Fitbit is known for its tiny fitness tracking bracelets. Embracing minimal designs with tiny screens (sometimes no screens at all), Fitbit has historically approached wearables with a sense of simplicity. This helped Fitbit catch on, but over time, Fitbit began putting larger and larger screens onto their wearables. Most notably, the Fitbit Surge had a small, rectangular screen that would show users step counts and more data. What’s next for Fitbit? Bigger screens that do more. Fitbit has decided to join the smartwatch fray with its new Blaze wearable. It was announced at CES this year, and it’s the most familiar-looking wearable from Fitbit to date. So, what exactly makes the Blaze catch fire?
First off, the Blaze looks very similar to smartwatch offerings from the likes of Samsung and LG. That is to say, it’s a big square with a strap. This is, by far, the most “traditional” looking fitness tracker that Fitbit has released, which left some wondering why Fitbit seems to be abandoning its distinctive design. The primary answer, even if it didn’t please shareholders, appears to be more features. In the past, Fitbit’s offerings were criticized for not doing enough – even if their simplicity is what catapulted Fitbit into the mainstream in the first place.
The Fitbit Blaze appears to be a reaction to that criticism. Since Fitbit already has wonderful fitness trackers with the Charge and Surge, why not offer something a bit more complete? The Blaze offers connected GPS (meaning you’ll need your phone for it to work), heart rate tracking, step and sleep tracking, exercise-detection (meaning it knows whether you’re running or playing basketball) and, most strikingly, a color touchscreen.
That touchscreen is 0.82in x 0.96in and can display custom workouts for Fitstar (more on that below), show you the time when you’re not working out and it can help you navigate texts, calls, calendar events and your music library. The screen is the most important addition to Fitbit’s lineup and brings the Blaze closer to being a traditional smartwatch. The screen is situated inside of a sorta-bulky frame that may look rugged to some or ugly to others. One thing is for sure: the Blaze is big. Elegance is not a word you’d use to describe it. But, compared to other smartwatch/fitness tracker combos (like the Microsoft Band), the Blaze is far from the ugliest thing you can buy.
At $199, the Blaze will last five days without needing to be charged, even with its color screen. It’s especially impressive that the Blaze can stay alive that long given that it tracks your heart rate 24/7 using much better tech than what’s found in other smartwatches. That battery life may be enough for those on the fence to look past its bulky design.
As if a new device wasn’t enough, Fitbit announced a special integration with the fitness training app, Fitstar, for the Blaze. Fitstar will show users custom workouts on their Blaze smartwatch to give guidance to those who need an extra kick in the butt. Routines are personalized to the user’s abilities and goals, and will look great on the Blaze’s color screen. When it ships in March, the Fitbit Blaze will determine whether or not the healthy-minded really want to use a smartwatch that can do more than Fitbit’s simpler past offerings. One thing is for sure, though: if Fitbit didn’t move in this direction, it’d be left behind.