Companies large and small are peddling fitness trackers for the masses

Tech companies have become intent on creating products that help people stay fit. A primary method of doing so is by releasing wearable devices, namely the fitness bracelets you see on seemingly everyone’s wrists. Several big-name tech companies are in the fitness tracker business, be it with watches or bracelets.

sidebarMicrosoft entered the market when it launched its Band bracelet in October 2014; the second iteration of the Band retails for $250. The wristband tracks heartbeat, exercise, sleep, and calorie burn. It also functions as an organizer, with calendar and email alerts.

Apple revealed its Apple Watch in April 2015, and Fitbit released its first band in 2013, beginning the trend we are all familiar with. Adidas, Nike, and Garmin have also ventured into the wearable fitness market.

Each of the companies above has released products with price points in the hundreds of dollars. Seattle-based Pivotal Living is looking to take a share of the wearables market with a more affordable approach. For $12, a user purchases a band, a USB charging cable, and a year of access to the Pivotal Living program, facilitated through an app. Pivotal Living is relying on cultivating members by minimizing the upfront cost for the band, banking instead on revenue from its subscription service.

“We wanted to have a price point that appealed to a broad audience,” Eddie Ranchigoda, Pivotal Living’s chief marketing officer, said. “The value of the product is not necessarily the hardware.”

The focus of Pivotal Living is the app, which works as an in-pocket personal trainer. It’s not the wearable for fitness buffs who want detailed metrics such as heart rate, Ranchigoda said, but rather for those with broader goals, such as keeping weight loss on track. The app, available on Android and iOS, has features such as weight tracking, a food diary, and goal setting.

Pivotal Living’s band lacks the bells and whistles found on more expensive wearables, and its use isn’t as general. The Microsoft Band offers a way to stay up to date, even when you’re away from your phone, and the Apple Watch essentially functions as a fashionable extension to the iPhone. Fitbit, even though it isn’t tied to an operating system, is also expanding its capabilities with each edition. While these brands duke it out for deep-pocketed early adopters, Pivotal Living is sticking with the more stripped-down version that could equip a family of four for less than $50.

So how does the company keep costs so low? Ranchigoda said that, like most wearables on the market, his band is manufactured in China. Pivotal Living uses broadly available components and does not offer customizable features such as varying or interchangeable color bands.

Demand is evident for easy-to-use wearables. San Francisco-based Fitbit started 2016 on a high note after a holiday sales bump — Apple reported that Fitbit’s was the most downloaded iOS app in the U.S. on Christmas Day. New users were setting up their Fitbit right out of the box. It sent company shares soaring.

Then, in January, Fitbit launched its first watch, the Blaze, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The $199 Blaze is set for release in March and is available for presale online or at major retailers. The new product is similar to the Apple Watch in design but is purely a fitness product — and one with all the bells and whistles.

The Blaze is all about personalization. The user can easily swap out a water-resistant strap for workouts to a more stylish watch band. However, those stylish leather bands come as separate accessories that cost up to $130.

Monitoring sleep. Sending emails. Tracking fitness. More and more features are being added to wearables as the industry grows. Research firm IDC expects 155.7 million wearable devices to ship in 2019, up from 26.4 million in 2014. At last month’s CES, exhibitors showed off wearables that track everything from movement to mood. Wearables are becoming both high fashion and high tech.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of 425 Business.