Date:9 November 2016
Coming off the back of a 34% drop in stock value, it’s easy to write off the popular brand of activity trackers. It really is a terrible position to be in shortly before the presumably highly profitable Christmas holiday season, but completely understandable given the market forces at play.
If you have a Fitbit, you probably aren’t going to buy a new one. The company knows this and will continue making new products with exclusive features. Take the new Fitbit Charge 2 and its guided breathing. It’s essentially just a timer and you inhale and exhale along to a growing and shrinking ring. It could easily be ported to the Fitbit Blaze in the same way that the launch exclusive cardio fitness score was extended to all heart rate tracking Fitbits.
Point is, Fitbit put itself into this position by not really marching the activity tracker market forward. Charge 2 takes most of the benefits of my beloved Blaze (connected GPS, workout profiles and customisable home screen) and packs it into a smaller package. Now the notifications aren’t as useful and I’m further irritated by the all new proprietary charger. The replaceable bands also use a completely different mechanism.
Had the company used a unified backwards compatible charging and strap attaching solution, added water resistance and reimagined the way notifications are served, I would’ve easily recommended Charge 2 as the best activity tracker on the market. now it’s simply a very good one that can accommodate a wide range of athletes, but can be skipped by Charge HR users who aren’t interested in GPS.
Blaze works well for me because it serves notifications in a readable manner and has connected GPS – I run with my phone anyway, so have no problems being tethered to it. Plus the GPS data can share to Strava. The real strength in the Fitbit ecosystem is the well-designed app and its social features. I have a Garmin Vivosmart HR+ that has on-device GPS, catches notifications from all my apps and that I love dearly, but I haven’t even touched the social side, even though I have at least one friend who also uses a Garmin (I have her as a friend on Fitbit, though).
Another irritation is that Fitbit isn’t integrated with Apple Health. I can almost understand this from Apple’s perspective because it’s trying to sell the Watch, but Fitbit has been around a while and doesn’t do things like take or make phonically and you can’t respond to messages from a Fitbit.
I firmly believe that Fitbit will bounce back from this setback and probably impress the world with a new version of the Surge at CES in January. If you want a do-it-all activity tracker with a battery that lasts about five days that you don’t plan to take into a swimming pool, the Charge 2 is available in stores for around R3 000. My beloved Fitbit Blaze will set you back around R4 000.