Science and Tech


Fitbit Late To Smartwatch Trend, But Has Unique Position

Fitness device maker Fitbit has announced three new fitness trackers. The most expensive model comes with some smartwatch capabilities.
Posted at 8:31 PM, Oct 27, 2014

Time to clear off some more space on your wrist. Wearables maker Fitbit has announced a new lineup of three fitness-tracking wristbands — including its first stab at something approaching a smartwatch.

Let's start with the device that's available for purchase Monday, the $130 Fitbit Charge. It's essentially an upgraded version of the Fitbit Force, which the company was forced to recall in February after the device was accused of causing skin rashes.

The Charge monitors activity and sleep, just like the Force did, and it adds a few more features, notably caller ID from a linked smartphone. The company says the device goes for up to seven days on a full battery.

If you're willing to spend an extra $20, you could get Fitbit's Charge HR — a Charge with a heart rate monitor, giving it more refined fitness tracking but also a slightly reduced battery life of five days.

But for the really dedicated fitness buff, Fitbit is offering what it's calling a "superwatch" — the $250 Fitbit Surge.

The Surge has some of the smartphone integration of a more conventional smartwatch, including call and text alerts and music player control. But it's primarily a fitness device — the company is touting Surge's eight different sensors, including GPS, which will provide workout data on an extremely granular level.

Both the Surge and the Charge HR won't be out until 2015, which means the company's missing out on the profitable holiday season. And there's another, Apple-shaped problem looming over Fitbit's new lineup.

The Cupertino company recently announced forays into both the wearable and fitness markets with the Apple Watch and their HealthKit tool. 

And shortly after Fitbit mentioned it wasn't planning to interface with HealthKit any time soon, Apple decided to yank Fitbit from its stores — meaning the company's got one less retailer for its products, and possibly a passive-agressive beef with one of the biggest players in the industry.

But a PCWorld writer notes the recent smartwatch boom might have a silver lining for Fitbit — it's scared off some of the competition, who are focusing on cheaper fitness bands or software and services.

"Oddly enough, this leaves Fitbit in a unique position as a company focused on premium fitness wearables. If you've felt let down by less-capable fitness trackers, but are unimpressed with beefier smartwatches, Fitbit wants to be your hardware maker.​"

Fitbit also announced changes to its mobile app, including new heart-rate tracking features, fitness goals, and some basic coaching features. If you've got a Windows phone, the app also supports Microsoft's Cortana voice-recognition system.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.