Fitbit Charge Fitness Wristband Review

Evolving Choices

Fitbit Charge
Fitbit

If you want an advanced fitness band, the Fitbit Charge is an excellent choice for both men and women. It continues to evolve with each updated model, tracking your fitness activities, sleep, and more.

All versions of the Fitbit Charge have a numerical display rather than the unsatisfying LED dot indicators on the Fitbit Flex. The Charge shows the time of day, step count, distance, all-day calories burned, and more. It allows you to track and time workouts and it automatically detects and tracks sleep. Paired with your mobile phone, you can get smart notifications and vibrating alarms, with the sophistication of this function advancing with each model. Heart rate detection is included in updated models.

Fitbit Charge Wristbands

Models other than the original Charge have a buckle strap that can be swapped easily for different looks. You can get bands either from Fitbit or from other vendors who design them for each model. However, they are specific for the model, so you can't use bands compatible with Charge 2 for Charge 3.

The original Charge had a non-replaceable flexible band secured with two studs that clicked into slots on the wristband. It didn't include a keeper loop, so it was wise add one such as the Bitbelt to keep it secure on your wrist.

Fitbit Charge 3

The Fitbit Charge 3 debuted in autumn of 2018. It has interchangeable buckle bands ranging from sport to dress styles. It is the first Charge band that is waterproof for swimming. In addition to 24/7 activity tracking and move reminders, it has automatic exercise recognition to detect and record your workouts. It can also guide you through a workout as you can choose from more than 15 different goal-based exercises and see your stats in real time. The heart-rate detection shows you which exercise intensity zone you are in throughout your workout, and when paired with your phone GPS it shows your real-time pace and distance. It has automatic sleep detection with analysis for light, deep, and REM sleep. Also included is female health tracking to track your menstrual cycle and estimate ovulation and fertility windows. This model has many more app features for notifications, weather, and calendar.

Fitbit Charge 2

The Fitbit Charge 2, which debuted in the autumn of 2016, improved on and replaced the original Charge and Charge HR. It was replaced by the Fitbit Charge 3 in autumn of 2018. One big advantage of this model is that it has easily interchangeable bands. You can change your style in seconds, rather than being stuck with the band that came with the original Charge. The display is also larger, taking up more space on the band but without being much bulkier. You can easily read smart notifications from your phone and apps.

Other features of the Charge 2 are heart rate, Move Reminders, guided breathing sessions, and a personal fitness score. For workouts, it will connect with the GPS on your mobile phone and display your speed and distance, as well as simplified heart rate zones.

Original Fitbit Charge

The original Charge had a non-interchangeable wristband with a stud clasp. It was not waterproof. It did not have heart rate detection or move reminders. Its features included:

  • Steps: The Charge tracks all-day steps. It vibrates when you reach your daily step goal. You can also track specific workouts and see steps for just that workout.
  • Exercise Tracking: If you want to track a specific workout, press the button on the band until it vibrates. It tracks time and gives you totals for steps, distance and calories burned for the workout. If you are using the mobile app and your device has GPS, you can use the exercise tracking MobileRun mode to track workouts. You can set it to announce your distance, time, average pace, split pace and calories burned at your chosen interval (such as every half mile or mile). You can time and tag non-step activities or add workouts where you didn't wear your Fitbit to your total with the online dashboard or app.
  • Calories: The calorie number shown for all Fitbits represents the calories you are burning all day, even at rest, starting at midnight each day. You'll notice that you've already burned calories when you get up in the morning. This allows you to track the calories you eat and balance them with your total calorie burn. The online dashboard and app can help you set a calorie goal for weight loss.
  • Distance: Fitbit estimates the distance from the step count.
  • Sleep: The Charge automatically detects sleep, there is no need to remember to start and stop a sleep tracker as with the original Flex or Fitbit One. On the app or dashboard you can view your total time in bed, time asleep, time awake and time restless, plus a sleep graph.
  • Alarms: You can set vibrating alarms.
  • Stairs/Floors: Fitbit Charge automatically tracks the floors climbed and you earn badges for achieving new floor milestones.
  • Active Time: If you are active enough for a minute, it counts as an active minute of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The goal is to meet exercise recommendations for 30 Active Minutes or more each day. The activity level that counts is equivalent to walking at about three miles per hour or faster.
  • Caller ID Alerts: If you enable this function, your Charge will vibrate and display the caller ID of incoming calls from your mobile phone.

Setting up the Fitbit Charge

A USB charging cable and a wireless USB dongle for your computer (PC or Mac) are included. It takes one to two hours to fully charge a drained battery, and the cable is a non-standard one. A charge lasts seven to 10 days.

You can set up the Charge with either a computer or with the mobile app. If you use a computer, the USB dongle is left in a USB port and you must install the Fitbit Connect software to sync the data. It will then sense the Charge when it is within a few feet and sync the data wirelessly. Syncing with the app requires Bluetooth 4.0, so it may not work with older mobile devices.

Fitbit Dashboard and App

The Fitbit Dashboard and App can be used to track a variety of diet and health data.

  • Food and Water: Track what you eat with their food diary built into the app and online Dashboard. If you want to ensure you are drinking enough water, you can also track how many fluid ounces you are drinking throughout the day.
  • Weight: You can manually log weights on the app and dashboard, or you can use the Aria scale to transmit the data.
  • Friends: With the popularity of Fitbit, it is a great system for competing with friends and family. If you choose to add each other as friends, you will see their daily average and weekly step totals. You can message each other and create group challenges.
  • Social: You can enable your Fitbit app to post your daily totals to Twitter.
  • Badges: Earn badges for your daily and lifetime records.
  • App Sharing: Fitbit can share its data with many other popular health and fitness mobile apps.

Bottom Line on Fitbit Charge

The original Fitbit Charge was comfortable to wear and worked well as a pedometer watch, with a choice of syncing to your computer or your mobile phone app. But it was best designed for everyday health and fitness rather than for athletic performance. The updated Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Charge 3 include heart rate zone tracking, which is useful if your workout goals are to improve your fitness.

Flex, Alta, or Charge 3?

Given a choice between the Flex and the Charge 3, you will get much more workout support with the Charge 3, as well as numerical display. For style, the Fitbit Alta is slimmer and has many stylish interchangeable bands. The Alta HR model includes heart rate.

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