Update – March 2016! I’ve published my full Fitbit Blaze In-Depth Review here! Swing on over for all the details after extensive use!
Today at CES Fitbit announced their latest wearable, the Fitbit Blaze. This new unit is effectively a smart watch designed around fitness. Sure it tracks steps and sleep like past units, but it also has structured workouts (from Fitstar, which they acquired) as well as more common smart watch functions like music control, text/phone notifications, and a dedicated do not disturb mode.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the company has shifted away from the one-piece design of the Fitbit Surge, and moved to a modular design that allows you to change the bands quickly by popping them on & off – allowing a broad range of styles to ‘follow you’ throughout your day.
The unit is in many ways kinda like a Garmin Vivoactive teamed up with the gym features of the Adidas Smart Run GPS. Except for the fact that the Fitbit Blaze surprisingly doesn’t have GPS in it. Instead, it relies upon your phone for the GPS signal. It can then leverage that phone connection (for GPS) to get pace and splits (which Fitbit calls ‘GPS connected’). It also lacks proper waterproofing, a key and significant complaint of the Fitbit Surge and Fitbit Charge HR units over the past year (instead going with a generic ‘water resistant’).
The company appears to have heard some of the concerns though around the optical HR sensor in the Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge, acknowledging that the Fitbit Blaze has improved HR sensing technology specifically to deal with high intensity activities (an area the Surge & Charge HR sometimes struggled). Of course, like the rule of thumb goes – companies must prove that they’re accurate, and most companies in the industry can’t really be trusted on their word in this arena. So the jury is still out on that one. Still, Fitbit has been making some performance progress with their existing sensor over the past year, so it’s likely they’d be in the position to correct any remaining shortfalls via new hardware in the Blaze.
The unit is able to automatically recognize exercise from various categories, such as running, cycling, tennis, walking, and more. It’ll automatically tag those workouts without you having to press start or stop. It just does it for you, magic-style. We’ve seen a few companies start to get into this area recently, with generally pretty good results for casual users (more exacting folks will still want to start/stop manually, which you can still do).
Most of the features the company talked about during the press event this morning are fairly standard issue for smart watches today, with nothing really sticking out as hugely unique or ground breaking. Nonetheless, here’s a quick run-down of the main points:
– Color touch screen, can customize watch/clock faces
– Optical HR sensor (built on their ‘PurePulse’ technology as seen previously)
– Automatic sleep tracking
– Silent alarm option for waking up
– Battery life of 5 days/nights
– Call notifications, text notifications, calendar alerts, music control
– Ability to accept/reject calls, a dedicated do not disturb mode.
Probably the most unique feature would be the Fitstar workout integration modules, which pulls in structured workouts (gym focused at the moment it seems) for things like ‘10 minute abs’ and ‘7 minute workout’. These workout modules give animated step by step instructions for each portion of the workout. It reminded me quite a bit of what we’ve seen with the Adidas Smart Run GPS and their gym workout section.
Lastly, there’s a pretty big focus on the modular bands. These come in three main categories:
Classic Bands ($29 + Tracker): Black, Purple (‘Plum’), and Blue
Luxe Leather Bands with Frame ($99 + Tracker): Black Brown (‘Camel’), and Grey (err…’Mist Grey)
Luxe Metal Band with Frame ($129 + Tracker): Stainless steel
(The bands come in a variety of sizes)
Here’s a handy-dandy picture of them all from Fitbit:
The list price of the Blaze is $199 (inclusive of one of the classic bands colors/sizes of your choice), which is at the upper edge of a smart watch without GPS’s price range. That could be a tough price for them, especially with a planned launch date of March 2016*. Especially since one could look at offerings like the Pebble lineup, or the Garmin Vivoactive and get pretty vast functionality already. Not to mention the Apple Watch dipped to $250 during the holidays with some retailers, and that’s before the new Apple Watch comes out in March (driving the existing prices down for the 1st generation units as Apple typically does).
*Minor note: During the press event they verbally said ‘May 2016’, however the press materials state ‘March 2016’. Upon clarification after the event, they’re confirming it’s indeed ‘March 2016’.
Finally, when it comes to hands-on time, there wasn’t much of that. Yes, I suppose technically I got hands-on with the unit, but only on a technicality:
All units at the invite-only press event all had the screen locked (looks like Fitbit is learning from Apple’s Watch events), and the optical HR sensors were disabled. There were however Fitbit employees wearing them around, which bodes slightly more positive on where the device stands in terms of readiness. But it’s otherwise impossible to tell at this point how close they really are to production.
Still, definitely an interesting entrant and looking forward to seeing how quickly the company can mature the product and how they can build upon the workout integration piece, which I suspect will be one of the major differentiating points
Finally – here’s a quick hands on-video I shot the next day:
With that – thanks for reading!
Don’t forget to check out all of the DCR CES 2016 coverage, as well as a slew of updates that were only seen on Twitter. It was a crazy busy week!
Update! You can now pre-order the Fitbit Blaze through either Amazon or Clever Training – both support the site! If you order through Clever Training, you’ll also save 10% on your order and get free US shipping, simply use DCR Reader coupon code DCR10BTF.
im not familiar with the fitbit OS – does it have apps?
is this an apple watch competitor?
There is no real OS or app platform. It simply allows more extensive reception of your notifications, control of your music and the mentioned gym based excersizes. It basically is a Vivosmart HR in a color screened watch form factor. A Charge HR + notifications + watch form factor etc.
Not very smart but it does hit at a price point just $50 more than Charge HR so maybe people will go for it for the watch look but it’s bigger than even Apple Watch and many women who are big Fitbit fans aren’t going to like it. Fitbit acknowledges they are working on a smaller version.
Uglier than the Vivoactive, and that’s saying something.
Completely disagree, but “style” is (almost) entirely subjective.
Well I give them thumbs up for the purple/plum band color however I also have to agree and say the basic shape of the watch case is terrible.
Can’t see any reason why someone would buy this over either a Vivoactive or Vivosmart HR, depending on your needs. Kinda expensive for what it offers, and that bezel is just horrible.
No GPS. No dice for me.
Agreed, no GPS, no point.
100% agree. No GPS and not waterproof. Missed a big opportunity there Fitbit.
I guess it is a smartwatch for the FitBit addicts … otherwise I don’t see the point without GPS and proper water resistance.
I guess I must be in the minority when it comes to not enjoying running with my phone .. all of these companies (Apple included sadly) think we all just love to run with their 6-inch slab of metal and plastic strapped to our arms .. sorry I don’t.
Yup. I’ll stick to my good old Garmin Forerunner 910XT and G-shock
Not waterproof? Is it that difficult? I’d pay another $50 for that ‘feature’…
I just don’t see the point of these devices without GPS, if I wanted to run with my phone I would just run with my phone. The whole point I splashed out £200 on a spprtswatch was so I could leave the phone at home.
Could not agree more with you ! I only take my phone if I am somewhere I dont know and risk getting lost, or go somewhere more risky and I might need to call someone
Agree, agree, agree! I hate that the Apple Watch and Blaze do not have GPS built in. Why would you create such an expensive product and not include a very important feature for your user? The technology is there with the Surge. I guess there is hope for the 2nd generation product.
I forgot my Garmin at home this morning and now I’m forced to run with my phone today with mapMyRun. Let’s just say that today’s run won’t be entirely accurate given the fact I need to start the app, store the phone in my spibelt, put my gloves on, etc. etc. etc. A fitness watch without GPS is a waste of time in my books.
I wonder how the workout teacher compare to the Microsoft band. I love it for that reason alone.
I feel like this is a [b]very[/b] solid miss on Fitbit’s part. I understand that style/design is subjective, but yeesh… not to my taste.
No GPS, funky bands, still need to remember to take it off before swimming. And I would worry about durability, I have already killed a couple of their other products just with day to day life.
Is it really limited to call/text/calendar notifications? Or is it full iOS notifications like the vivo series and other smart watches?
Am I alone in that I absolutely HATE running with my phone? I’ve tried arm bands and belt pouches and just holding it. All awful. Anything that requires my phone for full functionality is DOA for me.
I’m glad this has been brought up a few times here. I want to run with as few devices as possible – that means no phone. Everyone around me is excited about the Apple watch, but if I have to keep my phone with me at all times that’s a dealbreaker. Until a watch comes out with true 4G capability, nothing will replace my Polar, which does everything i need it to do.
I’m 99 % sure Fitbit doesn’t give a crap about runners with this product. They are aiming for the corp health care market or the people who use activity trackers as an accessory.
Yes, they basically said as much. This falls into their “middle” category of a blend of fitness/smart watch. They consider the Surge (and it’s TBD successor) as the more fitness focused products they offer.
God forbid runners would want a color screen and different watch bands.
Phones are only getting bigger as well. Is anyone honestly running with an iPhone 6 Plus? (Or equivalent). There’s also the issue of getting your £600 phone getting destroyed if you happen to get caught in the rain.
Does this broadcast the HR over Ant+ so that other devices (e.g., Garmin Edge 800) could use this instead of a separate HR strap? Any timing on when you will have a complete review and testing of the HR functionality?
I think the limitation, assuming it exists, to call/text/calendar notifications is a huge disappointment and limiter to most of the competition on all fronts. They should have just acquired Pebble
Almost missed the fact that *again* they still don’t allow simply all notifications. Useless.
What about Suunto. Any news about that?
Suunto isn’t at CES (Las Vegas). They are however at Outdoor Retailer, which begins later this week in Salt Lake City.
I think most commenters are missing the point. Many people power walk at work, or want to do a solid workout in the gym and don’t need a GPS (they can carry their phones). Running is not the only way to workout. If you squeeze a GPS chip into the watch, your battery drain using GPS is horrible (only 10 hours battery with Vivoactive). This watch is meant for the gym rats, the power walkers or the parents walking around the stadium at their kids events. I give Fitbit kudos on that. Maybe it would help if they break out their sports trackers into “Genres” like “Runners” and “All Others”.
I agree that there isn’t a straight issue with lacking GPS. The issue is lacking all the other things that are totally commonplace on every other smartwatch today (full notification support, waterproofing, apps, etc…). And having a price that will quickly get squashed by Apple likely before it even gets out.
Investors agreed, sending Fitbit’s stock plummeting almost 20% today. link to finance.yahoo.com
“lacking full notification support, waterproofing”
At this price point, these are just inexcusable. These companies should hire DCR to give approval for release of devices. He’d tell them they’re barking mad.
Granted, not everyone needs GPS on their watch, and you can track runs using linked phone GPS (at the cost of phone battery life, and needing to carry the phone).
What really gets me (apart from the, IMHO, appalling overall design) is what it does to the product line. If I want a FitBit-ecosystem tracker with GPS, I am pushed to the Surge, missing the color screen and guided workouts. Their top of the line product is lacking in comparison to their second-from-top tier product, with the sole exception of the inbuilt GPS.
Why not update the Surge with color screen, “cooler” data displays and so on, as well as having the “Gym rat/soccer mom&dad” group covered?
If this is it for announcements from FitBit for now, I feel that they are leaving the more serious exerciser customer group for others to grab. Perhaps competition in that segment is just more than they can be botherd with, but this is a pity as their “social” platform and general software ecosystem are much better than the equivalents I have experienced from Polar, at least. There’s a couple of reasons I have a V800 on my left wrist and a Surge on my right, basically the 24×7 HR monitoring for non-workout activity/resting HR and the “Work week challenge” things I keep getting involved in are what keep me using the Surge.
I don’t think we are “missing the point” I get the point. But many, if not most, of the readers here are athletes who do run, ride, etc.
Hmmm – looks as if the market doesn’t like it
Fitbit Blaze smartwatch sends shares into dive link to bbc.com
You think they would have learnt about the waterproofing by now. I bought my wife Fitbit Charge HR and she is paranoid she is going to destroy it when she forgets to remove before showing or swimming in pool or beach.
No GPS also, they are having a laugh. Can’t see many outside the Fitbit ecosystem wanting this.
Really cant see the point of this watch.
Has to tether to your hone
Its like the designers stole a Delorean and went back to 1985 to produce it. Its already out of date.
I just cant figure these watch manufacturers out. They all know we want GPS, accurate hr, music control, waterproofing and good battery life but its almost as if they go out of their way to give you some on one watch….some on another watch, but never all in the same watch. We put a man on the moon nearly 50 years ago didnt we? Jeez….
Like the FitStar integration, does it recognise your exercises? For example number of push ups? Or is this just a training mode which tells you what exercise, number of sets and repetition and rest?
Fitbit shares have fallen 18% on the back of this!
Funnily enough this device does sort of appeal to me (the price point is a bit hard to swallow) I’ve been looking for something will track my general exertion levels throughout the week (tennis, commuter cycling and weights training at the gym) to give me an idea of when I’m overdoing it or when I can start to add more in (would like to get some spin classes in)
I don’t need GPS because most of my cycling is commuting so I have my phone anyway.
I guess what I really want is just a wrist based HRM that works well under exertion as well as rest and can easily detect cycling. This is touted as being able to do both (but who knows if it can)
Anyway I’ve no doubt that me needs are probably not what you should chase if you want to turn a buck, but I thought it was interesting.
the blaze is neither here nor there, and too expensive for wherever it is
I have a vivoactive (which can now be had for 170 usd on amazon). compared to the blaze, that’s a bargain considering the VA has so 2 key features the blaze does not — gps and waterproof.
from what I see, only thing blaze has on the VA is the optical hr sensor — I can deal with a chest strap hrm, save some bucks and have a low profile/comfortable watch I can wear all day.
They say they listen to user feedback, but they really don’t. Any “Fitness Tracker” that doesn’t have on-board GPS and properly waterproofed to, say, 50m (~150ft) is worthless and pointless. They need real users working with product managers during the R&D, not just bring athletes as marketing shills after the fact.
Agree on waterproofing. As for GPS, yes, that would be awesome, but they say “fitness tracker” they don’t mean “training device” they just mean track your overall fitness. This device is supposed to sit between pure activity tracker and smart watch, not meant to be a running watch by any stretch.
Note: I run 1500-2000 miles per year and would love for it to include that, but I am saying you have a different definition of “fitness tracker” than they do (and what I would guess the general public does).
Matthew, I see that point about the distinction between fitness tracking and fitness trainer. My main issue is that these “hyperconverged” devices, to use industry parlance, w/o proper gps or waterproofing means you _need_ an additional device with you — either a phone or a proper running or tri watch — to properly track those activities (e.g. running, cycling, swimming). So you get additional cost + additional weight.
I would agree but they featured running in their announcement and have Ryan Hall pimping it on twitter. That seems to be trying to appeal to runners.
Ray, hope your having fun. Any news from Gopro of any kind?
See, this watch appeals to me because of fitbit community and app. I don’t need GPS but the price is definitely high. That said, compare this to the Fitbit Charge HR, and this does all it does and more. The Charge HR retailed for $179.99 so with a colour touch screen its probably priced right relative to their other offerings.
However would I wear this watch while playing a soccer game? Doubt it.
the Mio device now measuring PAI score is actually very interesting and a proven metric which if captured correctly is more useful.
In my book, Fitbit lost my interest as soon as they said the unit isn’t waterproof.
The fact that there is no inbuilt GPS feature and the device is not water-proof really bums me. It is 2016… Surely advanced companies such as this could add those few features. I NEED a good fitness watch. I really like the design of this one but it lacks the features I need.
I find the lack of GPS on this simply stunning. They clearly aren’t looking for customers that do anything outside! They must be going after the Apple Watch market, and not the Garmin market.
No wonder their stock dropped.
It’s the lack of notifications I find stunning. A cheap-ass Pebble can do notifications.
“Fitbit Blaze features the smartphone notifications you need most instead of being overwhelmed with unnecessary information. Bluetooth® Smart connectivity delivers call, text and calendar notifications through on-screen messages and a vibrating alert, so you can see what matters most at a glance”
Trust me Fitbit, call, text and calendar alerts are the notifications I need LEAST. I need all notifications, so I can see twitter DM’s, FB messages, emails, wunderlist reminders etc. Commercial suicide hamstringing it so much.
I wonder why people need all these notifications on their sport watch or fitness tracker… to stay connected? Having all these notifications on your mobile phone is already kind of addiction. Calls and SMS is smart choice given that sms most people don’t read or read rarely. And just think how many notifications from fb, whatsapp, etc…an average person receives during a day…forget about battery life then. I’v been using surge for almost 1 year already… and found the limit to calls and sms to be a smart choice. Regarding waterproof, my wife’s charge HR is 8 month old, she’s never taken it off while swimming and also wash it after work out. As I got it the next blaze and charge HR both offer the same water resistance. ..if so then you can swim with blaze with no problem. I even could dive with charge about 4-5 meter deep while snorkeling in the see. Regarding lack of GPS. ..honestly I don’t understand why people complain… GPS I use every time when I run outdoor and when cycling. First 2 months I compared a distance from GPS and distance with no GPS, I found very small difference. During 1 year I looked at the route on the map may be 2 times… what is the point to know your exact route? I always run with my phone. ..cheap water resistant belt cost 5 dollars + Bluetooth headphones. So if you ask me would I replace my surge with the blaze…my answer is yes, I would. Fresh design, color screen, it’s something new, the most disappointing in surge were lack of watch faces and bulky design while I was very happy with the rest features. Surge helped me to stay motivated (not connected; -) during last year and I lost almost 30 kg and back to the healthy state I was 20 years ago.
Everyone’s different, you can’t impose how you choose to use your phone on others Marat, that’s kinda condescending.
I have whatsapp notifications because they’re so rare. I turn off FB and messenger notifications, as I’d be swamped otherwise, I deal with those apps in my own time.
I have text and call notifications on, again, they’re rare.
Apart from that I have BBC News alerts on.
But I’d not judge someone for having more notifications than me.
And in this day and age, releasing a device WITHOUT notifications, except call and sms, is letting the device be dead in the water upon launch.
And you can’understand why lack of GPS is a problem in a device that expensive, considering that the same money gets you a device which has GPS? People LIKE GPS. It’s as simple as that.
This thing is gonna bomb.
I didn’t mean to offend anyone, Paul. I just shared my experience and my opinion. Same as you did. As to notifications, when I received the surge my first question to Fitbit Support was whether the surge supports 3-d party notifications or not. I was kinda disappointed. After one year of using surge, again IMHO, I realized that it’s not a big deal I can live with this. Without this feature i could achive my goals. My point was if someone’s planning to buy blaze the lack of 3-D party notifications should not be the decisive point… all what you need to achieve your fitness goals this tracker offers. Regarding GPS, yes I really don’t understand the benefit of using GPS, note, not having GPS on board… again IMHO, yes, I used it while outdoor running, and what? Surge showed the route, sometimes correct something slightly incorrect… how should I use this data? Share it with friends? What for? As I wrote the difference of distances calculated with/without GPS is minor… I don’t believe that GPS somehow improve HR monitoring or calculating calories burned. .. so I don’t understand it. May be there is some important point that I missed… what I believe is that fitbit can motivate you and show approximate statistics of your workouts to let you analyze your growth… this it does perfectly…with or without GPS/notifications. All is IMHO.
I am definitely in the minority by being happy with limited notifications! I get annoyed when my Garmin is constantly buzzing all day when all I really need to be reminded of are calls, texts, and appointments. I don’t intend to ever give up my Forerunner for running but I’m interested in this Fitbit for everyday wear. I’ve had a Charge HR for a while and love it other than it not being waterproof.
One question…do you know if they equipped the alarm clock with a snooze feature as Garmin does?
Can the Blaze be used to _accurately_ track resting HR over time? and how goos is it at that?
We’ll see. Obviously it’s using the same tech as previous units, and to be fair – the Fitbit optical HR sensing tech was pretty good for non-workout activities.
What was off was their algorithm which ‘decided’ what your official RHR value was for the day. It was funny, you could clearly look at the charts and see a lower value during the day, yet it would always tell you something 5-10bpm higher.
Yes, I remember reading you reporting that with the Fitbit units. I’m still searching for something that will help me track RHR accurately over time, and it seems every gadget I look at comes up short in that area… sigh!
Ditto. Nothing beats the Peak for 24/7 HR tracking, but the OEM strap irritates my skin and the metal clasp on the rubber replacement I got digs into my skin something fierce. If I could get the Peak with a Garmin strap I’d be a happy camper for the vast parts of my workday not spent running/biking/swimming.
what is the physical screen dimension of the blaze (without the strap and casing) just the unit itself?
Can anyone help me I have a blaze it will not sync to my galaxy s3 so I going to get a neNew phone does anyone know what straight talk phone works with the blaze
Hi could sombody please tell me if this will still track distance covered without gps as dont really want to carry my smart phone around with me
Yes, it uses an accelerometer. It’s not super-accurate, but will work.
Hi ray thanks for getting back to me on this when you say its not super accurate how far out is it any idea really like the design of it but im torn between this and the fit bit surge any help would be greatly appreciated
I cover this in detail in my in-depth review here: link to dcrainmaker.com