Fitbit’s Newest Activity-Trackers Are Here News


Of Fitbit’s many wearables, the most popular have been the
heart rate-tracking Charge HR and its first wristband, the
Flex. Now, the company is unveiling new versions of both with
hardware and software features meant to address some of Fitbit
users’ longest-standing desires: Water-proofness, and tools
that give people a more comprehensive and personalized view of
their fitness levels.

The Charge 2 and Flex 2, both of which are available for
preorder starting today, also come in sleek new designs and
with fashionable accessories designed to make their products
look more like jewelry and less like typical fitness-trackers.

The Charge 2, which will ship in September, and the Flex 2,
available in October, mark the first time that Fitbit has
reimagined any of its existing devices. As it prepares to phase
out their predecessors, it’s hoping that the second generation
will be exciting enough to draw in first-time customers — and
inspire current ones to upgrade. They come after the company
had hits earlier this year with a pair of new devices. The
Blaze, Fitbit’s first smartwatch, and the bracelet-like Alta
were
together so popular they brought in
more than half of the company’s revenue in the second
quarter.

The Charge 2 still has continuous, automatic heart-rate
tracking, but now boasts a display that’s four times bigger,
which makes text previews, caller ID, and calendar alerts — all
new features — easier to read.

The biggest changes, though, lie in the fitness-tracking
software. One of customers’ biggest complaints is that the
motivation to wear a Fitbit fades quickly, since the
10,000-step challenge is a non-personalized goal and represents
just one facet of overall health.

This Charge tries to address that by offering a deeper and more
personalized array of health information on the wrist. It can
now spit out a score meant to approximate your cardio fitness
level, based on your user profile, heart rate, and exercise
data, and offer customized tips to improve your score by losing
weight or changing up your workouts. The device can also show
off real-time exercise statistics, shift into different
tracking modes for runs, bike rides, weights, and yoga, guide
you through high-intensity workouts, and link with your
smartphone GPS to track things like the pace and distance of
your runs.

The review device Fitbit provided is still in beta, so the
software may change when it ships. During our first workout
with it, the large display made it easier to see stats like
heart rate and duration while exercising. One gripe we had with
the Charge 2 was that initiating a workout was buried under a
series of taps. The app doesn’t have the option to prioritize
which types of workouts to display. So, for example, if you’re
a cyclist, you’d need to click the side button twice and tap
the screen five times before every ride.

The Charge 2 also steps into mental wellness, which is new
territory for Fitbit. It offers deep-breathing sessions, two to
five minutes long, that track your heart rate variability and
guide you along with visualizations, animations, and
vibrations. Guided breathing is an increasingly popular feature
on apps and wearables — including the Apple
Watch, which unveiled its own version this summer.

The Charge 2 costs $150 and lasts up to five days per charge
(the same as its predecessor). It comes with both elastomer
accessory bands and leather ones.

The entry-level wristband has been completely redesigned, with
a sleeker (or, dare we say, more Jawbone-like) band — making it
the thinnest Fitbit out there — and a smaller removable
tracker. At $100, the Flex 2 is also the most affordable
wristband in Fitbit’s lineup. It has all-day activity-tracking
without the heart rate capabilities of the Charge HR, Blaze, or
Surge bands.

The Flex 2’s most noteworthy feature is its swim-proofness,
rated to 50 meters or about 160 feet deep, and new lap-, pace-,
and distance-counting capabilities. The band is Fitbit’s first
truly waterproof device. The company’s other offerings are
merely water resistant and even showering is not
recommended.

Fitbit has been slow to bring a swimmer-friendly tracker to
market. According to product marketing manager Jamie Kelly,
Fitbit began developing the Flex 2 in earnest 18 to 24 months
ago. Waterproof activity trackers with swimming features, like
the Moov Now $79,
Garmin
Vivoactive ($245), and Misfit
Shine $120, have been available for a year or more.

The Flex 2 does, however, have two key benefits over its
competitors: an auto-tracking feature (both Moov and Misfit
users must initiate a session before they swim) and an insane
selection of accessories. Fitbit is offering elegant, Flex
2-compatible metal bangles ($90-$100) and lariat-style
necklaces ($80-$100), in addition to classic bands in seven
different colors and designer collaborations with Tory Burch,
Simply Vera by Vera Wang, and Public School.

The band now has “smart” features, too. Like the original Flex,
the tracker has an LED display that shows goal progress – but
unlike it, those lights can indicate whether you’re getting a
call or text. Fitbit has also integrated the SmartTrack
automatic exercise tracking feature in the Flex 2, so it can
detect whether you’re spinning, biking outdoors, on the
elliptical, or, of course, on a swim.

In our test, the Flex 2, a “very beta” unit on loan from
Fitbit, failed to log a 40-minute, 1,200-yard swim, which may
be why its specific release date isn’t certain. It appeared as
“light steps” in the app.

In addition to the new trackers, Fitbit is introducing a slew
of fancy new bands for the Alta and Blaze — including
22-karat-gold-plated bangles — from luxury designers like
Public School, Vera Wang, and Tory Burch. (They’re not cheap,
ranging from $100 to $150.)

And it’s unveiling a new motivational tool called Fitbit
Adventures, a series of non-competitive challenges inspired by
scenic destinations. Users can take steps that add up to the
distances of real trails from Yosemite National Park, the first
featured location, as motivation.

 

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