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Fitbit Charge 3 review: Comfortable activity tracker backed by a powerful fitness platform

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Written by Matthew Miller on
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9.4

Fitbit Charge 3

Spectacular
$200.00 at Amazon $276.00 at Walmart.com
Like
  • Lightweight and comfortable for 24 hour wear
  • Long battery life
  • Detailed sleep and heart rate data
  • Fitbit ecosystem well supported
Don't Like
  • Limited apps at the time of release
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

The Apple Watch Series 4 has dominated the wearable news wires for the past few weeks, but according to Fitbit's research 42 percent of adults planning to purchase a wearable are looking for an activity tracker, compared to 36 percent looking for a smartwatch. The new Fitbit Charge 3 is clearly aimed at this segment of the wearable market and does everything you want from a tracker.

After testing many wearables over the years I have learned that getting the core experience right and having a battery that lets you get through at least a weekend are keys to satisfaction. The Fitbit Charge 3 provides the key essentials, has a week long battery life, and seems to just disappear while mounted on your wrist.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.57 inch grayscale touchscreen OLED
  • Materials: Glass and aluminum body with durable material band and an aluminum buckle
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (special edition only)
  • Water resistance: Up to 50 meters and sweat, rain, and splash proof
  • Sensors: 3-axis accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, vibration motor, relative SpO2 sensor
  • Battery life: Up to seven days
  • Dimensions: 28.8 mm long by 11.8 mm wide by 2.47 mm thick with a weight of just 30 grams

Hardware

While I use a smartwatch or a GPS sports watch all the time, it has been a bit refreshing to use the Fitbit Charge 3. I started using activity tracking bands years ago and their functionality and capability has come a long ways since then. Honestly, there hasn't been a ton I've been missing with the Fitbit Charge 3 on my wrist instead of a smartwatch.

The Charge 3 itself is an attractive piece of aluminum and glass with a grayscale OLED touchscreen display. At first I was confused since there is no button on the Charge 3 and in its place is a notch cut out of the left side that indicates where you should touch and activate the capacitive button.

While the capacitive button is unique, having it on the left side is awkward. Most smart watches have buttons on the right side which makes sense when you wear the device on your left wrist and reach over to manipulate it. It's a bit difficult to reach over with your index finger or under with your thumb to hit this area on the Charge 3 when mounting on your left wrist.

The Charge 3 retail package comes with small and large rubber flexible bands. The outside of the band has a cool pattern shape and easily clips off and on the Charge 3 body. The band has an aluminum clasp too. The included band is very comfortable and well built.

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Fitbit also has Horween leather, sport, and woven band options. I tested out the midnight blue leather ($49.95) and charcoal woven ($34.95) bands. Both look and feel great on the wrist and are very well made. Neither is made for high-intensity workouts and do not have the same level of water resistance seen in the Charge 3 itself.

A USB-A cable with a clasp end that secures to the Fitbit Charge 3 is included in the retail package.

The amount of data captured by the Fitbit Charge 3 and the Fitbit ecosystem is a major reason something like the Charge 3 could meet most my daily needs.

Charge 3 vs Charge 2

While the Charge 3 may at first look much like the Charge 2, there are some key differences even though the Charge 3 launches at the same launch price as the Charge 2.

In the Charge 3, you will find a 40 percent larger touchscreen display, seven day battery life up from five, and a change of a button to a capacitive touch area that helped Fitbit increase the water resistance of this activity tracker.

Fitbit Charge 3 review: in pictures

Charge 3 band software

After charging up and connecting your Fitbit Charge 3 to your Android or iOS device, the first screen that appears when you rotate your wrist is the watch face. There are currently five clock faces to choose from in the Fitbit app gallery.

Swipe down from the clock face to view notifications and swipe up from the bottom from the face to see the on-device dashboard where you can continue swiping up to see all of the items on your dashboard. Swipe from right to left to access the apps you have installed on your Charge 3.

Current available apps include timers, settings, alarms, exercise, relax, and weather. The Charge 3 doesn't run the version of Fitbit OS we see on the Versa and Ionic, but there is a basic app store so we might see some additional apps in the future.

Quickly press in on the left inductive button to go back one display. Press and hold on this button to select to toggle the quick view screen on or off and turn off or on notifications.

You can also tap to select and interact with the different apps and settings on the Charge 3. It is all very quick and easy.

PC/Mac Software

While you can use the Fitbit website to view your data, the richer experience is present in the actual Fitbit app found on both Windows and Apple computers. Like the smartphone app, the Fitbit PC app launches with the dashboard. You can customize what appears on the dashboard and this is reflected down to the Charge 3.

Other tabs in the PC software include challenges, guidance, community, and notifications. You can also access your Fitbit ecosystem settings for your Charge 3 and other connected gear. Clicking on various elements on the dashboard will also show you more details and then you can even dive down a few more layers to see all of the details of your collected data. There is a rather stunning amount of data available in the Fitbit software, collected by the Charge 3.

Smartphone Software

There are iOS and Android apps for Fitbit. The Fitbit app essentially mirrors what we see in the desktop software with a slightly different user interface.

In addition, you can setup your smartphone notifications for the Charge 3. Options include calls, text messages, calendar events, email and app notifications. On Android, you have full control over which apps have notifications appear on the Fitbit Charge 3. The notifications are very basic and just provide you with the information in a few lines.

An update later this fall will add support for Android quick replies right from the Charge 3.

Pricing and competition

You can purchase the Fitbit Charge 3 on Sunday, 7 October, for $149.95. You can buy one in black/graphite aluminum and blue gray/rose gold aluminum. Each pack includes small and large standard bands.

Special Edition versions, support Fitbit Pay and have NFC, will be available in November for $169.95. These will be available in lavender woven/rose gold aluminum and frost white sport/graphite aluminum. These Special Edition models also come with extra small and large black bands so the extra $20 gets you wireless payment support and more bands.

Additional bands can be pre-ordered in a variety of colors from $29.95 for the sport bands up to $49.95 for the Horween leather bands.

Garmin's Vivosmart 4 is available for $129.99 and offers much of what we see here in the Fitbit Charge 3 so these two bands will be going head-to-head. Garmin also has advanced sleep tracking, HRV support, and a Pulse Ox2 sensor.

Conclusions

One of the strengths of Fitbit products is the community where friends, family, coworkers, and others challenge you to do your best and achieve your goals. There are plenty of challenges available for your friends and family, as well as community feeds to interact with others through the Fitbit ecosystem.

There is no GPS integrated into the Fitbit Charge 3, but it supports connected GPS so it uses the GPS receiver on your phone to connect and track your exercises with GPS. I tested the Fitbit Charge 3 with my Note 9 and it worked very well, consistently tracking my exercise with key information shown on the display.

One of the major strengths of the Fitbit Charge 3 with its PurePulse heart rate tech is the advanced sleep tracking. With something as light and comfortable as the Charge 3, it is easy to sleep with. The Fitbit Charge 3 has a relative SpO2 sensor that will eventually be enabled and may help track health issues, such as sleep apnea.

The Fitbit Charge 3 does a great job of tracking your daily activity and sleep with the ability to also track exercises with some basic information shown to you as you use it. It is very comfortable and can be worn for days between charging.

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