Wear­able devices on track to serve fit­ness fa­nat­ics around the globe

China Daily (Canada) - - DEPTH - By FAN FEIFEI fan­feifei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Sports­wear firms and niche apps are not the only ones rid­ing the wave of fit­ness craze in China. Mak­ers of wear­ables devices like smart bands and watches have jumped on the fit­ness prod­ucts band­wagon, promis­ing to bring brands that are al­ready mak­ing waves in ad­vanced mar­kets.

They are out to im­press prospec­tive con­sumers such as Zhang Xue, a 27-year-old pri­mary school teacher in Bei­jing. Zhang is on the look­out for a smart­watch and has been trawl­ing Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd’s Tmall plat­form and other on­line shops to pick the best deal.

“I want to buy a smart de­vice that can an­a­lyze my daily ex­er­cise and tell me more about calo­ries burned, the num­ber of paces taken and dis­tance cov­ered. I haven’t de­cided which one to buy be­cause there are too many brands.”

Not all sports lovers are un­de­cided like Zhang. Most of them al­ready have smart bracelets, which are set to record their daily run­ning dis­tance, du­ra­tion of sleep and calo­ries con­sumed.

Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy ma­jor Xiaomi Corp said it sold more than 10 mil­lion units of Mi Band, its smart wrist­band, last year.

Prices of such wear­ables devices range from 39 yuan ($5.9) to 3,480 yuan on Tmall. For such price tags, devices pack quite a punch, in terms of their ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Early this month, the United States-based Fit­bit Inc, the world’s largest man­u­fac­turer of wear­ables fit­ness bands, an­nounced the launch of a smart fit­ness watch called Fit­bit Blaze, a trail­blazer of sorts.

Blaze is the first fit­ness tracker boast­ing a color touch-screen, which should help Fit­bit to com­pete with its ri­vals, in­clud­ing Ap­ple Inc, Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics Co Ltd and Mi­crosoft Corp.

Blaze of­fers new free fea­tures like FitS­tar, a suite of work­out videos from per­sonal train­ers, and SmartTrack, an ex­er­cis­esens­ing soft­ware that can au­to­mat­i­cally rec­og­nize and record ac­tiv­i­ties such as rid­ing, hik­ing, run­ning, box­ing and danc­ing.

What’s more, it can even give re­wards to users af­ter a sat­is­fac­tory work­out or phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

That’s not all. Blaze con­tains stan­dard health-track­ing op­tions like heart-rate mon­i­tor PurePulse, ac­tiv­ity and sleep track­ers, and GPS ca­pa­bil­ity— fea­tures that made Fit­bit’s pre­vi­ous prod­ucts Charge and Surge pop­u­lar.

Fit­bit also makes a range of fash­ion­able watch­bands in dif­fer­ent styles and col­ors us­ing ma­te­rial like leather, stain­less steel and elas­tic.

James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fit­bit, said in a com­pany state­ment: “We con­tinue to ex­plore in the in­dus­try and found the most im­por­tant point is the per­son­al­iza­tion of fit­ness. Fit­bit Blaze makes ef­fort to sat­isfy users’ in­di­vid­ual re­quire­ment, and mean­while stim­u­late users to re­al­ize the pre­de­ter­mined fit­ness tar­get faster.”

It was made avail­able at $199.95 dur­ing a pre­sale on fit­bit.com. On Jan. 6, it was launched at ma­jor North Amer­i­can re­tail­ers. Global retail sales are slated to start in March.

Other wear­able de­vice mak­ers are not far be­hind. For in­stance, Jaw­bone Inc, a lead­ing con­sumer tech­nol­ogy and wear­able devices firm in the US, launched a smart wrist­band as early as 2013.

Data re­leased by con­sul­tancy firm In­ter­na­tional Data Corp showed that the to­tal ship­ments of global wear­able devices will top 111 mil­lion units this year from about 80 mil­lion units last year, up 44 per­cent.

BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IM­AGES

Celebrity trainer Har­ley Paster­nak and ac­tress Jor­dana Brew­ster lead a work­out out­side the New York Stock Ex­change af­ter Fit­bit Inc’s ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing last June.

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