Fitbit Charge Fitness Wristband Review

Track Workouts, Sleep and Diet

Fitbit Charge
Fitbit Charge. Fitbit

The Fitbit Charge is the fitness band I've been waiting for from Fitbit. I was never satisfied with having only the LED dot indicators of my steps on the Fitbit Flex. If I'm dedicating wrist space to a device, it needs to show me the time of day and step count on my wrist at a minimum. The Fitbit Charge does that and also shows distance, all-day calories burned, and floors climbed. It allows you to track and time workouts and it automatically detects and tracks sleep.

You can view caller ID for incoming calls if you pair it with your mobile phone, and set a vibrating alarm.

In addition to the numbers displayed on the Charge, it syncs to a mobile app via Bluetooth (both iOS and Android) and syncs wirelessly to a USB dongle (both Mac and PC supported). See in-depth info including sleep tracking. You can update the app and dashboard with non-step workouts and use the food diary to track diet vs. calories burned.

As a long-time Fitbit wearer, it is important for me to stay with the Fitbit family to keep my years of activity and diet history going.

Fitbit Charge On the Wrist

The display is dark until you tap it or press the single side button. You can choose how time is displayed and whether time, steps, or other data is what displays with the first tap.

The band is made of a flexible elastomer that is very comfortable to wear. The charging port is recessed on the Charge to prevent skin contact and problems people allergic to metal had with the Fitbit Force.

The clasp is two surgical-grade stainless steel studs that click into slots on the wristband. Fitbit recommends wearing the band loose enough that a finger fits between the band and the wrist. The Charge comes in sizes small, large and x-large. It debuted in colors black and slate

I have a lot of difficulty getting the Fitbit Flex band fastened securely, I feel like I need a ladies maid to dress me.

The Charge wristband goes on securely with far less struggle. They don't include a keeper loop, so you may want to add one such as the Bitbelt. I didn't have an incident of the Charge falling off, but it pays to be secure.

I prefer to Charge's flexible wristband to the rigid Nike+ Fuelband, Jawbone UP and Polar Loop.

Is the Fitbit Charge Waterproof? No, it is water-resistant and splash-proof, but you should avoid submerging it in water. They recommend taking it off when you shower. That will also let your skin breathe and get clean so you won't have built-up funk under the band.

Setting Up the Fitbit Charge

A USB charging cable and a wireless USB dongle for your computer (PC or Mac) are included. It takes 1-2 hours to fully charge from a drained battery, and the cable is a non-standard one. A charge lasts 7-10 days.

You can set up the Charge with either a computer or with the mobile app. If you use a computer, the USB dongle is left in a USB port and you must install the Fitbit Connect software to sync the data.

It will then sense the Charge when it is within a few feet and sync the data wirelessly.

Syncing with the app requires Bluetooth 4.0, so it may not work with older mobile devices.

If you have other Fitbits, you can continue to use the same account but only one Fitbit can be linked to an account at any time. If you want to switch back and forth, you have to install the other Fitbit through the app or Dashboard.

What Fitbit Charge Tracks

Steps: The Charge tracks all-day steps. It vibrates when you reach your daily step goal. You can also track specific workouts and see steps for just that workout.

Exercise Tracking: If you want to track a specific workout, press the button on the band until it vibrates. It tracks time and gives you totals for steps, distance and calories burned for the workout. If you are using the mobile app and your device has GPS, you can tap the Track Exercise tile and then tap the stopwatch to enter the MobileRun mode. Select run, walk or hike and you can track your distance and speed as well as see your route on a map. You can set it to announce your distance, time, average pace, split pace and calories burned at your chosen interval (such as every half mile or mile). You can time and tag non-step activities or add workouts where you didn't wear your Fitbit to your total with the web Dashboard or app.

Calories: The calorie number shown for all Fitbits represents the calories you are burning all day, even at rest, starting at midnight each day. You'll notice that you've already burned calories when you get up in the morning. This allows you to track the calories you eat and balance them with your total calorie burn. The Dashboard and app can help you set a calorie goal for weight loss.

Distance: Fitbit estimates distance from the step count.

Sleep: The Charge automatically detects sleep, there is no need to remember to start and stop a sleep tracker as you must with the Flex or Fitbit One. It isn't sensitive enough to know about the naps I take while watching TV or during meetings. On the app or dashboard you can view your total time in bed, time asleep, time awake and time restless, plus a sleep graph.

Alarms: You can set vibrating alarms.

Stairs/Floors: Fitbit Charge automatically tracks the floors climbed and you earn badges for achieving new floor milestones.

Active Time: If you are active enough for a minute, it counts as an Active Minute of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The goal is to meet exercise recommendations for 30 Active Minutes or more each day. The activity level that counts is equivalent to walking at about three miles per hour or faster.

Caller ID Alerts: If you enable this function, your Charge will vibrate and display the caller ID of incoming calls from your mobile phone.

Fitbit Dashboard and App

The Fitbit Dashboard and App can be used to track a variety of diet and health data.

Food and Water: Track what you eat with their food diary built into the app and Dashboard. If you want to ensure you are drinking enough water, you can also track how many fluid ounces you are drinking throughout the day.

Weight: You can manually log weights on the app and dashboard, or you can use the Aria scale to transmit the data.

Friends: With the popularity of Fitbit, it is a great system for competing with friends and family. If you choose to add each other as Friends, you will see their daily average and weekly step totals. You can message each other and send Cheers and Taunts. There are also Challenges you can enter for further competition.

Social: You can enable your Fitbit app to post your daily totals to Twitter.

Badges: Earn badges for your daily and lifetime records.

Bottom Line on Fitbit Charge

Pluses:

  • Comfort: Very comfortable to wear.
  • Display: The display is big enough and bright enough for my aging eyes. t works well as a pedometer watch.
  • Mobility: You have today's basic data on your wrist with the Charge, and you never need a computer if you use the mobile app. It saves seven days of minute-by-minute data, so it is best to sync it weekly to the app or a computer. It will save 30 days of daily totals before losing data before you sync.
  • Data Sharing with Other Apps: Fitbit can share its data with many other popular health and fitness mobile apps. Check their site for a current list. I use Fitbit to earn rewards with the Pact and Walgreens Balance Rewards.

Minuses

  • Fitbit doesn't have inactivity alerts or move reminders to help you reduce the health risks of sitting too much.
  • The Charge is designed for everyday fitness and health, not for fitness performance. It's basically a pedometer. If you want a performance monitor, hold out for the Fitbit Charge HR and the Fitbit Surge, which include a continuous heart rate monitor.
  • Fitbit could do more with its app to be social and motivational. But because its data feeds into more-motivational apps such as Pact and EveryMove, it makes up for that weakness.

Bottom Line on the Fitbit Charge

Given a choice between the Flex and the Charge, I would definitely pay the extra for the Charge in order to have the numerical display, automatic sleep tracking and workout tracking. If you want heart rate data, you may want to buy the Fitbit Charge HR or Fitbit Surge superwatch instead.

The Fitbit Charge 2 debuted in the Fall of 2016. It includes heart rate and interchangeable bands, with a better display. It also has inactivity alerts and more. You should look at the Charge 2 rather than buying the Charge.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer.

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