Fitbit Force brings high-tech fitness tracking to the treadmill

The Fitbit Force tracks your fitness, then syncs the data to your mobile device so you know when and how to step up your workout game. But will it get lost in the sea of new wearable tech releases?

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Members of Gold's Gym work out on treadmills.

Your morning jog just got a little more tech-savvy.

Fitbit, a California-based fitness technology company, released the Fitbit Force smart watch Thursday. With a high-definition screen and tracking that wirelessly syncs with your smart phone, Fitbit takes a plunge into the increasingly competitive smart watch world. The device goes on sale today.

The Fitbit Force connects workout stats to the wireless world, a feature that is quickly becoming the norm. The watch tracks stats from the basics (distance covered and steps taken) to the advanced (floors climbed and number of “active minutes” – amount of time you’ve walked or jogged) and allows you to view the information on your watch or sync it through Bluetooth to an app on your iPhone, Android, or computer. This categorizes and organizes the data so you can see how you have done over time (and when you need to kick your workout into high gear).

The device has a small OLED screen, a water-resistant black or teal band, and a seven-day battery life. It will retail for $129, available now online and in a few weeks at retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and Target.

Fitbit Force is a niche-market smart watch, unlike major tech company competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Pebble that seek to act as a hands-free smart phone.  But even fitness smart watches can’t settle for just being a high-tech pedometer. The Force also can connect to social fitness apps such as Run Keeper, Map My Fitness, and Endomondo, and you can earn achievement badges the more you work out.

Plus, a soon-to-come update from the Force will allow wearers to screen phone calls if they have an iPhone 4S with iOS 7 or a most recent Apple phone.

Despite these features, the Force has entered a competitive race, as wearable technology becomes the technology trend du jour. In addition to competing against fitness watches such as the Nike+Fuelband and Jawbone’s Up, it faces the recently released Galaxy Gear, Kickstarter-funded Pebble, Sony SmartWatch 2, and the ever-imminent rumor of the iWatch. As smart watch technology continues to develop, it may not be long before these watches include the many fitness apps offered by the Fitbit Force, plus the capability of a smart phone.

Regardless, wearable technology is likely to adorn many wrists in the near future. Swedish research group Berg Insights found that more than 8.3 million fitness trackers, smart watches, and other wearable tech in 2012, and predicts that number will jump to 64 million by 2017.

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