Image source: Fitbit

Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?

In this article we compare Fitbit Charge 4 and Charge 3. Announced a few days ago the first is an upgraded version of the San Francisco outfit’s most popular activity band.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

Despite being nearly two years old, the Charge 3 still sells very well. But let’s face it, the wearable was due for a refresh. Is Charge 4 worth the extra expense considering its predecessor will now fall in price? Should you upgrade if you have the older device? Read on to find out.


Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: Specs

There are some important differences to be aware of when choosing between Charge 4 and 3. In terms of looks, however, they are almost identical.

Similar in size and shape, and exactly the same in water-resistance and the quality of screen, both are built from very lightweight material including an aerospace grade aluminum case and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display. The housing and buckle are made of anodized aluminum.

In terms of actual specs, the core unit of Charge 4 has a depth of 12.5mm (vs 11.8mm) and weighs around 30 grams (vs 29 grams). It is therefore a fraction bigger than its predecessor, not that it’s going to make much of a difference.

Both devices have an identical grayscale touchscreen and single physical button on the side to help with navigation. Apparently the backlighting adjustment is slightly better on Charge 4 so visibility should be better.

fitbit charge 4 vs charge 3 what the difference 2 - Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?
Image source: Fitbit

Under the hood once again there are lots of similarities, but this time with a couple of more important differences.

The devices share a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, PulseOx and vibration motor. The most notable extra that you get with the fourth generation band is built-in GPS. Apart from Ionic, this is the only Fitbit wearable with built-in GPS. Charge 3 has Connected GPS, a fancy way of saying it needs your smartphone to tap into the satellite signal.

The other important hardware difference is that NFC comes as default on Charge 4. Before it was only built into the special edition of Charge 3. This is for payments on the go through Fitbit Pay.

Battery life is the same on both trackers, about a week on a single charge. Switch on the built-in GPS on Charge 4 and this falls to a perfectly respectable 5 hours.

Here’s a table showing all how the specs compare.

Charge 4 Charge 3
Material Built of more lightweight material including an aerospace grade aluminum case and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display. The housing and buckle are made of anodized aluminum. Built of more lightweight material including an aerospace grade aluminum case and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display. The housing and buckle are made of anodized aluminum.
Dimensions 35.8mm x 22.7mm 35.8mm x 22.7mm
Depth 12.5mm 11.8mm
Display type OLED full touchscreen, TFT, Grayscale
OLED full touchscreen, TFT, Grayscale
Battery life up to 7 days, or up to 5 hours with GPS up to 7 days
Water resistance up to 50 metres (swim-proof) – 5 ATM up to 50 metres (swim-proof) – 5 ATM
Weight 30g 29g
Sensors Optical heart rate tracker, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, SpO2, vibration motor Optical heart rate tracker, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, SpO2, vibration motor
GPS Built-in GPS Connected GPS
NFC Yes Only Special Edition
Apps Agenda
Alarms
Exercise
Relax
Spotify
Settings
Timers
Weather
Alarms
Exercise
Relax
Settings
Timers
Weather
Fitness/Health 24/7 heart rate monitoring
Active Zone Minutes
All-day calorie burn
Automatic exercise recognition
Cardio fitness score
Female health
Goal-based exercise modes
Guided breathing
Real-time pace and distance
Sleep Stages
Swim tracking
Workout Intensity Map
24/7 heart rate monitoring
All-day calorie burn
Automatic exercise recognition
Cardio fitness score
Female health
Goal-based exercise modes
Guided breathing
Real-time pace and distance
Sleep Stages
Swim tracking 
RRP $149 $149

Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: Functionality

An average person will find pretty much everything they need for tracking fitness around the clock on any of theses. This includes all-day heart rate monitoring, steps, distance, active minutes, calories burned, blood oxygen (during the night) and advanced sleep tracking. There is also automatic activity recognition, Guided Breathing, Female Health tracking, Multi-Sport mode, move reminders and some more advanced performance metrics such as VO2 Max.

fitbit charge 4 vs charge 3 what the difference 1 - Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?
Image source: Fitbit

Let’s jump right to the differences.

As mentioned, the most important one is the inclusion of a GPS chip in Charge 4. Built-in GPS means you can go running or cycling outdoors, leave your phone behind and still get detailed statistics and a map of your route. This is going to make a huge difference to some, but to others it probably won’t make any difference. It really depends on whether you use GPS often to track your outdoor exercise.

It’s worth noting, the ability to use Charge 4 with Connected GPS if you have your phone with you and want to save battery life is not available now. Fitbit says it will come as a future software update.

fitbit charge 4 vs charge 3 what the difference - Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?

Fitbit Charge 3
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review qlipp tennis sensor 8 - Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?

Stemming from this are a few new software based features. One is the ability to show training intensity on a map after a workout. This can either be in the form of pace or heart rate zones shaded throughout your route.

Then there is something Fitbit calls Active Zones. This measures the intensity of your activity by rewarding you points for various heart rate zones. Whats more Charge 4 will alert you when switching from one zone to another. This functionality will come soon to Versa 2, Versa, Versa Lite and Ionic, but not Charge 3.

Other software based goodies only available on Charge 4 include a Sleep Mode, Do Not Disturb, the ability to set alarms right from the watch, instead of in the app only and Smart Wake. This last one is “coming soon”.

In terms of non-fitness features, there’s the above mentioned NFC which comes built into all Charge 4s. Again, this is something that will make a difference to those who use Fitbit Pay but those that don’t won’t even notice it.

The final extra you get with Charge 4 is the ability to operate Spotify. No, you can’t download songs for offline listening but you can play, stop, shuffle and skip Spotify songs without reaching for your phone.


Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: The bottom line

All in all, the upgrade from Charge 3 to Charge 4 is iterative. There’s nothing revolutionary here but the new tracker does present a solid improvement – largely due to built-in GPS.

And this is pretty much the only reason you might want to upgrade from Charge 3. If you are an avid runner or cyclist, the chip means you don’t need to take your smartphone with you when exercising. If you are happy to carry your phone and use Connected GPS, Charge 3 will suffice. You do get a few other extras with Charge 4 such as NFC for contactless payments, the ability to operate Spotify and some software based improvements.

fitbit charge 4 vs charge 3 what the difference - Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?

Fitbit Charge 4
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review qlipp tennis sensor 8 - Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?

For first time buyers, its a no-brainer. Charge 4 is clearly the better device, particularly considering right now it sells for exactly the same price as Charge 3. Going forward, the inevitable fall in price of the third generation tracker will make it an attractive purchase, particularly if don’t really need built-in GPS.

Compare technical specs

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6 thoughts on “Fitbit Charge 4 vs Charge 3: should you upgrade?

  • April 9, 2020 at 12:08 am
    Permalink

    Do you really mean that when you turn on the GPS, the battery life of the Charge 4 falls from about 7 days to 5 *hours*? Did you mean 5 *days*?

    A 5-hour battery life is not “respectable” if you mean to use the device for long hikes, or just don’t want to charge it every day.

    Reply
    • April 9, 2020 at 1:13 am
      Permalink

      You’re not going to get much more with GPS turned with any other fitness tracker or smartwatch. They all last hours rather than days with built-in GPS switched on. It’s very power hungry.

      Reply
    • April 23, 2020 at 11:41 am
      Permalink

      Do you jog more than 5 hours a day? Then it is not for you.

      Reply
      • October 12, 2020 at 9:09 pm
        Permalink

        Ha! 5 hours a day of jogging is more than enough.

        Reply
  • April 20, 2020 at 11:47 pm
    Permalink

    I like the charge 3 rose gold

    Reply
  • April 30, 2020 at 2:54 pm
    Permalink

    I already have the charge 3 and as I’m not a runner or cyclist I can’t see any reason to upgrade to the charge 4.

    Reply

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