Fitbit devices are known for being easy-to-use, fitness-first products, but now the company that makes them may be planning to tack on extra features. Fitbit released a statement today announcing that it has acquired “wearable payment assets” from the Silicon Valley company Coin.
According to the statement, Fitbit gains “key personnel and intellectual property” from Coin’s wearable-payments platform in the deal. However, it excludes smart-payment products such as Coin 2.0, a singular smart card meant to replace the many credit and debit cards stuffed in your wallet. Coin’s website shows that Coin 2.0 has sold out, and Coin’s own statement about the acquisition, the company says it will no longer continue to sell its smart payment products. Existing Coin users will be able to use their devices for the duration of their “lifetime”; the card itself can last two years without any recharging.
Fitbit also says in its statement that there are no plans to integrate Coin’s mobile payment technology into any 2016 products. Fitbit recently launched the Alta fitness tracker and the Blaze smartwatch a few months ago, and while the company could launch another product or two before the year is up, it likely won’t have time to thoughtfully integrate mobile payments into any of them. The statement did say, though, that the deal “accelerates Fitbit’s ability to develop an active NFC payment solution that could be embedded into future Fitbit devices, broadening its smart capabilities.”
Considering that the Fitbit Blaze was the most smartwatch-like device Fitbit has ever released, it’s not surprising that the company wants to integrate mobile payments into future products. One of the biggest differences between standalone fitness trackers and all-purpose smartwatches is mobile payment support: the Apple Watch has Apple Pay, and Google has Android Pay for its smartphones while Android Wear users eagerly await its inclusion on their wearable devices.
Most fitness trackers can’t make mobile payments at all, and very few have partnerships that would embrace such features. Jawbone was the first big fitness tracker company to integrate mobile payments into its Up4 wristband, but that feature is in partnership with American Express, so only AmEx cardmembers can use it. Earlier this year, MasterCard and Coin announced a partnership to bring mobile payments to a bunch of fitness-related wearables, including the Atlas wristband, but there’s no word on whether that plan will continue now that Fitbit essentially owns that technology.
Neither Fitbit nor Coin disclosed the financial details of the acquisition. We reached out to Fitbit, but the company did not have any additional comment.
Palladino, V. (2016) Fitbit acquires ‘wearable payment assets’ from startup coin. Available at: http://arstechnica.co.uk/gadgets/2016/05/fitbit-acquires-wearable-payment-assets-from-startup-coin/ (Accessed: 19 May 2016).