Fitbit Blaze Review Updated

I received my Fitbit Blaze in late February and posted a First Look review at that time.

Blaze Today Steps

Now that I have been using it for almost 2 months, I wanted to give an update about how I like it.  This is the 4th Fitbit that I’ve used.  I started with a Fitbit One, then moved to a Fitbit Force.  The Force was recalled so I went back to the One. When the ChargeHR came out, I bought it.  Now, I have the Blaze.  Overall, I like the Blaze the most of any Fitbit I’ve used. It has a couple of features that I would not want to give up.  Two of my absolute deal breaker features at this point are heart rate monitor plus being able to change the band.  The only Fitbit to have both of those features at this point is the Blaze.  I’ve read that Fitbit has supposedly said that all future Fitbits will be modular so that they have bands that can be changed.  If so, that won’t be a problem in the future.  I am still persuaded that for what I want to do the Fitbit Blaze has the best mix of features of any activity monitor, including those not made by Fitbit.  That said, there are definitely things I don’t like about it.  Here are a few of my thoughts at this point.

Size of Unit

The Blaze is larger than the ChargeHR.  I was a little concerned as to whether it would be too large.  When the ChargeHR and Surge came out, I bought the ChargeHR largely because the Surge was too thick and bulky.  As it turns out, the size of the Blaze has totally not been an issue.  I wear it all the time except when I am charging it or taking a shower.  I think one reason I don’t think it is too large is because it is very light and it is not thick. I hardly even feel it when it is on my wrist.

Heart Rate Monitor

I will no longer even consider an activity monitor that doesn’t have a continuous heart rate monitor. I considered getting an Apple Watch, but it doesn’t measure your heart rate often enough when you aren’t in an activity.  Fitbit recently came out with the Alta which is quite attractive looking.  But, I wouldn’t consider it because it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor.

The good news with the Blaze is that I have found its heart rate monitor is just as accurate as the one on the ChargeHR.  The bad news is that the Blaze is just as inaccurate as the one on the ChargeHR.  Frankly, the Blaze is utterly useless when I am doing weight lifting at the Y.  I wear a chest strap heart rate monitor during weight lifting.  I have seen huge differences (50 beats per minutes or more) between the two.  I have done a lot of research on this and have seen this as a common complaint on other brands of wrist-based heart rate monitors.  For me, I have come to peace with that and simply wear a chest strap monitor when I do that type of activity.  For things like walking on the treadmill or in my neighborhood or using the elliptical, I find that the Blaze is fine.  For my exercise bike, it is not so good.  It isn’t as badly off as it is during weight lifting, but it is bad enough that I usually wear a chest strap for that activity.

But, a large part of what I want is the continuous monitoring when I am not doing formal exercise and the Blaze is good for that.  And, my main exercise other than weight lifting is walking and it is totally fine for that.

Clock Faces

In my initial post, I talked about the 4 choices and about the negatives of each one.  I would like a lot more options for displays and would like more ability to customize what information is shown.  There is an active thread on the Fitbit help forums giving suggestions for future clock faces.  I think that Fitbit will eventually offer some more options.  But, it is disappointing that none have been offered yet. And, quite often, Fitbit doesn’t offer as many customization options as I would like to see.

Bands

A major factor in my buying the Blaze was being able to change the band.  My husband had a Fitbit Flex which could change bands and I thought that was a great feature.  That was the one thing the ChargeHR didn’t have that I wanted.  Before today, I had not yet bought any extra bands for the Blaze.

The classic band comes in plum, black, and blue.  I have the plum which came with my Blaze (you can choose the color you want).  The black and blue aren’t that attractive to me so I don’t want to buy them.  These bands are $29.95, but are currently on sale for $22.95 until May 3rd.  One reason these bands are so inexpensive is because this item is just for the band and does not include the metal frame that holds the Blaze tracker:

Blaze Band

 

If you buy a classic band, you get the band, but have to remove your original band from the frame and then put the new band on the frame.  I don’t like the idea of doing that because (1) it takes time, and (2) I am worried that this will be tedious to do and I might damage the pins that hold in the band.

Fitbit has two other choices.  There is a leather band (comes in 3 colors) and a stainless steel band. The leather band is normally $99.95, but is on sale for $74.95.  The stainless steel band is normally $129.95 and is on sale for $97.95.  One reason that they are so much more expensive than the classic bands is that these bands come with a frame.  And, the frame is clearly a major part of the cost.

There are third party bands out there.  I found several on Amazon.  However, they generally do not come with a frame.  They are usually very inexpensive (under $20 quite often).  But, you have to use your own frame. And, I’ve seem some reviews where people had to use the pins from their classic band as well.  And, frankly, a lot of the reviews on Amazon are not that enthusiastic about these bands.  This may be a get what you pay for kind of thing.

I would like to see more options for quality third party bands.  And, I would like to see more options for bands sold by Fitbit.  I would be interested in Classic bands that were relatively inexpensive, but came in more interesting colors.  Purple is my favorite color so I like my plum band fine.  But, it would be nice to be able to buy a red band or maybe teal.  That kind of thing.

I did just place an order for the camel leather band and the stainless steel band.  I like that they come with frames and they will be good to wear when I want something a little nicer looking than my daily plum band.  The current sale, which goes through May 3rd, was enough to persuade me to buy both of them.  I do look forward to seeing more options. Fitbit says that more bands will be offered.

I would also like to see Fitbit offer the frame separately or, at the very least, with the classic band.  I can understand that Fitbit wants the classic bands to be inexpensive options.  And, in some cases, the band might be a replacement for a worn out band where the frame still works fine.  So, I understand offering the classic band alone.  What I don’t agree with is not offering either an option to buy it with a frame (for more money) or to buy a frame separately.

I can see why Fitbit might not want to sell a frame by itself.  I am sure they want to make it more difficult for third parties to offer cheaper bands.  And, maybe they think that not offering a frame by itself makes it less likely someone will buy a frame from Fitbit and then buy the band elsewhere.  Still, I am concerned that Fitbit will offer classic bands that I will want but won’t offer a frame with them.

Reminder to Move

In my initial review, I talked about the Blaze not having idle alert.  This was a big disappointment, particularly when it was announced that the Alta – $70 cheaper than the Blaze – would have Reminder to Move.  Reminder to Move basically buzzes the tracker 10 minutes before the end of the hour if you haven’t walked at least 250 steps during the hour.  This is a feature that I really, really wanted.  I tend to get immersed sitting at the computer and often end up not moving for several hours.  A reminder on my wrist would really help me to move.  I have used software on my computer for this purpose but I really want it on my fitness tracker.

Before the Alta shipped, Fitbit announced that it would do a firmware update to the Blaze that would add Reminder to Move soon after the Blaze was released. Well, we are still waiting.  The Alta was released in March and I hoped that the firmware update would come to the Blaze soon after the Alta’s release.  It hasn’t yet happened.  There have been a couple of firmware updates to the Blaze, but this features wasn’t added.  Fitbit keeps saying that it will happen, but that they don’t know when.  I find this incredibly annoying.

My annoyance is exacerbated because Fitbit now gives us an Hourly Activity Goal to take 250 steps.  You can choose to have this goal for a 5 to 14 hour consecutive period.  I have set mine for 11:00 AM to 11:00 P.M. You get a visual representation as to whether you have met your goal:

Hourly Goal

I like having the hourly goal.  But, I don’t get any reminder of it in advance.  I have to remember to check before the end of the hour to see if I have met the goal yet.  And, of course, I often forget to check.  This is where Reminder to Move would come in handy.

Although I am looking forward to Reminder to Move I wish we had more flexibility in setting the Hourly Goal that we will be reminded of.  For example, I wanted to set my hours from 11 AM to 1AM.  But, I couldn’t set anything later than 11 PM.  That was annoying.  You have to set consecutive hours on the same day.

Also, it would be nice if you could choose a different goal than 250 steps.  We should be able to customize that.  And, I wish we could pick hours that weren’t consecutive.  And, to be even more radical, I would like the option to set it to buzz me every X minutes if I haven’t taken Y steps in that period.

Still, this is better than nothing, particularly when (if) they finally add Reminder to Move to the Blaze.

Most Everything Else

Most everything else has worked how I expected it to work.  The connected GPS has worked well and without problem.  The display is easy to read.  I haven’t much used the music control, but it worked fine when I tried it.  The thing that I have really enjoyed, to my surprise, is receiving call, text and calendar alerts on my Blaze.  I find that many times I receive a text and I read it on the Blaze and I don’t need to do anything more (i.e., it doesn’t need a response) so it was a real convenience to read it on the Blaze.  Also, the calendar alerts are helpful.  I have enjoyed those features much more than I thought I would.

Why I Almost Returned My Blaze

Despite all of the above, I almost returned my Blaze during the 45 day return window.  Shortly after receiving it, I began to notice a bizarre problem.  I keep a spreadsheet where I record certain information each day.  I record my total steps, total calories burned, total calories eaten (from MyFitnessPal), my calorie deficit, minutes of cardio exercise, minutes of strength exercise, FitPoints earned, and SmartPoints eaten.  I then take an average each week.  I have kept this type of spreadsheet since 2014.

I record my steps and calories burned every night right after midnight.  I am always up then, so I have a consistent procedure.  Shortly after midnight, I sync my Fitbit app on my phone and then I record the information.

Soon after getting my Blaze, I went and did that one night and happened to glance at my calorie burn for the past several days. I noticed that my calorie burn for an earlier day had changed.  That is, let’s say I had on Monday night (well, technically, Tuesday morning as it was just after midnight) recorded that I burned 1400 calories on Monday.  On Wednesday, when I was recorded that day’s data I happened to glance at the Monday calorie burn data which was on my Fitbit dashboard on the website and saw that my calorie burn data for Monday was changed to 1500 calories!  Basically, an extra 100 calories of calorie burn had appeared out of nowhere!  And, it wasn’t just for one or two days.  Most days had changed going back for a few months.  The next night the same thing happened.  For example, I originally recorded 1261 calories burned on 3/20.  But, later that changed on the dashboard to 1617 calories burned.  Also, on some days, I found that step count was being changed after the fact as well. And, it was clear from what I had done on each day that the new numbers were just wrong.  They were too high.

So, I wrote Fitbit support.  The first response was disappointing.  The response dealt with how my calorie budget (how much I can eat to lose weight at the desired rate) is calculated.  Since my question had dealt with actual calories burned and had nothing to do with calories to be eaten, this response was useless.  So, I wrote back.

Eventually, I got a response that asked me to sync my Blaze directly to the computer rather than by using my phone app. At first that seemed to solve the problem.  But, then the problem continued. I noticed it only happened though on days that I turned on my phone app to use Connected GPS.  When I did this, the Blaze would sync using the phone app.

At that point, I hauled out my ChargeHR and charged it up.  I associated it with a different email address than the one my Blaze is on which put it basically on a second, separate Fitbit account.  And, I started wearing both of them at the same time.  Initially, I found I was getting the changed data on the Blaze but not on the ChargeHR.  From what I was doing, I felt the ChargeHR and the originally recorded Blaze data was more accurate than the inflated data that it was being changed to later.

After a few days of that I changed the accounts that each was associated with.  That is, I put the ChargeHR on my original account and put the Blaze on the second account.  When I put the Blaze on the second account I had no problem with it changing calories burned or steps after the fact.  But, with the ChargeHR on my original account (with Mobile Track activated), I started seeing changed data a day or two after originally recording calorie burn and steps.

So, I then disabled Mobile Track on my phone.  Mobile Track is a Fitbit utility which allows Fitbit to use the accelerometer in my phone to calculate steps if I don’t have my Fitbit on, but do have my phone with me.  Supposedly, if you have this, Fitbit will use your phone to count steps if you don’t have your Fitbit on.  That came in handy, for example, the day I was charging my Fitbit and left the house without remembering to put it back on.

Anyway, my original account had Mobile Track activated but the second account did not.

Once I disabled Mobile Track on my original account,  the ChargeHR also no longer had changed data.  I eventually concluded that the entire problem was somehow tied to Mobile Track.  Until I figured that out, I was worried that my Blaze was defective and almost returned it since I had a 45 day return window.  Once I figured out what was going on, I realized I could keep my Blaze.  I put it back on my original account, but disabled Mobile Track.  Fitbit support wasn’t really much use in helping me to figure this out.  They did have one good idea which was to sync using the computer, not the phone.  That worked pretty well, but I had to turn on the phone app in order to use connected GPS.  Whenever I did that, the phone would sync and with Mobile Track on there, error was added at that point.

I wish I hadn’t had to disable Mobile Track, but I don’t usually forget my Blaze so it isn’t an issue.  Also, I still have my ChargeHR that I can use when my Blaze is charging.  The one thing I dislike is that this bug changed a lot of my historical data on the Fitbit website and so there is now a lot of wrong data there.  I still have the accurate data in my spreadsheet, but it is annoying to have lost the historical data.

Anyway, I was mostly glad I figured it out and didn’t have to return the Blaze.  Overall, I really like it and I’ve looked at all the alternatives out there.  Many of them have a feature or two that I like better than what is on the Blaze.  But, they all have flaws that are worse than those of the Blaze.   So, I continue to find the Blaze better than the other alternatives.

Comments

  1. Gina says

    Thank you for that review. I am sitting here trying to figure out which product to buy and after reading this review I am going with the blaze ! No more searching out reviews. I can’t wait to get mine. Please post reviews of the bands once you receive them. Have a great day !

    • says

      I did post about the bands after receiving them. Today I took the stainless steel one and had some of the links removed so it would fit properly. Very happy with the bands.

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