I was going to stick with Jawbone as my tracking ecosystem since its mobile applications are well designed and work across iOS and Android. However, three generations of UP bands have failed on me so far and I can't accept that lack of reliability.
CNET Review: An improved band, but lacking heart rate
When the Fitbit Charge arrived I listed some features side-by-side and saw that these new bands (Fitbit Charge, Charge HR, and Surge) beat the UP24 with a small display, auto sleep detection, stair/elevation tracking, desktop access to data, and Windows Phone support. These may not be important to you, but they are to me. In addition, my Fitbit One has been through the washer and dryer three times and continues to work today.
Thus, I am now all in with Fitbit and just have to decide which of these three new products I will be picking up for myself. I will soon be taking a look at the Fitbit Charge HR and Surge, but for now I have the Charge to discuss.
The Fitbit Charge is available now for $129.95 in black, slate, blue, and burgundy in sizes small, large, and extra large. If you visit AT&T online or at a retail location from now until 19 February you can save 15 percent, that's just over $19, on a black version by using promo code FITBIT15.
The retail package comes with the Charge activity tracker, wireless USB sync dongle for your PC, and proprietary charging cable. It's great to have the ability to sync your Fitbit Charge directly to your PC or Mac if you don't have a smartphone. I often get reader questions asking if there is such a fitness tracker that does not require a smartphone and the good news is that Fitbit provides this functionality.
The cable is unlike any connection I have seen before and pushes directly into the back of the Fitbit Charge when it is off of your wrist. Fitbit states the battery last 7-10 days and my experiences closely match this advertised performance for the last three weeks.
The Fitbit Charge is part of the band and cannot be removed. A small OLED display is present with a single action button on one side. The band is secured flat against your wrist with two metal prongs pressing into the silicone notches. It is extremely comfortable and after a couple of days I forgot I was even wearing a tracker every day.
Fitbit had one band last year, the Force, that caused some skin rash issues with folks. I don't think this will happen here since the charging connectors are recessed up into the unit and do not touch the skin. I was never bothered by the Charge in my testing period and kept it on at all times, except when showering.
The Fitbit Charge has some water resistance, but you should not shower or swim with it. If it gets wet from sweat or rain, you should dry it off as well.
The Fitbit Charge has a Bluetooth 4.0 radio to wirelessly connect to your iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device. The internal memory will store up to seven days of detailed data. Sensors include a 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, and vibration motor. A small OLED display is present so you can check the time, incoming calls, and stats without looking at your computer or smartphone.
You can customize what appears on the Charge OLED display, to include the time/date, steps, floors, distance covered, calories burned, and next alarm. You can also tap on the Fitbit Charge to show one piece of information. Options include turning off the tap gesture or viewing the clock, steps, distance, calories, and floors.
Sleep tracking is especially useful since Fitbit tracks this automatically. Most other fitness trackers, and earlier Fitbits, required you to remember to switch to sleep mode. I found that the Fitbit Charge did an excellent job at determining when I fell asleep and when I woke up with actual times off by just a couple of minutes. I don't spend a lot of time lying around at night watching TV so am not sure if it would pick up that lazy time as sleeping.
Within the smartphone or desktop app, you can see many more details for the data that is captured by the Fitbit Charge. You can view historical charts and stats for all of your data. Details on your sleep time are visible, includiong deep and light sleep, how quick you took to fall asleep, and how many times you woke up.
You can set different alarms to have your Fitbit vibrate to wake you up. My wife loves this function as it lets me have the band wake me up without my loud phone alarm sending us both into panic mode.
Exercise time can be tracked through the use of timed activities or by connecting third party apps to Fitbit. I use RunKeeper and have this service connected to my Fitbit account.
Food tracking is also available so you can easily add in and track what you consume. Options for entering food via voice, barcode scanning, and manual searching are present. This takes some time to do, but Fitbit makes it as painless as possible and if you are serious about weight loss this is helpful to track.
I use the water consumption feature daily and love how easy Fitbit makes it to tap on the water stat, tap to add water consumption, and then tap on the typical water size to add to your stats. It doesn't get any easier and even if you don't track all of your meals, tracking and improving your water intake is important.
The Fitbit also functions as a very basic smartwatch for iOS and Android. You can have it setup to show you incoming caller ID. The Windows Phone app does not currently have this functionality.
I actually found it interesting that the Windows Phone app, that is what most of my screenshots here show, is a bit more functional than what you will find on iOS and Android. On Windows Phone, there is a cool dashboard display that has tiles for you to tap to easily log exercise, log water, scan a food barcode, log food, log sleep manually, and set an alarm.
These are likely the most common functions and on Windows Phone they are brought out and presented in a way to make the Fitbit ecosystem that much more user-friendly. I would love to see this dashboard display on iOS and Android in the future.
BTW, the desktop/web application has a new dashboard view of your data as well. One thing I forgot to mention is the vast network of Fitbit users that help motivate me to do more. It is easy to add and follow friends. With more Fitbit devices and a growing ecosystem, more and more people will appear here to help push you to do better as well. You have full control over what your friends can see about you so don't worry about people seeing your Aria scale data.
The Fitbit Charge is very comfortable, works well with various smartphones, lasts at least a week between charges and does everything I could ask of a daily activity tracker. I highly recommend the Fitbit Charge and if you want to pick one up soon, I encourage you to take advantage of the special AT&T offer of 15 percent off.