When the Fitbit Surge was unveiled late last year, the popular fitness tracking company wanted everyone to know that it was not a smartwatch. Now that we’ve spent a little more time with the device, it makes sense why it’s steering away from the smartwatch label: The Surge really is a high-tech fitness wearable more than anything else. Sure, it has notifications that work fine enough (and there are limitations with what they can do), but what makes the Fitbit Surge special is what it knows best: fitness.
The Surge syncs up with iOS, Android and Windows phones (so you’ll have to download a corresponding app or you can use your existing Fitbit app) and comes in small, large and x-large sizes. There are a few other colors to pick from too (black, blue and tangerine). It costs $249, about $100 more than its other newer model the Fitbit Charge HR, which also has heart-rate monitoring but no built-in GPS and smart notifications.
Fitbit once again masters tracking with the Surge. Not only does it count steps, calories burned, distance traveled, stairs climbed and sleep cycle, it lets you call out types of workouts, like running, hiking, pilates, spinning and so on. And while it tracks the movement and your time, it also displays a small clock at the bottom of the screen. Also, because there’s built-in GPS, you can leave your phone at home if you go for a jog and it will still track your routes.
The design of the Surge, like so many fitness and smartwatches, is just okay. It has a rectangular-shaped OLED display and occupies a ton of real estate on the wrist. It isn’t something you’d want to wear to a nice dinner, but it works for the gym or a casual day. Due to the size, it often gets in the way if you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt.
There are ways to personalize the Surge to your liking: You can add a backlight and pick from four different clock faces. However, one frustrating detail is that there’s no home button or home screen, so you have to manually scroll back to see the time if it’s not the last thing you’ve looked at.
While it’s a nice bonus to get text and call notifications sent directly to the display, the feature is limited. I didn’t receive any Google Calendar updates or messages from Facebook or Twitter, which I can get on the Microsoft Band. Display notifications are still a perk — you don’t have to take out your phone or carry it with you to see who is calling and texting — but you’ll miss so many other notifications if you don’t keep your phone close by. Fitbit will likely expand its alert capabilities in the future.
It’s also possible to start a food plan directly within the app. I typically just use other apps like MyFitnessPal, which integrates with Fitbit and other wearables, so this feature didn’t stand out. However, there’s a neat way to track how much water you’re consuming and it shows how much more you need to drink to reach the daily goal (based on your weight and height).
Fitness trackers often (notoriously) end up in a drawer just a few months after use, so to get real longevity out of it, Fitbit will need to ramp up its feedback and suggestions moving forward.
Overall, the Fitbit Surge isn’t perfect — the look could be better and notifications are limited — but if we narrow in on what Fitbit wants to focus on anyway (fitness), with all its new GPS and heart rate tracking bells and whistles, it really is a “superwatch” after all.
If you’re a serious runner who wants data logging and training tools and less focused on getting smart notifications, the Surge is a very worthy buy. Read more…