Fitbit Blaze 2 investigation: Our hopes and expectations for the next half-smartwatch

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A new Blaze is on the way, but what might it look like?

The arrival of the Fitbit Ionic puts the Fitbit Blaze, the company’s kind-of-but-not-really smartwatch in a precarious place. The Blaze has been a huge hit for Fitbit, but the Ionic and Blaze are at risk of competing and confusing, especially as any improvements in the new Blaze will likely close the very small gap between them.

Really, the Ionic doesn’t have an awful lot over the Blaze right now. It has the app store, the watch faces, and is a little better for tracking sports, but otherwise they’re very similar. So if a Blaze 2 is coming – and we know it’s being worked on – how can Fitbit differentiate it enough to not risk cannibalizing Ionic sales – which are apparently not doing too hot?

Fitbit Blaze 2 investigation

Fitbit engineers and designers are reportedly busy at work on a Blaze 2 that will launch in 2018, possibly quite early in the year; the first Blaze was announced at CES in January 2016. Company CEO James Park also confirmed that Fitbit was working on other smartwatches beyond the Ionic, and we’d bet the Blaze 2 is one of them. But what might it look like, and what might it do? Here’s what we’ve got for you.

A new design

Fitbit Blaze 2 investigation: Our hopes and expectations for the next half-smartwatch

One thing we do know from a Bloomberg report is that Fitbit is working to make the Blaze 2 a sleeker device. And we’re all for it: the Blaze impresses in some areas, but design isn’t one of them. The octagon-shaped case might be more to some people’s tastes than the Ionic, but it’s still not much of a looker.

We respect Fitbit for keeping its design language across devices, but we just wish that design was… nicer. Would a rounded design be too much to ask for? Again though, if Fitbit decides to make a really nice looking Blaze, it might put some people off opting for the more expensive Ionic. On the style front, Fitbit’s been a bit slower to improve with its higher-end devices, while trackers like the Alta HR and Flex 2 have.

We had a few niggles with the Blaze that we’d like to see ironed out in the Blaze 2, such as a fiddly charging cradle. The Blaze also lets you pop-out the screen, which is helpful for charging, but feels unnecessary – and prone to the occasional instance of it accidentally falling out. As long as we can still swap in any 22mm watch band, everything else can stay attached.

App support

Fitbit Blaze 2 investigation: Our hopes and expectations for the next half-smartwatch

This feels like a given. The Ionic’s big differentiator from the rest of the family is its app store, but Fitbit would be foolish to limit this ecosystem to one watch. We fully expect it will extend the app and watch face stores to the Blaze 2. The Blaze has the same button layout as the Ionic, so developers should in theory be able to build one app that works across both the Ionic and Blaze 2 without any tweaks.

The app store is still incredibly young, and there aren’t many we think are essential yet, but adding more wearables that support apps will encourage developers who will get more eyes and fingers on their software.

If Fitbit’s not planning to widen its app ecosystem across multiple devices, it’s missing a trick. And if the Blaze 2 doesn’t support the Fitbit app store, we’ll eat our Ionic.

Sensors and sports tracking

Fitbit Blaze 2 investigation: Our hopes and expectations for the next half-smartwatch

The Blaze already has all of the fitness tracking smarts of the Ionic, including the advanced sleep tracking, which was delivered in an update earlier this year. Where things deviate is in the sports tracking – the Ionic does more – and we’re not expecting the Blaze 2 to reach parity. For instance, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Blaze 2 still isn’t waterproof. Only the Flex 2 and Ionic are waterproof, and Fitbit might want to keep it that way, which would mean the Blaze 2 couldn’t be used for swim tracking.

What is more likely is that Fitbit will include the same heart rate sensor found on the Ionic, meaning that it could track relative SpO2 and therefore detect sleep apnea. Despite claiming the Ionic will be able to detect sleep apnea we haven’t seen Fitbit enable this feature, but when it does we’d hope it would make its way to the Blaze 2 as well, especially as Fitbit has already extended its advanced sleep tech to the first tracker-smartwatch hybrid.

To GPS or not to GPS

Fitbit Blaze 2 investigation: Our hopes and expectations for the next half-smartwatch

The Ionic is the first Fitbit wearable to include built-in GPS; until now, Fitbit trackers have either biggybacked GPS data off your smartphone or not tracked it at all. Built-in GPS is now more of a norm in wearables – Garmin even crammed it into the Vivosport – but we wouldn’t be surprised if the Blaze 2 misses it again. This would let Fitbit keep the cost and size down, and keep pushing people towards the Ionic.

When will the Fitbit Blaze 2 launch?

The million dollar question. The Blaze was revealed at CES January 2016 and released soon after, so we’re coming up to two years. 2017 was a quiet year for the company as it was busy getting the Ionic out the door, and it’s about time we saw an update to the Blaze. So far it doesn’t sound like Fitbit will have a big CES presence, so we might have to wait until after the big Vegas show.

Still, the fact we know Fitbit has been busying itself through 2017 with the Blaze 2, and how long of a time it’s been since the first, makes us think there can’t be long to wait for the new tracker. The first half of 2018 would be a safe bet.

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/hLk39f)

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