Fitbit unveils the Charge 2 and Flex 2 activity trackers

Fitbit has today announced two new activity trackers – Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2. This follows months of rumours, hints and leaks, which it turns out were not too far off the mark. The new devices bring welcome new additions, without breaking too much ground.


Fitbit Charge 2

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To start off, the San Francisco manufacturer announced, the successor to the popular Charge HR. In addition to PurePulse heart rate tracking, the Charge 2 features an enhanced exercise experience and new health and fitness tools.

The upgraded design features an OLED display that is four times larger than Charge HR. It actually comes across as a wider version of the Alta. You can customise the look to your liking with interchangeable bands and clock faces.

There is a single physical button to cycle through the main menu options (such as steps, heart rate, exercise options, etc) and you go through the sub-menus by tapping on the display. In addition to basic fitness information, the screen also shows smartphone-notifications such as text messages and emails.

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Fitbit has debuted a few new features that are powered by your personal heart rate.

The one that seems very useful is called Cardio Fitness Level. Available only on Charge 2, it gives you a snapshot of your fitness level using a personalised Cardio Fitness Score.

Unknown-1The Cardio Fitness Score is based on your estimated VO2 Max that is calculated using your user profile and resting heart rate. You can obtain a more precise score by going for a run of at least 10 minutes on flat terrain at a comfortable pace with Connected GPS enabled.

The Cardio Fitness Level shows how you compare to those of the same age and gender, and ranges from poor to excellent. And you get bar charts of your fat burn, cardio and peak heart rate zones.

For those that may not be familiar with the term, VO2 Max is measured by the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity. Essentially, this is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight. Those who are fit have higher VO2 max values and can exercise more intensely than those who are not as well conditioned. Runners, for example, keep a close eye on their VO2 Max levels.

You will also get get guidance to take action and improve your score over time by increasing exercise frequency, intensity, or by reaching a healthier weight. For example, studies show that you can increase your VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises your heart rate to between 65 and 85% of its maximum for at least 20 minutes three to five times a week.

It should be stressed, the Fitbit score is not your true VO2 max score, but rather an estimated number. A precise value is typically measured in a lab while you are hooked up to various machines.

The other new addition are Guided Breathing Sessions. This is a relaxing mindfulness experience that calms your body and mind through personalized deep-breathing sessions called “Relax”. This actually reminds us a little of Apple’s new Breathe app that will be included in watchOS3.

Two- and five-minute sessions display real-time heart rate visualizations, animations and vibrational cues to help you align each inhale and exhale with the guide, and find moments of calm throughout your day. Fitbit says guided breathing practice can have health benefits that include reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.

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Other new features include an enhanced fitness experience. You can track specific workouts like runs, bike rides, weights, yoga and more, plus get post-exercise summaries and a detailed report of your activity in the Fitbit app.

While it doesn’t feature GPS connectivity, the new tracker links to the GPS on your smartphone to provide more precise data on pace and distance when you’re running, while recording a map of your route in the app. There is also an interval workout mode that guides you in alternating periods of high-intensity exercise and recovery to maximise workout effectiveness.

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All in all, we think Fitbit’s new tracker is a solid update that will sell well.

A new sleek design, more features, decent battery life (5 days), call/text/calendar alerts and a competitive price point. What’s not to like (apart from the lack of water resistance)?

Fitbit has also said there will be a software update coming out soon, so we could potentially see a few more features. The company’s own data shows that the Blaze and Alta fitness trackers have accounted for the bulk of its revenue this year. This emphases the importance of keeping the product line fresh.

The tracker is available for preorder on Amazon and Fitbit’s website. It will ship by mid-September.

You can also pre-order classic fitness accessory bands in four colors, luxe premium leather accessory bands in blush pink, brown and indigo; and the special edition series in gunmetal and rose gold coming soon.


Fitbit Flex 2

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Fitbit has also announced a lower spec device today – the Flex 2. This is the company’s slimmest tracker yet and for the first time for a Fibit device is water resistant.

The tracker is now 30% smaller than the original model and features a removable core unit and interchangeable slim, classic fitness bands in seven colors. A simple LED display uses color-coded lights to show progress toward your daily goal, and keeps you connected with call and text notifications.

There is a full range of options if you wish to customise the tracker. You can choose from a range of luxe, premium mirror-finish bangles in silver stainless steel, and 22k-plated gold or rose gold stainless steel, or elegant lariat-style necklaces in silver stainless steel or 22k-plated gold stainless steel.

More importantly, this is Fitbit’s first swim-proof wristband. The device is water resistant up to 50 meters, whether you’re in the shower, pool or ocean, and it automatically tracks your pool swims including laps, duration and calories burned in the Fitbit app.

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Other features are fairly standard and include automatic exercise tracking, reminders to move, and personalised weekly exercise goals.

You can pre-order the Flex 2 with a classic fitness band in black, lavender, magenta or navy. It is available on Amazon and Fitbit’s website.

“Over the past nine years it has been our ability to innovate on both design and utility, and our deep understanding of what consumers want that has made us the leading global wearables company,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.

“Flex quickly became the best-selling tracker on the market as one of the first wearables to successfully merge fitness and fashion; we’ve revolutionized Flex 2 by making it swim-proof and adding more features in a design than is 30% smaller than the original. We broke new ground with Charge HR by making wrist-based heart rate accessible to millions of users around the world, and we’ve done it again with Charge 2, giving users a snapshot of their cardio fitness based on estimated VO2 Max.”

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