One of the best parts about the Fitbit, the popular connected activity and exercise tracker, is how tiny and unobtrusive it is — clip it to your pants pocket and you’ll just about forget it’s there. But perhaps the Fitbit (see disclosure) proved a little too unobtrusive for some users, with one of the biggest complaints about the device is the ease with which it gets lost in that pants pocket or dropped in the washing machine by mistake.
So on Monday, Fitbit introduced the Flex at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Monday, a device that forgoes the popular tiny nugget design and instead opts for a wristband, going head-to-head with two of its competitors, the Jawbone Up and the Nike Fuelband. The Flex marks a significant design shift for Fitbit, and it will be interesting to see whether consumers go for it, or whether they stick to the smaller Fitbit One and even tinier Fitbit Zip. Personally I was attracted to the design of the Fitbit over the Nike or Jawbone versions exactly because I didn’t want to wear a rubber bracelet to work or out with friends. But my colleague Katie Fehrenbacher noted that the device is pretty easy to misplace, and plenty of people like the wristband just for this reason.
The Flex, which is available for pre-order starting today for $99.95 and will be released this spring, offers many of the functions the previous Fitbit was known for, including Bluetooth syncing with your iPhone, a vibrating alarm feature, and desktop tracking tools. The Flex will measure steps taken, calories burned, hours slept, distance traveled, and general activity level.
Unlike the existing Fitbits, the Flex won’t have a display screen, just lights that indicate how close you are to reaching your daily goals. So you’ll have to check your numerical progress during the day from your phone or desktop via Bluetooth syncing, making it crucial that the Flex will expand to work on Android devices (the Samsung Galaxy S III and Note II). The Flex also comes in a nice variety of colors (slate, black, teal, and tangerine), but unfortunately it doesn’t measure steps climbed. That’s one of my favorite features of the One, which rewards me for climbing all those hills in San Francisco. Fitbit was founded in 2007 and has venture backing from Foundry Group, True Ventures and SoftTech VC.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.