Wearable fitness-tracking device maker Fitbit today announced three new products aimed at helping people monitor their activity levels, heart-rates and sleep patterns. The new devices include the Fitbit Charge, the Fitbit Charge HR and the Fitbit Surge, which also provides smart watch capabilities.
The Charge is available via Fitbit's Web site and at retail outlets across the U.S. Both the Charge HR and Surge are scheduled for release in early 2015.
As Fitbit itself noted in a blog post about the new products, the Charge is essentially the Fitbit Force reinvented. The company recalled its Force device earlier this year after receiving some 9,900 reports of skin irritation and 250 reports of blistering from wearers of the wristband.
Lessons Learned from Force
The updated version of the Force, the Charge, features a "high-quality, water-resistant, comfortable new textured wristband design with an improved clasp," according to Fitbit. In an open letter to users posted online earlier this month, Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park said the company learned many lessons from its experience with the Force, and incorporated those into the development of its next generation of smart wearables.
After hiring independent labs and medical experts to investigate the cause of skin problems among Force wearers, Fitbit concluded that some users might have been sensitive to the nickel in the device's stainless steel parts. Others probably experienced an allergic reaction to either the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the device.
In addition to featuring new materials and texturing, the new Fitbit Charge, which retails for $129.95, has a battery life of up to seven days. It lets users track steps taken, distances traveled, calories burned, floors climbed and sleep and wake times. It comes with an OLED display showing both real-time stats and the time of day, and also provides a vibrating alert and caller ID when linked to a nearby smartphone.
Surge a 'Fitness Super Watch'
The Fitbit Charge HR, which will be priced at $149.95, will offer the same features as the Charge, along with several other capabilities. These include continuous, wrist-based heart-rate monitoring with readings such as resting heart rate and heart-rate trends. The Charge HR will offer a five-day battery life.
The Surge, which Fitbit describes as a "fitness super watch," will come with eight sensors for fitness tracking, GPS support and heart-rate monitoring. The GPS will enable users to monitor, for example, pace, distance, elevation, split times and route history. Like the Charge, the $249.95 Surge will provide enough battery power to operate for up to seven days.
How much can devices like Fitbit's help people improve their health and fitness? With smart wearables still in the early stage, the jury is still out.
"Despite their rising popularity, little is known about how these monitors differ from one another, what options they provide in their applications and how these options may impact their effectiveness," said Elizabeth Lyons, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the co-author of a recent study on fitness wearables. The research team concluded that devices with more features might not necessarily be as effective as those with fewer but more useful apps.
"Future studies are needed to further investigate new types of electronic activity monitors and to test their feasibility, acceptability and ultimately their public health impact," Lyons said.
Posted: 2014-10-27 @ 12:30pm PT
Five day battery life? WhoopieDoodle.