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Fitbit Gets Closer to a Smartwatch

By Timothy Stenovec 

If you’re one of the many people who’s ditched your watch because your smartphone tells time, then your wrist is likely naked.

But there are a lot of tech companies fighting to change that. The latest to make a play is Fitbit, which on Thursday announced Force, its second activity-tracking wristband.

Activity trackers are a growing segment of devices that people wear to measure how active they are and how much they sleep. The idea is that armed with this information — and by using accompanying apps — people can change their habits and make healthier decisions. Fitbit says its biggest competitors are Jawbone, which makes the UP band, and Nike, the maker of the Nike+ Fuelband.

Force is essentially a bigger and more advanced version of the Flex, the $99 activity-tracking wristband that Fitbit released in May. Although Force ($129) is about the same thickness and is made of the same rubber material as Flex, it’s roughly one and a half times as wide. Like Flex, it requires you to plug a dongle into your computer’s USB port so that it syncs automatically. Unlike Flex, which has a removable core that needs to be charged in a cradle, Force is all one piece and charges directly using a cable. Fitbit says Force’s battery will last seven to 10 days.

One big difference sets Force apart from Flex — a display that actually shows your activity, like steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and, gasp, the time of day! A single button on the left side of the device toggles between different fields, which also include floors climbed and “active minutes,” which Fitbit considers activity like walking briskly or jogging.

Force’s automatic Bluetooth syncing of activity information only works with iPhone 4S or later and Samsung’s Galaxy S3, S4, Note II and Note 10.1, although Fitbit says it’s adding more Android devices. Otherwise, you have to sync using your computer.



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