Fitbit Blaze Chases Apple Watch With Luxury Touches

The Fitbit Blaze carries a touch of luxury in the form of leather and stainless steel band options, alongside expanded communications capabilities. It's the company's first attempt to take on the Apple Watch head-on.
Hot Tech Trends To Watch In 2016
Hot Tech Trends To Watch In 2016
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Health and fitness device specialist Fitbit announced the launch of its Blaze fitness watch at the 2016 CES expo this week in Las Vegas. It's a device which represents a major step forward for the company in an increasingly crowded and competitive market that now includes the Apple Watch.

Currently available for presale with global retail availability starting in March, the Blaze retails for $199.95 and features a color touchscreen with a variety of clock faces and interchangeable bands with either sporty or more professional-looking aesthetics.

In addition, the Blaze boasts enhanced fitness features such as the Fitbit's FitStar app, which features on-screen workouts, as well as Connected GPS, PurePulse heart rate tracking, and SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition to help users stay motivated.

The Blaze also includes a host of smart notifications such as call, text, and calendar alerts. Fitbit is claiming that battery will last up to five days.

Multi-sport mode lets Blaze users record specific activities, such as biking, cardio, running, weights, and yoga, for which the device will provide real-time performance statistics. The SmartTrack feature automatically recognizes and records continuous movement activities like biking, hiking, and running, with general categories for aerobic workouts and sports.

Bluetooth Smart connectivity delivers call, text, and calendar notifications through on-screen messages and a vibrating alert. Users can then accept and reject calls directly from the Blaze when it's connected to a compatible smartphone.

Users can also deploy on-screen controls on the Blaze to access playlists and volume when playing music from a connected smartphone.

On the style side, the device's modular design lets users insert the tracker into a new frame. The Blaze can be dressed up at work and then swapped into a new frame designed for gym use.

Quick-release spring bars allow users to switch bands and change the look of the device. Options range from high-performance elastomer to leather and stainless steel.

The elastomer bands are available in black, blue, and plum. They retail for $29.95. The leather bands, paired with stainless steel display frames, are available in black, mist grey and camel. They're priced at $99.95.

The upper-end stainless steel link band, paired with a stainless steel display frame, is available in silver. It retails at $129.95.

Led by the popularity of fitness activity trackers and smartwatches, unit sales among all wearables in 2016 are forecast to reach 38.4 million, according to a recent report from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Fitness activity tracker volumes will hit 17.4 million units in 2016 -- a 12% increase from 2015 -- with revenues reaching $1.3 billion.

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Smartwatches like the Apple Watch, which compete with the fitness activity tracker market with their slate of expanded apps and communications capabilities, are expected to increase 28% to 13.6 million units, earning $3.7 billion in revenue -- an increase of 22%.

The total worldwide shipment volume for wearable devices in the third quarter of 2015 came to 21 million units, up 197.6% from the 7.1 million units shipped during the same quarter last year. Fitbit maintained its market lead with 22% of the wearables market, according to a December report from IDC.

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