Update: Our first-look Fitbit Charge 3 review is now live, if you want to get a flavour of our early verdict.
While Fitbit is moving into the world of smartwatches with the Versa and Ionic, the company still cares about fitness trackers. For good reason, the Charge line is the company's best selling brand of devices.
And now it's going for a major upgrade with the Fitbit Charge 3. The new fitness tracker brings some big new features including a swimproof design and a Versa-inspired look. There's also a special edition Charge 3 that comes with NFC so you can use Fitbit Pay.
Fitbit is bringing the Charge 3 in line with its smartwatches including its enhanced PurePulse heart rate sensor in addition to the SpO2 blood oxygen sensor that's present in the Versa and Ionic smartwatches. Annoyingly, Fitbit still hasn't brought built-in GPS to the party, which is surprising when you consider cheaper trackers like the Huawei Band 2 Pro now have it. Fitbit told us its omission meant that it could maintain that sleeker, slimmer profile. If you want GPS, you'll have to pair it with your smartphone when you're out for a walk, run or ride.
Pool ready and plans to bring the apps
A welcome design change is that the Charge 3 is swimproof to up to 50 metres water depth. Don't expect any new swim metrics though, the data is on par with that of the Flex 2, not the Versa. So you'll only be able to view swim duration on the tracker and get additional metrics to review in the Fitbit companion app.
There are over 15 exercise modes, including biking, swimming, running, weight training, and yoga. You can set goals for calories burned and see progress and celebrations while you're doing your exercises. You'll be able to see all those stats on the new dashboard, which made its debut with Fitbit OS on the Versa.
The Charge 3 though doesn't run on that same Fitbit OS, instead it's based on something entirely different that takes inspiration from the company's smartwatch operating system. It's a new platform that will apparently power Fitbit's future fitness trackers.
Don't expect an app store, though Fitbit will partner up with companies to create some apps. The company is open to partnering up with a music company for streaming music (there's no on-board storage for music). There will be apps from popular companies, so you can expect apps from the companies that were first on Fitbit, like Starbucks for instance.
Fitbit has also gone in on redesigning the Charge line. It now uses an aerospace-grade aluminium case rather than surgical-grade stainless steel. This helps make the Charge 3 lighter. The OLED display is covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and is 40% brighter and larger than the Charge 2's display.
You'll be able to swipe and tap around the interface. There's also an inductive side button, which offers haptic feedback when you touch it. This is largely to help make the Charge 3 waterproof. Though it also offers one less moving part that potentially needs to be repaired.
Smart features and Sleep Scores
That slightly larger touchscreen will also make more room for those added smarts. You can view and customize notifications from apps, texts and calendars. If you're an Android user, you'll also be able to respond to text messages with custom quick replies, though that will be available later this year. Alarms, Timer and Weather apps will be available right away, while Fitbit Leaderboard and calendar apps will come later this year as well.
Fitbit is also going big on sleep, as the Charge 3 is the debut device for Sleep Score Beta. This will also be available for Ionic and Versa, but it'll only be available via Fitbit Labs on the web. You'll be able to see a singular number score for how well you sleep, and then you'll also be able to drill down and easily see other scores for your sleep.
The SpO2 sensor will also get its first use with Sleep Score Beta, as if it detects that something is off with your breathing while you're sleeping, it'll be described in your Sleep Score. Fitbit tells Wareable that it's not ready to diagnose things like sleep apnea yet, but it does want to see if it can identify potential problems and let people know that they should consult a doctor.
Fitbit Charge 3 price and release date
The Charge 3 is $149.95 and is available for pre-order now. It comes in either black with a graphite aluminum case or a blue gray with rose gold aluminum case. The special edition will be $169.95 and it comes with an extra classic band and NFC for Fitbit Pay. The Charge 3 will officially roll out to your hands and retailers in October.
You'll also be able to purchase a selection of bands, from the regular classic plastic band to perforated sports bands, woven nylon bands and Horween leather bands. Bands start at $29.95 and go up to $49.95.
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