Are single-purpose gadgets doomed?

The makers of the Misfit Shine activity tracker have introduced a new app for the Pebble Smartwatch that lets you count steps and track activities… even if you don’t have a Misfit Shine device.

While the move makes sense as a way to expand Misfit’s audience, it could also be a sign that the company doesn’t see a future in single-purpose devices like activity trackers when companies like Pebble (and Samsung, LG, Motorola, and reportedly Apple) are packing similar sensors into smartwatches, phones, and other devices.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Misfit’s CEO Sonny Vu asks “why should we cling to a dying business?”

Left: Pebble w/Misfit // Right: Misfit Shine

Left: Pebble with Misfit app / Right: Misfit Shine

Fitness trackers like the Misfit Shine, Fitbit Flex, Withings Pulse, and Jawbone UP24 are still relatively new, and these companies aren’t exactly household names. So why would someone buy a dedicated activity tracker from one of these companies when big name smartwatches like the Samsung Gear 2 or upcoming LG G Watch or Motorola Moto 360 will likely have many of the same features?

Well, there are some reasons… a dedicated fitness tracker is likely cheaper than a smartwatch, and a good one will offer benefits such as longer battery life than you’d probably get from a multi-function device.

So if you weren’t planning on buying a smartwatch, you might still be in the market for a dedicated piece of hardware like the Misfit Shine. But it sounds like Vu figures that as more smart wearable devices hit the streets, the demand for single-purpose devices like the Shine will shrink.

That doesn’t mean it’ll go away entirely. People still buy Kindle and NOOK Simple Touch eReaders when they could use a tablet to read eBooks. But tablet sales have been on the rise in recent years while dedicated eBook reader sales? Not so much.

I hope Vu is wrong and that there’s still enough of a market for hardware companies to justify making single-purpose devices like the Misfit Shine activity tracker in a world of jack-of-all trade devices like smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. But don’t be surprised if we see more fitness tracker startups begin offering standalone software for other platforms… and maybe getting out of the hardware business altogether.

via Connectedly

  • Matthew

    Not exactly the same but I’ve been burned enough times by companies trying to do everything to know that a company with a single purpose is likely going to have a better product. It might not tie directly into my email, contacts or something else like that but I know they’ll support the product for years instead of just moving on to the next thing.

    A good comparison is a Sony Google TV product vs. a Roku, neither Sony nor Google is doing jack with these devices but Roku has its attention on one thing: making Roku services better.

    Also what about the Pono? That thing raised over 6 million dollars from 18,000 people. It’s not millions of users but there’s always an audience of people who want devices that do something well instead of doing everything just okay.

  • agumonkey

    There will always be a time where you dont want everything in the same basket.

  • nate

    I bought my Pulse after I already owned a Pebble. I wanted the single purpose device that I could clip to my belt. I didn’t trust the Pebble to do it all.

    Last night on my walk home from work I installed the Misfit app on my Pebble, and it missed about 17% of the steps that my Pulse registed.

  • Thomas Lee Mullins

    I think the downside of a device that does it all is when it goes down, there is nothing else to use. If one has separate devices for different things, one goes down but one can still use the other devices. I have a e-book reader, a tablet, a cell phone and a couple of computers. If I had one to do all those devices does and it goes down, I am stuck not being able to do anything.