Fitbit Blaze breaks cover: $200 fitness tracker or is it a smartwatch?
Fitbit has just made a huge step out of its comfort zone of fitness trackers and into the smartwatch market with a high-profile new device that it unveiled at CES 2016: the Fitbit Blaze.
A smartwatch, kind ofEquipped with a color touchscreen, continuous heart rate tracker and on-screen workouts, the Fitbit Blaze is not only a fitness tracker per se: it connects to your smartphone to relay you info about incoming calls, text messages and calendar events. Does this make it a smartwatch? Yes and no: those are typical smartwatch features, but don't expect third-party apps here and no, you won't be able to check your tweets or Facebook news feed on the Blaze. The only other 'smartwatch' feature you can expect is music control, so that you can easily pause and switch between tracks.
Not being a smartwatch comes with one important advantage - the Fitbit Blaze lasts up to 5 days on a single charge, so you can easily wear it at night to see the quality of your sleep.
So yes, in a way the Fitbit Blaze is a direct competitor to the Apple Watch, and in others - it's still much more of a fitness and lifestyle tracker than Apple's wearable.
Let's jump right into the most important aspect of a fitness watch: functionality. Continuous heart rate is the big highlight here, as you get readings that show you your peak as well as average heart rates. The Blaze does not have a GPS on itself, but when paired to a smartphone, it maps your runs and cycling neatly with Connected GPS (basically, it uses the phone's GPS).
Multi-sport mode brings running, biking, cardio and other guided workouts straight to the Blaze's screen, and you can also see summaries of your workouts and goals.
Bands and sizing
You have three choices for bands on the Fitbit Blaze: the regular one, part of Fitbit's 'Classic collection, then a leather band and finally a metal links chain. In the latter two, you get the band and the frame together, while the actual plastic bit that does all the calculations and heart rate monitoring slips inside the frame.
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).
Keep in mind that the bands come in three sizes: Small, Large and XL. Small fits wrists 5.5" - 6.7" in circumference, large would be suitable for wrists 6.7" - 8.1" in circumference, and XL fits wrists 8.1" - 9.3" in circumference.
Price and release date
The Fitbit Blaze price is set at $200 (it starts €230 in Europe), more than all of the current fitness trackers that the company offers bar the $250 Surge (Fitbit classifies its products into 3 categories: Everyday, Active, and Performance with the Blaze in the Active category, and the Surge - in Performance).
However, if you account for the bands that you might want to get for the Blaze, the price jumps above that of the Surge, and for the common consumer the Blaze might end up being the more expensive device. As for comparisons with the Apple Watch and its base price of $350, the Fitbit Blaze is definitely the cheaper of the two. But can it survive in a smartwatch world on the same footing with an Apple-branded product? That's the big question the Blaze is facing.