Fitbit has become a household name when it comes to fitness trackers and wearables in general – and not always for the right reasons. The company behind some of the earliest fitness trackers to hit the market has consistently released well-received products.
The Fitbit Blaze was one of them, and while it may no longer sit in the company's core line-up you can still buy it from a variety of retailers.
Breaching the gap between fitness tracker and smartwatch, the Blaze is much more former than the latter. The design of the Blaze looks like a watch, but the features are much like a fitness band.
Fitbit has since released two smartwatches in the form of the Fitbit Ionic, and then the Fitbit Versa in 2018 that replaced the Blaze in the company's range of products. It's not a bit more difficult to find the Fitbit Blaze, and both the Ionic and Versa are much smarter products.
However, if you're looking for a fitness tracker with a heavy, but not-too-heavy lean toward being a smartwatch, the Fitbit Blaze is a competent choice that you can now buy for less than ever before.
Fitbit Blaze price and release date
- Announced in January 2016 at CES and released a few weeks later
- Launched at $199 (£159.99, AU$329.95)
- Now often down to around $140 / £110 / AU$329.95
At launch you could buy the Fitbit Blaze for $199 (£159.99, AU$329.95). That price has dropped down a lot so you can now get it for around $140 or £110 during sales periods and a little bit more normally.
You can no longer buy the Blaze directly from Fitbit, but a variety of third-party retailers are still offering the watch/tracker hybrid.
- Color LCD display, first time for a Fitbit product
- Larger screen than on any other Fitbit
Unlike most other Fitbit devices, the Blaze includes a display, blurring the line between smartwatch and fitness tracker. The display itself is bright and jumps out at you, especially if you're using the right watch face.
Everything is clear on the display, and I feel this is the right size for a smartwatch. From a distance it looks much more like a traditional watch than some other smartwatches out there.
For some reason, Fitbit has decided to go for a square screen here though – I feel it would have been better if Fitbit had used a round display, like on the Moto 360.
And that display isn't going to give you that much information – it's not going to be flush with notifications like the Apple Watch, displaying just basic fitness stats such as your heart rate and steps.
My other problem with the square display is the large bezels around the sides. Fitbit has included some of the thickest bezels I've seen on a smartwatch, and there's a lot of wasted space here; the screen could have been much bigger, or the device could have been much smaller if more thought had been put in here.
To add insult to injury, the Fitbit logo even sits below the main display, which I find irritating whenever I look at it, as it highlights the wasted space – you don't see the Apple logo sitting at the bottom of the screen on the Apple Watch.
That said, the screen on the Fitbit Blaze does the job. It's colourful and bright, and you don't need a high resolution on this device, as it's only displaying the odd notification.
One of my biggest bugbears with the Fitbit Blaze, though, is that the screen is often unresponsive. There were multiple times where I'd tap on the screen and nothing would happen. It would wake easily with a flick the wrist, but then I'd sit there swiping left and right for quite some time, trying to get the screen to fire up.
When I have a smartwatch on my wrist, it's usually so that I can get to my information as quickly as possible. But with the Fitbit Blaze I found myself tapping on the screen far more often than I have to with other wearable devices.
Design and comfort
- Comfortable fit, but some may find this to be too large for their wrist
- Looks like a smartwatch, but not as stylish as a lot of other choices
The Fitbit Blaze isn't the best-looking smartwatch you'll ever see. It feels a little like Fitbit decided it wanted to make an Apple Watch-like device, but then didn't go the whole way.
The Blaze was the first Fitbit product with a color touchscreen, and it looks much more appealing than the Surge – and functionality-wise, it does more.
However, what isn't certain is whether it's actually a smartwatch, it's certainly not as much smartwatch as it's newer stablemate the Ionic. The Samsung Gear Fit 2 runs into the very same issue. It's certainly simpler than other smartwatches I've seen before.
There's a button on the left side that serves as a home and back command, with two on the right that can be used for volume controls for music.
The right-side buttons also provide an alternative way for you to select exercise options, in case your hands are wet or gloved and aren't registering on the touchscreen. Those are the only buttons on the device, and everything else is controlled via the screen.
As mentioned, the design has proved divisive. It's certainly a different-looking smartwatch, with an outer metal rim for the strap, and those aforementioned bezels.
It does look odd, and I think this is a mistake by Fitbit. I'd much prefer this device if Fitbit had made full use of the space it occupies on my wrist, rather than wasting it.
The watch body of the Blaze can be popped out and placed into another band and frame easily enough. I liked the flatness against my wrist, and it fits nicely. I've got rather large wrists, but it feels like it would fit most people comfortably, even if you're used to smaller devices.
Popping the device back into its frame can be a little confusing though. It fits into the frame either way up, so it's easy to put it in the wrong way up, and not realise until you put the watch on.
And that hexagonal shape is sure to be polarizing for many. On the one hand it's certainly different, but on the other the design feels a bit outdated, although I didn't notice this as much when it's on my wrist due to the overall flat look of the body.
I don't think the metal holder around the screen works all that well. The straps themselves feel good on the wrist, and that's something that Fitbit has managed to nail down after its problems with the irritable Surge straps a few years ago.
The strap is the only option you really have for personalizing your Fitbit Blaze. With a ton of Android Wear and Apple Watch bands available, it's no surprise that Fitbit has decided to offer its own selection of bands and frames.
You can buy a number of different bands from Fitbit directly. For 'formal' occasions Fitbit has created the Luxe band, which comes in black, camel or mist grey leather. There's also a stainless steel version, but sadly we didn't get to play with any of these.
Customising your Fitbit doesn't come cheap, though. The leather bands will cost you $99.95 (£59.99, AU$169.95), while the stainless steel option will cost a little extra, at $129.95 (£89.99, AU$219.95).
Fitbit is also offering the 'classic' elastomer bands, which come in black, blue and plum for $29.95 (£19.95, AU$49.95). These are all comfortable to wear – and crucially, as mentioned, they didn't irritate my wrist.
I had time with both the blue and black 'classic' editions; I haven't seen the purple version, but I'm told it's the same shade of plum as other Fitbit products, so it should be an attractive choice.
Since launch more strap colors and materials have become available though if you want a drawer full of different style options – it may get a little expensive.
- Easy to use software, shows everything you need on the watch
- Good performance, no stuttering during fitness activities
The Fitbit Blaze runs Fitbit's own software, rather than Android Wear or Tizen, and that means it's pretty limited in what it can actually do. If you buy an Android Wear watch or Apple Watch you'll be able to download custom-designed apps from the respective stores, but here you're restricted to the functionality that's on offer out of the box.
When you turn on the Blaze you'll be greeted with the watch face. There are four to choose from, all with simple and uncluttered designs – my favorite includes a little monitor for your heart rate, step count and flights of stairs climbed.
The other options are even simpler, showing just the time, and sometimes the date with a different little animation. Watch faces can't be personalized – I hope that's something Fitbit will look into in the future, or that it will at least expand its collection of default faces.
If you swipe left on the screen it'll take you through your pre-loaded apps. First up is a feature called Today, which will show you your steps, heart rate and your resting beat throughout the day, miles walked, calories burnt and flights of stairs climbed.
If you want more you can boot up the app on your phone to see how your stats compare with past days.
The next app choice is Exercise, and most Fitbit users will find this section the most useful. Here's where you monitor the exercises you're doing, and you have the choice of run, bike, weights, treadmill, elliptical and workout.
When you start one of these it's simple to keep track of the time you've been working out, and you'll get your heart rate on the screen as well. Everything here is simple, which is what you need when you're focused on completing that last mile of a run.
One of the most interesting features on the Blaze is something called Fitstar, which gives you workout suggestions and tests how well you've done at a particular exercise. It includes options such as Warm It Up, 7 Minute Workout and 10 Minute Abs.
I found some of the routines pretty challenging – but that's likely my problem rather than an issue with the Blaze. It's something a little different to what the competition is offering, and if you're stuck for ideas in the gym, just boot this up and it'll give you some ideas.
At the end of the day, when you're finished living a suddenly more active life in order to meet your goals, this activity tracker transitions into a sleep tracker. It automatically begins tracking how long you sleep every night and notes your restlessness on a minute-by-minute timeline.
It's not always accurate, but automatic sleep tracking kicks in at the right time most of the time. I also found the app's timeline to be easier to read compared previous versions of the app and there are new sleep features for setting reminders and goals to help you make sense of the data.
Unchanged is the silent alarm feature that buzzes your wrist every morning to wake you up without disturbing your partner. It can be a relationship saver, even if you're not shedding the extra weight during the rest of the day.
Other useful non-fitness features on the watch include alarms, a timer and the settings menu. You can also control the music on your phone by pulling down on the main menu. You can pause and skip tracks within Spotify, Apple Music or your phone's own music player, which is particularly useful mid-workout when you don't want to get your phone out of your pocket.
But that's about all the Fitbit Blaze can do as a smartwatch. It will give you notifications, but I found that functionality limited. Texts and phone call alerts will come through to your watch, as well as calendar notifications.
This means third-party apps, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, can't send notifications through to your wrist. If you're looking for a smartwatch that will enable you to keep in touch wherever you are and whatever you're doing, this isn't it.
The Blaze is all about the fitness – after all, Fitbit does call this a 'smart fitness watch'.
- Attractive UI in the app which is very easy to use
- Works with almost all smartphones, but it's worth checking before you buy
If you've used a Fitbit product before, you know the app is one of the best things about owning one of its devices. The app makes the process of setting up the Fitbit Blaze simple, and presents you with a guide on how the watch works as soon as you download it.
When it's all set up, the Fitbit app will give you a huge variety of information. The main menu covers steps, heart rate, miles, calories, floors climbed and active minutes. You can compare past and present performance using daily, weekly or monthly charts.
The app will also set you a number of challenges to keep you motivated, and you'll receive medals for each milestone you achieve. You can tackle these challenges on your own, or compete against friends who also use the Fitbit app.
These range from simple races to the amount of steps you take over a weekend. It can add that extra element of competition to your workouts, helping to keep you engaged with your regime.
It's simple to add friends if you know their email addresses and know they use the Fitbit app, but it would be nice if Fitbit let you connect to your Facebook account – that way you'd be able to see all your friends who exercise with Fitbit, rather than having to ask everyone.
There's a new app to to help you get more from your Fitbit too. Fitbit Coach is a separate app for people who are that bit more serious about fitness. Featuring 100s of workout videos built into guided sessions for everything from running to HIIT, Fitbit Coach is a fantastic motivational tool and particularly useful if your new to working out.
While some of the videos are available for free, the majority are tucked away behind a premium paywall. Access to the premium app will still set you back £5.99 per month for £29.99 ($39.99, about AU$50) for the year, though there are some free workout sessions in the app too. These are frustratingly hard to find in the Coach app.
You can access the Coach app from the main Fitbit app and any activity you do will still be counted into your Fitbit totals, but you'll need to download the second app and jump between the two which is a little clunky.
That said, Fitbit Coach has some other great benefits that make that – and the price – potentially worthwhile. For example, it uses your recent tracked info to recommend workouts to do next. All in all, if you're not a big fan of the gym, and pricey gym memberships and you're looking for support in your fitness journey then this is an app worth looking at.
The Fitbit Blaze will likely work with your iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile device, as there are over 200 compatible devices – if you're not sure whether your device is supported you can check on the Fitbit website. If your phone is only a couple of years old and can download the Fitbit app, it's likely to be compatible.
Bear in mind that you can't use an Apple Watch with Android phones and not all Android Wear devices work on iOS; Fitbit is one of the few wearables producers whose devices can be used across multiple platforms.
- Five day battery life is quite impressive for a device with such a big screen
- Intensive use will bring it down to three to four days of use
Battery performance on the Fitbit Blaze is surprising – and in a good way. Manufacturers regularly make a song and dance about the battery life of a new device, but, more often than not, in testing we find that said device doesn't last as long as claimed.
But in this case, Fitbit has it just about right.
Fitbit claims the Blaze has a five-day battery life, which for a smartwatch with a color screen would be pretty impressive. And during my review I found a full charge would keep the Blaze going for between four and six days; I suspect the disparity was down to different levels of exercise on particular days.
My only complaint about battery performance on the Fitbit Blaze is how long it takes to charge. I found it always took at least three hours to charge the Blaze
In the grand scheme of things though, that's not a problem. You'll usually be taking the watch off when you go to bed anyway, so it's easy enough to charge it overnight – you just pop the Blaze out of its strap and place it in the supplied charging cradle.
It certainly doesn't look as impressive as when you place the Moto 360 on its charging stand with the strap still attached, but it gets the job done.
The Fitbit Blaze raises expectations, and then dashes them somewhat. The idea of a smartwatch designed by one of the biggest wearable manufacturers in the world was an exciting one, and the fact that Fitbit didn't go the whole way is a disappointment.
The Fitbit Ionic has definitely addressed some of these issues and if you're in for a Fitbit smartwatch that should be on your consideration list too.
The biggest hurdle wearable devices need to clear is battery life, and the Fitbit Blaze seems to have managed that. I'm still stunned when I realise this is a smartwatch with a color display that will last me a minimum of four days, and probably a little longer.
Not having to charge the device every night is a godsend, especially when you want to start getting into sleep tracking as well as monitoring your exercise.
The Fitbit Blaze is also competitively priced when you consider that it only costs a little more than some of the company's other fitness trackers, and gives you the color display plus a little more functionality. I'd be tempted to get one of these over a Fitbit Charge, Flex or Surge.
Finally, the thing Fitbit does brilliantly is, of course, fitness tracking. The introduction of Fitstar here is a really interesting addition, and looks like being one of the make or break features for the Blaze.
If you're bored of your gym workout and want to try something different you can spend hours Googling workouts on your phone while in the gym – but on the Blaze you can just fire up Fitstar, choose 10 minute abs, and you'll be straight into a workout.
In all honesty, I think the Fitbit Blaze is rather ugly. There are so many good looking wearable devices out there right now – look at the Apple Watch and you see something that has a really well thought out and attractive design.
Here it feels like Fitbit looked at the Watch, and decided to not go the whole way. I still don't understand why it's a square device – and the metal parts of the strap don't look nice at all.
And those bezels between the edges of the screen and the frame make it look like someone didn't think through the design fully.
That said, the strap is comfortable, and I found myself leaving the Blaze on my wrist even when typing.
The display on the Fitbit Blaze is also frustrating. I was often left tapping in vain on the display, trying to get it to respond. This would be frustrating at the best of times, but mid-workout is certainly not when you want your screen to be playing up.
I was expecting more of a smartwatch experience with the Fitbit Blaze. That's partly down to my own perceptions, but also to the pre-launch hype suggesting it would be a fully rounded smartwatch, and it's a little disappointing.
Notifications are limited, and given that I barely receive texts any longer because I use instant messaging platforms so much, it feels particularly dated that I just get the odd buzz on the wrist to tell me I've got a text message, or spam from Pizza Hut.
After quite a bit of time with the Blaze, I can see why Fitbit is being a little bit vague about how they categorize it. It most definitely isn't a smartwatch, although it is a bit smarter than your average fitness tracker.
And not surprisingly Fitbit has nailed the fitness side of things. The step tracker, heart rate monitor and calorie counter are as accurate and useful as ever, as on all its devices – and the Fitstar app is a nice extra selling point.
I'm just a little let down there isn't more here on the smartwatch side. It's something the company could perhaps address with future software updates, but for now there just isn't enough functionality when it comes to notifications.
And it makes me wonder why Fitbit chose to go for a color screen here. If I can't get third-party app messages on this screen, why does it need to be in color?
Ultimately, this is still a solid fitness trackers, though newcomers in this space like the Ionic, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro and the Garmin Forerunner 645 do make it look a little dated. It has a different design to the more traditional-looking Fitbit, and it doesn't cost all that much more than some of the company's other wares.
Then there's the fitness watch versus smartwatch debate. If you're looking for something to track your fitness and help you achieve your goals in that area, by all means go for the Fitbit Blaze. But if you want a genuine smartwatch that puts a lot of the functionality of your phone on your wrist, look elsewhere.
First reviewed: March 2016
Don't like the look of the Fitbit Blaze? Tempted, but want to know what else is out there? Here are what we see as its main rivals for your affections.
- Check out the other best Fitbit trackers we recommend
Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro rocks a slimmer profile than the Blaze and one-ups its with some impressive specs, like its Super AMOLED display and built-in GPS function.
You can nab each for about the same price, but the Blaze stands out in a few key ways: it's sleeker, looking much more like a proper smartwatch than a fitness tracker. Saying that, Samsung's choice is one of the best looking fitness trackers money can buy.
Lastly, the battery life of the Blaze is a step above Samsung's latest, too. You'll be able to get at least five days of use out of it before charging, about a day or two on average more than you'll squeeze from the Gear Fit 2, especially if you use its GPS function. Then again, it does have GPS built-in while the Blaze doesn't...
- Read the full Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro review
Before the Blaze, the Fitbit Surge was the biggest and best Fitbit you could buy. It's aimed at the serious fitness fantastic, and includes GPS tracking as well as real workout stats and a heart rate monitor.
It's bigger than other Fitbit products as it features an LCD screen, and it's also more expensive than other Fitbits – it costs even more than the Blaze at $250 (£200, AU$350).
When the Surge was released Fitbit called it its 'superwatch', distinguishing it from the Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR. The big focus is on GPS, and it's something the Blaze is sorely missing.
- Read the full Fitbit Surge review
Fitbit Charge 2
After a Fitbit product that's slightly cheaper than the Blaze? The updated Charge is a good choice for you and come with a selection of the fitness features we first saw on the Fitbit Blaze.
It will give you notifications for SMS and phone calls and has a wider screen than the Fitbit Charge HR. It's not got such a large screen as the Blaze though and you may find it more comfortable as it has a slimmer design. It's a comfortable device , so it's easy to throw it on in the morning and keep wearing it.
And if you thought the battery life of the Blaze was great, the Charge 2 is going to last you even longer – it only needs charging once a week or so. It's worth bearing in mind that if money is no object there's also the Fitbit Charge 3 too.
- Read the full Fitbit Charge 2 review
from TechRadar - Technology Reviews http://www.techradar.com/reviews/wearables/fitbit-blaze-1312660/review