Look and function/feel
The Fitbit Blaze is arguably the most stylish FitBit product to date, with its funky clock face options and an aesthetic that resembles the iWatch (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
Functionally speaking, the Blaze sits on the arm much better than most wrist-worn trackers, especially during exercise. Though seemingly simple in design, the balance of the watch face and the grip of the strap allow the user to exercise in multiple different planes and positions with minimal adjustment needed, which is fantastic. Every user of wearables knows how irritating it can be to have to adjust the wrist strap in the middle of a set of push-ups or when trying to perfect your downward facing dog. It is also worth mentioning that there were great recommendations given in the manual for how to wear the watch while exercising to enable optimal heart rate tracking and comfort.
Unlike many other devices, the charging dock for the Blaze is stable and secure, with no small connection points and multiple wire connections to fumble around with. Even more impressive is that a two-hour charge gets you up to three or four days of use (although the user guide claimed five days). This is impressive because of the additional features like text and call notifications, music controls and continuous heart rate tracking, which we’ll get to later in this review.
Navigation is intuitive when using the Blaze, which is refreshing considering the increasing complexity of trackers these days. I jumped straight in to using the watch and app without needing to refer to the user guide. The prompts given are timed well and easy to digest, making it very easy to get comfortable with the technology.
Throughout the day, it is exceptionally convenient to view your progress, control music, and monitor notifications like phone calls and messages - you don’t need to take out your phone at all. This convenience is most apparent during exercise, as you can look at your heart rate in real time as you’re doing a set and check if the incoming phone call or message is worth the distraction, all in a matter of seconds. If you’re walking or running, it also tracks your route if you want it to, without having to use any other apps. Another great feature worth mentioning is the silent alarm - it’s a far more pleasant way to rise than the raucous beeps of a digital alarm clock.
Having continuous heart rate tracking is great - it allows the user to not just take a look at their resting heart rate and workout heart rate, but also the unexpected spikes throughout the day that build awareness of the particularly active or stressful times in a day.
Unfortunately, in my experience, the Blaze does not automatically recognise that you’re exercising, and in the first couple of weeks of using it, I had five training sessions go unrecorded because I forgot to first notify the Blaze that I was about to start. Because of this, I didn’t have the ability to ‘zoom in’ and access detailed heart rate data for those training sessions and have them logged as exercise done.
To be clear though, the training sessions done that weren’t recorded were high intensity interval training sessions using functional movements, not running or cycling (that would have been easier for the device to recognise).
In addition, the Blaze has a bunch of pre-set types of exercise in its menu, but does not allow you to add or specify other forms of exercise. This was annoying because I was forced to either leave a session uncategorised, or settle for a generic and non-representative title.
I happened to be rehabilitating an injured knee at the time, so it was nice to be able to customize step goals to track and moderate my walking load, and not be held to the arbitrary 10,000 rule that everyone else has adopted. However, it would have enhanced my experience if the goal setting function allowed me to also set specific types of training sessions for specific days, or enabled me to set a specific number of a certain type of training sessions in a week, so that I could stay accountable and progress in a more detailed and calculated manner.
Another annoyance is that the Blaze tracks ‘floors’ instead of elevation, so you get left with an arbitrary number that means nothing in any other performance tracking you’re doing, or if you’re working up to a goal of hiking up a particular height. The internet will tell you that a floor, according to Fitbit, is around three metres. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t just tell you that.
It should also be noted that the sleep tracking was unimpressive. The display of data is clear, but it is disappointing that the information provided is rudimentary, and pales in comparison to other trackers like the Oura ring. The Blaze gave no information on phases of sleep (like REM, deep, or light sleep), which allowed for no interpretation of the quality of sleep.
During my testing phase of the Blaze, I was doing a lot of traveling for work. During this time, I had roaming on my cell phone and frequent WiFi access, and made sure to update my Blaze at least once a day. Despite this, there were issues with the sleep tracking. None of my sleep scores were recorded correctly. For example, seven or eight hour sleeps were logged as just two or three hours.
Maybe I was turning around a lot in my sleep, or perhaps I was just not the type that lay perfectly still. After a few days of this, I gave up tracking sleep with the Blaze while abroad.
Overall, the Fitbit Blaze is a tracker I will continue to use because of the convenience of notifications and activity data. Now that I’m used to having to manually select when tracking a workout, I enjoy the data that I can track with the Blaze. There is a bit of a lack of detail for what I look for in a wearable, but I would recommend this for beginners who are simply trying to be more active. If you’re a serious exerciser or pushing for optimal performance, it may not be as sophisticated as you’d like.