Its been a few months since we’ve seen anything new from Fitbit. Its latest innovation, the Ionic, was released back in October to a lukewarm response. Once the dominant force, the San Francisco wearables manufacturer has been losing market share and needs something to turn its fortunes around.
Ripe for an update are the Fitbit Charge 2 and Blaze activity trackers. Now a couple of years old, it is rumored we will see new versions of both later this year. This was even confirmed by a recent Bloomberg article which quotes anonymous sources in the know.
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While its pretty much definite we will see the Charge 3 in 2018, we are less certain when it comes to Blaze 2. This is because the tracker now overlaps very much with the company’s first smartwatch, the Ionic. Both in terms of design and features. Fitbit will really need to put some work into making the Blaze 2 stand out.
If we do see an update, this is our best guess at what to expect.
Fitbit has stuck to its no-nonsense, practical design over the years. After all, why change something that works well and has been proven to be popular. But some design tweaks are inevitable.
We are expecting that Blaze 2 will come in a similar form factor, perhaps a bit slimmer than the previous version. While perfectly functional, the octagon-shaped case looks a bit retro in our opinion so we would expect something slightly more modern looking.
Who knows, the company may even spring a surprise and opt for a round design! That would be a first for Fitbit and it would really make Blaze stand out from Ionic. And lets face it, the two look like twins right now. While some people like the sharp corners, the popularity of wearables resembling traditional watches is on the rise. Just ask Garmin with its range of circular sports watches or Fossil with its wide selection of hybrids.
A better quality screen is always on the cards when it comes to subsequent generations of wearables. For Blaze 2, hopefully a more reactive one. The physical size of the screen also has room to grow as the bezels on the current version are fairly thick. Fitbit could easily keep the same dimensions while increasing the screen real-estate.
The Blaze runs a perfectly decent 5 days on a single charge. Fitbit is unlikely to downsize battery capacity as this is an important selling point with all its fitness devices. Any improvements in the display will need to take this into account, as will other upgrades such as built-in GPS. Luckily, battery capacity is progressing with each passing year.
Charging the Blaze right now requires removing the actual module from its housing and placing it into a cradle. This seems a bit unnecessary so a simpler solution would be welcome.
Another ‘very likely’ when it comes to design is waterproofing. We would be surprised if Fitbit does not make Blaze 2 water resistant. So far, the Flex 2 and Ionic are the company’s only wearables you can take swimming with you. But at least its clear Fitbit has learned how to make its wearables water friendly.
As always, expect to see different sized models, and some premium editions. And lots of options in straps, colours and watch faces.
The Blaze is very much a fitness tool rather than a smartwatch. But then again, so is Ionic! Because they are so similar, Fitbit will need to put a bit of effort into differentiating Blaze 2 from its smartwatch.
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When it comes to 24/7 activity monitoring the original Blaze ticks most boxes. Expect all this and more on Blaze 2.
This is pretty much a given. The lack of built-in GPS is an obvious omission from the first generation device. Blaze has something Fitbit calls ‘connected GPS’, essentially a fancy term meaning the wearable is able to tap into your smartphone for GPS readings. That’s not the best of solutions and it also means you need to have your smartphone around whenever you head out for a run.
A built-in GPS ensures that all your running stats are accurate. It uses lots of battery and finding a signal can sometimes be hard. However, the results are definitely worth it.
Will we see any new sensors? Its hard to say. Its been a while since we’ve seen something truly novel on the sensor front.
Stress monitoring seems to be one of the next frontiers. Garmin are starting to include it on all its wearables, as are some other companies. Fitbit has Breathing Exercises, which is a good start. But it doesn’t have 24/7 stress tracking. We suspect its quite possible Blaze 2 will tap into heart-rate variability data to offer this functionality.
A UV sensor, temperature sensor, pulse oximeter are always possible. A sweat sensor or a monitor for blood pressure are probably a few years away.
What you should definitely expect, though, is more insight into your data. Not just after, but also during exercise. Ideally in real time, so you can optimize your fitness data into action.
We don’t hide the fact that we are big fans of Firstbeat metrics. This includes features such as recovery time advisor, training load, training effect and more. If Fitbit could tap into these or perhaps develop its own, it would be a big selling point for those more serious about running and cycling. Allowing third party heart rate sensors to communicate with Blaze 2 would enhance the quality of such data.
Non fitness features
With its large screen, the Blaze is a perfectly built to offer non-fitness functionality. Features that go beyond the standard notifications we have grown so accustomed to these days.
One of these would be internal memory for music. Fitbit has managed to slap on 2.5GB of internal memory to its Ionic smartwatch. This means the gizmo can store music and function as a mini iPod if you take the time and effort to set it up. It would be nice to have this on Blaze 2, as it would allow for truly phone-free exercising.
Another possibility is Fitbit Pay. Ionic has sports a built-in NFC chip which stores credit card information so you can leave your wallet behind. Those in the US can add their American Express cards and select Visa and Mastercards from supported banks. The company is now expanding this functionality both in the US and overseas.
Finally, an app store with third-party app support could be a possibility. Given the similar form factor, screen real estate and button configuration of Blaze and Ionic, it would not be too much of a struggle to port the technology over. It would also mean developers could use pretty much the same apps for both.
Expected release date
The original Blaze is now a couple of years old so a 2018 release date would fit into Fitbit’s two-year product release cycle. If the company sticks to this schedule, we should be looking at a late summer or early fall release date.
While this is possible, don’t be surprised if we see an earlier release date. As mentioned, Fitbit has been losing market share for a while now so may want to launch one of its best selling wearables sooner rather than later. In terms of price, expect something around the $200 mark.
Its entirelly possible, of course, Fitbit will decide there simply isn’t enough to differentiate Blaze 2 from Ionic. In that case you may want to hold out for Ionic 2 in 2019 or opt for something entirely different.
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