Just days before the tradeshow here in Berlin began, Fitbit introduced its highly anticipated Ionic smartwatch, featuring a 1.42-inch LCD touchscreen, a new wearable operating system called FitbitOS and the ability to make contactless payments. While those specs are enough to get Fitbit fans excited, the start of a partnership with sportswear giant Adidas was what stood out most. The multi-year deal will see Adidas make an athlete-focused version of the Fitbit Ionic in 2018, which is expected to launch with exclusive content including personal training programs.
This fresh partnership is interesting for many reasons, the first being that up until a couple of years ago, Adidas was making its own fitness wearables designed to compete with Fitbit’s own. With the Fit Smart, launched in 2015, Adidas created a wrist-worn wearable that could measure calories burned, heart rate, running distance covered, pace and count your steps. Adidas also bought Runtastic in 2015 and, earlier this year, said it would be shutting down its aging fitness platform MiCoach and consolidate it with its new acquisition.
Runtastic’s suite of apps, which range from running to nutrition, have been compatible with Fitbit’s products for years, and it’ll be interesting to see if Adidas turns any of those into something exclusive for Ionic users.
At SXSW 2017, Adidas’ Head of Digital Sports Stacey Burr told Engadet that her team was working with third-parties on “personalized” experiences. “It’s not just about, ‘Can we develop a new piece of hardware that is a standalone Adidas ecosystem,'” Burr said back then. “You’ll be seeing that we’ll be opening up a bunch of our content and know-how to other third party devices, and [making] it more of an open platform scenario so that we can extend onto other people’s devices as well.”
As it turns out, we now know one of those was Fitbit. The move shouldn’t come as a surprise though, since its biggest rival, Nike, has been on a similar route with Apple since the early days of the iPod. Most recently, Apple released a Nike+ edition of its Watch Series 2, which comes with exclusive bands and two special watch faces. Adidas declined to comment on this story. A company spokesperson said that it was too early to discuss its Fitbit device, since it won’t be out until next year.