Fitbit Force adds smartwatch features to $130 fitness tracker

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wearable technology, health, fitness, fitbit, fitbit force

The original Fitbit started its life as a tiny pod you could carry on your pocket or clip onto your clothes to measure data such as the number of steps walked, calories burned, sleep, and other personal metrics. The company has released a handful of devices since, and perhaps feeling the pressure from competitors like the Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up, decided to move into wristband territory earlier this year.

The Fitbit Force is the next logical step in the company’s evolution. It offers all of the same features of the company’s first wristband, the Fitbit Flex, but adds an altimeter and some basic smartwatch functionality.

Like most other Fitbit devices, the Force tracks the steps you've taken, the distance you've gone, the calories you've burned, your sleep pattern and how many floors or steps you’ve climbed. This information and other stats are displayed in a nicely designed website or mobile app. Unlike with the Flex, however, the new OLED display and a physical button on the Force let you cycle through these stats without taking your smartphone out.

Functionality as a smartwatch is limited to displaying the time and doubling as a basic stopwatch timer. Soon after launch, Fitbit will release a software update that will allow iPhone users running iOS 7 have the Force vibrate and display the name or number of a caller. AllThingsD says the company is running this feature as an experiment and will consider adding more functionality based on user reaction.

Still, Fitbit notes it views the Force more as an activity tracker that also tells time rather than a smartwatch, noting that the core mission remains providing customers with simple-to-use products to help them get healthier. “For us, the challenge has been to not include a lot of stuff in our devices,” Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park tells AllThingsD. “It’s always a tough discipline to do that, but I think we’re happy with what’s in the device today.”

One area where they’re still lacking is in device support, though. The Force will sync wirelessly via Bluetooth 4.0 LE with the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S3, S4, Note II and Note 10.1. Other Android devices can still run the app but users will need to sync the Force with a computer first before the data shows up there.

The Fitbit Force will be available for $130 online and at various retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy and Target.

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