Wearables are going to be everywhere in 2016, and whether you’re wearing them as a band or a piece of clothing, you’re going to be seeing them where (excuse the pun) ever you go. For Fitbit, 2016 is about making the smartwatch and wearable more useful than ever.
Finding a middle ground in the whole wearable world can be a little chaotic for health gadget makers.
On the one hand, you have the fitness wearable that tracks steps, incline, and possibly heart rate, taking all the information and throwing it into an app and/or social network, turning the whole fitness thing into something we can talk about with others.
And yet on the other hand, you have a steady flow of smartwatches providing a bit of a second screen experience for the smartphone, and this area is beginning to encroach on the market space where fitness wearables tend to operate.
What can a company do to stay in the game?
They find a middle ground, which appears to be what Fitbit is doing with the announcement of a new product this week at CES in Las Vegas.
The device in question is called the “Blaze”, and it’s been built on Fitbit’s health tracking heritage but designed with the whole smartwatch craze in mind.
More than just a phase, smartwatches are expected to stay, and with that in mind, Fitbit has crafted the Blaze to include not just the time like you’d expect from a watch, and not just fitness tracking technology like you’d expect from a Fitbit, but also more to do with workouts and exercise, a sense of style, and then a way of connecting to your life.
First up is the fitness, and that’s going to be a pretty important feature from a company with the word “fit” in the name.
In the Blaze, you can expect the typical assortment of activity tracking complimented by an automatic exercise recognition system able to work out when you’re playing sports or doing aerobics and classifying the movement accordingly in the app.
Heart-rate tracking is now part and parcel of the Fitbit package with the Blaze, and Fitbit says this is handled by the PurePulse technology found in its Surge and Charge HR products from the last generation. Meanwhile, one of the other features from the Surge is also finding its way into the Blaze, with a GPS on-board.
New to the fitness wearable package, however, is an on-screen workout system, which Fitbit delivers through its “FitStar Personal Trainer”, a system to provide instructions and animated images for popular workouts.
These workouts are delivered free, and don’t even require a smartphone nearby, meaning you can see them where ever you go and whenever you go running without a phone, as some tend to do.
Next up is style, and that’s an area fitness gadgets often have problems with.
For the Blaze, Fitbit is focusing on a modular design that lets you put the tracker in to a new frame and band, letting you go from elastomer (rubber) to metal to leather in a few seconds, with all three being released at the time of launch.
Finally, there’s that connection with your life, and this is something smartwatches tend to need.
In this area, the Blaze will include all the typical things you expect out of Android Wear and Apple’s Watch, such as call alerts, text notifications, calendar alerts, but perhaps surprisingly, it will also need to be recharged less than your typical smartwatch.
That’s one of those things about connecting to one’s life that isn’t thought about, because traditionally we don’t want to charge watches all that often, nor think about charging them.
However, with the Blaze, Fitbit is talking up a battery life of up to five days, allowing you to sleep with the smartwatch instead of forcing a nightly charge.
“With Fitbit Blaze, we pushed the boundaries of what’s possible to create a beautiful, versatile device that can be customized to fit your personal style – while packing a powerful fitness punch to help you reach your goals,” said James Park, CEO of Fitbit.
“Fitbit Blaze delivers a combination of innovative features that were carefully selected with intention and purpose, designed to motivate and offer a fitness experience that is more effortless and more useful with advanced guidance and coaching.”
The good news on this product is that in a change from the regular “we’ll let you know about the release date and pricing” schtick we normally have to say about products from CES, we already have pricing and a release on this device in Australia, with March being when you’ll see the Blaze and an RRP of $329.95.
Replacement bands will also be available at launch, with the basic elastomer band arriving for $49.95 in three colours, the leather band for $169.95 in three colours, and the stainless steel for $219.95 in silver only.
In terms of who can use this, Fitbit is saying the Blaze will be compatible with the Fitbit app on every major platform, meaning Android, Apple iOS, and yes, even Windows Phone owners.