Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Which fitness tracker should you choose?

We compare the new and the old from Fitbit's flagship tracker line

The Fitbit Charge 3 is now officially on shop shelves, usurping the Charge 2 after it spent two fruitful years heading up the company's crop of fitness trackers.

However, just because there's a new band on the block, that doesn't mean the Charge 2 is no longer available to buy – or that it's not still a mightily impressive bit of kit. While its successor has a raft of new features and brings a refined design, it may not be the right tracker for you.

Read this: Which Fitbit should you buy?

In order to help you out in your choice between the two Charge devices, we've been living with the two to see how they compare. Read on below for all the details regarding design, features and that all-important price.

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Design

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Should you make the upgrade?

Fitbit Charge 3: 18.325mm wide, available in small and large sizes

Fitbit Charge 2: 21.45mm wide,available in small, large and extra-large sizes

We've put these two trackers side-by-side and there are definitely some design changes that make the Charge 3 a more desirable option to wear 24/7. It has a slightly bigger (and brighter) touchscreen OLED display, a slimmer casing that sits more naturally and comfortably on the wrist, and a much wider range of bands and finishes. So, you can dress it up to make it feel less like a fitness tracker. Another big difference is that the newer Charge is waterproof. The Charge 2 isn't, and that means the Charge 3 is fit for swimming in the pool or in the ocean at a water depth of up to 50 metres.

That's not to say the Charge 2 isn't still a decent-looking tracker. It also has one thing that the Charge 3 doesn't, and that's a solitary physical button to turn on the device and skip back through menus. Fitbit has introduced a new inductive button that lies either side of the screen and serves the same purpose on the newer Charge. Removing the physical button meant Fitbit could make its new wearable waterproof, so it looks like a good compromise.

Fitbit Alta HR v Fitbit Charge 2

(Above: Fitbit Charge 2)

Both Charge devices are equipped with Fitbit's PurePulse heart rate sensor for measuring workout intensity and offering resting heart rate readings, but if you want that new SpO2 sensor, the Charge 3 is the one you need. The sensor has already been included in Fitbit's two smartwatches, and is designed to be used for monitoring serious health issues. But it's not really being put to use right now, so you wouldn't be missing out massively by not having it just yet.

If GPS is a desirable feature, then you're out of luck with both of these trackers. You'll still need to rely on your phone's GPS to map routes for runs and rides. Currently, the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch and the long-retired Fitbit Surge are the only wearables in the Fitbit family that have this feature built in.

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Activity tracking features

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Why you might want to upgrade

Fitbit Charge 3: 24/7 activity tracking, swim tracking, goal-based workouts, SmartTrack
Fitbit Charge 2: 24/7 activity tracking, workout modes, SmartTrack

The core fitness tracker features across the two devices are largely the same. Given that Fitbit can offer new features through software updates, we wouldn't be surprised if it'll at least try do the same for the Charge 2. It's also worth mentioning that features like advanced sleep tracking and female health tracking are available to all Fitbit trackers via the companion app. You just might see a bit more of that data on the Charge 3 itself than you can on the Charge 2.

Read this: A beginner's guide to fitness tracking wearables for women

Both will count your steps (including stairs climbed), log sleep and offer reminders to move. On the mindfulness front you're covered too, with guided breathing features to help you de-stress during the day.

Fitbit's SmartTrack tech will automatically recognise a range of exercises and that tech does now extend to swimming on the Charge 3, thanks to its waterproof design. So if you care about swimming, the new Charge is the one you want.

There are multi-sports tracking modes for the likes of running and cycling. One small addition you'll find on the Charge 3 that the Charge 2 lacks is the new goal-based feature. This lets you set a target distance or time to work towards during a workout. It's not groundbreaking, but for anyone looking for that extra motivational push, it may well have appeal.


Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Smart features

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Should you make the upgrade?

Fitbit Charge 3: First and third party notification support, quick replies, Fitbit Pay (special edition only)

Fitbit Charge 2: Limited notification support

Fitbit has been introducing smartwatch-style features to its fitness trackers for a while now. But now that it's playing in the smartwatch space, it's working to bring more of those more advanced smarts to other members of its wearable family. While the Charge 2 does a fairly decent impression of a smartwatch, there's a whole lot more going on in this department for the Charge 3 and Fitbit has plans to add more smart skills to the latest Charge too.

Read this: The ultimate guide to the Fitbit app

In the notification support department, the Charge 2 is restricted to letting users view call, text and calendar alerts on the device. The Charge 3 will let you see alerts from all of your apps and offers the ability to send quick replies to notifications (Android phones only, unfortunately).

The Charge 3 does also offer some app support, although not to the extent of the Versa and Ionic smartwatches. You can pick between seven monochrome watch faces, and the special edition Charge 3 includes NFC so you can use Fitbit Pay to make contactless payments from the wrist.

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Battery life and price

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Why you might want to upgrade

Fitbit Charge 3: Up to seven days battery life
Fitbit Charge 2: Up to five days battery life

The good news is that both Charges have the battery power on board to get through five day's worth of tracking. But if you want a full week, then the Charge 3 should get you those extra couple of days. Staying power does, of course, depend on the features you plan to use on a regular basis. Disabling all-day heart rate monitoring and turning off that notification support are the kind of things that can improve battery life. Based on our experience, we're sure the Charge 2 could stretch to another a day or two, but it looks like the Charge 3 will give you more.

So, let's talk price. The Charge 3 is priced at $149.95, while the Charge 2 costs roughly $129.95, depending where you buy from. The special edition Charge 3, meanwhile, will set you back $169.95.

It's also important to note that although Fitbit no longer lists the Charge 2 on its own website, you can naturally still pick it up from retailers such as Amazon. Just make sure you're scouting around, since there are now serious potential savings to be had.

Fitbit Charge 3 v Charge 2: Verdict

On paper, there are plenty of reasons here to make the upgrade from the Charge 2 to the Charge 3. It's slimmer and waterproof, has vastly improved smart features and better battery life. If you can find the Charge 2 for significantly less elsewhere, that's still a decent option – particularly if you're not too fussed about wearing it in the water, or about those health tracking possibilities that the Charge 3 has the potential to unlock in the future. But if you have a bit more money to spend, the Charge 3 is clearly the one you should be going for.


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3 comments

  • tripm·

    The good news is, fitbits never last more than 18 months, so you don't have to decide immediately if you want to upgrade...

  • KeAxV71·
    • Is the Charge 3 slimmer in thickness and width or just width?
  • amiga007·

    If you read fitbit forum you'll see that thousands of customers complains about 3 things since long time and Fitbit always answer that "Thank you, won't be for your model but you can buy the new one out soon", so let's see

    - Ability to have (for limited time) the 'always on' display - nurses and medics that need to take vitals from patient like pulse etc etc - NOT DONE - and this is a VERY simple firmware mod

    - Ability to 'shift' the 24H period for people having evening / night work or working in shift or just that doesn't go to sleep before midnight (or better that a day is "from when I wake up till next time I wake up") - NOT DONE - same, it's a very easy firmware mod

    - Ability to properly count stairs in Europe, Fitbit starir counting is basqed on a 3 meters high (US Standard) and not 2.70 / 2.80 meter high (Europe) so many many times 1 stair is not counted, 2 stairs are counted like 1, 3 are counted like 2 etc etc - NOT DONE - same, easy FW modification

    I could add a new problem I recently discovered: if you do motorbike / scooter riding than your rides (without any exercise or calories burning) are counted as a hell of a lot of staires / steps / minutes of exercise. I have some days with >70 stairs (I climbed less than 5) / 14000 steps (I made around 6000) / 89 minutes exercise (I had maybe 20) so your stats are completely wrong just for a motorbike ride...