After spending the better part of two years breaking into the smartwatch space, Fitbit went back to basics with its latest release, the $150 Charge 3. After wearing the device for roughly a week, it’s clear that the new activity tracker is the best product the company has released in years.
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The Charge line’s popularity lies in its basic functionality. The trackers aren’t bogged down by a smartwatch’s bells and whistles, making the simpler devices longer lasting, easier to use, and more appealing to people who just want a fitness companion without the flash.
The Charge 3’s design didn’t change much from the best-selling Charge 2, but all of the major elements received noticeable upgrades. The touchscreen is larger by 40 percent, with a brighter, more responsive layout. Input problems I’ve had with older, more finicky Fitbit devices weren’t present, meaning it was friendlier to my large fingers.
Fitbit’s biggest design move was replacing the Charge 2’s awkward, protruding button with an inductive control feature. This was a fantastic shift for both form and function — the sleek, slim profile of the tracker is no longer broken up by a hunk of metal, and my wrist is no longer at risk of the painful button pokes that come while doing wrist-bending exercises like pushups or bench press.
The tracker feels light, too, but not overly tiny. I don’t stress that I’m forgoing a watch to waste my valuable wrist real estate on such a small device, which has been an issue when I’ve worn more compact trackers in the past.
Working Out, Sleeping In
The wearable connects to the same Fitbit app used for all other devices, so you’ll get the now-familiar continuous heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking, and sleep logging features. There’s nothing particularly flashy, but the data is easily quantified and understood within the app, while customizable clock faces allow you to select which stats you can see on the device’s home screen.
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The Charge 3 is now waterproof up to 50 meters. I didn’t have a chance to test it out in the pool, but the tracker survived multiple showers unscathed. I did log a run and several weightlifting workouts, and found that the tracking functionality was easy to control on the device.
Fitbit added the SpO2 monitor (which is used for tracking blood oxygen level) to the Charge 3. The sensor expands the sleep tracking capabilities of the device, giving wearers added insights like how much time they spent in the REM stage during a night’s rest. This can be an invaluable tool for anyone looking to hack their sleep — and a feature you won’t find from competitors with devices that cost twice as much.
It’s Called Charge for a Reason
The Charge 3’s name is no misnomer. Fitbit claims the device can last for up to a week per power-up. My testing saw battery life beyond even that lofty estimate. After nearly a week of wear, the Charge 3 still had 35 percent power. I haven’t used the phone-connected GPS feature to track a run, so high volume users may get less juice out of the device.
Great for What You’re Getting
In terms of drawbacks, smartphone notifications are hit or miss at times, and text messages I get on my phone don’t always make it to my wrist. The overall focus of the device is still heavily reliant on achieving simple goals like step count, which could be frustrating for more advanced exercisers who have evolved beyond the constant march to 10,000 paces.
For most people, though, that’s exactly what they want from their fitness tracker. The Charge 3 is solid and dependable for those who walk, run, swim, and lift to stay healthy — not necessarily competitors looking for a performance edge. If all you need is a reliable, powerful fitness monitor, this is the wearable for you.