With Google's deal for Fitbit on the ropes, experts say these 8 wearable tech companies could be worth buying in an effort to keep pace with AppleOctober 4, 2020
- Google's deal to buy Fitbit is on the ropes. Despite making concessions to appease regulators, competitors say it's not enough.
- But Fitbit isn't the only wearable tech company that could help Google take the fight to Apple.
- We asked analysts to pick out some other companies Google could potentially acquire if the Fitbit deal doesn't go through – or even if it does.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
We're approaching a year since Google declared its plan to acquire wearables company Fitbit for $2.1 billion, and the deal still hasn't closed.
The acquisition has been under intense scrutiny around the world, and right now European regulators are digging deep into the deal. Earlier this week it was reported that the merger could be close to clearing after Google offered some concessions to regulators, but Reuters now reports that rivals say these aren't enough.
Google showed us this week that it's still serious about hardware, and it has big ambitions in wearables. It recently snapped up Canadian smartglasses maker North, while acquiring Google could help catch Apple in what is becoming one of the next big tech battlefields.
But it's not Fitbit or nothing. Here are some other wearables health companies that Google could try to snap up if its Fitbit deal doesn't succeed (or even if it does), based on expert opinions and Business Insider's own analysis.
French health tech company Withings has had a rocky few years. What began as a single connected body scale turned into an ecosystem of health tech products sold under the Withings brand. In 2016, Nokia acquired the company and rebranded all of its products.
Two years later, it sold it back to cofounder Éric Carreel.
"I think they would be a great acquisition because they're a much stronger healthcare play, and they get healthcare better than pretty much anyone else," said Anshel Sag, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
Withings has a much smaller user base than Fitbit's, which could potentially make it an easier buy.
"Withings could be an option but really not on the same level as Fitbit," Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi told Business Insider.
However, Withings will want to tread carefully. "The Nokia acquisition has left a bad taste in their mouth and I think they would want to avoid that at any cost," said George Jijiashvili, a senior analyst covering wearables at Omidia.
Chinese tech company Mobvoi already counts Google as one of its investors, and helped take a version of Google's Wear OS operating system to China (where Google operates in a very limited capacity).
Multiple analysts said it would be a no-brainer for Google to acquire them if it weren't for what is currently a heated geopolitical climate between the US and China.
"I think they're rather interesting," said Omidia's George Jijiashvili. "They keep bringing out nice Wear OS smartwatches. They're very tightly knit with Google."
The Beijing-based company was even started by ex-Googlers who once told TechCrunch that much of the company's DNA was inspired by their former employer.
Fossil's smartwatch business
Google and Fossil have had a good thing going. Google provides its Wear OS operating system, and Fossil builds smartwatches for its variety of licence brands such as Michael Kors and Diesel.
It's helped Google get its software on more wrists without having to manufacture its own devices, but according to a recent Counterpoint Research report, Fossil only captured 2.1% of global smartwatch shipment revenues.
Of course, Google buying all of Fossil would make little business sense, but analysts say the company could feasibly break off Fossil's smartwatch business in an acquisition to give it access to the technology and talent.
In 2019, Google paid Fossil $40 million for an undisclosed new smartwatch technology, so it wouldn't be unprecedented. However, it would likely also require Fossil Group to give up on its smartwatch ambitions for it to happen.
"I think Fossil would still be a very good fit," said Moor Insights & Strategy's Sag.
The wearables war won't just be fought on the wrist. Smart ring companies have gained some traction by offering more subtle health trackers.
Oura is probably the best-known smart ring maker right now, helped partly by its work in a study this year to detect early symptoms of COVID-19.
Smart ring maker Motiv, Oura's biggest rival, was acquired by access security company Proxy earlier this year, and smart rings could be a logical area for Google to pursue.
"Oura are gaining traction with the NBA around Covid," said Anshel Sag at Moor Insights & Strategy. "That would be an interesting one."
Analysts say Garmin would likely pose a similar antitrust headache were Google to every try to acquire it, but Polar is a similar big name in the fitness wearables space with a smaller user base, meaning Google may be able to snap it up with less trouble.
"Because they're smaller scale compared to Fitbit, they would potentially cause less problems with regulators," said Jijiashvili at Omidia.
"Polar are releasing new dedicated swimming and running watches here and there, but they don't crop up a lot when it comes to talking about market share. It's low volume, high engagement."
When Google announced its intentions to acquire Fitbit, CB Insights singled out Whoop as one of the wearables startups that could be next in line for acquisition.
Whoop's edge is in its recovery tracking, giving users a better picture of how much strain a workout has put on their body, and how much rest they need before getting back on the treadmill.
Like Oura, it's found new purpose with the pandemic, rolling out an update to let users more easily keep an eye on their respiratory rate. Its Series D round, raised last year, was actually led by Fitbit investor Foundry Group.
Finnish sports watch maker Suunto is a much smaller company than Fitbit, which would make it easier for Google to clinch a deal.
Omidia's Jijiashvili highlighted the company as a potential acquisition target and said it would bring "the hardware angle" Google is after.
"Suunto is notorious a private company and I don't know if they'd be up for acquisitions or not," he added.
Matrix Industries is another potential hot acquisition target that was flagged by CB Insights. The Menlo Park, California, startup makes a smartwatch powered by body heat and has garnered a lot of attention for its unique thermoelectric technology.
Battery life is a major limitation in consumer wearables right now, and one that companies such as Google and Apple will be looking to do whatever they can to improve.
Matrix's edge is that its smartwatch never needs charging, but the unique technology could be attractive beyond the wrist alone. Its smartwatch is also still quite niche, making it perfect for someone like Google to snap it up and make it more mainstream.
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