Gadget

Google will start integrating Fitbit accounts next year

The word

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit closed in early 2021, but we haven’t seen much change yet. 9to5Google spotted a big upcoming change posted on Fitbit’s help site: account migrations! A new Fitbit help page outlined the plan for the upcoming Google Account migration. If this turns out to be anything like the Nest account migration (done by the same Google Hardware division), Fitbit users are in for a wild ride.

Google’s support page says, “We plan to enable use of Fitbit with a Google Account sometime in 2023,” and that at that point, “some uses of Fitbit will require a Google Account, including registering for Fitbit or activating newly released devices Fitbit and Feature.” This means optional account migrations for existing users in 2023. Google also says, “Fitbit account support will continue until at least early 2025. After Fitbit account support ends, a Google account will be required , to use Fitbit. We will be transparent with our customers about the timeline for terminating Fitbit accounts through notifications in the Fitbit app, via email, and in support articles.”

Merging accounts will, of course, mean that Google receives your health data. Google says that “you will have to agree to transfer your Fitbit user data from Fitbit to Google” and that “Google will then provide Fitbit to you subject to the Google Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Fitbit’s binding commitments.” Part of those EU commitments, which Google has chosen to apply globally, is that “Google will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google Ads.”

Google’s sales pitch for why you might want to switch reads: “Google Accounts on Fitbit will support a number of benefits for Fitbit users, including single sign-on for Fitbit and other Google services, industry-leading account security, centralized privacy controls for Fitbit user data and more features from Google on Fitbit.” Really, though, with Fitbit’s borgification mandatory in 2025, resistance is pointless.

Let’s hope this goes better than Nest

The closest experience we have to these large account migrations is Google’s handling of Nest accounts in 2019. It was (and still is) a very bumpy road. After years of co-existence following Google’s acquisition of Nest in 2014, Google decided to close Nest accounts after five years and migrate everyone to a Google account. You weren’t forced to switch, but not switching just meant slow death for your account, as you weren’t allowed to add new devices and wouldn’t get new features. The account move ended up changing a lot about how Nest works and what Nest works with, introducing regressions like the loss of location-based thermostat control for a few months, breaking existing compatibility with third-party apps, and the death of “Works with Nest” ecosystem. It also marks the end of Google’s separation of Nest data from all other Google data collection.

Nest still hasn’t recovered from its Google-ification. The original Nest app is still fighting to the death with the “not invented here” stick, and Google wants everyone (and forced some products) to switch to the Google Home app. However, the Google app is a disorganized dump of every Google smart home product and is the company’s worst and most confusing app. The Nest app isn’t feature-packed yet, and you don’t have to look far to find angry customers. Google also doesn’t offer a web interface for anything, while home.nest.com previously offered web functionality for thermostats and cameras. Google has owned Nest for seven years and still hasn’t figured it out.

So far, the only difference we’ve seen from the Google/Fitbit team is the Fitbit branding giving way to “Fitbit by Google” branding. If we follow the lead of history and assume that Google doesn’t learn from its mistakes, Fitbit’s transition compares very well to Nest’s. We imagine Fitbit’s app and website are hit with the same “not invented here” stick, and Google Fit takes over as Fitbit’s new companion app (Google Fit no longer has a functional website). Fitbit has a great deal of integration with other services, but this will probably have to be pushed to some Google API like the Google Fit API instead. Naturally, this will include the survival of some functionality, the complete loss of some functionality, and the reluctance of some developers to take the leap and recode previously working integrations. Fasten your seat belts!

Google says more information will be available closer to the 2023 launch date.