Fitbit Flex 2, Charge 2 add swim tracking, new ways to use heart rate

By Jonah Comstock

Though rumors have been circulating for some time, Fitbit officially announced its new versions of the Fitbit Flex and Fitbit Charge devices yesterday. At the same time, the company announced new Fitbit app features and a new line of designer devices. 

The biggest difference between the is that the new device is sufficiently water-resistant to be worn while swimming and to track laps and calories burned while swimming. It's also 30 percent smaller and has a five-day battery life.

The also has an extended battery life and has been redesigned with a larger screen. It has heart rate sensing built-in (unlike the original Charge, which had a heart rate sensing and non heart rate sensing version available at different price points) and uses that data in new ways: for its feature and designed to reduce stress. The Charge 2 can communicate with the phone's GPS in a way that previous devices could not. 

The Cardio Fitness Level and Relax features are especially interesting as they show the wearable space moving beyond heart rate tracking as a commodity. Now, they are really exploring the ways in which knowing one's heart rate can be useful and actionable for the consumer.

"Anyone who has ever set a goal to 'get fit' knows the road is filled with small changes and hurdles," the company wrote in a blog post. "Understanding how all of those little steps and climbs add up can be part of the challenge. Maybe you start hitting your daily step goal more regularly, clocking more activity time at the gym, and making more mindful choices at the dinner table, but you never see the numbers on the scale move. Now there’s a new way to know where you stand and track your improvement, by taking your cardiovascular fitness into account. ... Viewable in the heart rate section of the Fitbit app, your score is an estimation of your VO2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use when you’re working out at your hardest)—widely accepted as the gold standard measurement of cardiovascular fitness."

In the Fitbit app, the new features is called , a gameified way to encourage some users to get their steps in. Users can virtually explore a location, starting with three routes in Yosemite National Park, unlocking new landmarks as they take more steps. The scenes are panoramic, which allows the user to "look around" by moving their phone. 

Finally, Fitbit announced , all versions of hte Fitbit Alta, from Public School, Tory Burch, and Vera Wang (available via an exclusive partnership with Kohl's).

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