Last Thursday, former volleyball star Gabby Reece worked out with a bunch of tech journalists on a rooftop in downtown San Francisco. I only made it through half of the 20-minute workout, which says something about my personal fitness level or the workout's difficulty, perhaps both. The event was to show off some of the features of Fitbit's new devices. One of those features, a new Cardio Fitness Level function, is actually to determine whether I'm as fit as I should be for someone my age. With it, I can confidently say if it was just a hard workout or I'm a bit out of shape. Spoiler alert: The problem is definitely me.
When you think of fitness tracking, one of the first products that likely comes to mind is Fitbit. The company has come a long way since its launch in 2007, evolving from a small wearable tracker that simply counted steps and burned calories, to devices that can now handle much of the same functionality as a smartwatch and track everything from your sleep to your heart rate. Today, it's updating two of its newest devices, the Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Flex, announcing the second generation of both as well as a new app experience to help you get more out of the devices.
If you're already Charge owner, then the first thing you're likely to notice about the new version is its display. The new Charge has a display four times larger than the Charge HR, a design change that allows it to add more notification options, as well as a number of clock faces that allow you to customize the look of the device. Bands on the device are also now interchangeable, so you can swap out colors, or replace a band that's become damaged without having to spring for a new device.
The star of the new device is the Cardio Fitness Level functionality. With it, you're able to determine how fit you are with a personalized cardio fitness level and score. The score is determined by estimating your VO2 Max, something typically done in a lab at a doctor's office. With that knowledge, Fitbit can tell you whether you're as fit as you should be for someone your age, and make actionable suggestions on what you can do to improve your fitness over time. As a result, I've learned my fitness level is "fair" but there's definitely (a lot of) room for improvement.
Along those same lines, the new devices include Guided Breathing Sessions. Think of them as like a tiny meditation session of sorts. Reece went through a two-minute demo of these at the event (the app offers two and five-minute options), and I was a champion at breathing. They're short enough you can do them between stressful conference calls at work, and the display shows animations and visual cues to help you lower your heart rate and calm down.
Fitness-wise, the device has multi-sport modes that automatically trigger when you've done something like ride a bike or hit the elliptical for 15 minutes. A new connected GPS feature uses the GPS in your phone to better track your pace and distance on a run and create a map of your route, and an interval workout mode can help you alternate between periods of high-intensity workouts and recovery times.
The Charge 2 also adds a new Reminders to Move feature, which encourages you to walk 250 steps every hour to stay active and keep your metabolism going.
The Fitbit Flex also got an upgrade today. The new device is 30% smaller than its predecessor, and is now swim-proof, which means you can take it lap swimming or on a trip out on the ocean without worrying about damaging it.
LED lights on the front of the device display your progress toward daily goals, and gentle vibrations can alert you when you're getting a new text message or call. Like the Charge 2, the Flex 2 automatically recognizes workouts like runs (and now swims) when you do them for 15 minutes, and it also has a Reminders to Move feature designed to keep you active during the day.
For the fashion conscious, the Flex 2 will have a number of different designer collections available. Tory Burch, Public School, and Vera Wang for Kohl's will all be offering stylish bands and accessories for the device. Fitbit also has its own pendant and bracelet option, which will be available in gold, silver, and rose gold.
The Fitbit Charge 2 will be priced at $149.95, and the Flex 2 will be $99.95. The new Charge goes on sale in September, while the Flex will hit stores starting in October.
Slideshow Credits: 01 / Photos: courtesy of Fitbit;