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.
What US game of phones means for Huawei
The Trump administration shocked the world with its ban on US companies supplying Huawei. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK digs deeper.
The Trump administration shocked the world with its ban on US companies supplying Huawei. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK digs deeper.
In the same week that the wildly popular Game of Thrones series reached its climax with major characters meeting their startling destinies, US president Donald Trump took the game of phones to a new level in a move that was as startling.
By declaring a trade ban on Huawei, he in effect blocked any US technology from being supplied to the world’s fastest growing smartphone manufacturer. The immediate consequence: Google revoked Huawei’s access to the Android operating system, the Google Play Store, and Google apps like Maps, Gmail and YouTube for all future phone models.
However, Google announced on Twitter, through its Android account, that it would not pull the plug on current devices. It said:
For Huawei users' questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.— Android (@Android) May 20, 2019
This means that the current market-leading phone, the Huawei P30 Pro, won’t be affected by the ban. Huawei said it had stockpiled chips from US suppliers with this possibility in mind, so it should at least be able to meet demand for the current model.
Huawei is also known to have worked on its own operating system for some years now, with a view to it eventually replacing Android and reducing the company’s reliance on Google. However, the severity of the ban, and its catch-all nature, shook the market. A smartphone without any Google products is a phone that will see little demand outside China, which itself has banned most Google apps and services.
Notably, the first impact of the shock wave was on American companies that supply Huawei. Chipmakers Intel and Snapdragon were hit, and a wide range of other corporations, from Microsoft to Corning, could also be affected. Apple could be next, as the Chinese government may well block the assembly of its products in China. Currently, all iPhones are put together at factories in China. Should it retaliate in this way, Apple will have to develop a new supply chain, both delaying its next versions and increasing its cost due to its loss of a cheap source of labour.
That is not to say that Huawei won’t be a big loser in this trade war. It’s a massive blow. Until now, Huawei could carry on blithely in the face of a sales ban in the USA, knowing it is dominant in the rest of the world in both 5G equipment and in handset sales.
However, its smartphone leadership is founded on a particularly good implementation of Google’s Android ecosystem. Losing that means it has to go back to the drawing board in developing and evolving its own operating system and even apps environment. It can do it, but it will lose years of development to Apple and Samsung.
The bottom line, then, is that everyone loses in this trade war. If the Huawei ban is no rescinded, Donald Trump will have dealt a crippling blow to the entire smartphone industry. This could, in turn, presage a slump in technology shares on the stock markets of the world.
It may, then, appear baffling that the US administration would take such drastic steps. The ostensible reason is that Huawei is subject to a Chinese law that requires local companies to cooperate with authorities. This is interpreted as meaning that Huawei would install secret backdoors in handsets to give the Chinese government access to them, and secret spy technology in 5G networks to allow the government to eavesdrop on all communications.
This is clearly an absurd accusation, as any evidence to this effect would instantly destroy Huawei as a credible provider of technology to the world. No such evidence has been presented, and most arguments to this effect have been on the level of conspiracy theory rather than presentation of facts.
It also speaks volumes that the US has not banned trade with China’s Lenovo, which acquired the IBM hardware business a few years ago, and the Motorola handset division more recently. Motorola is still perceived to be an American brand, while Huawei is perceived not just as the challenger brand it had been for some years, but in fact as an invader brand.
Can foreign policy be based on mere perception? In the case of the Trump administration, that tends to be the rule rather than the exception. And the perception is further clouded by the halo effect that surrounds Apple products in the USA. The iPhone makes up well over a third of all American smartphone sales. Typical iPhone users tend to be rather enthusiastic about their loyalty to the brand, to the extent that they are usually disparaging of any other brands.
Grudging respect for Samsung, which has been going head-to-head with Apple for much of this decade, does not extend to Huawei, which emerged seemingly from nowhere to become the world’s third biggest smartphone brand. Its current sales trajectory has it overtaking Apple very soon, and reaching the number one position by the end of the year. Until, that is, Donald Trump brought its momentum to a halt.
Again, why not ban Motorola and Lenovo in the same breath? The answer may well lie in the pathology of the Apple fanboy. American-born Motorola and Lenovo handsets pose no threat to Apple’s dominance of the US market, whereas the interloper, Huawei, is a fundamental threat. It is, therefore, the enemy, merely by virtue of its existence as serious competition when it is seen as having no right to compete with the likes of Apple. Trump is known to be an enthusiastic iPhone user, using two of the devices simultaneously, and would almost certainly buy into this mindset. That, in turn, makes it a natural kneejerk reaction simply to ban American companies from doing business with Huawei.
Whether this is merely idle speculation is beside the point. The ban also represents self-inflicted harm, which extends the pathology argument to an entire administration.
It will be a blow to both countries, symbolic of how a trade ban can hurt the country imposing the ban. It also casts a dark shadow over world trade, and is a shameful example of how trade wars wreck so much in their paths.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
Time for smart energy
South Africa is experiencing an energy crisis that requires the public and private sectors, along with households to work together. Fundamental to this is embracing innovative technology that provides more efficient ways of managing the country’s energy.
Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa, said: “With the number of connected devices expected to top more than 75 billion worldwide by 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) can be considered an important tool in reaching this goal. Already, connected devices can be used to deliver smart energy that sees a more optimal use of resources.”
This approach relies on a smart grid of connected sensors pointing to areas where energy is wasted. In turn, the supply to these points can be allocated to higher priority areas resulting in a better use of resources.
Aiding this drive towards connected devices is government pushing towards the establishment of smart cities. These cities require a technological infrastructure built around various sensors connected to the internet to not only generate data, but control things as diverse as traffic lights, street lamps, and other electrical devices.
Graham said: “These smart cities enable lighting to be automatically switched off when not needed. Sensors on the connected devices will detect when people are on the street and turn it off or on accordingly. What might seem like a novelty, can make a massive difference in reducing energy waste.”
According to Kate Stubbs, director of business development and marketing at Interwaste, IoT is just part of how technology can be used to create a more efficient environment.
“South Africa produces an average 108 million tonnes of waste annually,” said Stubbs. “Of this, only 10 percent is recycled. There is significant potential to use this waste and convert it to energy. This is more than just the traditional way of viewing recycling. Instead, it is using technology to extract value out of waste through initiatives like refuse and waste-derived fuel.”
The first South African Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant was launched in 2016 and not only aims to reduce landfill, but also the country’s carbon footprint. As the name suggests, the plant converts general, industrial, and municipal waste into an alternative fuel that is used in the cement industry.
Stubbs said: “Spin-off benefits of this plant includes the creation of additional employment opportunities and a reduction of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. Waste management entails so much more than what many people think. But the key remains a combination of technology innovation and a willingness to use the resources generated by this.”
Graham agrees about the need to readily accept the innovation technology brings as the country is teetering on a significant energy disaster.
He said: “New technologies are critical in helping the countries and their cities of the future promote sustainable energy use. For example, Nairobi has introduced smart street lamps that use LED lighting saving money and resources on energy costs. These lamp poles also have Wi-Fi embedded in them that sees air quality probe sensors submitted vital data for city planners on where there are pollution hotspots.”
Stubbs feels these are good examples of how energy management approaches in the connected world need to be non-linear.
“The traditional ways of adopting technology, recycling, and managing energy must be seen as relics of the past,” she said. “Instead, we must all work together and readily embrace modern solutions or risk our country entering a new dark ages.”