Review: Fitbit Charge 3
Run, crunch and even swim with the latest to hit the wearables market
Fitbit has made a number of launches this year, and that's a clear message to everyone: the wearables market is doing just fine.
So, in comes the Fitbit Charge 3 - a fitness tracker that isn't a smartwatch but acts like one, as Fitbit puts it. It is a good upgrade to its previous generation and may certainly appeal to those looking for a simple, inexpensive alternative to other new-age watches or bands.
Compared to the Charge 2, the Charge 3 is lighter, thanks to a new aluminium build as opposed to its predecessor's stainless steel. It's also slimmer, a good move since it feels a bit iffy to have something quite thick on your wrist all the time.
But slimmer also means a bigger screen: the Charge 3's display is almost 40 per cent larger at 1.57 inches, so you have more room. The interface has also improved; unlike the Charge 2, in which you can only tap to switch what you're seeing, the Charge 3 has a proper touchscreen that you can use to navigate. You'll also notice that there are no pressable buttons on the Charge 3, but it has an inductive button on the left, which you can use to wake it up or go back a screen.
Fitbit claims that the Charge 3 can last upto seven days, but, of course, all this will depend on how much wear and tear it goes through. During my run, it topped out at just a little over five days with not-so-heavy use. Running wild on it, meanwhile, had it barely cross four days. But the point here is that you are guaranteed good battery life. On the downside, you can only charge it with its own proprietary charger, so good luck if you run out of charge and you've left the charger elsewhere.
As with top-of-the-line fitness trackers, such a small device packs a lot of punch, bursting with well-rounded features. You get more than 15 goal-based exercise modes, to challenge and help you push your limits. It also has automatic exercise recognition, so if you start, say running or swimming, it'll start recording your workout - and you don't have to do anything manually.
And when you're done sweating it out, take a moment to use its breathing feature; it's personalised, and will guide you through it depending on your heart rate.
Speaking of those last words, what's a fitness tracker without the health features? Fitbit says that the Charge 3 has its most advanced health features, beginning with the ticker in your chest. Fitbit's 24/7 PurePulse rate has been souped-up, promising greater heart rate accuracy. They also included a new SpO2 tracker for pulse oximetry, which, in layman's terms, measures oxygen levels in your blood.
While you can use GPS to see real-time pace and distance, you can only do this if you've connected it to your smartphone and it's nearby (read: with you while you work out, except for when you're swimming when you should keep it aside). This can be a hassle, and I'm hoping Fitbit will consider incorporating GPS into its future Charges, just like those found in the Ionic and Surge.
And you can now also use the Charge 3 for swimming (the Charge 2 was only water-resistant and up to 50 metres). Not recommended, however, for a hot tub or sauna, as Fitbit says.
Fitbit's also made inroads recently when it comes to female health. Women can track their menstruation cycle, record symptoms and glance at a predicted ovulation calendar.
The Charge 3 also supports Fitbit Pay and you can readily use it. if you're a user in one of the 18 countries where it's presently available - which doesn't include the UAE. We've been told, however, that Fitbit is working behind the scenes to bring it here soon.
There's a whole lot more to discuss about the Fitbit Charge 3, but the overall impression here is that it's a fitness tracker and watch that works well for its price.
Display: 1.57" touchscreen, greyscale OLED
Sensors: Accelerometer, optical heart rate sensor, altimeter, vibration motor, SpO2
Durability: Water-resistant up to 50m (swim-capable; no saunas)
Connectivity: Bluetooth LE, NFC for Fitbit Pay (special edition only)
Compatibility: iOS 9 and later; Android 5.0 and later; Windows 10
Price: Dh749; Dh799 (special edition with Fitbit Pay)
Pros: Swim-capable; improved sensors; bigger screen
Cons: Still no built-in GPS; can only be charged with proprietary charger; Fitbit Pay still unavailable in the UAE
Author's rating: 4/5