While they aren’t grabbing headlines as frequently as some of the more powerful wearables on the market, Fitbit continues to be the leader in this now-crowded space.
At present, they are still best known for simpler fitness bands like the Flex, Charge and Charge HR that are geared towards those with only fitness in mind. Last year’s Fitbit Surge started to blur the lines between smartwatch and fitness band with a number of notifications possible, but even though it recently got the nod from President Obama as his wearable of choice, the $249 Surge may be flying too close to full smartwatch prices.
Well Fitbit is back today to take another crack at consumers that aren’t ready to take the plunge on a full blown smartwatch, but would like to get a little more out of their fitness wearable.
Enter the Fitbit Blaze, available for pre-order today at fitbit.com and due out in March. The Blaze is launching at a more palatable $200 and maintains the strong fitness-first focus, but has upped its game a bit on the smartwatch side.
Fitbit is still definitely ceding the smartwatch game to others, and it goes out of its way to identify this as a smart fitness watch rather than a smartwatch. The Blaze is the first Fitbit to feature a color screen and it has added custom clock faces. As far as connectivity with your smartphone, it can pass through info on calls, texts and calendar updates. You can accept or reject calls from the Blaze and control your music playback. There is not an app store for the Blaze, though, so the baked-in functionality will be all you get. Time will tell whether this is Fitbit knowing or underestimating the desires of its customer base.
On the fitness front, the Blaze has also learned a new trick: Along with the expected step, sleep and heart rate tracking is FitStar. FitStar offers guided workouts on your Blaze with animated images to show you what to do and exists entirely on the Blaze, so no need to have a smartphone along with you. If you do have your smartphone along for your workout, the Blaze can take advantage of its GPS to give you pinpoint accuracy on the distance of your workout.
Another feature that was added to some existing Fitbit devices (Charge HR and Surge) late last year and found on the Blaze is SmartTrack, which automatically identifies what kind of exercise you are doing in order to properly credit you with that exercise rather than reducing everything to steps.
Fitbit also learned from the positive response to the interchangeable bands of the Apple Watch and is offering similar functionality for the Blaze. You can easily swap between steel ($129), leather ($99) or elastomer ($29) straps. I sincerely hope we see more companies cluing into this one in the next year, as these devices that are to be worn all day have to be able to morph with our needs.
Battery life is a definite advantage for the Blaze over virtually every smartwatch out there, save for the Pebble line, with 5 days between charges.