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Fitbit's New Quantified Self Gizmo Tracks Your Sleep And Altitude

Fitbit is about to release the Force, a wearable gadget that'll always be with you to track your fitness. Bonus: It's also a wristwatch.

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.

[Image: Fitbit, via Engadget]

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  • Jeanny House

    I have used a GPS-based app to track walking for several years now. It only works if I have the phone with me, remember to turn the app on, don't multitask while using it, have the phone in the right spot on my body so that it doesn't flap around too much but doesn't get so buried that it can't find a GPS signal. Pedometer apps might be be better with the new iPhone and iOS 7 than they were before, but those haven't worked well for me in the past. They've measured too many things as steps. Both kinds of apps are likely to drain a phone battery pretty fast so that you're unlikely to get a full day's use out of them.

    My Fitbit Flex, on the other hand (actually on my left wrist), just does its job -- all day long, all night long, without me having to turn it on, make sure it's in the right place, or anything. About once a week, I need to recharge it. 

    Until they can make a phone and app as smart, small, unnoticeable, long-lasting, and convenient as my Fitbit, I don't see any real competition. 

  • Kimberly

    But the convenience of a wearable device is that I don't have to lug my smartphone with me as I step around the office or anywhere that I don't have a pocket or purse.