More than a week after their existence was leaked, fitness tracker maker Fitbit has officially announced three new wearable devices. The Fitbit Charge is an update to Fitbit's previous Force fitness tracker, but the other two devices — the Charge HR and the Surge — include some powerful new technology that should allow users to get a picture of their health at all hours of the day. The Charge HR tracks a user's heart rate at all times, while Fitbit describes the $249 Surge as a "fitness super watch," built with GPS and eight sensors to track performance in multiple workouts and various sports. All three of the new devices will send data to Fitbit's tracking app so wearers can see their stats in graph form and set specific goals.
Of the three devices, the Fitbit Charge is the least advanced. Fitbit calls the new $129 device a revision of its previous Force wearable tracker, but says the entry-level model has been "reinvented" with better design that makes it easier to wear all day long — presumably without the skin irritation that affected some Force users. The Charge is designed primarily to keep track of basic health metrics: it tracks steps taken, distance traveled, and floors climbed; and when worn in bed it'll monitor your sleeping habits. Like the Force before it, the basic Charge can also be set up with your smartphone to warn you of incoming calls, showing the caller's name on its OLED screen.
One step up from the Fitbit Charge comes the Fitbit Charge HR. The HR stands for "heart rate," a measure tracked by the device using Fitbit's own technology, using LED lights to detect blood volume changes in the wrist without the need for chest straps that other heart rate trackers use. It's not yet clear how accurate the $149 Charge HR's heart readings will be, but Fitbit is pitching the HR at more active users who aim to take their fitness trackers into the gym, and want to be able to get solid readings they can tailor their workouts around. The extra technology does apparently drain the device's power faster — where Fitbit says the Charge lasts for seven days on one full battery, the Charge HR will only work for five days.
Fitbit's Surge comes with all of the features of the Charge HR, but includes GPS tracking, a particular draw for regular runners keen to monitor their routes as well as their heart rate. The device has a touchscreen display, music controls, and allows wearers to see call and text notifications on customizable watchfaces, but the Surge doesn't have the range of utilitarian features you'd expect from a full-fledged smartwatch. The upshot of that is that battery life is extended — like the Fitbit Charge, the Surge lasts seven days on one full battery. It's an unobtrusive package, too: Fitbit bills the Surge as the "only GPS watch designed for all-day wear," and considering the amount of tech bundled inside, looks to sit fairly flat against the wrist.
The $249 Surge is aimed at dedicated runners and other regular athletes
Despite the skin irritation problem with the strap of Fitbit's Force fitness tracker, it was a powerful and convenient device. The three new models look to build on those solid foundations and challenge companies such as Garmin, whose trackers have traditionally sold well to dedicated runners and athletes. The Charge is available now for a price of $129 in stores and on Fitbit's website, but you'll have to wait until early 2015 for the Charge HR and the Surge.