With Apple Watch official and expected early next year, it’s likely too little, too late for Fitbit, but the company is finally moving beyond simple fitness bands to a fully-featured smartwatch in the form of the $250 Fitbit Surge.

The Surge is the company’s first device to display text messages on-screen, as well as the ability to control music on your iPhone. The move may explain rumored Apple plans to remove Fitbit from its stores (something which hasn’t yet happened), though these may also reflect the lack of Health app integration … 

The smartwatch is still very much fitness-focused, with no fewer than eight different sensors, including its own GPS to allow use with or without a smartphone. It can track your steps, direction, distance, speed, elevation, heart-rate and route. It’s water-resistant but not waterproof, so not suitable for swimming.

While Fitbit has announced the Surge today, it won’t go on sale until “early 2015” – the same projected launch period as the Apple Watch.

The company has also announced the entry-level $130 Fitbit Charge – essentially an updated version of the Force – and the Charge HR, a Charge with constant heart-rate readings, for $150. The Charge is available immediately, the Charge HR also not until next year.

Re/code reports that Fitbit currently holds around 70% of the activity tracker market – something likely to change very rapidly once the Apple Watch goes on sale.

Fitbit had issues with skin irritation with its earlier Force model, but CEO James Park told Re/code that he was confident the problem would not be repeated.

“We took these issues very seriously,” Park said. “We discovered that the users who reported issues were likely reacting to the adhesive we used in the product, and to a lesser extent, the nickel in the stainless steel casing […] No adhesive, in any part of the new devices, comes into close contact with the skin.”

Tim Cook recently said that the Apple Watch would be a must-have product and that we would “wonder how we ever lived without it.”

The news has brought significant discounts on Fitbit’s current lineup.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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