Fitbit is trying to chase Apple instead of focusing on its strengths

The new Fitbit Blaze.
The new Fitbit Blaze.
Image: Fitbit
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Fitbit, the industry leader in fitness tracking bands, introduced a new product this morning at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It’s called Fitbit Blaze, and stop us if you think you’ve seen it before. Fitbit calls it “its smartest, most stylish, most motivating fitness tracker yet.” And yes, it looks a bit like the Apple Watch—available with a variety of watch bands in different finishes, from ”elastomer” rubber to leather and stainless steel—and supports smartphone notifications in addition to fitness features.

It’s easy to see why Fitbit would move in this direction: Apple has made a big deal of its watch being a mainstream fashion play as much as a tech and sports play, and has found some success. (Although, as we approach the nine month mark following the Apple Watch launch, its fitness aspects seem more immediately compelling than its fashion or app-platform aspects.)

But Fitbit’s attempt to make something sort-of fashionable and sort-of functional doesn’t seem to have resulted in a great product, according to The Verge’s Lauren Goode:

I had some brief hands-on time with the Blaze ahead of CES. It’s definitely thinner and lighter than the Surge…But, while I haven’t been able to test it in full yet, I can’t see this being embraced as a super stylish watch, and without GPS (or being waterproof), it’s not something that’s going to appeal to the hardcore fitness crowd, like the Fitbit Surge.

One huge risk for Fitbit’s future—perhaps its biggest—is that “fitness tracking” will simply become an app on a more universal device, the same way “camera” and ”calculator” stopped being separate gadgets for most people and are now simply smartphone features.

Going more mainstream with Fitbit devices for broader markets, then, seems like a solid path. But execution is crucial. The new Fitbit doesn’t sound like a great watch or a great fitness tracker.