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Fitbit’s new smartwatch has been plagued by production mishaps

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
Pictured: The Fitbit Blaze, which looks very similar to Fitbit’s upcoming smartwatch, based on an internal presentation deck seen by Yahoo Finance.

Fitbit’s (FIT) first “proper” smartwatch and first-ever pair of bluetooth headphones are due out this fall after a series of production mishaps delayed the project, Yahoo Finance has learned.

The fitness tracker company’s smartwatch project has been a troubled one. Production problems have forced Fitbit to push an original spring launch to this fall, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

“In one of the more final prototypes, the GPS wasn’t working because the antennae wasn’t in the right place,” one of those sources told Yahoo Finance. “They had to go back to the drawing board to redesign the product so the GPS got a strong signal.”

Fitbit’s design team also ran into problems making its smartwatch fully waterproof, even though that’s a key design element for the Apple Watch Series 2. Indeed, it’s still unclear as of the publication of this article whether the device will launch with the waterproof feature. If it isn’t waterproof, critics may perceive it to be an inferior product to Apple’s — especially given that the device will launch roughly a year after the Apple Watch Series 2.

“Regardless of whether Fitbit manages to make it waterproof, I think they have to release the watch later this year,” one of our sources familiar with the matter told Yahoo Finance. “It’s literally sink or swim time for them.”

A ‘very retro-looking’ smartwatch

The watch, according to the two sources familiar with the matter, will include a color display with 1,000 nits of brightness comparable to the Apple Watch Series 2. It will also sport a built-in GPS chip, heart-rate monitoring, the ability to make touchless payments, the ability to store and play music from Pandora (P), and four days of battery life between charges. All those features will be housed in an aluminum unibody design, which in true Fitbit fashion, will let users swap watch bands when it hits shelves later this year for around $300.

Yahoo Finance viewed the presentation deck Fitbit showed retail partners like Best Buy (BBY) and Target (TGT) behind closed doors. That deck revealed a general design aesthetic that resembles a product in the company’s current product line: the Blaze.

“It was very retro-looking with the lines and stuff — definitely not sexy,” one source told Yahoo Finance. Several employees who saw the design complained about it, the source said.

Fitbit also plans on releasing a pair of Bluetooth headphones alongside the smartwatch, according to Yahoo Finance’s sources. Similar in design to Beats and Apple’s (AAPL) Beats X earbuds, Fitbit’s earbuds will hang around your neck. Expect them in two colors, which the company has dubbed “Nightfall Blue” and “Lunar Gray.”

A Fitbit spokesperson declined to comment on these details. “We know there is a lot of interest in our entry into the smartwatch category,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t have news to share at this time and do not comment on rumors or speculation.”

The 10-year-old San Francisco-based Fitbit needs the smartwatch to be a hit. The company cut 6% of its workforce earlier this year, and its fourth-quarter revenue plummeted 19% even with the help of the holiday season.

Whether Fitbit’s smartwatch is the device it needs to revive its flagging bottom line remains to be seen.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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