Fitbit Charge review

We reveal whether you should buy now or wait for the Fitbit Charge HR

Fitbit recently presented to the world its newest pair of new fitness trackers: the Fitbit Charge and its bigger brother, the Fitbit Charge HR.

The new activity bands are a natural upgrade to the Fitbit Flex, and it's the non-heart rate sensing version that we're running the rule over in this review.

Essential reading: Fitbit Charge 2 | Fitbit Flex 2

Take a look how we got on….

Fitbit Charge: Design and build

Fitbit Charge review

“Use the Force" is a much overdone phrase at the moment with the new Star Wars trailer getting everyone all Jedi-hyped but it seems Fitbit took the advice of Obi-Wan literally by taking the recalled Fitbit Force, adding a new band and a couple of extra features, and presenting it as the all new Fitbit Charge.

In fact, when you pair the Charge with an Android device, Google's OS recognises it as 'Force' leading us to believe Fitbit had a few spare hardware modules it needed to use up.

In case you're unfamiliar with the troubled tale of the Force, allow us to get you up to speed: it was discontinued earlier this year after it was found to cause a nasty skin irritation for some users.

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But don't worry as there's no danger of catching scurvy or having your arm fall off with the Fitbit Charge, as it comes wrapped in a flexible, durable elastomer material similar to that used in many sports watches. We've had ours on for a week or so and our wrist, we're happy to report, is scab free.

The new strap is textured as opposed to the matte finish of the Force but apart from that it is near identical. That's not a bad thing as the Force and, as such, the Charge is a nice looking tracker ‚Äď albeit one with a bit more heft than the likes of the Fitbit Flex, the Garmin Vivosmart and the Jawbone UP3 ‚Äď as it's 21mm wide.

But it's comfy to wear (coming in two sizes) and is hardly heavy at under 23g.

Fitbit Charge: Display and notifications

The big step up from the Flex is the inclusion of a small, monochrome, OLED display ‚Äď again, sounding like a broken record, the same one we saw on the Force.

It's clear enough and hold up fairly well under bright lights but it does look a tad plastic and, dare we say it, cheap if you look at it up closely.

The Fitbit Charge OLED display doesn't extend to smartwatch notifications as per the upcoming Fitbit Surge; its only smartphone syncing skill is caller ID for incoming calls.

It's kind of handy, we suppose, for having a quick glance of who's trying to reach you but it's hardly a notable inclusion ‚Äď surely Fitbit could have thrown in (at least) basic notifications like texts and emails without hiking the ¬£99.99 / $129.95 price up too much.

The display is great for giving you an overview of your activity though ‚Äď you wake it up by either tapping (firmly, we must say) the area below it or by pushing the button on the side.

For each press of the button you're presented a new screen giving you a breakdown of your daily activities, which we'll touch on, in more detail next.

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Within the app, you can play around with what's on show with the display ‚Äď changing things like the clock type and the order of the displays.

There's no setting for a watch mode, where the time would stay on all the time, or an option to have the time appear when you flick your wrist upwards ‚Äď a la Android Wear ‚Äď which is a shame as it makes telling the time on the Charge quite a laborious affair.

Fitbit Charge: Activity tracking

Fitbit Charge review

The Fitbit charge tracks regular activities like steps, distance travelled, calories burned, floors climbed and very active minutes. There's also sleep monitoring and the sleep tracking kicks in automatically (unlike the Flex which required a manual sleep command) and there's a vibration-based silent alarm on offer too.

The OLED display will give you your stats in real-time, as discussed and within the app you can change things like your target goals and the metrics than are most important to you.

The Fitbit Charge devices sync to your smartphone app using Bluetooth 4.0, or your PC or Mac using a wireless dongle that comes in the box. We didn't have any bother syncing our Charge to either our phone or our Mac.

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The app is available on Windows Phone, iOS and Android and the data will also sync with the info from your Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Scale, and brings in your data from your old Fitbit device.

Both Charge bands tracks 7 days of detailed motion data ‚Äď minute by minute ‚Äď and keep daily totals for the past 30 days. We tested the Charge alongside its older brother the Flex, with distances and steps pretty much on a par. Like any fitness tracker that bases its calculations on an accelerometer and an algorithm, the recordings are intended as a guide rather than an exact science.

Unlike the forthcoming Jawbone UP3, activities and individual sports aren't detected by the band itself, so you'll need to go into the app and manually assign sports to your active minutes.

There's no GPS on board the Charge, as per the Microsoft Band ‚Äď and, as you probably guessed, there's no heart rate monitoring either as that's what the HR in Charge HR stands for.

Fitbit Charge: The app

Fitbit Charge review

The first thing you'll do is sync your new Charge to the Fitbit app ‚Äď the same app you'll already be using for any other Fitbit device. Any other Fitbit device you'll have to forget, that is ‚Äď the app can't handle more than one tracker at a time and you'll have to delete your existing Flex, for example, before you can pair your Charge.

That seems a bit daft as wearables, especially ones that attempt to be fashion conscious like Fitbit's, are surely meant to be chop-and-changeable. It seems a bit restrictive to only be allowed to use one at a time.

Smartwatch showdown: Apple Watch v Fitbit Surge

The Fitbit app lets you see progress, record workouts, share and compete with your friends, log your food intake and earn badges based on your activity achievements.

There's nothing new here for Fitbit users to get excited about and, although it's a decent enough app, it would have been nice to see some extra features added for the new device.

Fitbit Charge: Battery life

You charge the Fitbit using a magnetic clasp that's on the end of a Micro USB cable. Yep, another cable for your collection.

Charging is done within a couple of hours and you can then expect a life cycle of around five to seven days.

Fitbit Charge fitness tracker
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The Fitbit Charge is 1ATM water-resistant, meaning you'll be alright in the shower but don't wear it in the bath or a pool. That does, of course, put it at a disadvantage to the cheaper Misfit Flash when it comes to tracking activity in the water.

Fitbit Charge
By Fitbit
The Fitbit Charge is a decent fitness tracker in its own right but feels somewhat confused with the Fitbit family. You get the impression that, if the skin irritation problems hadn‚Äôt occurred with the Force, we‚Äôd simply be waiting for the flagship Charge HR to land with no regular Charge on the menu. The timing is just a little off and its price-tag doesn‚Äôt really do anything to set it apart from the mid-level Fitbit Flex. And with 24/7 heart rate monitoring on offer with the Charge HR for just ¬£20 / $20 extra early next year ‚Äď our advice would be to wait for Fitbit‚Äôs top dog to arrive.

  • OLED display great for quick stats
  • Great Fitbit ecosystem
  • Decent battery life
  • Sub ¬£100 price-tag
  • No heart rate monitoring
  • Not waterproof
  • Another charging cable
  • Limited notifications

What do you think?

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  • Trish007·

    Can you sync the app My Fitnesspal with the Fitbit charge???  Thanks

    • Anomoly·

      The fitbit app can sync with other third party apps including myfitnesspal so the answer is yes, you may have to sync the two accounts on your computer. 

    • Realitywoman·

      BEWARE - DO NOT IGNORE THE SEPERATION OF YOUR BAND. Mine started a couple of months after it was given to me as a gift. I just pushed the separation back in and then I noticed the other side was doing the same thing. My year ended (I didn't know) a couple of months ago. Nothing that customer service can do for me. They did offer 25% off but I can't afford $149 for another Fitbit Charge-it was a gift. Plus, if this is an on-going issue as so many people have stated they should guarantee it for longer than a year. Truly a defect in the product. My Fitbit (tracker/computer) works perfectly except for the band falling apart. My fault because I didn't realize that it would split on all four sides and pull away from the tracker.
      I will go to social media to let everyone know to make sure that they contact Fitbit before a year. Who would have thought that something this expensive would fail after one year.
      So disappointed and will not buy another Fitbit; if I have to replace it every year. :-(

  • rossloeb·

    The Fitbit Charge is 1ATM water-resistant, meaning you‚Äėll be alright in the shower but don‚Äôt wear it in the bath or a pool.

    Unless your bath or pool is over 34 feet deep, you should be fine.  (1 ATM = 33.9 feet of water)

    • Goobz123jesus·

      No you are wrong

      10 Meters33 Feet1 ATMA watch with this resistance level is protected against accidental exposure to water; for example, splashes, perspiration or accidental immersion. It should not be exposed to any water pressure

    • Goobz123jesus·

      No you are wrong :

      10 Meters33 Feet1 ATMA watch with this resistance level is protected against accidental exposure to water; for example, splashes, perspiration or accidental immersion. It should not be exposed to any water pressure

  • kgwinn24·

    I have had my Fitbit Charge for 4 days and love it. However, it was low battery yesterday and is back to medium battery 24 hours later. I know I have been using it constantly getting to know it and exploring all of its features, but does this sound normal to anyone else? I'm not sure what they mean by "normal use" when they talk about battery life. Thanks!! 

  • Freddie8·

    I have just got a fitbit charge and have set it up with my samsung phone, i am finding that it is counting steps and floors traveled when i am driving in the car and it is coming up with totally rediculous hours of sleep. Any one else experiencing similar problems?

    • Andrea2639·

      my sleep is way off. Last night I had my charge off  my wrist and it's saying I burned 2000 calories. Anyone have this problem?

      • noname·

        The calorie count is including your Basel Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is the amount of energy you need require to live (eg. breathing).  This is based on height and body weight.  

    • skye·

      I have the same problem with the steps/floors and driving in the first I thought maybe I was moving my arms a lot, simulating "walking", but that wasn't the case. If anyone has advice on this (what I assume is Charge sensitivity and bumpy road) issue would be great to hear!

  • Whitetiger·

    Double snap, to secure Fitbit to wrist, does not work very well. Received Charge as a gift over holidays and both snaps become undone during shirt or coat removal a number of times? Pure luck did not loss it then. Officially lost device today. If you have a Fitbit with a double snap you may want to add an additional means to secure the wrist band. ( ie Velcro strap or band guide loops).

  • SuzyQ11·

    I just got my fit bit charge.  I need help getting it to track my sleep??  I had read somewhere before I got it you could tap the charge itself twice and it would know you were going to sleep. Can that be done?  I just want to get it to tracking my sleep.  I told the app on my phone I was sleeping and when I woke up.  But it did not track my sleep.  Does it have to have bluetooth on at night to track it?  I would think not but I don't know?? Help!!  and Thanks!!

  • h0ts0ht·

    Had it two weeks and really enjoyed it got me moving more however gutted today went for a hour and half walk hit 10,000 steps logged onto computer log my meals and for the 1st  time imputed walk under activity as  i have done before but on my bike and wham looked at my steps and i was back to 7,400 lost 4,000 steps  Damm 

  • h0ts0ht·

    Delete the activity got my steps back yes

  • egdita34·

    could someone advise. Fitbit charge or vivosmart?

  • egdita34·

    vivosmart or fitbit charge?

  • leighnanderson·

    My dog chewed my fitbit charge band and I cannot figure out where to buy a new band. The only bands I can find are for the flex fit bits.

  • Cooper·

    has anyone had problems with the fitbit charge, not holding up? I've had to super glue the clasp and now the button on the side has fallen out, I have to sync on my phone to check my status.

    • DMarie60·

      The back pulled of my Fitbit Charge, which I got for Christmas, 2014. We super glued it back on and that worked for a while. Then the battery life went from 7 days to 3, then to 1 and now it fell apart again. Very disappointed because I really like the product.

      • phoenix·

        Something like this happened to me, too. I contacted Fitbit with a photo and they sent me a replacement free of charge. They have awesome customer service. And no, I don't work for them in any fashion

  • Hill·

    is fit bit better then the I watch for work out? Is it more accurate 

  • munsonancy·

    I have been wearing my Fitbit Charge since November. I take it off every night before my shower and put it back afterwards. Last week I started getting a small rash under the band. With in a few days I had a large burn like area under the band. I contacted Fitbit and told them what had happened and their reply was for me to follow the care instructions on their web site. And then they said I hope this helps. I still have a a large scab where the unit had been on my arm.

  • blahlblah·

    The latest firmware upgrade to the fitbit enables the "wrist flick" feature which causes the device to automatically display the time without having to touch the device.

    However, I believe this feature drains the battery quite a bit...  I wish there were a way to turn it off actually.  It is a cool novelty to have to show people, but I'd rather have battery life...

  • jeffco·

    This watch is no good  its a fad people will get weary of it. It is ridiculous how expensive it is for being so cheaply made. It doesn't display the time. its easier to use a pedometer for a fraction of the cost of this gadget. You better have a lot time on your hand to constantly go on the computer to check your progress. Hate this product.

  • Wenda·

    Like my FitBit charge only problem is it won't stay on my arm, I've found it many places in my house and I haven't felt it drop off. Afraid to wear it and loose it....too expensive to loose. Left it in a drawer so what good is it if I can't use it without loosing it. Wish I had bought an inexpensive pedometer. Wasted money!!!!!

  • Marsya·

    Got mine as a gift from my daughter Jan 6, 2016. It was ok for a few days and only needed to be charged every 2 days. But a week later, it became daily charging then 2x daily. Now the battery is dead. She bought it in Sydney where she is based and I am based in Los Angeles. So it didn't even last 2 months :(  VERY FRUSTRATING :(

  • antonioytal·

    Compr√© hace 4 meses mi Charge HR y estoy muy desilusionado y frustrado con mi compra. Pagu√© 150‚ā¨ por un dispositivo con el que he tenido estos problemas:

    1) el sensor de pulsaciones no es fiable para nada, comparado con mi aparato de pulso convencional con banda de pecho las diferencias son grandes, sobre todo con pulsos altos, el aparato no funciona nada bien en este aspecto, adem√°s solamente lee el pulso si est√° situado en una posici√≥n muy precisa de la mu√Īeca.

    2) el material con el que est√° construida la parte del visor es muy d√©bil, se ha rallado muy f√°cilmente con una rama de √°rbol en una de mis excursiones y no puedo ya llevarlo siempre conmigo por temor a estropearlo m√°s. El visor tiene buen contraste, pero los caracteres son peque√Īos y su lectura inc√≥moda.

    3) El contador de pisos que subes es desconcertante. Hay días que subo más de 300 sin razón aparente. No es fiable.

    3) No resiste el agua, tengo que quitármelo para ducharme incluso, esto es muy incómodo.

    4) la batería no dura 5 días nunca, bajo ninguna circunstancia, esto es una mentira manifiesta, como mucho 2 días con el bluethoot puesto.

    5) La parte de la pulsera de goma que est√° en contacto con el visor se est√° despegando descaradamente, poco a poco y sin remedio.

    6) la aplicación básica gratuita es demasiado básica así que, si quieres aprovechar esta facilidad, te obligan al pago por el uso de la aplicación, y es muy cara.

    7) El cable y conector de carga es específico, por lo que solamente podrás cargarlo donde lo hayas dejado.

    En conclusión un desastre. Hay dispositivos de origen oriental por mucho menos dinero de lo que pagué por este, que cumplen mejor con sus funciones. Les queda mucho recorrido y trabajo para mejorar este defectuoso e incompleto producto.

    Desaconsejo la compra de este in√ļtil y mal construido aparato.

  • lilcasino510·

    Got mine a few days ago.  Battery lasted two and half days.  Disabled all power hungry features and let battery die before recharging fully as instructed by Fitbit forums and battery lasted one day.  Very disappointing when advertised as lasting up to seven days.  Promptly returned.

  • JDonk·

    Avoid fitbit! I bought a fitbit charge for my wife at dick smith. The first one did not work straight out of the box, would not charge at all. Dick smith replaced immediately, same day as purchase. A few months later the new one stopped charging. Again, Dick Smith replaced with a brand new item. Now, 9 months later, this 3rd fitbit charge will not charge, the battery will not charge.

    Subsequently, Dick Smith has closed down in my area so I can not return for a refund.

    I contacted Fitbit, who are saying the original purchase is out of warranty but they will replace with the same model, but will not refund. They don't have enough faith in their own product to give a warranty on the brand new replacement fitbit charge thats only 9 months old!! I asked if the replacement they are willing to send will have a warranty but they didi not reply.

    They also will not allow me to pay the difference to upgrade to a better model!!

    Well, if you ask me thats pretty poor, they should write a book on how to lose customers because thats what they've done in this situation. Not only me but everyone I know I tell how bad the product is and the lack of faith they have in their product. I strongly recommend buying a more reputable brand.

    Fitbit is a waste of money and you will more than likely be disappointed.

  • Wander·

    bought the fit bit charge and 1 month short of a year it wouldn't charge. They they replaced it and less than a year later same thing plus the band that runs around the charge was breaking off. This is not worth the price if it had to be replaced every year. All the reviews say the same thing 

  • Desmith·

    I have a Fitbit Charge, and the battery lasts only one day.  Suggestions??