Fitbit's newest wearables begin shipping to customers

The wearable tech maker is releasing its newest gadgets, which add heart rate monitoring to their list of features, to North American customers.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
2 min read

Fitbit's Surge smartwatch, which costs $250 in the US, acts like fitness tracker. Sarah Tew

LAS VEGAS -- Have you been holding out for a wearable that tracks your heart rate on top of your activities? Fitbit has begun shipping two wrist wearables that could fit your needs.

The two devices, called the Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge, provide caller ID, sleep monitoring, heart monitoring and show time of day. The Charge HR, an updated version of its Charge wristband, includes continuous 24-hour heart rate monitoring. The Surge, Fitbit's first device in the smartwatch category, adds GPS, text messaging notification and music control. Fitbit is now shipping both to customers in North America, the company announced Tuesday during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Fitbit said it expects global shipments to begin soon. They were originally announced in October.

The Charge HR costs $150 in the US (£120 in the UK and $180 in Australia), and the Surge smartwatch costs $250 in the US (£200 in the UK and $300 in Australia). The San Francisco-based company is also rolling out updates to its software, including the ability to link up to five devices to one Fitbit account, new challenges and badges.

The company is releasing its newest devices as Fitbit faces new competitors, slowing demand for activity trackers and a product recall that made headlines last year. The global fitness wearable market -- which includes fitness wristbands, sport watches and smart garments -- is expected to shrink next year from 70 million units sold to 68 million, according to analyst firm Gartner. Gartner also expects half of consumers looking for a wearable this year will opt for a smartwatch.

They'll have plenty to choose from. Motorola, LG, and Samsung have already released multiple devices running Google's Android Wear mobile operating system. Apple is expected to release its hotly anticipated Apple Watch sometime this spring.

Then there was last year's problematic Fitbit Force. Scores of customers reported mild to vicious skin rashes due to the device's components. Fitbit discontinued the Force, issued refunds and headed back to the drawing board to refresh its lineup. Despite the recall, Fitbit captured 67 percent of that market in US retail locations from April 2013 to March 2014, according to NPD Group.

Fitbit, facing growing pressure from ever larger competitors like Apple, Samsung and Motorola, has expanded its product lineup. Sarah Tew/CNET

Now, with its Surge and Charge HR, Fitbit is working to address the growing demand for wrist-worn wearables that do more than just count steps.

The Fitbit Charge HR contains a screen, displays steps and other fitness tracking metrics as well as the time, effectively attempting to replace a smartwatch for users not keen on wearing more than one device. The company claims the Charge HR, as well as the standard Charge, can operate for five days on a single battery charge.

The Surge will last up to seven days on a single charge.