The Fitbit Charge 2 may be here and the Charge 3 in the works, but that doesn't mean that you should rule out the Fitbit Charge and the Charge HR if you're looking to pick up a fitness tracker for a bit less money.
Fitbit has kept the software updates flowing, which means there are still plenty of tips and tricks for getting more out of them. From the Fitbit heart rate monitor to the screen, the depth of its fitness tracking is a big part of Fitbit's success.
New Fitbits tested: Fitbit Charge 2 review | Fitbit Flex 2 review
We've delved under the hood to find the not-so-obvious tweaks that help users go further and get fitter.
From tagging activities to boosting the accuracy of run-tracking, there's something here that every Fitbit user can benefit from.
Improve the accuracy
While there's a lot more to the Fitbit Charge than simple step counting, the pedometer skills obviously play a big part – so you'll want to make sure your walking is being tracked with as much accuracy as possible.
The first step is to make sure your Fitbit knows which wrist it's sitting on. You can select either dominant or non-dominant from within the app. Wearing your Charge on your dominant arm is fine, but the hardware needs to know so it can adjust its sensitivity to account for the extra motion it will experience during everyday wearing.
The next step, literally, is to get the stride-length sorted. Your Charge will guess your average length based on your height and gender but you can guarantee better accuracy by changing this value under Personal Info on the Fitbit web portal to your exact length.
It's simple to measure your accurate length: go to a running track or somewhere that you know the exact distance of, count your steps as you walk that distance, and then divide the total distance taken by the number of steps to get your stride length.
Pair with your smartphone for GPS mode
Fitbit's MobileRun mode uses GPS data to more accurately track your walks and runs, and also lets you control your music playlists from inside the app.
To use MobileRun, go into the app and select the Exercise from the home screen. Tap the stopwatch in the top right corner and you'll see a map of your location. Simply hit Start when you're ready to track your run.
The MobileRun feature uses the GPS connectivity of your smartphone to calculate distance, steps, active minutes and calories burned, and this data overrides your tracker's recordings.
Thanks to a post-launch update, the Fitbit Surge and Charge HR can automatically detect when you're exercising, and will automatically log the session. You can then go through and tag these, be it a run in the park, a Zumba session or even just a power walk to the bus stop. Tagging will improve the accuracy of the session, and give your data more colour to look back on.
You may, however, find that your device is wrongly detecting certain exercise types. Fitbit recommends turning off the ones you don't want. For example, you might want to switch off Swim if you haven't got a trip to the pool planned. Switching off the unwanted ones also helps preserve battery life.
Connect to Strava
Strava is one of the world's best fitness platforms, especially for cyclists – and now the two work seamlessly together. You can now connect the Fitbit and Strava app and share data both ways.
Go even further: How to use your Fitbit to lower your resting heart rate
Go for a cycle with Strava and have it count towards your Fitbit goals; cycle with the Fitbit Surge and have the activity logged in your Strava workouts list. It's virtually wearable technology Communism and we love it.
Never miss a step
We've all been there: you leave your Fitbit on charge and then you're half way to work and realise it's not on your arm. And now today is going to put a massive dent in your weekly average.
The answer is to set up MobileTrack and Multi-Tracker Support in your Fitbit app. MobileTrack uses your phone to track steps instead of your Fitbit, and the Multi-Tracker feature will seamlessly switch the two over when it realises you're walking around without your trusty tracker.
Understand heart rates
If you plumped for a Fitbit Charge HR, then don't let bad readings scupper your training sessions.
Firstly, don't wear it too tight, as the band can effect the blood flow, which can skew the results. However, too loose and the band can move about, which is also not good.
When you get your reading, there are some symbols to look out for.
'Fat burn' is a low level zone where your body starts torching calories. It's a deceptive term though as the cardio and peak bands will inevitably lead to more calories lost in the long run.
'Cardio' is the best zone for increasing cardiovascular fitness, and is the target zone for most workouts.
'Peak' is the limit of your physical activity, and can only be sustained for short bursts. Training in this zone will lift your anaerobic threshold, so your body can work more efficiently in the future, effectively getting you fitter.
Check out our guide to heart rate training for more tips on applying these zones to your workouts.
Make use of Quick View
Fitbit updated both the Charge and Charge HR with Quick View, which lets you flick your wrist to check the display, meaning you don't have to press the button. Head into Settings > Devices to turn Quick View on, but be warned, you may find it draining your battery faster. So by the other hand (geddit?) you may also want to turn it off if you find yourself reaching for the charger a lot more than you'd like.
Set your own heart rate zone
Want to set your own zones for heart rate training? Easy.
Log in to Fitbit.com, and access settings in the top-right corner. Click 'Heart Rate Zones' and choose the min and max heart rate for your desired zone.
Sync your Charge HR to update your tracker with the new settings.
Save the battery
There's no need to have your Fitbit talking to your smartphone all day, every day. It will simply run down the battery.
To prevent this you'll want to make sure that All-Day Sync is switched off.
Simply tap on the Charge tab at the top of the app's homescreen and toggle All-Day Sync to the off position. Easy as that.
Find Fitbit friends via Facebook
Fitbit is a really social platform, but you need some friends to get started. Luckily, you can trawl your Facebook friends to find people who also use Fitbit to compete against.
In the Friends tab in the Fitbit app press the "+" followed by Connect Facebook. You can then choose who to add, and who to leave safely muted in Facebook where they belong.
Get motivated with Challenges
It's all well and good smashing your steps goal every day, but in order to stay motivated, you need a bit of competition. That's where Fitbit's Challenges come in.
You'll find a Challenges button at the bottom of the app and there are usually five or six different options available with scenarios such as 'who can get the most steps today', or 'who can get the most steps over the weekend' on offer.
Up to 10 people can take part in each challenge with participants able to invite friends and colleagues to join in.
Customise the OLED display
Within the Fitbit app it's possible to change the order of the homescreens on your Charge.
Simply tap your Charge device from the app's dashboard and select Customize Display. You'll then get a screen where you can turn on or off details for Clock, Steps, Distance, Calories and Floors.
You can also change the order that these appear on your Charge's OLED screen; putting the metric you consider the most important up front.
Choose a funky watch face
From within the Charge's and Charge HR's settings menu you can also select the Clock Face option and choose between the different designs that are on offer – or turn off the clock altogether. Thanks to a later update, there are now more options to choose from.
Set up the correct time
There might be a few of you having problems with the Charge and Charge HR showing up the incorrect time. It's pretty easy to fix if you're having timing issues, but it can vary depending on what phone you're using. Fitbit has a pretty good breakdown for iPhone, Android and Windows users here.
The easiest thing to do is to head to the Fitbit.com dashboard from a computer. Once logged in, click Settings and look for the modify timezone option in your personal info page. Change the time zone to the correct one, then sync your tracker and it should be updated.
Push yourself to climb stairs
We've already told you that it makes sense to move metrics that mean more to you to the front of the queue but a sure way to get fit is to select Floors Climbed as the Main Goal – especially if you're finding it easier and easier to reach your step targets.
Your Charge detects floors climbed using its altimeter, which is a sensor that calculates altitude based on atmospheric pressure. Stair climbing is a calorie-blasting cardio exercise that can be an integral part of a fit and healthy lifestyle. It is said that stair climbing burns more calories than both jogging and cycling.
Putting Floors Climbed as your Main Goal will incentivise you to skip the elevator more often and should see a quick and easy improvement in your fitness.
Lose weight with Fitbit
This one has nothing to with the Charge device itself and is more concerned with the overall Fitbit ecosystem.
If one of your main reasons for buying a new fitness tracker was to lose weight then it's obviously important that you keep an eye on what you eat as well. The Fitbit app allows you to keep track of what you've eaten by logging your meals and snacks using its built-in food database. You can now localise that food database as well, with the UK version now available.
A better idea is to tap into our calorie counting app favourite MyFitnessPal, which has a considerably bigger food database when you compare it to Fitbit. Simply set up a MyFitnessPal account and link it to your Fitbit one in the web portal's settings.
If you're super serious about weight loss it might also be worth investing in the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scales. That way, your weight and BMI are automatically tracked and synced within the Fitbit app.
How to reset Fitbit Charge HR and Charge
If all fails with your Fitbit and it crashes, or won't sync, don't panic. You can hard reset it at any time, which should sort the problem.
Should you choose to reset, all of your stored data, including the data not yet synced to your Fitbit app, will be deleted. These also include alarms and notifications. You'll need to set up your fitness tracker like you did when you first bought it.
To reset your Fitbit Charge or Charge HR, plug it into the charger and connect it to a working USB charging port. That could be on your computer or laptop.
Hold the button on the tracker for two seconds. Continue holding the button but now remove the charging cable. You should hold for an additional 7-9 seconds. Release the button and then immediately press it again.
You should see a couple of screens, the first flashes up the word ALT and then a white screen. Press the button after the white screen and you'll see the word VIBE. The tracker should vibrate. Press the button again and that'll take you to the Error screen. Let go of the button and turn it back on by pressing the button. You'll know the reset is successful if you see 0:00 on the display.
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