Fitbit has seemingly leaked the arrival of a new piece of wearable fitness technology, the Fitbit Force. The bracelet-like device apparently combines features from its earlier Flex wristband and its One tracker, including the measurement of altitude. But how long will gizmos like this remain relevant, what with the current raft of smartphone and smartwatch innovations?
The Force is basically a full-featured quantified self device: It can track footsteps for fitness, keep track of height gained during exercise so that a better assessment can be made of the energy expended during a walk or jog, and it can track sleep movements to help its wearers work out their sleep routine issues. It'll cost $130 on launch, according to Engadget, which is only about $30 more than the original Flex.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Force is the addition of a time display on the front, which effectively turns it into a wristwatch, and places it ahead of many similar rival devices made by firms like Jawbone's Up.
But this feature also exposes one of the weaknesses of this sort of wearable device. Though it's neat and convenient, it's actually seriously threatened by bigger innovations in wearable technology and also by smartphone innovations. For example, Apple recently included a very clever motion sensing device—the M7 chip—in its new iPhone 5S, and the chip can track movements including steps all day. Apps like the new Pedometer++ one now don't have to do any clever motion measurements or estimates by themselves, and they just poll the M7's database. The M7 chip is probably something that other smartphone makers will copy in their future devices, and there's some thought that Apple may have designed it to go into its purported iWatch smartwatch, where it would act as a fitness sensor that also controls your smartphone. This sort of wearable, if executed better than the apparently flawed Samsung Galaxy Gear, could displace fitness systems like Fitbit's pretty easily.