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Apple Watch kicks rival fitness devices out of stores

Nike+ Fuel Band, Jawbone Up24, and FitBit are noticeably missing from Apple retail stores in anticipation of the Apple Watch release. What is happening to the fitness-watch industry now?

Eric Risberg/AP
A woman holds the Apple Watch Edition during a demo following an Apple event in San Francisco.

Though the Apple Watch won’t officially debut until April, Apple’s smart watch has already begun to make its mark on the nascent smart-watch market, particularly in the fitness arena.

Apple stores on the West Coast have stopped selling Nike+ FuelBand, FitBit, and Jawbone Up24 bands in anticipation of the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch, which heavily touts health-monitoring features. With Apple throwing its full weight behind its in-house smart watch, what will happen to the smart watches previously sold alongside iPhones?

The gradual exodus began last fall after Apple announced the Apple Watch. FitBit was the first to leave the Apple retail umbrella. It wasn’t a total surprise, given that FitBit has had its qualms about Apple’s iOS 8 HealthKit, and wouldn’t be adopting the software for its popular fitness-tracking smart band.

Now, as the Apple Watch release date draws near, Re/Code reports that major Apple stores in Palo Alto, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles no longer carry Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone Up24, and Mio heart rate monitor bands (though some still carry the Mio and Jawbone pedometers).

Several of these products also seem to already be bowing to the hype around Apple’s smart watch.

Nike was one of the early app partners with the Apple Watch, already announcing a Nike+ app for the device. Nike recently trimmed its FuelBand division, and, currently, the section of the website devoted to the FuelBand features the app, with little mention of the band itself. Nike has always focused more on iOS than Android, only recently announcing an Android app – plus Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook sits on Nike's board of directors. This could mean that Nike might push for more integration with the Apple Watch, rather than focusing on a standalone product.

Jawbone made the updates to HealthKit when iOS 8 was released, offering users the ability to connect their fitness information to the iPhone if they chose. The next iteration of the Jawbone band, the Jawbone Up3, has reportedly been in the works, though the release date has been continually pushed up and there is no word where it stands today.

Mio told Re/Code it didn’t rely on Apple stores for a big part of its sales, but the association with Apple did help its image as a vetted accessory to the iPhone.

FitBit seems to be the only outlier to this trend. The company has always been open to both iOS and Android, so the expulsion from Apple retail hasn’t seemed to sway its products. That isn’t to say there won’t be plenty of competition in the Android space, as well. With Samsung’s Gear and LG’s G Watch, major Android players are getting into the smart-watch game, often with health monitoring features as a prominent selling point. 

Apple is heavily touting the health features of its Apple Watch, which include sensors that monitor calories burned, amount of activity, and how long it has been since a user has stood up. Users can also track workout time and distance.

Will Apple surge ahead of the fitness-watch competition when the Apple Watch drops? Stay tuned.

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