Tractica recently had a chat with French connected device maker Withings to gain a better understanding of its market positioning and product strategy. Withings is focused on internet-enabled devices with a concentration on health and wellness. Its first product was a Wi-Fi weighing scale launched in 2009, and since then the company has introduced a number of connected products including a blood pressure monitor, home security camera, baby monitor, baby scale, sleep solutions, activity tracker, and smart watch.
Given its focus on activity trackers and watches, Withings has a large stake in the growing wearables market. However, unlike most other wearable vendors, Withings is positioning itself as a maker of connected things that are health-focused, rather than fitness-focused. This approach allows Withings to offer a wide range of devices to its customers, and to build integrated experiences around improving one’s health. Such a strategy also allows Withings to focus on a larger group of consumers rather than a niche fitness and sports market.
The Withings smart watch, known as Activité, is unique in its simplicity, design, and functionality, elements that set it apart from the rest of the competition. The watch has two analog dials, one that tells the time and another that tracks activity. The watch is Swiss-made, has a scratch-proof, domed sapphire glass, 5 ATM water-resistant case, and is made from stainless 316L alloy steel. The Activité has set a benchmark in the industry, expanding the definition of a smart watch beyond touchscreen watches to those that retain a traditional analog look and feel, but provide smart connectivity features. The main feature of the Activité is activity tracking, but it also provides silent notification capabilities.
Withings is also focused on having devices blend into people’s lives, rather than have users change their behavior to accommodate the device. This design ethos led them to create a watch that doesn’t need to be charged, making the experience more similar to that of traditional watches. The Activité battery lasts up to 8 months, after which it can be replaced. Withings believes that, for tracking activity, this is extremely important, as having a device that needs to be charged every day could impede the tracking of health and wellness activity, especially if you forget to charge your device.
The Activité costs $450, which is targeted at the higher end of the smart watch market. At CES 2015, Withings launched Activité Pop, which is a lower-priced watch at $149, offering a similar look and feel as the Activité, but at a more affordable price point. With the Activité Pop being offered in bold colors, Withings is also trying to attract a younger audience, in a market where most activity tracking devices are purchased by people over 35.
Because Withings is heavily focused on improving the health and wellness of its customers, it builds its own algorithms and software that go along with the devices. It has an award-winning app, Health Mate, that collects data from the various Withings devices and provides meaningful insights around phentermine for weight loss, sleep patterns, heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, and many other metrics. Health Mate is available on iOS and Android. Health Mate is also one of the leading apps that feed into the Apple HealthKit platform, and therefore Withings have a close working relationship with Apple.
With Apple’s HealthKit platform being open to third parties, this relationship is expected to continue even after the Apple Watch is launched. In fact, Withings is working on an Apple Watch app for Health Mate, which will allow Withings users to keep track of their health on an Apple Watch just like they do on the iPhone. In this sense, Withings is unique in the market – where on the one hand it will be competing with Apple in the smart watch business, on the other hand it will be working closely with Apple to have its own devices and software integrate with the Apple Watch. Apple’s focus on making HealthKit and the recently launched ResearchKit into industry-leading digital platforms for health and medical uses will provide ample growth opportunities for Withings. In addition, the Withings Activité and Activité Pop watches cater to a different set of customers, someone who is looking for a traditional look and feel in a smart watch, does not wish to charge a smart watch, and is interested in health and wellness tracking. For its part, Apple is creating massive awareness around smart watches, their use cases, and functionality, which will ultimately benefit the industry as a whole.
In summary, Apple won’t really see competition from Withings for its smart watch, but should continue to gain from the large ecosystem of connected heath devices that Withings provides. At the same time, Withings will see a boost in its own watch sales as the overall market benefits from increasing awareness generated by the Apple Watch, and will continue to support its user base with new apps that work on other smart watches like the Apple Watch.