Wearables are big business, and one of the biggest names in the game is US company FitBit. On Wednesday the company launched its Fitbit Charge HR device in South Africa. The device is the successor to the FitBit Charge and adds a continuous heart rate monitor alongside the pedometer, altimeter and sleep tracker that came standard with the earlier device.
Priced at R2 299, the Charge HR monitors the wearer’s heart rate all day, not only during exercise. The monitoring function is made possible by what FitBit calls “PurePulse” technology. The heart rate is calculated by using low-intensity LED lights that detect expansion and contraction of the capillaries below the surface of the skin.
The LCD display on the Charge HR shows the time and date, number of steps, calories burnt, floors climbed, distance covered, alarms and heart rate. Different symbols are used to indicate different heart rate zones so that this can be monitored during exercise. Like the FitBit Charge, the Charge HR also vibrates and displays incoming call details when connected to a supported handset (pretty much all the main smartphone variants are covered).
Despite the addition of the heart rate monitoring functionality FitBit says the Charge HR should last four to five days between charges. Infuriatingly, like its predecessor, the Charge HR is charged using a proprietary cable that connects to USB. It can be synced with laptop or desktop computers using an included dongle, or to the FitBit mobile app using Bluetooth.
FitBit has also updated the strap design for the Charge HR so that it resembles a watch strap. Like the Charge (but unlike the earlier Flex) the device is a single unit and the strap cannot be replaced. Though the device is water resistant, FitBit recommends taking it off when bathing, showering or swimming.
The addition of a heart rate monitor will no doubt be welcomed by those who want more than their steps measured. Heart rate monitoring makes the Charge HR far more useful for monitoring gym workouts, cycling and other activities (except, of course, swimming).
Arguably, the only thing missing from the Charge HR to make it a proper rival to sports watches like the TomTom Cardio range is GPS. Enter the FitBit Surge, the companies top-end device with built-in GPS aimed at serious athletes. FitBit says the Surge will launch in South Africa in April. The price of the Surge has yet to be confirmed.