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Cesar Cadenas

Fitbit watches in the EU will lose third-party apps and watch faces – here's why

Fitbit Versa 2.

European Fitbit owners have been dealt a huge blow as Google will be removing all third-party apps and clock faces from all devices existing in the European Economic Area. This includes the entire EU as well as non-members like Iceland.

The tech giant didn’t make any formal announcements through its usual channels. Instead, it opted to update its software management page on the Fitbit Help Center website. There, it’s stated the changes will go into effect sometime in June 2024; an exact date was not given. 

A full list of all the affected models is publicly available. They include models like the Fitbit Sense 2, Versa 4, and the Ionic. Although with the last one, you’re probably better off getting rid of it ASAP due to a faulty battery that has caused severe burns.

Users can still install third-party apps on your wearable until the June date. After that, you will only have access to first-party software from Google and Fitbit.

New rules

As to why it's doing this, Google is pointing the finger at “new regulatory requirements” within Europe. It’s not because of an American law, as the Help Center specifically states “users in other countries will not be impacted.” The company is being purposely vague, although it may have to do with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).

To oversimplify a complex law, the DMA was created in response to tech corporations having an iron grip over their users and the tech industry as a whole. It’s supposed to break up the amount of power they possess. These companies have, by and large, complied with the new rules in order to stay in Europe. One of the stipulations these companies must adhere to is to foster better compatibility between first-party and third-party software.

For the most part, things have been moving along swimmingly except for this current Fitbit situation. It’s the one outlier in what has been an otherwise smooth transition for Google. Perhaps third-party apps aren't feasible under the new rules.

Analysis: It's the same ol' story

But, there's something fishy about all this. Why only Fitbit and not other hardware? Well, we have a theory. 

The reason why Google is removing third-party apps may be due to the company’s continued efforts at killing off Fitbit, and the DMA is a good excuse to keep doing it. For the past several years, Google has been chipping away at what made Fitbit great in the past. Removing features here, removing access to music streaming there. It’s gotten to the point where Fitbit devices are shadows of their former selves.

At first we thought, “maybe Google wants to maintain total control over their fitness trackers.” Perhaps they believe the DMA will open the floodgates to bad actors creating malicious software for the wearables. It’s a security issue. 

But then the Pixel Watch is totally ignored, and it will continue to support third-party apps in the EU. If Google is indeed worried about security on its wearables, then we would see Pixel Watch devices receive similar changes. However, that's not the case.

Keep in mind: this is simply a theory. Nothing has been said officially. We reached out for a comment and we’ll update this story if we hear back.

In the meantime, check out TechRadr's list of the best fitness trackers for 2024.

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