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Smartwatches need to be charged at least every other day and millions don't want another device loaded with third-party apps and constant distractions on their wrist. The new Fitbit Charge 6 offers a powerful wearable in a sleek form factor with a battery life that only requires a top-up once a week.
With Google's ownership of Fitbit, I continue to see more Google integration. This year, the Charge 6 includes support for playback controls of Google Music, Google Maps prompts on the tracker, and Google Wallet payment support. These features are provided in addition to all of the useful Fitbit functions that include detailed sleep tracking, EDA scans, Daily Readiness score, ECG measurements, step tracking, and an integrated GPS receiver for detailed outdoor tracking.
For the past few weeks, I have been wearing a silver aluminum Fitbit Charge 6 with a porcelain band. It is also available in obsidian/black aluminum and coral/champagne gold aluminum for $159.95.
Looking at the hardware, Fitbit provides a lovely 26 x 21.8 mm AMOLED touchscreen color display. It is made with Corning Gorilla Glass, which looks superb and responds flawlessly to swipes and taps. The aluminum case surrounds the display and extends to the back heart rate sensor with nice curves and appealing aesthetics. The tracker is water resistant to 50m, so you can wear it 24/7 without worry.
The heart rate sensor on the back has greatly improved. Fitbit states that it is 60% more accurate during vigorous activities when compared to past Fitbit devices. The sensor also supports ECG and EDA measurements to help detect heart rate irregularities and monitor stress.
The Fitbit Charge 6 also supports sharing your heart rate readings with some supported gym equipment, including treadmills, rowing machines, and bikes. Check out this Fitbit support site to see if your equipment is supported by this functionality. While the Fitbit Charge 6 is not listed on the official list, I tested it with my Hydrow rowing machine, and it connected in seconds. With the improved accuracy during activities with lots of movement, this is a nice capability to have if you don't own an HR chest strap.
On the left side of the Charge 6, there's a haptic button. With this model, there is a designated target area to help you improve your accuracy of hitting it, and it is better than no button that we saw on the Charge 5. I'm still more of a fan of a physical button, but I understand for construction and water resistance that it is preferred to use a haptic button.
An infinity silicone band comes with the Fitbit Charge 6, but there are plenty of other options, including sport bands, Horween leather bands, woven bands, hook/loop bands, and vegan leather bands ranging from $29.95 to $49.95. Bands from the Charge 5 continue to work on the Charge 6, so if you are looking to upgrade after a couple of years, then the Charge 6 is definitely worth consideration.
The software on the watch is easy to navigate with swipes and taps providing access to key data and utilities. Google Maps works in combination with the app on your connected phone so that turns and other key information is presented on the Charge 6 while your phone remains in your pack. YouTube Music playback controls are supported for YouTube Premium subscribers, so you can store your phone away while exercising and still have control of your music.
Google Wallet works to support payments right from your wrist, but entering the PIN by scrolling up and down one digit at a time is a bit of a pain. Some work on making this easier is definitely needed, or I will never use Google Wallet on the device.
Unlike a smartwatch and some past Fitbit devices, there are no third party apps available for the Charge 6. Key Google, Fitbit, and basic clock utilities are provided on the watch and in the Fitbit app, so you can manage whether or not the apps appear on the Charge 6 as you navigate around the tracker. There are nearly 30 watch faces to choose from that you can customize to your preferences.
The Charge 6 has an integrated GPS receiver, so you can run, walk, hike, and exercise outside without your phone. I tested this out for running and walking with an Apple Watch Ultra 2 on my other wrist and was very pleased with the accuracy of the GPS on the Charge 6. The Charge 6 has support for GPS and GLONASS, while other watches typically support at least five global navigation satellite systems, so it will never be as accurate as dedicated GPS sports watches in challenging environments.
Google provides six months of the Fitbit Premium service for free with a Charge 6 purchase. Fitbit Premium is required for the Daily Readiness Score and other advanced features in the Fitbit application.
Compared to the Charge 5, I am very pleased to see the return of the floors climbed metric, improved heart rate sensor performance, side haptic button, and the Google goodies (Wallet, Maps, and YouTube Music). It is also $20 less than the launch price of the Charge 5. The Fitbit Charge 6 is much better to sleep with than my larger smartwatches. Using the Charge 6 definitely has me considering if I really need a full-size watch mounted on my wrist all the time.
ZDNET's buying advice
While smartwatches are popular and often heavily promoted, having another device on your body that needs your attention may not be best for you and your mental health.
Google offers the Fitbit Charge 6 as a device that captures key health and wellness data in a comfortable form factor while minimizing the distractions of third-party apps and constant notifications. It is very comfortable to sleep with on your wrist and the data captured can be used to improve your health and lifestyle.