Fitbit Goes after Fitness Smartwatches with Surge

| Product News

Fitbit is stepping up its game and moving into the smartwatch market with its just announced Fitbit Surge. The watch, due to ship in early 2015, packs in the usual fitness tracking features along with a heart rate monitor, GPS, call and text notifications, and more into what Fitbit is calling a Fitness Super Watch.

Fitbit Surge blends fitness tracking with smart watch features, but will have to take on Apple WatchFitbit Surge blends fitness tracking with smartwatch features, but will have to take on Apple Watch

The Surge includes eight sensors geared at tracking how many steps you take each day, how far you travel, flights of stairs climbed, sleep patterns, and heart rate. It also includes a built-in GPS for tracking routes, and a touch screen can display incoming phone call and text message alerts, offers music playback controls, and offers a customizable watch face.

Fitbit says the Surge will last seven days on a charge, and calls its Fitness Super Watch the first with GPS built-in designed to be worn all day.

The Surge will have to take on the likes of the Basis Peak and Apple's soon to be released Apple Watch, both of which offer health and fitness tracking, and in the case of the Apple Watch, tight integration with the iPhone and support for third-party apps.

Expanding beyond basic fitness tracker bands is a smart move for Fitbit and the Surge has the potential to be a nearly perfect crossover device between fitness trackers and smartwatches. Not everyone wants the feature set devices like Apple Watch bring to the table, and the Surge offers plenty of tracking with just enough extra without falling into the full-on wrist top computing category.

Where the Surge falls short is its lack of iOS 8 HealthKit support. So far, Fitbit has decided to stay away from HealthKit in favor of its already established health and fitness data management platform. While Fitbit does offer comprehensive health and fitness data management with support for tracking devices from a long list of companies, it may not be enough to draw in customers wanting to use Apple's Health app and HealthKit platform.

Fitbit plans to ship the Surge in early 2015 for US$249.95.

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Fitbit's Surge looks like a brilliant balance between fitness tracking and basic smartwatch features with a great battery life, too. Unless the company decides to start supporting Apple's HealthKit platform, however, it may be a hard sell to iPhone owners.

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Might it be a seller for folks with iOS devices that can’t run iOS 8, or folks that have avoided upgrading their compatible iOS device because iOS 8 is not a fun experience on their iOS device ?

(This assumes the FitBit releases an app for older versions of the iOS ?)


If the watch really has a seven day battery life with GPS the deciding factor will be the depth and breadth of the supporting ecosystem.

I have a Pebble which works brilliantly with Map My Ride on the iPhone, but the problem is the battery life of the phone - mine died yesterday in the middle of nowhere - new battery fitted today. 

If it means I can lose the Fitbit from the other wrist that will be a big step forward [sorry, pun not intended].

Having listened to last week’s TMO podcast on the subject, I can’t help feeling that Fitbit may regret not engaging, whatever the ‘cost’, or maybe they need to take some more time to work out how to align the product roadmaps.  Nobody is too big to fail in these markets.

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