Fitbit Blaze Review – Is It A Real Smartwatch Alternative?
Earlier in 2016, Fitbit made a clever release: the Fitbit Blaze. Clever. That is because they must have been trying to come up with an all-in-one “smart fitness watch” to rock both the smartwatch and fitness tracking worlds. Does it do any justice to any of the worlds, though?
But first, here are some Fitbit Blaze highlights:
- Quite accurate exercise and sleep tracking capability
- Color touch screen that works flawlessly
- Good battery Life
- Amped PurePulse Heart Rate Technology
You might not like:
- No inbuilt GPS
- Not waterproof
Fitbit Blaze price when reviewed: $179.95
Fitbit Blaze Review: Design and Look
The Fitbit Blaze looks are unmistakably those of a smartwatch. Not to say that it’ll stand on the same podium as the high-end finished smartwatches from Huawei and Motorola’s Moto 360 Sport. Is it ugly? It depends. But it sure is a looker in its own right.
Screen – 240 x 180 px
First things to catch the eye will likely be the 1.2-inch color, LCD touch screen. If you go straight to powering this thing, you’ll be stunning on a 240 X 180-pixels LCD color screen.
Not the most stunning we’ve experienced, but good enough to read text off of the 1.2-inch display, stress-free. This is a major shift from the monochrome displays of the likes of the Fitbit Surge and Co.
Better still, the color screen does display different color codes for every individual exercise’s stats—different colors for each of the different exercises and sleep mode stats, so it’s hard to confuse them.
You might also like the 1.2-inch size for it fits well enough on a normal-size user’s wrist.
Fitbit Blaze Wristbands
In total, the Fitbit Blaze is available in small, large and XL wristband sizes, so it’ll be easy to find one that fits your wrist perfectly. When running, biking and pushing yourself hard, the least charming thing would be a snugly fitting thing.
The best wristband holds the device in place so you don’t have to. That way you can focus on what made you buy the fitness tracker in the first place—keeping healthy—not wondering whether you’ll lose your expensive little smartwatch/fitness band hybrid. Equally important, the device needs to be close enough to the body to detect vitals such as pulse rate, which the Fitbit Blaze takes. So how it fits matters.
Talking of fitting, Fitbit is quick to show off the surgical-grade metal it used to make the buckle. It isn’t tripping if you got it, though, and the whole set up does hold the device close enough and comfortable enough for wearing around the clock.
Is It Waterproof?
Not the Blaze, unfortunately. So wearing one 24/7 is simply not an option most users will have. It is only slightly water-resistant. Fitbit claims that the device can withstand being draped in sweat, rain, and the accidental splash. But, it won’t blaze past a shower, or swim, or a deep in the sink while you do the dishes or wash the child or pet. The Fitbit Flex 2 is the only waterproof Fitbit tracker to date.
In fact, the company explicitly recommends that users remove the Fitbit Blaze when it comes into contact with sweat and dry it completely before buckling it right back on. Claims you should give your wrist skin some time off of the standard sports watch “flexible, durable elastomer material” used to make the classic strap that ships with the device.
There’s hope, though. Because it is darn easy to disassemble the unit down to a couple of components: the fitness/smartwatch brains itself (black in color), the metal frame and straps. That automatically qualifies users to swap straps to a color or material of their choosing to match whichever wardrobe goodies or occasion they choose.
Time to accessorize
There are four strap colors to choose from: black/silver, plum/silver, stainless steel, and blue/silver. And starting from September 2016, Fitbit has just confirmed that there will be a total of nine—some five more for your colorful pleasure. Materials include classic Luxe Leather and Luxe Metal.
The metal frame, too, is receiving a makeover from the out-of-the-box silver—but at a price. Now you can swap that for a 22 karat gold-plated alternative for $99.95 (GBP 76.26).
Alternatively, there’s the spanking new Special Edition Gold and Slim Pink version—a stainless steel, satin-finished Fitbit Blaze that comes with a tapered pink band—for $229.95 (GBP 175.45).
The customization craze gets wilder. The Fitbit Blaze module now supports a total of nine clock faces (from just four) to switch to and fro at your pleasure.
Clearly, the Fitbit Blaze makes it super easy to make it personal.
Features and Software
How Does the FitBit Blaze Work?
First, it is a watch. It tells the time and date. Then it is a fitness tracker.
To start with that feature that’s really a hallmark of a dedicated smartwatch: GPS connection.
Fitbit calls it ‘Connected GPS’, a fancy way of saying it is not inbuilt in the watch/fitness tracker itself. You’ll need to tow along your phone to that run, jog, walk, biking expedition, etc, which is quite last year.
Having said that, the Connected GPS function works remarkably well when paired with the GPS on your smartphone.
From there you can track exercise stats such as duration and pace, and map your routes on the watch display.
Still, on the display, choose from any one of the exercise modes and watch real-time data come to life on there. Those modes include cardio, running, biking and steps—what FitBit is calling Multi-Sport.
In essence, the Fitbit Blaze is a multitasker: it’ll track distance covered, steps moved, sleep and restless nights, floors climbed, active minutes spent, heart rate and calories burned.
All about Apps
All live stats recorded from these different modes are color-coded to differentiate each with just a quick glance on the display. Note that to view these, you’ll need to tap on the Today app. That’ll show detailed data on your workout performance, including your improvements over time right off the watch display. Still, the best place to analyze those stats remains on the larger screen of your smartphone from the Fitbit App.
You can also install other apps that work with Fitbit.
The Native Fitbit App
The Fitbit app remains one of the best health apps out there (Jawbone is there too). It is available for free download from Android’s Google Play and the App Store for the Apple variety of compatible mobile devices. Check if your device is compatible here. Apparently, different devices may get to access different features of the Fitbit app.
Most of the information you need to add checks and balances to your workout routines is to be found in great detail here.
While the Fitbit Blaze records the data, the mobile app breaks it down to charts, graphs, bars, and easy to understand information to point out any improvements you are making and what you might need to work on. In fact, with FitStar, you might have your own fitness coach—one who gives on-screen (on the watch display) instructions on how to work out to best achieve set goals.
You can easily set workout goals via the mobile app. Then your progress against that goal will be communicated to you via notifications on the watch screen. And so will text and call notifications ping up on the Fitbit Blaze display via Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity to your smartphone.
The Fitbit Blaze holds the capacity to store in it some 7-days worth of minute by minute motion data, and keep totals for up to 30 days. But, you can sync the health data to your mobile Fitbit app (iPhone 4S+, Android 2.3+) or computer (Windows Vista+, MacOS X10.6+). This it does automatically and wirelessly within a distance of 20 feet.
If you love to work in tune, you can use the Fitbit Blaze to control your phone’s music playlist and volume via Bluetooth classic connection.
Away to Social Matters Now
The Fitbit app community of health experts, fanatics, beginners, etc, is increasingly being known for its vibrancy.
This is a great thing especially if you need the weekly challenges, leaderboard face-offs, helpful tips, or just the family fun for the heck of it to stay motivated to keep a healthy lifestyle.
That is the point of the Fitbit community anyway, so tap on Social and Challenge to spoil you there.
Research has more than once proven that most people find it a challenge to exercise alone. The social aspect of the Fitbit app might actually prove the most motivating for a lot of people, and especially the ones just starting to tap into the potential of wearable technology to keep fit for life.
Swapping left on the watch display unveils the Fitbit-only apps.
There are no third-party apps for iPhone Fitbit Blaze owners.
Android has been lucky enough, and third party apps notifications have been popping up on the watch display for users using Android mobile devices since March 2016.
And if the default Smart Alarm, Settings, FitStar and Exercise services won’t row your boat, the Fitbit Blaze may not be your ideal ‘smart fitness tracker’.
The Fitbit Blaze captures heart rate optically. No need for an uncomfortable chest strap.
The results achieved mirrored those recorded by the likes of Basis Peak and Band 2—which also mirrors both distances and sleep tracking results. Although the chest strap is generally considered more accurate, Fitbit’s PurePulse Heart Rate technology progress has been nothing short of revolutionary as far as accuracy goes.
The selling point of the tech is in how it streams helpful data to help you stay within peak exercise intensity (heart rate zones) to burn just the right amount of calories and maximize workout times.
Then there is SmartTrack. The feature that lets your Fitbit Blaze to automatically decide what type of exercise you are on to—just in case you abruptly switch from walking to running, for example. It sort of works, but we found switching the modes manually to be more reassuring—but that’s just us. More interesting, yet, is that SmartTrack can record exercise busts that the user may forget to log in—thus giving you the credit you deserve.
New Software Updates
When it first shipped early in 2016, the Fitbit Blaze left some wishing it worked better as a smartwatch too.
From September, though, new updates are making it possible to rectify some of the hit or miss adventures of the Fitbit Blaze innards—and add a new spectrum of useful features.
Calendar events alerts haven’t been working as advertised, only beeping when the event in question already became water under the bridge.
The new updates are rectifying that.
Now iPhone owners can receive third party apps notifications right on the screen of their Fitbit Blaze to match their Android colleagues. That is to mean that everyone can now select and choose which smartphone apps can push notifications to the Fitbit Blaze.
It can be any app, really: WhatsApp, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, your choice.
Fitbit Blaze Battery Life
For all that it can do, and considering its category, it’d be easy to assume the battery life would suffer. But alas! The power plant pounds enough power from a full charge to last it up to 5 days.
Of course, this is a highly subjective matter.
The amount of power the Fitbit Blaze will consume while pairing to your smartphone’s GPS is way more than the amount it’ll need to track whether you slept like a baby the night before.
But overall, this is another area that the Fitbit Blaze nicely blazes past the completion to win itself the first place on the battery life podium.
Fitbit Blaze price when reviewed: $179.95
Fitbit Blaze Review: Verdict
Though at first glimpse the Fitbit Blaze seemed like a smartwatch wannabe without the goods to actually be one, it does get its job done.
The software side of things, including the PurePulse Heart Rate, FitStar, and Multi Sports features, and commendable battery life make this a good enough smart fitness tracker to work and walk out with.
Also, the software update roll out serves to give strength and stamina to the smartwatch side of things, to make this a smart fitness watch worth your time, company and money.
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