Fitbit CEO reveals new products and potential for further growth

Fitbit, the wearable tech company that’s grown into the world’s largest maker of fitness trackers since it was founded in 2007, is releasing two new wristbands, the Charge 2 and Flex 2.

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Fitbit founder and CEO James Park

CBS News

“What we’ve done is we’re giving people even deeper insights about their health and physiologies,” Fitbit founder and CEO James Park revealed Monday on “CBS This Morning.” “We’ve introduced features such as cardio-fitness level, which is based on VO2 max. So this is a test that previously you could only do if you went to a performance lab and wore an oxygen lab and had experts test you – now it’s available on your wrist.”

VO2 max measures aerobic capacity, or how well one’s body uses oxygen while working out.

Fitbit has sold more than 48 million wearable devices in 64 countries. The devices have been popular for their ability to measure health data such as the number of steps walked, a person’s heart rate and sleep quality.

There is also a new feature called “Relax,” “where we actually detect your breathing rate and guide you through personalized breathing exercises” to help lower stress and anxiety, Park described. Flex 2 will also count your laps if go swimming with it on, which Park said is “a big step forward.”

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Fitbit’s Charge 2 and Flex 2 wristbands and pendant

Fitbit has encountered its share of challenges, including a lawsuit from users in January who said the heart monitors underestimate heart rates during workouts. But Park defended the integrity of the company’s products.   

“This is America. There’s always a lot of lawsuits. We stand behind our products all the way,” he said. “We test them against medical-grade EKGs. There’s over 200 clinical studies using Fitbits today with partners such as Dana-Farber and UCSF, and trusted third parties such as Consumer Reports have tested our devices and rated them very accurate. So you can go out, grab an issue of Consumer Reports and check it out for yourself.”

According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, Fitbit holds 24.5 percent of the market share for wearable tech, while Apple holds 7.5 percent. Park also said the company holds more than 80 percent of the fitness tracker market.  

“We’ve been pioneers in this category. We’ve been around for nine years. We have tens of millions of users. So that huge user community actually creates a giant network effect,” Park said. “People compete with friends and family, who’s walked the most steps, etc. And so that’s allowed us to grow our user base pretty rapidly. The other thing is, these products out here – we have a wide range of products.”

The range of products is what Park thinks helps in differentiating itself from the competition, particularly companies like Apple​.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all. Everyone has a different style preference, choice, price point, etc., and so this opportunity is so large, there’s going to be room for more than one company to succeed,” Park said.

Park expects the Fitbit will play a larger role in the medical community, particularly with the Affordable Care Act and emphasis on preventative care.

“A lot of chronic disease conditions can actually be changed through lifestyle factors, and that’s where we come in,” Park said.