Reviews

Fitbit Charge Review

November 15, 2014

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVdsBo1GDN4

Think Fitbit Force with caller ID and water-resistant of 1 ATM. That’s the Fitbit Charge for you. The first of a series of 3 fitness trackers released by Fitbit, the Fitbit Charge delivers caller ID capability where its predecessor didn’t. Priced similar to the Fitbit Force when it was released 9 months ago, is this tracker worth the buck? We received our unit recently and put it to the test.

LOOK AND FEEL

fitbit charge feature photo

The Fitbit Charge is a handsome looking “powered up” Fitbit Force.

The Charge is almost an identical twin of the discontinued Fitbit Force. The grooved strap adds character to an otherwise spartan band.

fitbit charge profile view

Side view of the Fitbit Charge.

The tracker strap where the wrist rests on the laptops is flat and allows extended periods of work, unlike thicker bands like the  Jawbone UP trackers.

fitbit charge button

There is a single button on the Fitbit Charge.

There is only 1 button on the left of the OLED face that controls all functions including toggling through stats or to commence activity tracking.

fitbit charge charging port and cable

Proprietary charging cable and charging port. The other end of the charging cable ends with a USB port.

The OLED display is crisp and sharp under normal lighting and outdoor weather. I’ve worn the Fitbit Charge for a few days and never experienced any skin issues. Then again, I’ve had no problems with the Fitbit Force.

fitbit charge worn on hand

Fitbit Charge worn on the wrist. Front, side and back view. 

When worn, the Fitbit Charge feels comfortable and not awkward. I particularly like the OLED display’s crispness. It’s pretty thick around the wrist though the profile is slim. When the display is not on, it resembles a thick black band.

FUNCTIONS 

fitbit charge functions view

The Fitbit Charge displays time, tracks steps, distance, calories burned, and stairs climbed.

Compared to the Fitbit Flex, the Fitbit Charge was able to indicate the tracked stats instantly due to the OLED display. So there’s no guessing if you’re 60% or close to 80%. The active minutes icon which was present previously in the Fitbit Force is no longer available. I thought that might provide another measure of a person’s activity level rather than just the steps or stairs climbed.

caller id

The Fitbit Charge  display lights up with the caller ID or the caller’s number if the contact is unknown.

I was able to pair my smartphone, LG Nexus 5, to the Fitbit Charge. The call notification surfaced with a single vibration followed by the ID of the caller or simply a number. I had thought the buzz would continue till the phone call was picked up but that was it, just a single buzz. Perhaps future firmware update might look into prolonging the vibration until the phone call is managed.

Fitbit Charge wet

The Fitbit Charge is water resistant to 1 ATM, good enough for those sweaty workouts but not for swimming.

The 1 ATM rating also means the Fitbit Charge should not be taken for a swim even though it should survive the accidental splashes and wetting. Anything more than that and you’re looking at a $130 wristband dud.

DATA PRESENTATION (Near Identical for Fitbit tracker series)

fitbit-one-dashboard

 

The Fitbit app interface is identical across the various platforms.The app screen can be customised to display stats which the user is interested only. For starters, the available stats to be displayed include steps, calories, distance, active minutes, water consumed, food log and weight. Stairs climbed is an available tracked stat for Fitbit One, Fitbit Charge and Charge HR.

Heart rate is an additional measurable for Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge only.

steps and distance history

7 days history view of Steps and Distance. 

active minutes and calories burnt history

 Challenges with friends

fitbit-challenge

 

The challenges option was added on October 2014 and provides a new feature that allows the user to individually challenge members on their friend’s list. A total of 4 challenge types are available.

Fitbit In-app MapMyRun feature

mapmyrun feature

A 38 minutes walk with the MapMyRun feature activated. Map and distance is correctly captured. This feature is only available on iOS platform and select Android devices only.

The Mapmyrun in-app feature allows the user to track exercise (walk, hike, run) using the phone’s GPS. The Fitbit Surge is the only Fitbit tracker with built-in GPS and can track routes without requiring a smartphone to be close.

friends

Pictures and names of my friends have been blurred to protect their identity.

The key feature and probably what makes the Fitbit platform so easy to use , in my opinion, is the addition of friends and viewing their progress. You can also text, cheer or taunt your friends to encourage them to move a little more.

The vibration alarm is a nice touch. We know how jarring it can be when the audio alarm goes off but the vibrating alarm feature is becoming the standard feature in newer trackers. As such, it’s baffling why the idle alert feature wasn’t available. I would have loved to set a 45 minute idle vibrating alert to remind me not to sit too long but alas.

ANYTHING ELSE?

sleep fitbit charge

Sleep tracking data as tracked by Fitbit Charge.

Sleep tracking is automatic and from the days I wore the Fitbit Charge, it seemed pretty accurate. I have to state a disclaimer here, I’m mainly concerned with the sleep duration rather than the quality or light versus deep sleep that fitness trackers on the market tend to offer.

A tap on the screen  calls up a pre-determined stat, be it the time, steps, distance or calories. So there’s no need to toggle through all the stats. I found this function very useful over time.

The sizes are fixed but Fitbit has guidelines on how to size the band. Battery life is advertised as 7-10 days which should be welcomed by a lot of people.

Fitbit charge clock face

Screen capture from Fitbit mobile app.

An added feature is the customisable time display. The selection is not huge but it does give the user some control over how the time should appear on the OLED display.

Lastly, upon reaching your goals for the day, the Fitbit Charge will buzz and a short “show” will light up on the OLED display. I shall not spoil the surprise for you.

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros:

  • Tracks steps, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed
  • Sharp and crisp OLED display
  • Caller ID notification
  • Water resistant to 1 ATM only, not meant for swimming
  • Vibrating alarm
  • Automatic sleep monitoring
  • App available on Android, iOS and Windows phones.
  • Syncs to proprietary blue tooth dongle, not necessary to have a smartphone
  • Tracks workout (walk, hike, run) with phone GPS.
  • Solid mobile app.
  • 7-10 days battery life
  • Customisable time display
  • Tap gesture
  • Wireless syncing via Bluetooth

Cons:

  • Limited smartphone notifications (only caller ID, not notifications)
  • No idle alert
  • Not suitable for swimming
  • Does not sync with HR monitors like Polar H7

At $129.95 and being the first of a new series of Fitbit trackers to hit the market, the Fitbit Charge does bring some novel features to the table. Functions like automatic sleep tracking and a decent battery life are all nice but hardly game changers. Take for comparison, even though priced higher, the Garmin Vivosmart that’s been on the market for about 2 months already pack more features than the Fitbit Charge.

While the Fitbit mobile app is a huge plus, I’m just unsure if the Charge is the tracker you should be putting your money on when at just $20 more, you can get the Fitbit Charge HR that boasts 24/7 heart rate monitoring. Then again, if HR monitoring is not high on your list and you’ve waited eons for the Fitbit Force replacement with the promised caller ID, the Fitbit Charge might just be sufficient for you.

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