Fitbit takes on Apple Watch with its new Blaze fitness watch

Blaze has a color display and 5-day battery life, but no GPS.

Fitbit’s activity trackers are some of the most popular around, but the chunky bracelets aren’t exactly easy on the eyes. Fitbit is changing that with Blaze, a new fitness-tracking watch with color touchscreen display that takes aim directly at Apple Watch.

The $200 Blaze packs in a heart rate sensor for continuous heart rate tracking, automatic exercise recognition, multi-sport mode, and free personal trainer-guided workouts viewable directly on the watch’s screen. Like Apple Watch, Fitbit Blaze requires your phone to be nearby to connect to GPS and offer real-time distance and pace data. Unlike Apple Watch, Blaze lasts five days on a single charge, even with constant heart-rate monitoring, and it works with Android as well as iOS.

Fitbit is clearly focusing on style with its first smartwatch. The company is introducing a line of interchangeable bands alongside the Blaze, including elastomer bands in blue, black, and plum for $30; leather bands in black, grey, and camel for $100; and a silver stainless steel link band for $130. The watch’s frame is also interchangeable.

Fitbit Blaze isn’t exactly comparable to an Apple Watch or Android Wear watch’s full feature set. You can see call, text, and calendar notifications on its display when your phone is in Bluetooth range, but it doesn’t have its own app store, and it doesn’t do a whole lot more than track your activity. But Fitbit does that one thing exceptionally well with its other activity trackers, like the Surge and Charge HR, so Blaze will likely be another solid entry in that lineup.

If there’s one place where Fitbit could’ve made Blaze more competitive with smartwatches and other fitness trackers, it’s with built-in GPS, which Blaze lacks. A fitness watch that requires a phone nearby to map routes or track pace per mile isn’t the greatest option for serious athletes.

The Blaze is available to preorder today and will ship in March. On Feb. 20, some Best Buy locations will have Blaze demo units for the curious to try in person.

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