Fitbit arguably played a key role in starting to get wearable tech popular. Its original pocket friendly Fitbit, followed by the lovely One and the less lovely but more affordable Zip has been followed by a range of wrist worn options including the Flex and more recent GPS toting Surge as well as the Charge HR with its built in heart rate monitor, and the Charge.
I’ve been wearing the Charge for some months now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s my favourite wrist worn activity monitor to date. I’ll be trying the Charge HR and Surge in due course, but for now, why do I like the Charge so much?
Very importantly, the Charge is the easiest of wrist worn kit to get to grips with. The small display is clear and uncluttered. You can hit a small button on its left edge to cycle through info screens, or just give it a double tap to see the time.
It cycles through time, steps, distance, calories used and stairs climbed as you hit the side button. Right at the end of the sequence you see your next alarm. It’s all really simple, and thankfully displays real information instead of the less than satisfactory progress bar of the Fitbit Flex.
It is easy to set an alarm through the Andriod or iOS app and you can have more than one on the go. So if you suddenly realise you have to get up early tomorrow, it’s no bother to set up a one-off alarm from your phone. I’ve used that feature on several occasions.
The alarm system itself is super. The Charge vibrates at the required time, and then again 15 minutes later. It’s enough to wake you up, but won’t disturb whoever else is sharing your bed.
The Fitbit Charge incorporates a sleep monitor. It’ll work out when you drop off and wake, records how long you sleep. This seems surprisingly accurate. It isn’t as clever as the Jawbone, which can set its own alarms depending on how long you want to sleep, though. I hope that feature comes along soon.
Another reason I like the Fitbit Charge is actually valid across the whole Fitbit range. It is pretty accurate on the step counting and distance measurement. I’ve tested various wearables with GPS, and Fitbit consistently does well for accuracy. Importantly you can calibrate it for your own stride length both when walking and running, and this helps with accuracy. So, if you want to walk 5k or 10k a day, the Charge would be a good choice.
Its accelerometer is also very responsive. I’ve pace counted and checked what the Fitbit says, and it is pretty spot on. When you reach the magic 10,000 steps – or whatever you set as your goal – it vibrates to tell you. So there’s no need to keep checking.
The band itself is really comfy to wear. While the Charge HR has a watchstrap style clasp, the Charge relies on two notches. I was sceptical about this, thinking they would not hold, but in fact they are solid.
Anyone worried about the potential of getting a rash from the band can perhaps take solace from the fact that I have not experienced this at all. I don’t wear the Charge in the shower, wear it loose rather than tight to the skin, and I’ve been fine.
Battery life is another big plus. Fitbit says you’ll get up to seven days from it. In the few months I’ve been wearing the Charge I’ve never had any kind of problem. It gets a top-up every few days and I’ve never got the automatically generated email that tells you battery life is down to about a day. The only downside is that the charge dongle is proprietary at the Charge end, its small connector fitting into the back of the display. It’s not a big deal to carry around though, and it is USB.
If you want an activity monitor that can alert you to incoming calls, well, the Charge will do that, showing you the name and number of the caller. This can be useful if your handset is buried away and you want to check who is calling before you fish it out.
I like the relatively unsophisticated nature of the information the Charge collects, and the simplicity of the displays both on the app and the web based dashboard, but for some people this will also be its downfall as the information displayed is relatively unsophisticated. If you need to share data with other apps you may well be able to do so. I use Runkeeper, for example, and this happily collects feeds from Fitbit.
The Fitbit ‘ecosystem’ caters for social via Fitbit Friends, and you can log calories, weight, water intake and suchlike at the web site if you want to. None of this is hugely advanced in terms of what’s on offer, and Fitbit’s software can’t do things like suggest how long you rest after today’s massive walk, or manage training programmes for your next run. If you want a lot of sophistication in that regard this is not the place to look.
The Fitbit Charge is a good device for anyone looking to up their activity levels. It isn’t hugely sophisticated, but it is accurate in measuring both steps and distance, can calculate sleeping hours, has a good alarm and can give you caller ID alerts. It is comfy to wear, and the display is practical and readable.
- Good display
- Great alarm
- Accurate distance measurements
- Accurate pace measurements
- Comfy to wear
- Handset alerts
- Lacks sophistication for some users