by Brad Moon | December 31, 2013 5:45 am
We’re all waiting for Apple (AAPL) to release the iWatch, with high expectations that it will quickly become the best smartwatch on the market. But in the meantime, other companies are furiously expanding their existing wearable technology lineups. Fitbit is among the most popular and its lineup keeps getting better.
The Zip was the original Fitbit tracker and thrust the company into the spotlight. When the first Fitbit Flex review came out, it was pointed out that the band was one step from being a smartwatch. The new Fitbit Force (the primary subject of this Fitbit review) is poised to take on smartwatch makers directly.
Samsung (SSNLF) took a shot at the smartwatch market with the Galaxy Gear, a wearable device that offered many fitness applications but was roundly criticized for its clunky form factor, short battery life and high price tag.
Read our Fitbit review to find out why the new Fitbit Force might just be the smartwatch alternative that fitness fans choose over something like the Galaxy Gear.
If your New Year’s resolution involves getting fit, a Fitbit tracker is a great way to keep yourself motivated and enjoy some wearable high tech while you’re doing it.
Instead of starting with a wearable computer and adding fitness capability, Fitbit leveraged its reputation as the best fitness tracker manufacturer to create a wrist band that also incorporates more advanced technology. That includes an OLED display, a watch and enough smarts to be able to pair with an iPhone to display call notifications (that function is still in Beta testing).
My wife wouldn’t touch something as heavy and cumbersome as a Galaxy Gear smartwatch — even though she thinks the technology is cool — but she loves her Fitbit Force. During the Fitbit review, she found a lot to like about the wristband. It’s light and slim enough that you forget you’re wearing it (as was the case in this Fitbit Flex review, the Fitbit Force is water resistant so a bit of rain won’t harm it), it lasts a week or more on a single battery charge and it automatically updates your information to an iOS or mobile device running Google’s (GOOG) Android wirelessly.
Improving greatly over the Fitbit Flex, the Fitbit Force has an OLED display that cycles through a full range of information such as steps taken and floors climbed. The Fitbit Force also tracks sleep, and it’s thin and light enough that wearing it to bed isn’t an annoyance.
The plastic wristband displays the time, offers silent vibrating alarms and with a coming update, the Fitbit Force is posed to make the transition from best fitness tracker to making a run for best smartwatch (at least among fitness buffs) by showing call notifications from an iPhone. After a week working on this Fitbit review and the better part of a year using other Fitbit tracker devices, the Fitbit Force is a gadget I wouldn’t hesitate to receommend.
I’ve tested a lot of Fitbit gear over the past year — you can read another Fitbit review I wrote for Wired here — but what has always impressed me about any Fitbit tracker or related device is the supporting ecosystem.
When you buy something like the Fitbit Force, you’re getting a high tech piece of wearable gear packed with sensors and offering some great capabilities out of the box. If tracking your daily fitness levels is your goal, the Fitbit Force should serve you well. It’s accurate and shows the information you want.
But Fibit is something like Apple in the sense that once you buy a Fitbit tracker, you gain entry to an entire ecosystem of supporting products and services. Some you pay for — such as the Aria smart scale or additional trackers — but much of it is free. The Fitbit app for your smartphone or tablet combined with online software and the ability of any Fitbit tracker to update information wirelessly means your data can be stored and analyzed for trends. Any Fitbit review shows that the experience goes beyond the individual tracker.
Making things even better, Fitbit makes its APIs available to third-party app developers and they can in turn feed into your Fitbit account. In our house, we have a Fitbit Force and a several other Fitbit trackers, the Fitbit app on our iPhones, a Aria smartscale that identifies each of us and uploads our weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit account, and a series of iPhone apps that integrate with the Fitbit devices to track calories and plan meals.
If social’s your thing, Fitbit sends you achievements and badges for hitting goals and if you’re really brave, that Aria scale can even broadcast your stats to Facebook (FB).
Where can you buy a Fitbit fitness tracker and the Aria scale? Fitbit has its own web store where you can buy the products and accessories directly. Most of the gear covered in this Fitbit review, including the Fitbit Force and Aria smart scale, are also available through Best Buy (BBY).
The current state of wearable technology is that we’re on the cusp of a revolution. 2014 is likely to be the year when the market explodes with new offerings from Apple, Google, Microsoft (MSFT) and other tech giants.
However, the best smartwatch currently available from Samsung costs $300, weighs nearly 3 ounces and lasts a day at best before the battery needs recharging.
If your idea of a smartwatch is combining the best fitness tracker available with a watch, resulting in a device a third of the weight, less than half the cost and a week or more of battery life than that Galaxy Gear, then this Fitbit review should confirm that the Fitbit Force is worthy of consideration.
This is especially true if fitness is your primary goal for a such a device (as opposed to playing games, playing music or snapping photos). And if you’re also an iPhone owner, the upcoming Fitbit Force call notification update should tip the scales even further in favor of this lightweight smartwatch.
If getting fit or dipping a toe into the wearable technology market (without spending a fortune) are among your New Year’s resolutions, the Fitbit Force makes a good case for being the best smartwatch offered in the current crop of devices.
Of course you could wait for the iWatch to make an appearance, but it’s likely to be much more expensive and it’s going to take even Apple a few years to catch up to the head start Fitbit has in its fitness ecosystem with multiple Fitbit tracker models, a smart scale, software and third-party app support.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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