Fitbit has just pushed out a major update to the Ionic smartwatch, which includes its long-awaited app store.
Developers have had the Fitbit SDK in their hands since September, and today you can get your hands on the first wave of third-party apps, along with a few that have been designed in-house by Fitbit’s new development program, Fitbit Labs.
More than 60 apps are available to download from the Fitbit Gallery, as are more than 100 new clock faces. United Airlines, New York Times, Flipboard, Philips Hue and Yelp all have apps on the Gallery from today, along with a few games in the mix including a version of Simon Says.
You’ll still have to wait on a few big names, which Fitbit promises will arrive by the end of the year. That includes an app for Nest, golf analytics app Game Golf, TripAdvisor, Lyft, Surfline, British Airways and Walgreens.
While all of these have gone through Fitbit’s review process to get on the Gallery, starting today developers will be able to share apps with one another without having them validated. This was an idea carried over from Pebble, allowing developers to instantly share their creations with friends. However they won’t be able to get them on the Gallery without submitting them for review.
“It’s the realization of the app promise that came with Ionic,” Thomas Sarlandie, Fitbit’s director of software engineering, told Wareable. Some of the clock faces have been ported over from Pebble, said Sarlandie, along with some apps that have been enhanced for the Ionic – so you might see a few familiar ideas.
When asked what Fitbit has learned from watching other smartwatch makers try to make wrist apps work, Sarlandie said the two big ones were clock faces and fitness. “I think one big thing we’ve learned from experiences at Pebble and the Android Wear experience is that clock faces are extremely popular on smartwatches,” he said. “It gives users one more reason to continue wearing the product, and if they’re wearing the product we can give them the other benefits, which tend to help them be healthier.” One of the clock faces made by Fitbit Labs is called Fitbit Pet, which puts a cat or dog on your screen and only feeds it when you complete steps.
As for fitness, Fitbit is giving developers access to its heart rate, GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer and altimeter sensors. But it’s making some of its own too, with Fitbit Labs, to get the wheels in motion. It’s working on a tennis app that will break down your swing data and says it plans to launch it by the end of the year. But it’s also nudging developers to get working on fitness and sport focused-apps too. “Ski season is upon us, and we’re going to be hinting to developers that they need to be thinking about this,” said Sarlandie.
Fitbit is nurturing the community through various online channels, as well as plans for developer community meetups through 2018.
The new update also brings the ability to add multiple bank cards to the Ionic, where you could previously only add one.
Finally, Fitbit has announced that Deezer will be available for Ionic users globally next year. The Ionic launched with Pandora support in the US, letting users sync their playlists offline, but the rest of the world has had to make do with transferring their offline music files. The introduction of Deezer solves that problem (as long as you’re happy to pay the Deezer subscription), while giving US users another option. It’s a shame we have to wait a little longer to get it, but it’s good to know something is definitely on the way.
To get all the new apps and clock faces, you’ll need to download the firmware update, which should be available now.
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