Fitbit Blaze Review

Rating:

In the crowded sea of wearable tech and smart watches, there are many offerings that do every thing from keeping track of your steps, keeping tabs on your heart rate, show notifications from your phone, and even telling you the time! They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, at different price points, and with different unique selling propositions.

Fitbit, known for its fitness-centric wearable tech, recently released the Fitbit Blaze, a fitness-focused smartwatch.

Does the Fitbit Blaze deliver on its fitness-first approach, and how does the smartwatch side hold up compared to other watches?

Fitbit Blaze: Fitness Band or Smartwatch?

Fitbit Blaze Review

The Fitbit Blaze comes with a unique value proposition: all of the functionality of their fitness-focused wearables, like the Charge or the Surge, with some of the functionality that is offered in smartwatches. Functions like call, text, and calendar notifications, a coloured touchscreen, and the ability to swap the frame and wristband. Together, the Fitbit Blaze offers an all-in-one package for those who want the additional functionality of a smart watch, while not giving up their fitness tracking capabilities, especially if you’re upgrading from a previous Fitbit device.

Fitbit Blaze Review

The Fitbit Blaze hardware itself is rather novel: the electronics are all packed into a small square with a coloured touchscreen on one side, buttons along the sides, and a rounded back with the heart rate sensor sticking out. That square snaps into a metal frame with external buttons attached to the wrist straps. Charging requires you to snap the Blaze out of its frame, and place it into a plastic clamshell container, snapping the lid shut before plugging the cord into a USB port.

Battery-wise, the Blaze is quite performant: I can go 4-5 days without needing to recharge, and this is without having to make any adjustments to the device. Adjustments like turning off the “wrist-flick to turn on”, or the brightness of the screen, and how often it measures your heartrate.

Using the Blaze

Fitbit Blaze Review

Usability for the Blaze comes down to two major considerations: how does the Blaze perform with the Fitbit app, and how does the Blaze perform on a daily basis?

Fitbit Blaze Review

The Fitbit app, which is available for both iOS and Android, is very well made. It’s visually appealing, it’s well organized, and it’s quite easy to get your device set up and running. However, if you’re going to run into issues with your device, it’s generally going to be because of the app or the Bluetooth syncing. Issues such as having trouble finding the device, having trouble syncing with the device, having trouble reporting the correct battery level on your device, and other minor issues that are usually solved by restarting the app, restarting the phone, or restarting the Blaze.

Fitbit Blaze Review

I’ve had the Fitbit Blaze for about four weeks now, and I’ve had two instances of the Blaze not being found, and both times just required the Blaze to be rebooted. Generally speaking, issues with either app, phone, or Blaze will be far and few in between. In fact, compared to my old Fitbit Charge HR, seeking and syncing with the Fitbit Blaze has been incredibly snappy and quick, and reliable enough for me to not really even think about it.

Fitbit Blaze Review

On a daily basis, the Fitbit Blaze is great as a casual accessory. I will pretty much only remove it for taking showers, rinsing it off after activities, and charging. If you are unfamiliar or unaccustomed to wearing watches or devices on your wrist, it does take some time to get used to, but eventually becomes second nature to feel the weight and heft of the Fitbit Blaze wrapped around your wrist.

Fitbit Blaze Review

Fortunately, the Fitbit Blaze is comfortable, and sits on the wrist quite nicely. The wrist band is soft and flexible, and is one of the nicer wrist bands on the various wearable tech that I’ve seen. With its watch-style fastener, the Blaze sits securely on your wrist without any fear of popping off and coming undone with heavy jostling. The metal frame that holds the Blaze’s electronics square firmly holds it in place with a lip to secure it in place, then using the pressure from your wrist to keep it there and snapped into place at all times.

The Fitbit Blaze looks and feels like a watch, especially with its physical buttons on the sides of the metal frame, allowing you to quickly and easily interact with the Blaze. However, I will admit that the right side’s two buttons were seldom used, due to not really requiring any music control while using the Blaze. However, the home button on the left side is invaluable (and necessary) when navigating through the Blaze’s many screens.

Fitbit Blaze Review

With the Fitbit Blaze, you are able to quickly swipe left or right to navigate your way through different functions: check out your day’s stats, manually start an exercise or physical activity, use the FitStar integration for customized workouts, start a stopwatch or countdown timer, control alarms that you set from the app, and adjust certain settings. Aside from using all of these functions for the sake of review, I often found myself sticking to the watch face, which is customizable with five different watch faces as of this writing, viewing my day’s stats, and starting an activity for weightlifting.

Fitbit Blaze Review

As I mentioned earlier: the smartwatch features of the Fitbit Blaze, like notifications and music control, were hardly used. Personally, I don’t enjoy having my phone’s Bluetooth transmitter constantly available, as it can be quite the battery hog, but I also don’t derive much value from being able to see notifications at a glance or control my music from my wrist. I can definitely see a runner wanting to quickly change songs without breaking stride, or someone at a meeting feeling a buzz on their wrist to remind them of their subsequent meeting, or even a biker quickly glancing at their wrist to see the text message that just came in.

That said, the notifications felt like a half-measure: I could only receive call, text, or calendar notifications. None of my other apps, like WhatsApp, or Skype, or Instagram, just to name a few, would have their notifications show up on the Blaze. You couldn’t get a quick glance at directions, or other interesting events coming up in the day, or send any responses to messages from the Blaze. In addition, the fitness-focused side of the Blaze is about the same as any of the Fitbit devices that can measure heartrate, for quite a higher price point. I love my Fitbit Blaze because it does what it needs to do, however, purely from a pragmatic point of view, it does about the same as my old Charge HR, with additional things like FitStar integration and on-device manual activity tracking, which can be great if the automatic sensing functions aren’t good enough for you.

The Bottom Line

Fitbit Blaze Review

Overall, the Fitbit Blaze is a solid entry in an increasingly crowded market of smartwatches. It appeals to the general public who like to keep tabs on their physical activities and efforts to hitting their health goals, and keeping the data to motivate themselves to keep moving forward. I personally don’t find many of the smartwatch functions useful, but the Blaze could be a solid offering for both the fitness and smartwatch crowd. And yet, at $249.95 as of this writing, the Fitbit Blaze can be seen as being on the pricier side of fitness bands, and can even be on the higher end of similarly capable smartwatches.

This product is perfect for: people who want a higher end fitness band that happens to come with smartwatch features.

Key things to be aware of: for syncing fitness-related data, or using smartwatch functions, the Fitbit Blaze requires a Bluetooth connection with your phone and the Fitbit app.

Final review score: 4. The Fitbit Blaze is a great device, but it may not be worth the money if you’re not using everything it has to offer.

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Jon Lim

Jon Lim is a professional developer, writer, and an avid technologist. He has written creatively for the past 16 years, and professionally for 4 years.

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