The Chainlink

Chainlink Product Review: Fitbit Blaze Smart Watch

By Jaik Smith

 

I’m a fan of technology. I love the latest and greatest. My bout with Fitbit lasted less than two months last year. I’ve never really been a fan of carrying one in my pocket and I had almost purchased the Fitbit Flex moments before it was recalled. Last year, I took the plunge on a Fitbit Surge and loved the data. It was a big improvement from my Pebble. Sadly, I developed a skin irritation around my wrist during those two months with the Surge and I couldn’t find anything to peg it on aside from the tracker. After sending it back for a refund, I used my Pebble for the rest of the year and also got an irritation. It turns out I just wasn’t cleaning the band enough. This year, I decided it was time to get back with activity trackers.

 

I knew Fitbit would release something at the Consumer Electronics Show. They did last year and in order to keep up with the other technology, they needed to stay on top. They announced the Fitbit Blaze and I was interested. I didn’t know much about it. Honestly, I didn’t do any more research on it. Just the little bit of information that I had learned was enough. I knew from my past experience that returning the Fitbit for a refund would be no hassle if it came down to it. I pre-ordered it from REI and waited.

 

I chose to purchase through REI because participants in their members program receive 10% back on almost all purchases at the end of the year, bringing the price down to $179. I never like to spend full price on things, so I used a gift card service to purchase two gift cards to REI with a 7% savings bringing my total cost of the Fitbit to $165.07.

 

We liked the Blaze's sleek design. For a more personalized looks, you can purchase a variety of different metal, rubber, or even leather bands.

When I received the Fitbit on the 7th, I did what I normally do with new gadgets. I opened it, put it on and tried to learn without a manual. It was simple. I went the first two days without even going through the guide to learn more. No charging, no learning, no trouble. I didn’t even know there was a music control on it until the 9th.

 

The head unit pops out of the band for charging and syncing.

Operation Screens:

  1. Main screen. You have the option for four standard clock screens on the tracker, but you have to update them from your phone. It’s also unclear if new ones will be added at a later date.

  2. Today screen. Gives you a peek into your daily progress for items such as steps, current/resting heart rate, miles walked, calories burned, and floors climbed.

  3. Exercise screen. Allows you to track items like Run, Bike, Weights, Treadmill, Elliptical, and workouts. Each item has to be selected then started. Items requiring GPS like Run & Bike have to connect to your phone to receive a signal.

  4. Fitstar screen. Fitstar comes preprogramed with Warmup, 7 minute workout, and 10 minute abs. There is a Fitstar subscription on Fitbit.com that allows you to have a trainer providing videos to follow along with.

  5. Timer screen. Stopwatch and Countdown...nothing fancy about those.

  6. Alarm Screen. Allows you to set silent alarms that will either gently wake you up or remind you of something later.

  7. Settings screen. Gives you the option to adjust brightness, quick view(what happens when you lift your wrist), version info, and shutdown.

 

The App(iOS):

The fitbit app is easy to read and hasn’t changed much over the last year that I’ve used it. It still has my data from last year, and I’ve been comparing the data from the past week to that.

From the main screen you’ve got the option to adjust the Blaze settings, see steps, current/resting heart rate, distance walked, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes*, recent activities, weight goals, sleep tracking, calorie intake, calories remaining in a diet, water consumed. Calorie intake and water consumed have to be manually updated. So does your weight unless you have a smart scale(like the Fitbit Aria).

*Active minutes are based off of three zones: fat burn, cardio, and peak. Those are calculated based on your age, gender, weight, height, stride and pace.

In the app under the Blaze settings, you have the option to remove and add in other exercises. I removed and reorganized a few so that I could customize it better to suit me.

 

Over the past week of use, I’ve tracked about as much as I can without manually updating. I track my commute, my sleep, and steps. The step tracking is seamless. You literally don’t do anything but walk. Same with the sleep tracking. All you do is sleep. When you select an activity like cycling, that’s when it gets all of the data. I had heard that there was a feature for automatic activity tracking, where it knows when you’re active and monitors that information. To see how it worked, I didn’t start the cycling feature and went on a bike ride. It did track the “active minutes” toward my daily goal, however it didn’t know that it was cycling. I guess that needs to be turned on manually, but also they could always update it in the future. One day last week while doing some database stuff and looking over spreadsheets, my Fitbit decided that I was sleeping for about two hours. It showed that I was sleeping at my desk (I wasn’t).

According to Fitbit, the Blaze can go 5 days on a charge. Based on our experience, this is 3-5 times longer than an Apple Watch.


My cycling data is great. It’s got my route all mapped out, then there are graphs of data for speed, heart rated zones, heart rate, and calories burned. It will even tell you what that activity impacted of your overall daily goal. Text messages, calls, and emails come in to your screen and you have the option to swipe them away as well as refuse or answer a call. You can even recall them up to a 24 hour period.


So let’s get into the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Bright, colorful screen

  • Tracks activity data easily

  • Customizable face

  • Customizable menus

  • Exportable data

  • Swappable bands/frames

  • Good battery life (5 days est.)

 

Cons:

  • No internal GPS

  • The charger is yet another proprietary fitbit cable

  • Not all notifications come through

  • Not waterproof


I like everything about it. I don’t mind that it doesn’t have an internal GPS, but I have friends that would call that a deal breaker. I’ve charged it twice in the first week, but only for 30 minutes each time on Tuesday and Thursday while I was getting ready for work. It didn’t fully charge it, and when I let it go until Sunday, the battery was dead. Overall, I would highly recommend it for someone looking to see how the daily commute affects their body, or just anyone looking to get a simple smartwatch.

Visit https://www.fitbit.com/blaze to learn more.

About the author

Chainlink member Jaik Smith earned serious street cred in 2015 by riding coast to coast in an effort to raise money for cancer research. Now living in Portland, he continues to use his (well-worn) Specialized AWOL for daily transportation.

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Comment by Jaik S. on March 25, 2016 at 11:15am

I have never really used Strava...but maybe I'll test out the compatibility between the two sometime. I've read a bit about the "smarter" bike thieves using Strava data to find where bikes are located, so please make sure your privacy settings are set properly if you use it.

Comment by Matt on March 24, 2016 at 4:15pm

Nice review. Any comment on its integration with Strava or other smartphone biking apps? I know there is integration with the Blaze, but it has GPS. My understanding is that GPS routes recorded in the Fitbit app into Strava won't have all of the details you get with the native app, but I also assume that this won't work with the Strava app natively like some of the garmin stuff may do. 

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