FitBit ups a level this time around with the announcement of their first ever smartwatch at the CES 2016 event. Ambitious one would say, well Fitbit has just taken a huge step out of its comfort zone of fitness trackers and into the smartwatch market with a relatively high profile device.
Unveiling the Fitbit Blaze, a real bonafide smartwatch that’s much more advanced than anything Fitbit’s ever done.
It comes complete with a color touchscreen, interchangeable watchfaces, a slim design and lots of different strap designs. Featurewise, it’s something like the Surge on steroids. It still provides 24/7, continuous heart rate (as opposed to checking at regular intervals), and can detect what type of exercise you’re doing to provide more accurate calorie counts. At the heart is a 1.66-inch colour touchscreen LCD, which is more screen estate than the Surge to play with and view stats. Disappointingly, there’s no GPS on board, so you’ll have to piggyback off your phone’s GPS to to view routes and record runs. It’s also not waterproof, so don’t take it anywhere near a swimming pool, although it’s fine to get a little wet in the rain or during a sweaty workout. For activity and automatic sleep tracking, it uses pretty much the same motion sensors we’ve seen in previous Fitbits. There’s a 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope along with an altimeter to track elevation. There’s also an ambient light sensor to help screen visibility and a vibration motor to take advantage of the silent alarms and incoming notifications. On the topic of notifications, it’ll only work with native notifications from your phone like calls, texts and calendar alerts. That means third party apps like WhatsApp are not going to show up. That’s a bit disappointing and feels like a missed opportunity in our book. It does include music control playback thoi and there’s a collection of different clock faces to choose from.
Fitbit is claiming up to five days of battery life, which is far above what pretty much every competitor with a color screen can do. The closest competitors are the Samsung Gear S2 and Microsoft Band 2, both of which claim two days of battery life and neither of which track your heart rate continuously if not in workout mode (though Band 2 scans your heart rate approximately every eight minutes). The $199 price tag puts the Blaze in an interesting position. It’s cheaper than most competing smartwatches and trackers with a heart rate sensor (including Fitbit’s own Surge), which could immediately make it a top recommendation for fitness enthusiasts. The regular band comes in three colors: plum, black and blue, the leather one also has three color versions, black, camel and mist grey, while the metal is only silver. Prices are set at $30 for the regular band, $100 for the leather band (with frame), and $130 for the metal one (with frame).
One of the interesting new (but certainly not unique) features is the on-screen workout mode, which takes a leaf out of Microsoft Band 2‘s book that’ll take you through exercises step-by-step. As normal, all of your data can be viewed on the Fitbit companion app or web portal. Fitbit is in an incredibly strong position, though. CEO James Park mentioned, among other things, that Fitbit was the number one free app on the iOS App Store after Christmas. It’s searched for more than nearly any other fitness brand, and there’s the fact that President Obama wears one. It’s the Kleenex of fitness trackers, the name everybody also calls all its competitors. While the Blaze may not seem like a drastic step forward, it’s a big upgrade in a new device type from a company a lot of people actually wear.
Lastly, Blaze is compatible with “more than 200 Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices” according to Fitbit.