Fitbit has become a household name when it comes to fitness trackers and wearables in general – for better and for worse. With affordable price points and one of the earliest fitness trackers to hit the market, the company has consistently released well-received products. Of course, there was the big kerfuffle over the Fitbit Force causing rashes and later reports of the same issues with the Charge and Surge iterations.
Regardless, Fitbit seems determined to push forward and show everyone that it still has some tricks up its sleeve.
The Fitbit Blaze is the newest in the line and a departure from its other wearables. With a color touchscreen, the Blaze looks much more appealing than the Surge and functionally, seems to let you do more.
However, it’s still simpler than a smartwatch. You can swipe to move through the menu or dismiss notifications, select workouts and use a music app. There’s a button on the left side that serves as a home and back command, with two on the right that can be used for volume control for music. Fitbit also noted that the right buttons are in place to allow a second option for you to select exercise options in case your hands are wet or gloved and aren’t registering on the touchscreen.
Elastomer bands are available in black, blue and plum for $29.95 (£19.95, AU$49.95), leather bands with stainless steel display frames are available in black, mist grey and camel for $99.95 (£59.99, AU$169.95) and a stainless steel link band with a stainless steel display frame is available in silver for $129.95 (£89.99, AU$219.95). Fitbit said there will be more down the line in terms of color choices for the different materials.
The watch body of the Blaze can be popped out and placed into another band easily enough. I liked the flatness against my wrist and it felt like it fit nicely. It looks much thinner than many other smartwatches and trackers available now and is quite light too.
The Blaze’s hexagonal shape is sure to be polarizing for many. On one hand, it’s certainly different, but on the other, the design feels a bit outdated. I don’t notice it as much on the wrist due to the overall flat look of the body but I still can’t decide if I like it or not.
It’s five-day battery life is one of the Blaze’s strengths. The company claims the watch’s battery will last almost a week, including days and nights, without needing a charge.
Depending on usage, it could come out to be a bit less. But for a wearable – especially one with a touchscreen – the promise of five days is impressive.
FitStar is probably the most interesting fitness feature on the Blaze. Acquired by Fibit, the app has been integrated to give you on-screen workouts. Similar to Microsoft Band 2’s exercise apps, there are various reps you can do in seven and 10 minutes with the bonus of a little animation to show you exactly how to do the workout right on the Blaze’s screen, unlike the Band’s app which opens up on your smartphone.
Fitness-oriented features include always-on PurePulse heart rate monitoring, connected GPS tracking and SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition. Automatic sleep tracking is also another feature that you can find metrics for.
Call, text and calendar alerts from your mobile phone are also part of the package. Music control, including play, pause and volume adjustments can be used with connected playlists.
The alerts don’t provide the same experience as a premium smartwatch though. You can reject incoming calls and accept them but not answer from your wrist. Similar to Pebble Time, text and calendar notifications show up as one chain when you swipe down to read them. They can be dismissed one by one or all at once.
The Fitbit Blaze will be available for $199 (£159.99, AU$329.95) in March, with preorders open now. Like its predecessors, the Blaze is compatible with Android, iOS and Windows devices.
The Blaze remains more affordable than the Surge which positions it as an appealing purchase for those looking for a fitness tracker with a color touchscreen and decent fitness functions.
Still overall, there’s not much to give the Blaze a wow-factor. I can see updates happening in the future that will give more value to its workout options or perhaps even more apps. But for now, it’s a fancy fitness tracker that’s a peg above a Pebble in terms of quality. Other than that, it’s difficult to categorize the Blaze on the wearables scale: its tracking abilities aren’t as advanced as other fitness devices and its smartwatch features aren’t as capable as Android Wear or Apple Watch.