As big tech companies prepare to woo you with current and upcoming smartwatches, they'll be doing battle with fitness tracking devices that some customers already have on their wrists. Along with the Jawbone Up and Nike Fuelband, one of the most popular series of wrist trackers comes from Fitbit. The San Francisco-based company just unveiled its latest tracker, and, surprise surprise, it took some baby steps in the direction of the smartwatch.
First, let's make no bones about it: the new Fitbit Force is still a sleep and activity tracker through and through. Like its predecessors, it logs things like your workouts, daily steps, sleep patterns, steps climbed, and distance traveled. It can even serve as a silent alarm clock that won't wake up your bedmate. The new model, however, also adds a small screen, and, though it doesn't show you messages from your phone, a future software update will soon have it alerting you to incoming calls. Very smartwatch-like, indeed.
One of the handiest features of smartwatches is their ability to show you your workout data in real time. A quick glance to your wrist, and you have the info you're looking for. Now the Fitbit family finally has its own answer to that functionality, as its screen will show you some basic workout data. The Force isn't the first Fitbit tracker with a display, but it is the first screened one that lives on your wrist. Pressing the lone button on the side will scroll through steps, time, floors climbed, alarm, distance, "very active minutes," and calories burned.
At launch, the Fitbit Force syncs with the newest iPhones (4s and newer), but on the Android side of the fence, it's only compatible with the Galaxy S4 and S3, Galaxy Note 2, and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet (pre-2014 version). That's a solid enough start that will cover millions of smartphone owners, and the company says that more compatible devices will be joining them soon. The device also ships with a bundled wireless sync dongle, so it can transmit data to a Windows or Mac OS X computer.
The just-announced Fitbit Force is available in small (typically female) and large (typically male) sizes, in black and a bluish "slate." It will start shipping in around three to four weeks, for US$130. You can hit up the source link below for more info.