Details about the Fitbit Charge fitness tracker have been oozing out over the last couple of weeks. CNet briefly got its hands on one, along with word that the Charge HR (with heart monitor) and the Surge running watch won’t come out until next year.
The Charge is more or less a replacement for the ill-fated Force, which suffered from a hard-to-secure clasp that caused enough people to break out in rashes that the device had to be recalled. (We didn’t get a rash, but the clasp on ours popped open repeatedly and was eventually lost.) The Charge is a little wider than the Force and apparently has a better clasp, and will display Caller ID when paired with an iOS or Android device. It will cost $130, which is on the high side.
The Charge HR is like the Charge but with a heart rate monitor. It’ll cost $150 when it ships early next year.
The Surge is a fairly massive fitness smartwatch that competes with the Basis Peak or several models from Polar. It’ll cost $250 when it comes out, also early next year.
Fitbit is, by most measures, the leader in the fitness band business. But the Charge is pretty much an even-up replacement for the Force, and it took the company a full year to bring it out. The Surge pricing is on the high side in a market that’s becoming commoditized. If Fitbit had missed another holiday season without a new band, it would have signaled that it’s software and ecosystem that matters, not hardware. That may, in fact, be true — but Fitbit currently monetizes the hardware, not the software, which means if your hardware sales tank, you’ve got a serious business problem.