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Fitbit launches new smartwatch, and new women’s features

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Fitbit has unveiled the Versa, a metal smartwatch with up to four days of battery life, a new personalized on-device health dashboard and quick replies for Android users

Fitbit, the leading global wearables brand, has unveiled a light metal smartwatch called the Fitbit Versa. It offers a comfortable design and a new dashboard that simplifies how users access health and fitness data. Advanced health and fitness features like 24/7 heart rate tracking, onscreen workouts, and automatic sleep stages tracking meet smart features like quick replies on Android, wallet-free payments, and on-device music, with 4+ days battery life. Versa is available for pre-sale at R3 199, with global retail availability in April 2018.

Fitbit also announced new female health tracking to help women track their menstrual cycle, view holistic health data in one place, and better understand connections to their overall health. Female health tracking will be available on-device for Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Ionic users, and to all Fitbit app users starting later this year.

“As the wearables category continues to grow, Fitbit Versa fills a critical need in the market by delivering a beautifully designed, full-featured smartwatch that is easy to use at a very competitive price,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “Versa brings consumers the advanced health and fitness features Fitbit is known for, along with broad compatibility across mobile platforms and 4+ days battery life to provide users with a better picture of their overall health, making it stand out from any smartwatch available today.”

Fitbit provided the following information: 

Versa launches with Fitbit OS 2.0 for the company’s smartwatches, including a new personalized dashboard that provides a more simplified, intuitive and holistic view of your health and fitness data, bringing the best of our mobile app to the wrist, including:

  • Stats at a glance: See your daily and weekly health and fitness stats, historical activity, heart rate, and exercise summaries, action-oriented motivational messages, tips and tricks, and daily guidance – all on your wrist.
  • More personalized over time: Reminders, celebrations, logging, insights, sleep summaries and social challenges, with prompts to take actions based on your data, coming later in 2018.

Versa also offers all the health and fitness features Fitbit users love most with 4+ days battery life:

  • Personalized fitness guidance: Enhanced 24/7 PurePulse heart rate tracking, on-screen personal workouts from Fitbit Coach,  15+ Exercise Modes, Connected GPS, swim tracking with water resistance up to 50 meters, plus automatic activity and exercise tracking.
  • Take charge of your health and wellness: Use Sleep Stages and Insights to see how well you’re sleeping and set a restful sleep schedule, and Cardio Fitness Level to see how fit you are; move more throughout the day with Reminders to Move. A relative SpO2 sensor opens the potential to track important health indicators in the future, such as sleep apnea.
  • Read more about Versa here.

Optimize your health, fitness and family planning with female health tracking 

Fitbit is also introducing female health tracking to help women understand how their menstrual cycle connects to their overall health. According to a recent Fitbit survey, 80% of women did not know how many phases are in a menstrual cycle and more than 70% were unable to correctly identify the average length of a cycle, demonstrating a lack of awareness about women’s health. Created for all adult Fitbit app users who identify themselves as female in the Fitbit app, the feature lets you:

  • Stay on top of your cycle: Easily log your menstrual cycle data, and record symptoms like headaches, acne and cramps; helps you be more informed about your health and life planning, and, as needed, can help you show your doctor specific details for more personalized care.
  • Know what’s ahead: See dynamic cycle predictions for where you are in your cycle and when to expect your period using Fitbit’s new proprietary cycle algorithm that gets smarter and more accurate as you log your period; see where you are in your cycle at-a-glance on your wrist.
  • All of your data in one place: View holistic data in one place to reveal connections between your cycle and  other stats in the Fitbit app, such as activity, sleep and weight trends to better manage your activity and sleep needs during certain times of the month.
  • Period 101: Learn more about the menstrual cycle, ovulation, fertility and common misconceptions with educational content on the Fitbit blog through the Fitbit app.
  • Connect with others: Join other women through Groups in the Community tab of the Fitbit app for support around key topics like periods, birth control, trying to conceive, pregnancy, and perimenopause and menopause.
  • Personalized insights and guidance: In the future, as the database of female health metrics grows this data may help enable Fitbit to deliver even more insights, such as how your cycle impacts your activity, sleep, weight and nutrition, and potentially how these things can affect your cycle.
  • Read more about female health tracking here.

“Female health tracking will empower women with a greater understanding of their menstrual cycles in conjunction with their physical and mental health, as they start to recognize what are normal trends over time versus what could be an issue to share with their doctor,” said Dr. Katharine White, MD MPH, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine and Fitbit Advisor. “The nuances of the menstrual cycle have not been as widely studied across populations as have other areas in healthcare. This exciting development by Fitbit could help potentially create one of the largest databases of menstrual health metrics in the world, providing healthcare and research professionals with an unprecedented ability to study menstrual cycles and women’s health with real world data.”

Lightweight and modern design for everyday life

Our lightest, most approachable watch yet, Versa is comfortable, durable and versatile enough for all-day and night wear. It features an ultra-thin, anodized aluminum case and is slightly tapered and angled in its design to fit small or large wrists. The rounded square silhouette display features a bright, colorful touchscreen and sharp graphics up to 1,000 nits, providing the ideal format to see all of your data on your wrist.

Versa offers a variety of stylish accessories so you can change your look based on your outfit or activity:

    • Classic accessories: Featuring new stain-resistant materials, these sleek, swim-ready bands are available in peach, gray, black, periwinkle and white.
    • Horween leather accessories: Using renowned and respected tannery Horween Leather, these hand-crafted bands offer a cool, casual look in cognac brown, midnight blue, lavender, and saddle with artisan-inspired tan stitching.
    • Stainless steel accessories: The stainless steel links and metal mesh bands give a polished look to elevate your style. Stainless steel links are available in black, silver or tapered silver; metal mesh bands are available in black or silver.
    • Fitbit Versa Special Edition: Offering two looks in one with exclusive woven bands inspired by athleisure trends in lavender with a rose gold aluminum case or charcoal with a graphite aluminum case, as well as a black Classic accessory band in box.

Essential smart features that help you simplify your life

Versa offers a range of smart features to help you manage your day and quickly get the information you need most:

  • Notifications and quick replies: View app, call, calendar, and text notifications from your smartphone, right on your wrist. Android phone users can send quick pre-populated or customizable replies to text messages and messenger apps (coming soon).
  • Music on your device: Listen to phone-free music anywhere you go using Bluetooth headphones like Fitbit Flyer™, now including your own or curated playlists as well as Flow from Deezer   and 300+ songs from your personal music collection.
  • Pay from your wrist: Leave your wallet at home and easily pay in any store where contactless payments are accepted with Fitbit Pay, available on Fitbit Versa
  • Apps and clock faces you want: Personalize your device by choosing from a wide range of apps and clock faces in the Fitbit App Gallery, including those from Fitbit, Fitbit Labs, and popular brands like Flipboard, Hue Lights, Nest, Strava, Surfline, United Airlines, Weather and Yelp. The Fitbit App Gallery has more than 550 apps and clock faces available today, many of which developers are working to make available to Versa users soon.
  • Fitbit Labs: An R&D initiative introduced last year focused on accelerating innovation and driving behavior change, Fitbit Labs is introducing a New Parent app to help parents more easily stay on top of their baby’s schedule. By logging their infant’s feedings, diaper changes and sleep, plus their own mood, all from their wrist, new parents can better understand the connections between their sleep and mood, and, over time, help build a healthy routine for themselves and their baby.iv
  • Broad compatibility: Versa is compatible across Android, iOS and Windows devices so you can use on most smartphones.

“We are thrilled to offer Fitbit’s global smartwatch community convenient and easy access to the music they want to help them stay motivated on their fitness journey,” said Riad Hawa, Global VP of Hardware Partnerships at Deezer. “With this partnership, we’ve made it easier to have relevant and fresh music on your wrist with Flow, a personalized soundtrack, and a wide selection of playlists – all without having to bring your phone when you’re exercising.”

Versa’s new software features are part of the latest Fitbit OS update, the operating system for Fitbit smartwatches. This software update will also be available for Ionic users.

New tools for developers

For those interested in developing for the Fitbit OS, Fitbit is also launching its first online simulator. This will allow you to easily build and deploy apps and clock faces for Ionic and Versa, without requiring a device of your own. By developing for multiple devices, you can increase the visibility of your app to reach Fitbit’s global, established health and fitness community.

Pricing and availability 

Fitbit Versa is available for presale today on Fitbit.com and select online retailers tomorrow for R3,199 in black with a black aluminum case, gray with a silver aluminum case, or peach with a rose gold aluminum case; accessories range from approx. R499 – R1,499. Versa will be available in stores worldwide mid-April 2018 at Makro, Incredible Connection, Dion Wired, Dis-chem, Totalsports, Due South, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cape Union Mart and Takealot.

With the introduction of Versa, Fitbit expands its smartwatch offerings, providing consumers with greater choice across its product lineup of trackers and watches, and positioning the company to capture greater share of the overall wearables category. According to IDC, the worldwide wearables market is set to nearly double by 2021, with watches driving this growth in the long term.

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The shape of the SME future

What does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s SMEs? COLIN TIMMIS, general country manager of Xero SA and a professional accountant, looks into the tech crystal ball

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Over the past decade, technology has radically changed the way businesses operate. Now, even small businesses have access to powerful tools that were previously expensive or complicated.

The pace of change has been rapid – and it’s unlikely to slow down. Businesses must keep up with technology to stay competitive. According to research conducted by Citrix, 92% of companies across South Africa’s key industries agree that digital adoption directly affects company profits. However, 54% still feel unprepared for the future.

So, what does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s small businesses? How can the other 46% of companies prepare?

5G and WiFi 6 – faster internet speed

In the foreseeable future, we will see a rapid increase in the use of fibre across South Africa. According to Xero’s State of Small Business Report produced with World Wide Worx, 49% of small businesses surveyed used ADSL connections and only 37% used fibre. When asked to describe their internet connections, 45% said they were ‘great’, while 43% said they were ‘okay but not 100% reliable’. 57% of those who said their connection was ‘great’ were fibre users.

South Africa is still playing catch-up in terms of internet connectivity and speed. However, WiFi 6 is set to improve the way routers distribute traffic to connected devices and increase the transfer speeds by around 30%. For when you’re on the go, 5G is the next generation of mobile data standard. It’s already being trialed by South African carrier Rain, and a broader rollout is expected in 2020.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence – more efficient software

Even if you aren’t aware of it, you’re probably already using smart software which leverages machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in your business. While only a tiny proportion of respondents (0.25%) from Xero’s State of Small Business Report say they are using them, most businesses are aware of how important they are.

AI and ML are great at taking large amounts of data and spotting patterns that humans might miss. They help businesses cover some of the more routine tasks so they are freed-up to focus on the most important priorities. For example, tedious tasks like bank reconciliation, can now be completely automated.

Blockchain – safer, more secure transfers

If you hear ‘blockchain’ and think ‘cryptocurrency,’ you’re not alone. However, the technology also has something to offer when it comes to existing payment technologies. Through its complexity and high level of encryption, integration with blockchain can make transferring valuable assets more secure. It can also be used for more effective fraud prevention and other security-focused tasks.

The cloud – access data everywhere

Cloud computing is starting to become a standard part of life for many small businesses in South Africa today. According to Xero’s State of Small Business report, 19% of respondents surveyed make use of cloud technology. Of these respondents, 98% reported a significant increase in profit thanks to adopting this technology – and 99% identified an increase in efficiency.

The trend towards cloud adoption is likely to continue as we see the development of technologies, like faster speed through fibre, WiFi 6, 5G, and machine learning powering it.

Integrated financial software

When it comes to accounting in a small business, these new technologies will enable much smarter ways of working. Take bank reconciliation, for example, where cloud storage and machine learning will search through documents and expenses on your behalf to compile reports.

Eventually, we will be able to access everything we want in one integrated, seamless hub. We can see this development through the use of app integration. Xero has 800+ apps already compatible, which enables small businesses to automate, gain better insight and grow their businesses all through one ecosystem of partners.

Access to capital

Open banking, the process of banks and financial services opening their APIs to the market, will shape how businesses access funding. By sharing their financial data instantly, potential investors have immediate access to a company’s revenue, profits and cashflow – enabling them to make fast, informed decisions.

Platforms like Xero keep all of a company’s financial data up to date. That way, when the company needs to file for a loan their documents are ready to go. Xero is also continuously pursuing new partnerships to help fuel small business growth. Earlier this year Xero partnered with three new alternative lenders, to help improve access to funding.

Digital adoption offers an island of stability in the volatile South African economy. Technology allows businesses to run more efficiently, remain globally integrated, and maximise their profits. Companies which keep up with the latest technology, from incorporating it into their processes to training staff, will have a real advantage over their competitors.

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Cash is here to stay, and other trends shaping payments

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As we enter the next decade, local and African merchants should support payment methods that suit their customers, rather than following global trends just for the sake of it. Peter Harvey, MD of payment service provider, DPO SA, looks at five trends we can expect over the next few years.  

  • Cash is here to stay – for now

Despite common perceptions, South Africa still has more than 11 million unbanked individuals and cash remains the preferred payment method for these and many other customers. 

Harvey says: “As we enter 2020, we can expect a host of new digital payment technologies that sound like excellent options – and they may well be for some – but merchants need to carefully monitor their customer behaviour before they rush to try the latest gadget or fad.”

According to Harvey the banks and card companies like Visa and Mastercard will be placing a large focus on enticing consumers to move from cash to card-based payments in the coming years. 

“Overcoming the reliance on cash will take a fair amount of time and effort,” says Harvey. “For merchants trading in a cash-based community, depositing money into a bank that tracks your spending, charges you to store your money, and then charges you again to withdraw it can seem unattractive. At the end of the day consumers will make their decision based on convenience, cost and risk.” 

Card payments are expected to morph over the coming years. In South Africa the tap and pay method is becoming more commonplace. Harvey believes this and other near field communication (NFC) methods of card payments will continue to grow in use as shoppers become more trusting of the technology and retailers see the efficiency benefits of moving customers through their purchase cycle more quickly and easily. 

  • Mobile is still king 

There is no doubt that the means to facilitate most digital payments in Africa will depend on mobile technology. 

According to South African communications regulator, ICASA, South Africa has a smartphone penetration of 80%. In Sub-Saharan Africa meanwhile, the mobile phone penetration is 50% and the GSMA expects smartphone penetration to grow from around 40% to 66% in 2025. 

Harvey says smartphone technology and wearable technology will allow for the growth in some of the newer payment tech, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but these payment methods will remain in the hands of the top LSMs and have little effect on the bottom of the pyramid customer base. 

“For the moment USSD technology will still underpin the majority of mobile payment methods. Until smartphones increase in penetration, payments like m-Pesa will continue to dominate. Customers know and trust the solution and its these types of offerings that will need to be beaten by any new entrant over the next two to three years at least.”

  • New decade, new banks 

Harvey is upbeat about the new digital-only bank offerings like Tyme Bank, Bank Zero and Discovery Bank. 

“It appears that 20Twenty was two decades too soon,” says Harvey. “The local markets are now finally ready for a new digital offering without the fuss and cost of the traditional offering. These banks stand a good chance of making an impact and making headway towards financial inclusion in the country.”

Harvey believes, that in order to boost the number of people using digital payments, the banking institutions, merchants and payment service providers need to start incentivising consumers to make the switch. Loyalty and Rewards will start playing an even bigger role in the near future.

  • New services for the payment ecosystem

Based on demand, Harvey believes forward thinking payment service providers will work closely with their banking partners to focus on providing their mutual merchants with a ‘fully managed service’. This service includes: instant sign-up; a full suite of payment products; risk screening; account reconciliation; anti money laundering checks; access to shopping cart plugins; and a variety of other value-added services in the online digital payment space.  

These services will enable digital retailers to quickly and easily start selling their services online, while protecting them from the associated risks.

The service benefits the banks as well as the broader digital ecosystem, as the payment service provider actively monitors and manages merchants and transactions, removing risk from the process and facilitating ‘good’ transactions.

  • Identity technology takes centre stage

Looking at newer technologies, Harvey believes biometrics will continue to be the key focus.  

Harvey says voice and facial recognition are set to take off in South Africa in 2020 and 2021 and he believes the key driver in this regard is the increasing use by the government. 

“Banks and Home Affairs teaming up for the renewal of ID documents and passports is a major win for the average citizen,” Harvey says. “This falls neatly into the ‘convenience’ motivator and as people use and trust the biometrics used by the banks for this service,  they will become less afraid to try it for payments.”

As technology rapidly improves, the payments ecosystem can expect some exciting advancements over the coming decade. Chat commerce and even augmented and virtual reality developments will almost all come with payment features. However, Harvey cautions against over exuberance. 

Harvey says “Make sure you cater for what your customer actually wants, not what you think they should want. If working closely with African merchants, banks and customers has shown us anything, it’s that the fastest way to drive away business, is to dictate how customers pay. Provide the options and let them choose.”

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