Fitbit has made Charge 3 official. The device is pretty much a smartwatch disquised as a fitness tracker. As the leaks predicted it comes with a better screen, water-proofing, 7 days battery life, smart features, an added sensor and more.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
It was anticipated the device would be unveiled later this month at IFA in Berlin. Seeing it received across-board coverage despite Fitbit keeping schtum on the matter, the San Francisco outfit may have decided there was no point in waiting any longer. As of today, you can pre-order the Charge 3 on Amazon and fitbit.com.
“With Charge 3, we’re delivering our most innovative tracker, offering an extremely slim, comfortable and premium design, along with the advanced health and fitness features our users want,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit in a press release.
Bigger, better screen and design improvements
At first glance the Charge 3 comes across very much like its predecesor. But look closely and you’ll spot some important differences. The most obvious is the bigger OLED display. In fact, its 40% larger than on the Charge 2. Furthermore, the high-resolution, backlit screen is fully responsive to touch and supports gray-scale colours (versus just B&W).
It automatically adjusts to changes in lighting conditions so you can easily view your stats at any time, indoors or out. Swipe up to access the dashboard and in other directions to access other functionality. This is also Fitbit’s first wearable with an inductive physical button.
Charge 3 is built of more lightweight material including an aerospace grade aluminum case and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display. It actually weights less than its predecessor. Bands can be swapped, allowing you to customize the tracker to your liking.
Waterproofing is another important upgrade. Charge 3 has a water-resistance rating of 5 ATM which means you can dunk it down to depths of 50 metres. It will track your swim sessions, too. In real-time you will only be able to see swim duration on your wrist, but laps and pace can be viewed in the smartphone app post-swim.
7 day battery life
Battery life is an excellent 7 days on a single charge. This beats its predecessor by 2 days, allowing it to go 40% longer.
Improved health and fitness experience
The device comes with everything you’d expect from a Fitbit fitness tracker. Steps, calories, distance, floors and advanced sleep tracking are all there. In addition to the accelerometer, optical heart rate and altimeter, the company has slapped on an SpO2 sensor. Versa and Ionic also have this but we have yet to see it put to good use. The hope is that one day it could be used to detect blood oxygenation and conditions such as sleep apnea, allergies and asthma.
The heart rate sensor has benefitted from improvements. Fitbit says it will offer better accuracy during exercise. While its predecessor is good at estimating resting heart rate, at high intensity activities accuracy tends to suffer. We will see if this problem has been eliminated on Charge 3. Fitbit says the tracker also provides a better measure of calorie burn and resting heart rate.
In terms of exercises, Fitbit’s latest fitness tracker allows you to choose between more than 15 modes. This includes bike, swim, run, weights, yoga and more. Each comes with its own set of metrics, screens and more. There’s a new goal-based exercise mode. This lets you set a specific calorie, time or distance goal ahead of your workout and then track them during your exercise.
The device has automatic exercise recognition but no built-GPS. Just like its predecessor, it comes with Connected GPS which means it taps into your smartphone for a sattelite reading. The company has presumably done this to keep the cost down.
Finally, lets not forget the Female Health Tracking functionality. Just like some other devices in Fitbit’s lineup, the feature will be accessible on Charge 3.
Last but certainly not least are the smart features. These have progressed so much that they are starting to blend the line between fitness tracker and smartwatch. Charge 3 comes with call, calendar, text and smarphone app notifications. You can accept or reject calls and Android phone users will be able to send pre-canned quick replies.
Much like the Versa and Ionic, Charge 3 comes with apps such as Alarms, Timer and Weather. Calendar, Fitbit Leaderboard and popular third-party apps will be added in the future. The only thing that seems to be missing is on-board music storage or a way to control your smartphone music remotely from your wrist.
There will be two models to choose from. The Core version which features all of the above and the Special Edition that also comes with NFC for payments on-the-go. Fitbit Pay is currently supported by more than 100 banks in 18 countries.
Price and availability
Charge 3 Core is available for pre-sale now at Fitbit.com for $149.95 USD (check price on Amazon). The tracker is currently available in black with a graphite aluminum case or blue gray with a rose gold aluminum case. The Special Edition will be available later this year for $169.95.
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