The latest glut of trackers: Not quite smart enough for smartwatch status

Is it a smartwatch, or is it a fitness tracker with a smart readout? As Fitbit builds out its range of wearable technology, it has wisely decided not to call its new flagship product, the Surge, a smartwatch, but a “fitness super watch”.

Although the US $249.95 pricing is firmly in smartwatch territory, the Surge doesn’t bother with those marginally “useful” features like reading email on a tiny screen. Instead it concentrates on fitness, offering continuous heart rate tracking and a big OLED display that’s designed to be readable even when you’re jogging.

Fitbit's new Surge (picture  courtesy Fitbit)

Fitbit’s new Surge (picture courtesy Fitbit)

Still privately-held Fitbit is also bringing back the ill-fated Force, after pulling it from the market in the spring due to reports that the nickel clasp was causing users to have allergic reactions. The Force becomes the Charge, and adds one extra feature – smartphone caller ID – as well as using the same simple push-together clasp as the staple Fitbit Flex.

Fitbit charges toward the Christmas market
A second Charge model, the Charge HR, isn’t something that Fitbit hopes all Human Resources departments will issue to tethered employees, but stands for Heart Rate, and offers continuous pulse tracking … the latest big thing in smart wristbands.

The Charge HR and Surge both feature a classic wristwatch buckle and clasp. As well as the heart rate monitor, the “eight sensor technology” Surge features Bluetooth music control for a connected smartphone, but there’s no word as to whether or not the built-in GPS also includes an altimeter function.

Expect to see more sub-smartwatch trackers arriving on the market ahead of the Christmas rush. We’re testing a NuBand Activ+ (and we’ll report back soon). It features an OLED display with a clear readout which shows steps, the time, distance covered, etc but doesn’t over-complicate matters by trying to pack in additional features. The NuBand Activ+ is already on sale in the US, via Stage Stores, JC Penney, Amazon and Kohl’s.

Meanwhile, smart wristband pioneer Jawbone’s UP range is starting to look dated and limited. Seattle-based venture news mag Venture Beat claims Jawbone “has said publicly that it’s not interested in making wearables with displays”. That sounds like a mistake to us.



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