Fitbit Flex 2 first impression : Swim-friendly tracker makes a splash

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Fitbit Flex 2 is the first swim-proof fitness tracker from the company and we can almost hear the collective sigh of relief.

In the face of the Misfit Speedo Shine 2 and gamut of other water resistant trackers, it’s taken Fitbit a long time to answer the call of swimmers. And on paper at least, the Flex 2 looks like the real deal.

Fitbit Flex 2 first look

Priced reasonably at $99.95, the features aren’t as advanced as the Fitbit Charge 2, but it’s geared towards the entry level crowd who want a tracker that’s slim, versatile and of course, waterproof. The one we’ve tried is still an early version, and the full Flex 2 will be slightly different.

Design and notifications

Just like the Fitbit Alta and its predecessor, the new Flex is chasing the fashion conscious folk by letting wearers switch out the original bands for bangles, pendants and a whopping selection of seven Classic bands.

Specifically, the colours you can choose from in the Classic collection are black, navy, magenta, lavender, pink, grey and yellow. There are also $29.95 three-packs you can get with an assortment of the colours called the Sport Pack (navy, grey, yellow) or Pink Pack (magenta, lavender, pink). Alone, a Classic band isn’t too expensive at $14.95.

The fancier options include Luxe bangles in silver ($89.95), gold and rose gold ($99.95). Then there’s the pretty little pendants that come in silver ($79.95) and gold ($99.95), with a one size 17-inch chain.

The whole wearable is much slimmer in appearance and on the wrist than the first Flex because the tracking module is 30% smaller. The Alta looks like a beast next to it. Okay not really, but Flex 2 is noticeably more petite.

It also shares a similar clasping style with the Alta, which won’t make anyone happy since it’s a huge pain to get it on the wrist. I’ve personally discovered various angles to finagle the Alta closed which I’ve used successfully with the Flex 2 but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something Fitbit decides to change.

Unlike the Charge 2, there’s no heart rate monitor or ConnectedGPS, which means you won’t get running distances even if you take your phone along for the ride. The Flex 2 is as simple as you can get. But you still get activity tracking including waterproofing up to 50m (saltwater friendly too but more on that in a bit) and notifications.

Similar to other screenless fitness trackers, the Flex 2 uses LED lights to notify you about calls, texts and also hourly reminders to move.

At the moment, it doesn’t seem like the lights can be personalised to your liking. Rather Fitbit has a default pattern of lights and vibrations to help you differentiate between calls, texts, silent alarms, reminders to move and daily goal progress. I’m still getting used to the meaning of the lights but right now, I don’t even glance down if I feel the haptics kicking in – I just check my phone. I’m hoping Fitbit will make it clearer which lights refer to what or allow customisation otherwise it could get confusing.

Tracking

The Flex 2 is capable of tracking steps, calories burned, active minutes, hourly activity and sleep, all of which can be auto detected with the SmartTrack feature. Currently, only ‘common’ exercises can be auto-tracked, such as running and bike rides. Again, that could change with the updated Flex 2.

Swimming in pools and oceans is a new feature and activity that can be tracked with the Flex 2. Fitbit told us that swims could be auto-tracked and it could monitor duration and laps. When pairing the Flex 2 with my smartphone, it said to “Use the Fitbit app to enable additional exercises such as swimming.” That’s likely to mean you’ll need to manually add swimming the the Flex through the app, but hopefully this will be ironed out by the full release.

The inclusion of swim tracking is huge in itself. How well it works remains to be tested in the pool, but hopefully it fares better than the Speedo Shine 2.

It won’t have the other features stocked in higher end fitness trackers like theGarmin Vivoactive or TomTom Spark, but the Flex 2 is definitely the cheapest of the bunch and could be the best option. It can be used in freshwater and saltwater, and unlike other Fitbits, you don’t have worry about it in the shower.

Battery

The five-day battery life of the Flex 2 is surprisingly mediocre. Of course, it’s a matter of how you use the tracker, but I’d expect at least seven or more days since it doesn’t rely on a screen for notifications.

Charging it is a similar process to Fitbit Blaze: you have to remove the tracker module and insert it into the USB charger. We prefer the clasp style of Alta and Charge 2 for convenience, but it’s not a dealbreaker by any means.

Early verdict

Waterproofing is easily the most exciting bit of the Flex 2, and that will make it a tough choice for swim fans weighing up which Fitbit is best. But the fact that it’s the smallest fitness tracker of the Fitbit family and boasts about the same features as the Alta shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s more than just a Fitbit for the pool – it’s a decent budget tracker.

The Flex 2’s accessories also make it a major competitor to its Alta sibling, especially since the tracker is a little cheaper.

Of course, this isn’t the final version of the Fitbit Flex 2, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect.

(wareable.com, http://goo.gl/dzqlzn)

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