawbone UP”? It’s easy to forget about an old fitness tracker or smartwatch you’ve got stashed away, but the Cult of Mac buyback program makes rediscovering an unused wearable more like finding a forgotten wad of cash.

We’ll give you the best price for your wearables, from shiny Apple Watches to older, well-worn products that most other buyback programs won’t accept. It’s a no-brainer to quickly and easily turn an old, unused wearable into cold, hard cash.

Apple Watch no closer to knocking Fitbit off its throne

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Apple Watch
Fitbit won't be worried about Apple Watch... yet.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Despite its focus on helping you get fit, Apple Watch is still no closer to knocking Fitbit off its throne.

The company’s much more affordable fitness trackers have helped it claim 61.7 percent of the U.S. wearables market so far, while Apple’s first smartwatch has grabbed just 6.8 percent since making its debut last April.

Fitbit CEO: Apple Watch is ‘the wrong way to approach’ wearables

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Get your Apple Watch ready for the new iPhone.
The Apple Watch is no Fitbit. Apparently.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The Apple Watch may have out-earned Rolex to the tune of $1.5 billion last year, but according to Fitbit CEO’s James Park, Apple’s pursuing the wrong direction with its wearable devices.

“We look at it from a consumer point of view,” Park said, noting that the Apple Watch, “is a computing platform [instead, and] that’s really the wrong way to approach this category from the very beginning.”