I’ve had a bit of a mixed experience of late with Fitbit. Since the aquisition of the company by Google, we now have the first Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Sense with Google branding on the box, and we also have the Pixel Watch as part of the larger, overall family at this point. Though I’ve had every Fitbit Versa up to and including the Fitbit Versa 4, my fandom of that watch line is currently on ice thanks to some pretty significant downgrades to the overall experience with this latest version.
Amidst discovering the reality of the Versa 4 having no 3rd-party app support, no Bluetooth music controls, no Wi-Fi support and no Google Assistant (seriously…what??), I wasn’t exactly surprised that the promised Google Wallet and Google Maps support didn’t show up at launch either. All those missing features don’t really change the effectiveness of the Fitbit Versa 4 or Sense 2 as fitness trackers, but they do make them far less appealing as smartwatches for sure.
Google Wallet is finally here
While the fixes for all the glaring omissions these new watches have are not yet here – we hope they’ll come at some point down the road – Google is at least making good on the promise of Google Wallet on the latest Fitbit models, and it should be live right now.
According to the press release, as of November 15th, you should be able to access Google Wallet to add payment methods to your Fitbit Versa 4 or Sense 2. It is unclear how this will show up, but it will likely come via an OS update or through the admittedly-empty app store in the Fitbit app. For now, and perhaps forever, this new feature is for the latest Fitbit hardware and not a part of the older device experiences.
Like Google Wallet on Wear OS, you can add multiple payment types (as long as your bank supports it) and using NFC, simply hold your watch to a payment terminal to issue funds. A pin will be required, obviously, but Fitbit’s post about this makes it sound like you’ll only need to use the PIN when attempting a payment. Hopefully this works as well as what we see on devices like the Pixel Watch, where an unlock is only required when the watch leaves your wrist for a few seconds.
Google Maps still ‘coming soon’
In the same post, Fitbit chose to highlight both Google Maps and Google Wallet in the title, so I’m hoping that Google Maps isn’t far off at this point. Like we see with the Pixel Watch, Google Maps will simply give users a quick-glance, turn-by-turn navigation UI when connected to a phone that has full-blown Google Maps on board.
Navigation will still need to begin on the phone, so this isn’t a localized solution that you can use completely on its own. If you were planning on taking a walk without your smartphone around, this isn’t the solution you were looking for. However, being able to start a navigation path and see the necessary directions on your wrist without reaching for your phone is a nice touch, and I’m sure many Fitbit users will be happy to see it arrive.
I root for Fitbit. I really do. I used Versa smartwatches for years and when I put the latest Fitbit Versa 4 on my wrist, I loved everything about the hardware. But the frustrations with missing features need to be addressed if these new watches are to meet their actual potential. All those missing pieces are here and working great on my Pixel Watch, so it’s a tough sell for Fitbit to woo me back to that side. These new additions are a step in the right direction, but Google/Fitbit have some work to do, yet.