Fitbit Charge 3 is priced at Rs 13,990.
The activity tracker is water resistant up to a depth of 50m.
Having a touch-enabled OLED panel, the Charge 3 can go up to a week on a single charge.
So, 2019 is here, and one of your resolutions for the new year is to get into a better shape. You’ve decided to ditch the junk food, gotten yourself a pair of running shoes, and are all pumped up to shed those extra pounds. That’s awesome, but if you’re really going to do it, you may want to get yourself an activity tracker as well!
Considered to be novelty gadgets only until a few years ago, activity trackers (or fitness trackers) have almost become a necessity these days. Granted, it’s true that technology alone can’t do a thing unless you’re willing to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but these wearables definitely help, allowing you to track everything from the quality of your sleep to the number of calories you burn every day.
Fitbit’s been making fitness trackers for quite some years now, and is among the most well-known names in the business when it comes to wearable technology. The company recently launched its flagship Charge 3 in India. Fitbit’s latest activity tracker comes with a lot of new features and improvements, such as a better display, and water resistance. However, considering that you can get a Xiaomi Mi Band 3 for a seventh of the Charge 3’s asking price of Rs 13,990, does all of that even matter? Find out, in my extensive review of Fitbit Charge 3.
Design And Build Quality
Even though its underlying design is largely the same, closer inspection reveals that Charge 3 includes a bunch of subtle enhancements over 2016’s Charge 2 (which I also reviewed). Made from aerospace-grade aluminum, the tracker module is lightweight and durable. It has a horizontally-curved underside, and it’s where you’ll find the optical heart rate sensor (along with a tiny array of pulsating LEDs), as well as the charging contacts that interface with the tracker’s clip-on charger to juice it up. The module features an inductive button on the left, which can be used to wake up the display and go back one step while navigating the tracker’s menu options.
Fitbit Charge 3 comes with a diamond-textured rubberized band (in Small and Large strap sizes), which I found to be quite good during the review run. It’s comfortable enough to be worn over extended periods of time (including when you’re sleeping), and unless fastened too tightly, doesn’t irritate the skin. Detaching the band straps from the tracker is a walk in the park, thanks to the quick-release buttons on the underside. In case you don’t like the standard band, you can swap it out for a handful of other styles (e.g. Horween Leather, Sport, and Woven), available for purchase from Fitbit.
Display And Navigation
Hidden underneath the slightly-curved, Gorilla Glass 3-secured top panel of the Charge 3 is its display – a grayscale OLED screen. That may not sound exciting, but having seen the pixelated mess that was the Charge 2’s screen, I can definitely say that the Charge 3’s backlit panel is a marked improvement. Yes, it’s tiny (although Fitbit says the display on the Charge 3 is 40 percent bigger than that on the Charge 2) and yes, there are thick bezels on all four sides, but the increased resolution makes on-screen elements a lot more legible. Outdoor visibility isn’t an issue either, and the display is perfectly usable under direct sunlight.
Fitbit Charge 3’s OLED panel is touch-enabled and uses gesture-based navigation. By default, the display shows the time and date (along with details such as step count and heart rate, depending upon the selected clock-face). Swiping from the top reveals all the unread notifications (from the smartphone the tracker is paired with), while swiping from the bottom shows a real-time scrollable summary of your daily goal progress, and the tracker’s battery status. Similarly, swiping from the right lets you access the on-board menu items, including goal-based exercise tracking, alarms, and settings. During my time with the Charge 3, I found the on-screen navigation to be extremely good. Menu items are laid out quite well, and the inductive button (with haptic feedback) makes things even easier.
Tracking Performance And App
Being Fitbit’s flagship activity tracker, the Charge 3 is filled to the brim with features. From floors climbed to calories burned, and from heartrate to quality/duration of sleep, it can track just about any fitness-related metric you can think of. And boy, does it track them well!
I had the Charge 3 on my wrist pretty much the entire time during the entire review run (about two weeks), and was surprised by how precisely it tracked everything. In fact, this thing is nearly 100 percent accurate when it comes to step and sleep tracking. (That said, even the Charge 3, like most other trackers, often confuses driving/moving in a vehicle as walking). The heartrate sensor features Fitbit’s ‘PurePulse’ technology and uses real-time heartrate zones to help you relax using ‘Guided Breathing Sessions’ (2/5 minutes in length).
The tracker can automatically detect different kinds of workouts (e.g. Aerobics, Sports) and record relevant information. You can even choose from a variety of exercises (e.g. Running, Bike Riding) and set personalized goals for them, and the Charge 3 will track everything and let you know how you did. The tracker even reminds you to take regular breaks and walk a few steps, if it detects that you’ve been sedentary for too long. Due to its fully-sealed construction, the Charge 3 is water resistant up to a depth of 50 meters. Although I didn’t swim with it, the tracker emerged unscathed after being fully submerged into water for a minute or so.
While all of that is great, I found the lack of an integrated GPS to be a bit of a letdown. Fitbit Charge 3 uses your (paired) smartphone’s GPS to map outdoor activities like runs and bike rides. It works fine, but considering that something like Huami Amazfit Bip offers on-board GPS for a third of what the Charge 3 costs, I believe Fitbit could’ve included the same.
Of course, all this data captured by the Charge 3 is only one crucial aspect of the whole experience. What’s equally (perhaps, even more) important is how this data is presented to you, and that’s where the companion Fitbit app comes into the picture. It logs all the fitness-related metrics tracked by the wearable and syncs them to your (free) Fitbit account. In fact, you can’t even begin using the Charge 3 unless you set it up via the app.
It’s hard not to get impressed by the wealth of data the Charge 3 logs constantly, as you go about doing your daily activities. The default landing section of the app is the ‘Dashboard’, which provides a visual summary of your daily activities and other key metrics, such as step count and heartrate. The ‘Dashboard’ is customizable, so you can choose which items appear on it. Tap on any of the summarized entries, and you’ll be amazed at the Charge 3’s comprehensive tracking abilities. For instance, in case of sleep tracking, you can not only see the total time you spent asleep on any given night, but also ‘how’ you slept. The color-coded graphs give detailed insights about each stage of sleep (e.g. REM, Light), so that you can reach your daily sleep target and get better rest. Same goes for other metrics as well, which are presented with their own detailed insights.
Another section of the app is ‘Challenges’, which lets you compete against your friends (provided they also use Fitbit trackers) in races, adventurous hikes, and similar outdoor activities. You can also take part in daily/weekend challenges, explore new trails, and more. The ‘Guidance’ section is where you explore customized workouts, but you need the ‘Fitbit Coach’ app for that. Then there’s ‘Community’, which allows you to join groups of individuals having the same fitness-centric interests (e.g. Walking, Healthy Eating) as yours. Lastly, the ‘Notifications’ section displays any unread notifications and messages that you may be having.
Notifications And Battery Life
Fitbit Charge 3 can mirror notifications from your paired smartphone, and the same can be configured via the app’s settings. Apart from standard stuff like incoming calls and messages, you can also choose which third-party apps you wish to receive notifications from. If you use an Android smartphone, you can even quickly reply (using pre-configured responses) to certain notifications directly from the tracker. During my testing, the functionality worked as intended. That said, mirroring notifications requires the tracker to be constantly connected with your smartphone over Bluetooth, and that slightly impacts battery life.
Speaking of battery endurance, this is another area where the Charge 3 shines. Over the course of the review period, the tracker easily lasted a week on a full charge, backing up Fitbit’s claim of a seven-day battery life. In fact, if you disable features like notifications and all-day sync, battery endurance can stretch up to two weeks. The included clip-on USB charger takes about an hour to fully juice up the battery, which is great.
Fitbit says the Charge 3 is their most advanced tracker ever, and I definitely concur with that statement. It has a truckload of features, can track just about every fitness-related metric out there, and the battery life isn’t half bad either. Sure, there are a few ‘issues’ (e.g. no-onboard GPS, occasionally-erratic syncing), but they are no deal breakers. As a complete package, the Charge 3 is every bit worth its asking price of Rs 13,990.
However, you also can’t ignore the fact that Fitbit Charge 3 costs the same as a mid-range smartphone. To spend that much money on an activity tracker, you need to be really, really serious about your personal wellness goals. If that’s exactly the kind of fitness enthusiast you are (and have been, for quite a while), I fully recommend you get the Charge 3. On the other hand, if you’re just starting out on your journey to a healthier lifestyle, Fitbit Charge 3 and its laundry-list of goodies are going to be overkill for you. In that case, you can go for more-affordable alternatives like Huami Amazfit Bip, or even Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro.