Today, Fitbit announced major updates to what it calls its most iconic fitness trackers. The new Fitbit Charge 2 adds more health and fitness features, while the new Flex 2 is now “swim-proof”.
“Over the past nine years it has been our ability to innovate on both design and utility, and our deep understanding of what consumers want that has made us the leading global wearables company,” Fitbit CEO James Park says in a prepare statement. “We’ve revolutionized Flex 2 by making it swim-proof and adding more features in a design than is 30 percent smaller than the original. We break new ground again with Charge 2, giving users a snapshot of their cardio fitness based on estimated VO2 Max.”
So, Fitbit’s product lineup is getting a bit dense. But the short version of where these two new models fits in is clear enough. The Flex 2 is of course an update to the original Flex, and like its predecessor, it features a removable tracker so that you can pair the component with stylish bands that match your needs or preferences. The Charge 2 is an update to the Charge HR, and like its predecessor, it offers “PurePulse” heart rate tracking. Each has of course been updated in reasonable ways.
For the big picture, look back to my Fitbit Alta vs. Microsoft Band 2article from May. At that time, I was curious to see whether a different Fitbit model, the Alta, would meet my needs because it seemed to offer virtually every feature I was recommending that Microsoft add to a supposed Band 3.
It does. And in doing so, Fitbit exposes the lie that is the Microsoft Band, the Apple Watch, and Android Wear, in that it is a solution to an actual problem that works for several days on a charge, not less than 24 hours. It offers a simple user interface, and is inexpensive. It just works, in other words. The others are all, in their own way, clunky, pointless, and or expensive. And need to be charged every single day. Which is unacceptable.
Broader strokes, the thing I’ve come to really appreciate about Fitbit in general is their approach.
“We look at it from a consumer point of view,” the same Mr. Park told the New York Times back in May, noting that Fitbit purposely took the opposite approach from Apple Watch. “Apple Watch is a computing platform, but that’s really the wrong way to approach this category from the very beginning.” Fitbit’s strategy, he said, was to begin with simple devices in order to make wearables more approachable, and then “carefully layer on” more features over time.
With the new Charge 2 and Flex 2, we can see that layering on. The Charge 2, like the Alta I use, neatly handles the divide between pure fitness wearables and more expensive and complex smart watches. It hits at a “sweet sport” that I find to be both desirable and admirable, and that’s as true from a pricing perspective as it is functionally.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if fashion is your sole aim, the Apple Watch is there for the taking, and I assume each device comes with its own mini jar of Grey Poupon. But unless platform advocacy is your thing, it is Fitbit, and not Apple, Google, or Microsoft, that is doing the right thing when it comes to wearables.
And, sure, no device is perfect for everyone. But maybe that’s why Fitbit has several models now.