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Fitbit Flex colors

Finally, Fitbit has an activity tracking wristband of its own, the Fitbit Flex.

While Fitbit pioneered the fitness gadget industry with its tiny fitness tracking device, it has recently been overshadowed by the arrival of fitness wristbands from Nike and Jawbone. With the Flex, Fitbit has a wearable option that can track your steps, distance traveled, and sleep patterns, just like its past gadgets. (Unfortunately, it can’t track steps you’ve climbed, unlike some of the company’s latest devices.)

For Fitbit fans, the wait may have been worth it. Fitbit claims the Flex is the first health wristband to fully take advantage of Bluetooth 4.0, allowing it to synchronize wirelessly with your smartphone and computer while maintaining strong battery life. Nike’s FuelBand was touted as a Bluetooth 4.0 device, but in a teardown by Fitbit, the company found only Bluetooth 2.1 hardware (though there’s a chance that hardware could also be Bluetooth 4.0 compatible).  The Jawbone Up doesn’t offer any wireless syncing.

The Flex is also cheaper than the competition. At $99, it’s a better value than Jawbone’s $130 Up, and Nike’s $150 Fuelband. It’s the same price as the Fitbit One, the company’s latest flagship fitness tracker that clips onto your clothing.  Fitbit also offers a cheaper $60 device, the Fitbit Zip, for those who just want the basics of step counting.

When I reviewed the Jawbone Up and Fitbit One in December,  I ultimately favored the Up. Even though the One offered a superior online interface for tracking your health data, I found it easier to wear a futuristic wristband than to keep track of a tiny pedometer. (Also, I liked the Up’s geek chic.) With the Flex, Fitbit has a compelling alternative that may have me switching fitness camps.

I haven’t had a chance to see the Fitbit Flex in person yet, but I’m hoping to get some time with it later this week at CES. The Flex is available for pre-order starting today and will ship in the spring.

San Francisco-based Fitbit has raised a total of $23.4 million from Foundry Group, True Ventures, and others.

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