This year Fitbit finally found out how to make a smartwatch people really happy while the sale of its lightweight activity traces has gone down. But it does not stop the company from setting up new activity tracking bands. It announced only its latest device: Fitbit Charge 3.
At first glance, Charge 3 looks like a new take on an old tracker. It has the same bracelet form factor, the same unremarkable display as previous costs, which has historically been Fitbit's most popular product. It even has the same price as Ladd 2 made when it was launched: $ 149.95 for the standard model and $ 165.95 for a special edition model that comes with Fitbit Pay and an extra black classic band. But Charge 3's building, dirt and software features have changed enough to warrant serious consideration if you plan to update Fitbit.
The screen on Charge 3 is almost 40 percent bigger than the display on Charge 2. It's the first in the Charge setup to get a touchscreen. Sure, the black screen still has a strangely large bezel and you can see if you are so tough in it, and Fitbit still feels forced to have the word "Fitbit" written on the front of its products. But this is a Fitbit, not a Hermès watch.
The module is now made of aluminum instead of stainless steel and plastic. It's an inverted inductive button on the page instead of a mechanical button. Touch your finger and Charge 3 will give haptic feedback. On the bottom of the tracker you will find an updated heart rate sensing module-the same as in Fitbit Versa, which includes a SpO2 sensor for measuring oxygen saturation. (Since this is a consumer device, it is not a substitute for medical devices, but it can provide an approach.) The SpO2 sensor also plays a role in Fitbit's major plans for future health tracking.
As with previous Charge products, there are no built-in GPS sensors for measuring distance while riding and cycling. But this also increases battery life. For Charge 3, which translates to a requirement of up to seven days at a single cost. It also comes with another proprietary charger, which had to be redesigned to accommodate Charge 3's new heart rate module.
Due to its larger screen and upgraded processor, Fitbit has encrypted smartwatch-like interactions in Charge 3: You can swipe up to view your daily dashboard, swipe down to see notifications from your smartphone, swipe left to go through training options and papers, and so on.
Like many Fitbits before it, Charge 3 will track an entire amount of health measurements and training activities: steps, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed, walking, running, biking, yoga, elliptical, strength training. A new feature: It is waterproof up to 50 meters, so there is a new swimming mode on the device. It also stops automatically if you stop at a stoplight (or stop because you are windy like I do) during a run.
Fitbit says it has improved heart rate algorithms "in the range of 1
Finally, Fitbit launches a beta version of what it calls "Sleep Score." It is a score that is awarded daily as an overall assessment of sleep quality, but will also contain information about sleep disturbances, "said the company. This is not limited to charge 3;
This is a Fitbit, not a Hermès watch.
Fitbit relieves the features at a time when competition only gets stiffer in hard-wearing countries. And by pre-announcing a wearable that will not be sent to October, Fitbit seems to be concerned about getting Charge 3 out there before anything portable Apple can show off next month. Samsung has just announced a new flagship smartwatch, $ 350 Galaxy Watch.
Despite Fitbit's brand recognition, its concerns about Apple Watch are justified, since the company ceded Apple's top spot last year in wearables. For a company like Apple or Xiaomi, portable devices are just part of their overall strategy; for Fitbit, that's the whole business. Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park insist that there is still room for growth in both lightweight activity and smartwatches, and that if you look at a friend chart of the two consumers, there are some overlaps there (people who can evaluate both ). He may be right. But right now Fitbit does not sell enough in each category to beat its competitors.
Fitbit's efforts for more advanced health follow-up have also been slow, although potentially some of the more interesting features that the company's R & D team is working with. Last year, it said to come up with a solution for sleep apnea detection through its more advanced wrist products – including the new charge 3, which has the newer heart rate sensors. It also said it was working with glucose monitor maker Dexcom to develop an app that could help people with diabetes to keep track of glucose.
"When you look at the killer app for these devices, it's health," says Park. "People's interest in health and well-being will only increase over time, so I think we need to deliver devices, and more importantly, algorithms and software that are relevant to people."
The Dexcom app and sleep apnea tracking product have not yet launched , and Fitbit will need FDA approval before it attaches any kind of official medical requirements to the devices. Park said that the company works separately with the FDA on a regulated product for advanced track tracking, but did not have a timeline for when it should start. "We see such things as checking motor lights or a safety belt for your health," said Park. "Something like, one day, you would not want to leave your house without. And I think the addressable market for these types of devices is big."
It's a big "if" for Fitbit. But if it gets there, it would certainly be a big step – or many steps – beyond basic activity traces.