Innovation

CES 2016: Fitbit launches $200 Apple Watch competitor

Step aside, Apple, there's a new watch in town. At CES 2016, Fitbit unveiled the Blaze, a smartwatch that does things the Apple Watch can't, and at a lower price point.

fitbit-blaze.png
The new Fitbit Blaze is a smart fitness watch unveiled at CES 2016.
Image: Fitbit

The basic utilitarian look of Fitbit is so last week, with today's CES 2016 debut of Fitbit Blaze, a smart fitness watch with a color touchscreen that heralds in the next generation of the company's popular fitness device line.

Fitbit Blaze does many of the same things as more expensive smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch, but it does it at a lower price point. The basic Fitbit Blaze comes with an elastomer band and will be available for retail sales in March 2016 with a $199 price tag. It tracks fitness and sleep stats and provides notifications for calls, texts, calendar alerts and music control. It's compatible with Windows, iOS, and Android platforms.

One of the main features of the watch is how the bands are interchangeable to go from the gym to the office and out for the evening. Accessories will include additional elastomer bands for $29.95 each, leather bands for $99.95 each, and a steel link band for $129.95 each. The device is available for presale beginning today at Fitbit.com and tomorrow at various major retailers. For those who want to see the watch in person before ordering, on February 20 customers can go into Best Buy to try on the watch and pre-order.

"The product is about the balance of fitness and style. While it may look like a smartwatch, we think we've gotten it right. It has a distinct focus on fitness. That's why we're calling it a smart fitness watch. It puts fitness first," said James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit, at the CES 2016 press conference.

Fashion and style have long been a sore spot in the world of wearables and smartwatches, as previously written about on TechRepublic. Because, even if a device has a stylish appearance, oftentimes it's not feasible to wear the same product 24/7 for every occasion. The Fitbit Blaze eliminates this issue with the range of affordable interchangeable bands.

SEE: The dark side of wearables: How they're secretly jeopardizing your security and privacy

Fitbit Blaze includes many of the same features as previous Fitbit wearable fitness devices, such as all-day activity stats, but it also includes a color touchscreen, along with a partnership with FitStar for an onscreen workout. It also includes connected GPS for real-time exercise stats and PurePulse wrist-based heart rate tracking, which the company introduced last year.

The watch has a substantial battery life, lasting up to five days and nights, according to Fitbit Chief Business Officer Woody Scal.

Park said the Fitbit Charge, which was introduced last year, is the number one selling activity tracking device in North America, and the Fitbit Surge is the number one selling GPS tracking watch. On Christmas Day and the day after, Fitbit was the number one free app download.

"We are one of the larger technology IPOs of 2015. We are still trading about offering price which we think is rare. We're pretty proud of that," Park said.

Park took the opportunity at the press conference to point out how Fitbit is mentioned in the media, such as numerous photos with President Obama wearing a Fitbit Surge.

"For me it's been really fun to see Fitbit mentioned on popular TV shows such as Big Bang Theory," he said.

One of the biggest challenges that Fitbit faces is that its products have a 50% abandonment rate, compared to 6% for the Apple Watch. That makes the Blaze a strategically important move for Fitbit. The early reaction to the Blaze has been mixed as Fitbit's stock dropped 13% on Tuesday following the announcement.

See also:

About

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. With a background in fashion writing at People and W magazines and WWD, she ties together the style and substance of tech.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox