Fitbit has been around in South Africa since 2013. I’ve used several of their products, and witnessed how it has evolved to what it is now. Their latest offering is its very first smart fitness watch, the Blaze, which is currently available at the iStore. Fitbit has also released the Alta, a wristband tracker available from April.
I’ve been using the device for about 2 weeks now. I stopped wearing my Apple Watch during this time, because it doesn’t matter if I wear it daily or not; there’s no gamification aspect to it that makes me feel I *have* to wear it. Anyway, set up of the Blaze was simple. You just log into the Fitbit app and set up a new device; and I had to run a software update to it before I started wearing it.
The watch itself is has a square face that snaps onto a stainless steel frame, which you need to remove when charging, and has customisable bands. The bands range from the classic durable ones in plastic (blue; black; purple) and more luxurious ones in leather (black; brown; grey) or stainless steel. The fit itself is comfortable and the watch strap is as secure as you’d expect from a watch. There’s no chance of it falling off like previous wristband ones. The look of the watch is not what you’d expect from a watch, it’s slightly different and I like it. The gaps near the straps gives you some ‘breathing room’. Sometimes wearing a watch strapped on too tight (with heart rate monitors) feels like you’re being suffocated. The Blaze does have a heart rate monitor.
The ‘smartwatch’ aspect of it lets you get notifications for text messages, in this case normal text and iMessage only; not Whatsapp etc; call notifications, calendar entries and music controls. This is based on my current settings on my phone. The ‘non-smart’ aspect about these notifications is that it doesn’t disappear when you read them on your phone. So you have it all piling up in the notifications window, which is a lengthy scroll to get to the bottom and “clear all”. You can get rid of them when you read it and *remember* to swipe right. I usually didn’t, out of Apple Watch habit of glancing and picking up on my phone. Anyway, this isn’t a big deal, just something that you have to remember to swipe off your screen. As for call notifications, you can see who is calling, but you cannot answer directly from it.
Back to what it does best. The app gives you a neat summary of your daily stats like steps, heart rate, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, track exercise, sleep tracking, and then you can add your calories and water intake. The app also rewards you with badges for little milestones you complete along the way. Example, I’ve earned the “High Tops” badge 7 times for doing more than 20 000 steps in a day; “Serengeti” for 804 lifetime kilometers; and “Helicopter” for 500 lifetime floors.
The stats are slightly more in-depth now. If you’re serious about fitness and training, your heart rate stats are further broken down into peak, cardio and fat burn zones; it also gives your resting heart rate. Even with sleep tracking, I found it very accurate. I was very tired and had a solid sleep with almost no interruptions on one night, and then on another, I could see how restless I was.
The one thing I have to point out during my trip to Mozambique, was that the ride was *very* bumpy. So much so, that the Fitbit recorded me doing over 10 000 steps that day, as well as climbing a lot floors. When all I did for most of the day was sit in a vehicle. Aside from that, which was unusual circumstances, I didn’t find grossly inaccurate stats.
I like that the Blaze has a few customisable clock faces too. All change according to your stats for the day. It also lets you set silent alarms, and you can choose which notifications to push through. You can either turn them on or completely off for calls, texts and calendar; nothing detailed like calls from your favourites, etc. Another customisation aspect is choosing what you want your main goal to be – steps; distance; calories; or floors climbed. You can also select which hours in the day you want to be reminded to move. The Blaze also supports FitStar, set workout plans that you can follow. I didn’t try this as I’m currently making use of a trainer at the gym.
Regarding battery life, it depends on your usage how much you get out of it. You can choose if you want to track your sleep or not, or how useful this information is. Also, if you want to sleep with something strapped to your wrist. I did find some of the sleep data useful, but it’s not something I’d track every single night.
So who is the Fitbit Blaze aimed at? If you already have a smartwatch by the same manufacturer as your smartphone, then it’s not for you. If you’re serious about tracking your fitness (run, bike, weights, treadmill, workout, elliptical), and want detailed info about it, then yes. In this case, it would be a bonus to have select notifications pushing through. However, deciding to purchase a Blaze it’s not a light decision. The fact that Discovery no longer supports Fitbit to earn Vitality points could be a deal breaker. That said, Discovery is in talks with Fitbit about how they can work together. (EDIT: I’ve been informed that you can earn Vitality points if you reach 10 000 steps a day, just not through heart rate. I’m not on Vitality anymore, so not sure how it all works now.)
Lastly, price; it starts at R3999. Leather bands cost R1799; plastic straps R499 and stainless steel R1999. The Fitbit Blaze is available at all iStores nationwide and online; and selected retailers.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. I’m usually unashamedly taking food photos (@nafisaeats on IG).