Fitbit Charge Activity Monitor

What we think

The Fitbit Charge is an impressive piece of wearable technology, used to track your activity and monitor your sleep. Compatibility with Android, iOS and Windows Phone is a huge positive, as is caller ID, but the price of this fitness tracker isn’t great value for money, and the sleep tracking isn’t brilliant.

    Pros

  • Stylish
  • Good performance
  • Called ID
  • App has many options

    Cons

  • Price
  • Battery life
  • Not waterproof
  • No heart rate monitor

    Rating

  • Performance:4 out of 5 stars
  • Features:4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Design: 4 out of 5 stars
  • Value:3 out of 5 stars
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Design

The Fitbit Charge doesn’t look cheap by any means, but it sports a very simple design. The flexible, durable, elastomer strap is 21mm wide, and has a small, rectangular OLED display, measuring 0.75 x 0.375 inches. There are four options for the colour of the band: Black, Slate, Blue or Burgundy.

The tracker is worn on the wrist, and is available in three different sizes: Small (14-16.5cm wrist circumference), Large (16.5-20cm wrist circumference) or X-Large (20-23cm wrist circumference), although this size is only available on Fitbit’s website. I’m not sure why Fitbit ditched the conventional Small, Medium, Large size names, and I’d argue some people might feel a bit insulted having to wear an Extra Large one.

The strap is held around the wrist by a pair of metal grey ‘prongs’ through two of the nine small holes in the strap. I don’t completely trust this design yet, as I feel it could come undone accidentally during activities, although admittedly, this has yet to happen.

The strap contains sensors to record calories burned, steps taken, distance travelled, and even the number of floors/stairs climbed.

The sleep monitoring occurs automatically, and there is no need to initiate it manually.

The Charge is rain, splash and sweat proof, but not swim proof. This is a bit of a negative compared to other fitness trackers, such as the Misfit Shine or Misfit Flash, are waterproof, allowing you to have it on even when swimming or in the shower, meaning you never need to take it off in theory.

I really like the caller ID feature on the Charge, with the OLED display showing the name of whoever is calling me (admittedly it’s normally only ever my mother, but yeah…)

Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge Fitbit Charge

Function

The Fitbit Charge syncs wirelessly to smartphones, tablets and computers, and it can do this automatically, provided they are within 20 feet of each other. Or, you can use a Bluetooth USB dongle (which comes included) with a computer, although the charging cable is annoyingly short.

The Fitbit app allows you to view and analyse your progress in detail, with charts and graphs used to display a vast array of data. You can make use of calendars and log both exercise and food, even making use of a barcode scanner option to speed the process up for entering food information.

You can also compare your progress with friends using the app, with a leaderboard comparing your data with theirs, a nice touch which helps to fire up the competitiveness and encourage people to exercise more. I quite like the option of sending a ‘cheer’ to them if they are doing well, or a ‘taunt’ if they have been inactive.

Unfortunately in terms of accuracy, it isn’t perfect at monitoring your sleep or tracking your movements, adding slightly more steps taken than in reality, but it is still good. The speed at which it detects sleep commencing is impressive, taking just a few minutes to realise you have fallen asleep.

The silent alarm works very well, and always wakes me up without fail by vibrating against my wrist, without making any noise. It is perfect for those who share a bedroom and don’t want to wake people up when they head to work or school.

The caller ID also works to vibrate against your wrist when you receive a call, but as there are no speakers on the Charge there is no sound.

Battery

The Fitbit Charge runs on a lithium-polymer battery, and needs recharging after approximately seven to ten days, although Fitbit’s website recommends charging it every few days.

Personally I am not a big fan of the need to recharge it, or at least as often as you do. Although it is not as bad as mobile phones in terms of battery life, the rival Misfit Shine never needs charging, with the battery lasting for approximately six months before you need to replace it, which is highly convenient in my opinion.

Price

Released in November 2014, the Charge retails for £99.99 on Fitbit’s website at the time of writing, although you can now find it for up to £30 less from retailers such as Amazon.

Frankly, £70 would be the absolute limit I would be happy to pay for a fitness tracker, so the RRP is too much for me really.

Fitbit offers a wide range of wearable tech though, at both lower and higher prices than the Charge. You may want to browse Fitbit’s other options, in case an alternative is more suited to you depending on your own personal requirements. The Fitbit Blaze has recently been unveiled at CES 2016 and is available for pre-order, at the time of writing.

If you want a very basic, budget fitness tracker, then you may want to avoid Fitbit. However, if you are happy to pay £70 or more, you shouldn’t be disappointed by what Fitbit has to offer.

Conclusion

The small size of this everyday fitness tracker is convenient, and it is more stylish than other pieces of wearable tech out there. It’s very comfortable, and I do like the subtlety of the small OLED display, which prevents it from looking like a cheap smartwatch.

It syncs easily with the app, but where it holds the advantage over some rivals is its ability to display the time and plenty of fitness stats, such as calories burned, steps taken and distance travelled, so you don’t always need to check your phone to view this information.

It’s a shame that there is no heart rate monitor built into the Fitbit Charge, but if you are in the market for a fitness tracker, and are keen on style, then it is definitely one you will want to consider, especially if you can find it for £70 or less.

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