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Fitbit Blaze review

I’ve been looking to find a replacement for both my Android wear watch (which is become so much less functional since I moved to an iPhone) as well as my Fitbit Charge which is forever catching on my shirt sleeves. I love the fitbit eco system. The portal, the social, it is all well done. I wish they did more data analysis on the data, but other than that it is well done. Sadly Fitbit does not play nice with Apple Health, the two are not on speaking terms 😦 I found a great app for that called FitbitSync. Quite flexible.

There’s been a lot of maligning of the Blaze since it’s release. Personally I think the people that have been slagging it had an expectation of what they thought it ought to be. Which, to me, is bizarre. Look at the device, see if it fits into your life. I actually don’t think the Blaze is meant to replace any of the devices in their current lineup. It’s another option.

A while back my bud Lance was looking at a TomTom Spark and he said I am not sure I want something called a spark on my wrist. Well if that’s the case what about the name Blaze? And what does that name even mean … Moving on …

Let’s start with physicals. Fitbit decided to completely redesign how the watch is charged and sits in it’s band. And I have absolutely no idea why. The have come up with a design that is eccentric at best. There is a metal housing that holds the fitbit. You have to remove the Blaze from the housing, and then insert into what looks more like a Pentium processor clip, or a programmable logic array socket. It’s bizarre. The watch band can be easily removed and replaced with a standard. You can also buy replacement cages so you can have more than one band to pop it into. From this point of view I like what they have done (making it easy for you to customize your watch).
Fitbit-Blaze-Unboxing-Watch-Charger_thumb

The watch has a 4mm bezel on either side and the screen itself is 25mm. Not the smallest bezel, but not the largest either. The screen itself is bright and vivid.

The band is available in two sizes, Large and small. I bought the large this time, I have small wrists and it barely fits, I’m on the second from last hole. But, this also means you can wear the watch further up the arm for better heart rate accuracy during workouts. Right in the manual it talks about wearing it comfortably for every day when accuracy is not a huge concern, and then further up the arm for workouts. I found when I wore it further up the arm it just slid down. There are metal bands available for the Blaze but they are outrageously priced.

The wrist is a horrible place to get a heart rate accurately. And I have small wrists as well as I mountain bike which just even further goes to complicate getting an accurate heart rate. So I don’t have high expectations for accuracy …

On a 25 minute walk the Blaze showed a max heart rate of over 170 (can’t see the exact max and Fitbit don’t tell you), and an average of 130 compared with my Scosche rhythm+ with a max heart rate of 128 (Blaze was off by 33% or 42 BPM) and an average of 111 (Blaze was off by 17% or 19 bpm). This is actually not horrible, but then it’s all about expectations.
hr-schosche
hr-blaze

As always Fitbit do not allow you to export your heart rate data so you can’t even do your own analysis. Not like it’s your data or anything 😦

The heart rate monitor can not be used by any other apps.

There are no alarms that can be set based on heart rate (below min, above max) as you can on things like Polars.

The heart rate can be displayed on the watchface, during workouts (refreshed more frequently) as well as on the today screen.

Heart rate can be disabled from the phone anytime you want and would presumably increase battery life.

Sitting quietly on the couch I watched the heart rate monitor and it was always within a few BPM or my Scosche Rhythm+.

And now we come to the comedy section of this post … There’s this hilarious line from Home Alone 2. A line that ONLY Tim Curry could deliver … What kind of idiots do you have working here? Only the finest!
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Fitbit have outdone themselves. In my time with the Surge I discovered that when you were tracking a manually started exercise it continued tracking steps, basically double counting. I raised an incident with Fitbit only to be told it was working as desired. Desired by who’m? No intelligent person that’s for sure. Well on the Blaze they have taken the idiocy one step further. So I decide to go for a bike ride. I start it up on the Blaze. The options allow me to start it with or without the phone’s GPS. Nice option for indoor rides. So I choose without, and start my workout and I am presented with a the first screen showing me my speed, which is of course, zero since I chose no GPS. Now why am I looking at a field I can’t change that just keeps showing zero? But this is not the point of insanity yet. So the whole time I was riding, not only was I racking up steps and climbing floors, but the Blaze also auto detected that I was out for a run. So in all it was triple counting. Now what will I do with my time now that I have mastered being not two places at a time, but three! Man am I good! 🙂 And when your done you get to go back and manually clean up the mess it makes of your stats 😦
This shows how the automatic exercise came over to Endormondo proliferating the triple counting. Those two in green are at the same time as the cycling in the yellow.
IMG_0503

Ok now that the sillyness is past back to the post, let’s have a look at data. The heart rate data is a pure act of fiction, I looked at my wrist while riding and the heart rate it showed, when it showed, was more often way off than right. But let’s just accept that and see what difference it makes to the stats. So I tracked the same ride with Endomondo and a Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor, as well as a Garmin capturing the same heart rate monitor. Now to set the stage there really is only one reason I care about my heart rate and that’s to get a more accurate calorie count of my ride. I like to make sure I am increasing and building stamina. At some point I might care about my max heart rate in which case the Blaze is the wrong tool for the job. Probably so is every other consumer grade device. First up let’s look at the graphs from the Blaze. You can see the drop outs in the flat lines, as well as the cliffs that my heart rate according to the Blaze was doing.
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home

Now for a laugh let’s visually compare the Garmin/Sacosche with the Blaze.
to-compare
home-compare
Like I was saying an act of fiction. But let’s look at the data anyway.

to-ravine-data
The data for max heart rate and average heart rate is way off. I saw this during the ride. In spite of that as you can see the calorie count compared with Endomondo is pretty darn close.

For the second ride I used the phone’s GPS for the Blaze:
to-data-compare
You can see that the ending data is actually pretty darn good. Better than the previous one. And, using the phones GPS works just fine and creates a decent map on the Fitbit portal. And the calorie count compares quite favorably with the one I get out of Endomondo! Impressive.

In terms of accuracy, for me, the heart rae monitor it best for non-active measurements. Which is when it will be used more anyway …

The watchfaces are really (sadly) quite limited, only 4 chocies. I really wish Fitbit would open this up to designers/developers like so many other platforms do 😦 And none of the watch faces include the current weather, something I quite like. But at least one does show you your current heart rate. You can only change the watchface from your phone. There is no setting for always on for the watchface. So you have to manually wake it or hope it detects your wrist movement (Fitbit refer to that as Quickview). With quickview off the only thing that wakes the screen is buttons screen taps are ignoerd. There is an ambient light sensor to be able to detect brightness. These settings can be changed on the watch. You can not change the screen timeout setting.
IMG_0367

There are no apps you can add to the watch to act as a secondary display to things like Endomondo or the like. And there is no support by Endomondo either. Although Fitbit and Endomondo can be set to cross pollinate data.

Notifications can be set to Calls, texts and calendards and bedeep bedeep that’s all folks. And there is no way to change the font size. So better hope it’s what you want … Notifications can be scrolled through and dismissed on mass. It’s actually quite well done and efficient. Notifications are silenced when your phone is silenced. A welcome feature for something you are supposed to sleep with.
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Fitbit have designed in the fact you can have multiple Fitbits and choose which one you wanna wear on a given day.
IMG_0369

There are no voice commands at all …

As with all of the Fitbits good luck finding the exact battery status, best yu get is high medium and low.

The usual suspects are here from activity tracking, steps, calories, kms and floors. Floors is something that only some of the fitbits do. Daily stats can be seen on the watch anytime. As with every fitbit to date there is no get up and do something reminders … Apparently the up and coming Alta will add this so maybe Fitbit might see fit to add that. Pun intended.

In addition there’s also a stopwatch and count down timer, that work but are a bit clumsy to start.

Fitbit have included FitStar an animated workout app. And sadly you can’t remove it if you don’t want/need it.

Manually entered exercises can be started on the watch for a number of different activities. These can be added/deleted from the list on the phone (that then is sync’d to the watch). You can not create your own workout types.

A quick drag down from the clock reveals music playback controls as well as a quick way to turn notifications off. I would love to see an option there to allow quickly turning on/off quick view for sleeping.

Local alarms can only be set on the phone not on the watch.

On first use I got just under 5 days before the Fitbit said it was low. Then another 1/2 a day before it said the battery was empty. So battery life is excellent. And this is with all day sync on, screen on default brightness, and quick view on. I did not get an email or notification oddly as I have other Fitbits. In an hour the battery was charged back to full so a pretty quick charge. I did find it buzzed twice when it was low, sadly when the phone was in quiet mode and while I was sleeping 😦

So in the end I like the Blaze. As is often the case in this wearables category there are SO MANY things that Fitbit could have added to make it a slam dunk. Companies don’t seem to want to finish the job. To busy rushing to get it on the market I guess. The Blaze is a complete replacement for my Fitbit charge. The data rich environment that Fitbit have created it amazing and the Blaze adds in the heart rate date which is interesting to see. The biggest let down of the blaze are the watch faces. I still like the glitz of my Moto 360 so likely will occasionally wear it. Such as more dressy occasions. But all in all I think it’s found a place on my wrist. It is expensive for what your getting IMHO.

Dear Mr F(n) Bit. I love your products but I have three wishes … 1) Give me more choices on watch faces 2) Fix the triple counting of work outs, 3) More reasonably price the metal watch band

For more information be sure and checkout DC Rainmaker’s detailed review of the Blaze.

Update: 4/26/2016
I’ve been watching for reasonably priced metal bands to replace the rubber band that came with the blaze and while they have been around they have been only from China. And it’s been hard to tell if they have the same quick disconnect pin like the Blaze does. Well one finally showed up on Amazon. It’s a Moko. The pins that came with it have the easy to release pins, or so I thought. Taking the original band from Fitbit off and back on was easy. I had thought that I could swap out bands from time to time as the whim moved me. After 20 minutes of trying to get the band onto the frame I gave up and went to a jeweler. Even they had trouble and ended up using their own pins.The tolerance on this design are just too tight. What this means is you will need to consider purchasing a spare frame if you want to use the provided rubber band. Fortunately these too are available and inexpensively on Amazon from a company called Toopoot (really I couldn’t make that up) and even come in an assortment of colors.
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Fitbit are really being dumb keeping the prices on accessories like this expensive IMHO.

Once swapped out the band can be easily adjusted with the provided tool to the right length and your done. The band does not include an intermediary adjustment so the only adjustments are add a linkand remove a link. So your likely going to have to settle for a little loose or a little tight. True watch bands have an more granular adjustment at the clasp. This one does not. The watch looks a WHOLE lot better with the new band and looks a lot less like an exercise band.

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I also bought a spare black frame and put the original rubber band on it. I prefer the look of the black on black.
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So far the most comfortable of the watch bands I bought is this Milanese style (no idea what that means) band I bought off ebay from ABCsell. It is infinitely adjustable and feels great on the wrist. And look good too.
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Last but not least I’ve order this one off ebay but don’t have it yet. I don’t have it yet.
$_57

The thing about a Fitbit is you want to wear it everyday so you get the data. But there’s always a desire to accessorize. So these bands help fill that void! And given how inexpensive they when compared to the official ones from Fitbit you can afford to have a number of them!

Update 8/3/2016
I’ve been living with the Fitbit Blaze now for about 40 mins. As an activity tracker it is probably one of the best Fitbits to date. There are a few shortcoming, sadly all of which could be addressed in software, but have not been (and may never be).

The heart rate monitor is there and maybe it could be used to indicate when you might be getting sick using the resting heart rate numbers, but in reality it just isn’t accurate enough for that to be of any use. Having is handy for occasional exercise where accuracy isn’t all important. But in reality I turn it off. (one sec for why …)

The biggest shortcoming of the device is the limited watch faces. So much so that as a watch the Blaze is pretty much a fail. 4 choices, still? Really?
IMG_1315
The best of the watch faces is called the zone. But the problem with it is that is changes color based on your heart rate. And most of the colors are hard to read in the sun. So much so I turn the heart rate monitor off so I can read the time easily in the sun or wherever.

When the Fitbit Alta came out it has a new feature (well new to Fitbit, others have been doing it for a while now), an inactivity reminder. An alert to remind you to get up and walk. At the time (now months later) Fitbit promised to add it to the Blaze. The feature is still not there.

I really thing Fitbit are limiting there sales by keeping prices on alternate bands high.

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March 20, 2016 - Posted by | Activity Trackers

2 Comments »

  1. Nice article here. Thanks for sharing this information about it.

    Comment by Williamscot | November 14, 2016 | Reply

    • Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Comment by johngalea | November 14, 2016 | Reply


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