Fitbit isn't going to take the looming threat of fancy smartwatches lying down.
The fitness-tracker company rode out to meet its competitors head-on earlier this week, introducing a new smartwatch of its own, called the Fitbit Blaze. The watch is fitness-focused, but it also has some essential smartwatch capabilities such as displaying your calendar and text messages, as well as alerting you when your phone rings. It's the first device with a color touchscreen that Fitbit has ever made.
Fitbit is still the market leader in the wearables world, according to the International Data Corporation. But many analysts have predicted that consumer-dedicated fitness trackers will soon be overtaken by smartwatches, in the same way that music players and digital cameras diminished after those functions were absorbed into smartphones. This move from Fitbit could be seen as an early move to counter that predicted shift.
But Fitbit executives were careful to note that this the device still has fitness as its heart — a concentration that they think distinguishes it from the growing pack of Apple Watches, Samsung Gears and others that try to emulate a full smartphone experience on the wrist.
"You need a tool, not a toy," said Woody Scal, the company's chief business officer, at a news conference Tuesday. He said that Fitbit carefully chose the features from smartwatches that seem to matter most to consumers. He also bragged about the device's battery life, which the company claims is five days and nights — far more than most smartwatches with color touchscreens.
The company also played up the Blaze's design, which it said was created to be able to go easily from the gym to a fancy night out. As is the case with many other smartwatches, the Blaze will have changeable bands. Fitbit introduced three basic lines of bands: a durable, sweat-resistant tier, metal bands and leather bands. The device has also been designed to be very thin, giving it a slim profile that doesn't necessarily scream "smartwatch," which could be good for the more fashion-conscious fitness addicts.
Of course, fitness will still be the main selling point for potential buyers, and Fitbit has packed a lot into the device. The Blaze will work closely with Fitstar, an app that Fitbit acquired last year. The app will deliver instructions for fitness workouts to your wrist, along with diagrams that show you how your body should be positioned during the exercises. It will also offer users the option to specify what kind of physical activity they're doing — biking, weight lifting, etc. — so that the watch will be able to measure different metrics for various activities.
It also has something called "automatic exercise recognition," which will sense when you're working out. That's good news for people who forget to tell their devices to start tracking a workout, for example.
The device will cost $199 and Fitbit is taking advance orders now. Consumers will be able to get their hands on the Blaze starting in March.