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LEAKED PHOTOS: Fitbit’s new headphones and troubled smartwatch

JP Mangalindan
Senior Correspondent
A photo of Fitbit's upcoming smartwatch, which was leaked to Yahoo Finance.

Yahoo Finance has obtained photos of Fitbit’s (FIT) first “proper” smartwatch and first-ever pair of bluetooth headphones due out this fall.

As Yahoo Finance previously reported in April, the San Francisco-based fitness tracker company is gearing up to release both devices later this year after a series of production snafus delayed the smartwatch project.

“It was originally planned for this spring to likely get ahead of whenever Apple plans their normal fall announcement,” a source familiar with the matter told Yahoo Finance. “Fitbit always likes to try and get in front of it.”

As you can see in the photo above, the watch resembles a somewhat more evolved version of a product in the company’s current product line, the Blaze.

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

Specs on the new products

The smartwatch, codenamed “Higgs” internally, will sport a color display with 1,000 nits of brightness similar to the Apple Watch Series 2, 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, according to the two sources familiar with the matter.

All those features will come housed in an aluminum unibody design, which will let users swap watch bands when it eventually hits shelves this fall for around $300.

A photo of Fitbit's upcoming earbuds, which was leaked to Yahoo Finance.

Fitbit also plans on releasing a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, codenamed “Parkside” internally, alongside the smartwatch, according to two of Yahoo Finance’s sources. Similar in design to Beats and Apple’s (AAPL) Beats X earbuds, Project Parkside will hang around your neck. Expect the wireless earbuds in two colors, which the company will market as “Nightfall Blue” and “Lunar Gray,” for around $150.

The “Nightfall Blue” version of Project Parkside is featured in the photo obtained by Yahoo Finance. It sports a metallic accent but otherwise appears to have a traditional-looking earbud design with in-ear molds to help drown out ambient noise.

The design mishaps

Project Higgs’ development has been a long, troubled journey, due in part to a number of design mishaps. The GPS feature in one of the near-final smartwatch prototypes for Project Higgs simply didn’t work because the antennae wasn’t in the right place, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

That forced the Fitbit team to return to the drawing board and redesign the product so the GPS received a strong, consistent signal.

A photo of Fitbit's upcoming smartwatch, which was leaked to Yahoo Finance.

Fitbit’s design team also ran into problems making Project Higgs fully waterproof, even though that’s a key design element of the Apple Watch Series 2 and a longstanding feature in many traditional watches. It was unclear as of the publication of this article whether the device will launch with the waterproof feature. If it is not waterproof, critics may perceive Project Higgs to be an inferior product to Apple’s, especially given that the smartwatch is still scheduled to launch roughly a year after the Apple Watch Series 2.

Software Snafus

Project Higgs has also run into problems on the software side. Yahoo Finance has learned that Pandora was not the first partner of choice when Fitbit envisioned music playing functionality for its smartwatch. A potential partnership with the popular Swedish streaming company Spotify was ruled out earlier on in development. 

Another photo of Fitbit's upcoming Smartwatch, which was leaked to Yahoo Finance.

And while Fitbit CEO James Park had promised an app store was in the works, Yahoo Finance has also confirmed with two sources the app store will very likely not arrive in time for Project Higgs’ fall launch. Instead, the device will launch with a small selection of customized apps.

“Unfortunately, James let the cat out of the bag way too early with the app store news,” a source familiar with the matter told Yahoo Finance.

A Fitbit spokesperson declined to comment on these details, referring instead to a previously released comment provided to Yahoo Finance.

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

Fitbit is hanging its 2017 product line almost entirely on Project Higgs, according to sources. The only other new releases on its product roadmap for the year include Project Parkside and an internal hardware update to Fitbit’s previously launched WiFi-enabled weighing scale, Aria Scale.

Fitbit cut 6% of its workforce earlier this year, and its fourth-quarter revenue plummeted 19% even with the help of the holiday season.

If the Project Higgs’ launch disappoints, Fitbit may be forced to search for more revenue streams. Park told Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley this January the company is trying to decrease its dependence on hardware sales and increase the importance of its software business through areas including social, health insurance and third-party developers.

Fitbit will announce earnings this Wednesday, May 3, after the market closes. Last month, the company’s shares were down 3% after Yahoo Finance reported on the smartwatch troubles.

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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