Fitbit commercially launches heart rate-sensing Surge and Charge HR

By Jonah Comstock
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Fitbit SurgeThe new heart rate-enabled devices Fitbit announced in October have begun shipping and are now available for purchase online, the company announced. The $249.95 Fitbit Surge, which the company calls a "fitness super watch" and the $149.95 Fitbit Charge HR, a heart rate tracking version of the company's new flagship device, will be available for purchase by the end of the month at Best Buy, Brookstone, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, REI, The Sports Authority and Target.

Fitbit plans to add more retailers next month.

In addition, Fitbit has announced additional features added to the Charge HR: on-device exercise summaries, which were already available on the Surge. The company has also released more information about the technology that provides the heart rate tracking for the two devices, called PurePulse. It will provide truly continuous, optically measured heart rate tracking that users can monitor during a workout to maintain optimal intensity, as well as consult after the fact to learn about their heart rate trends. Heart rate will also factor into the device's calculation of calorie burn, which should increase accuracy in cases like cycling, elliptical work, or group exercise classes. 

“Focused on our mission to empower and inspire people to lead healthier, more active lives, we have always understood that activity tracking is only part of the journey to attaining better health. It is critical that the information users get from tracking is easy to understand and useful, and the experience is fun and engaging – so they stay motivated,” Fitbit CEO James Park said in a statement. “With Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge, features like heart rate tracking are made simpler by being continuous and automatic so the technology works no matter what you’re doing and the experience is seamless yet powerful, giving users valuable all day health insights.”

The two trackers were announced in October along with the Fitbit Charge, which launched at the time. All three trackers monitor everything the now-discontinued Fitbit Force tracked: steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, and sleep. In addition, they offer automatic sleep detection so that users can monitor motion throughout the night as well as sleep and wake times. They also include caller ID, a feature that was supposed to be added to the Force last February. When someone calls the user’s smartphone, the wristband will vibrate and show the caller’s name or number, but only when a smartphone is nearby.

Meanwhile, the Surge, Fitbit’s most advanced new tracker, will contain eight sensors — a tri-axis accelerometer, a gyroscope, a compass, an ambient light sensor, GPS and a heart rate sensor. It also offers multi-sport identification, which means it will pinpoint when users are running, cross-training or doing another type of workout. From there, users can access summaries that analyze their workout intensity based on heart rate and calories burned.

Fitbit promises a seven-day battery life for the Surge and a five-day battery life for the Charge HR. The devices will be available in three to four different colors and three sizes, although extra large devices are only available through Fitbit's website.