Fitbit is a company anyone in the market for a fitness tracker will have heard of. It's been around for over a decade and it is said to be accountable for over 80 percent of the UK's fitness tracker market. That's a pretty big market share.
The latest fitness tracker to join Fitbit's eight-strong line-up of devices is the successor to the popular and fantastic Charge 2. The Charge 3 is Fitbit's most advanced fitness tracker to date, bringing with it a new design and a host of new features, including some from the company's Versa and Ionic smartwatches. Here are our first impressions.
Fitbit Charge 3 design and display
- Aluminium body, 20 per cent lighter than Charge 2
- Water resistant to 50M
- OLED touchscreen display
- Rose gold, gunmetal grey body options
If you'd asked us last week what we thought of the Fitbit Charge 2's design, we would have said we still loved it. It's solid, practical and it looks great, whilst also being comfortable and enjoyable to wear. But then we saw the Charge 3.
The Charge 3 is a classic case of you don't know what you want until you get it. The new tracker is an evolution of the Charge 2, sharing design similarities including interchangeable straps, a heart rate monitor, a buckle fastening and that solid body with an OLED display, but everything is sleeker and more sophisticated.
The Charge 3 is 20 per cent lighter than the Charge 2, opting for an aluminium body rather than stainless steel and the difference is really noticeable in terms of wearability. It's much more comfortable, which is saying something given the Charge 2 is an easy-to-wear device.
The edges of the Charge 3 are smoother though, the underneath is curvier and the display is brighter. Everything is just, well, so much better. Fitbit has traded the button on the left-hand side of the Charge 2 for an inductive button on the Charge 3, which responds with a small vibration when tapped. The mechanism for changing the straps is much sleeker in terms of both looks and mechanics too.
Rather than the chunky stainless clips you'll find on not only the Charge 2 but the Alta and Alta HR too, you get a neat and tidy small button that requires just a small press before the strap is ejected. It's more seamless, less fussy and it's much easier to function too.
There are two finishes for the standard Charge 3: a rose gold body with a purple strap or a gunmetal grey body with a black strap. There are also two special edition models with the same body options, but the rose gold has a purple woven strap and the gunmetal grey body has a white perforated sports strap. As you'd expect, there are also a range of extra straps available to buy separately including two leather options.
On the top of the Charge 3, you'll find a 40 per cent larger display than on the Charge 2 and it's no longer just a tap display either. The Charge 3 has a touchscreen display, protected by Gorilla Glass 3, and while the touch isn't as responsive as you'd find on the Ionic or Versa smartwatches, it allows you to swipe through all the metrics you'd find in the app, including sleep data, female health and hydration.
The display is sharp and crisp and while we are yet to see how it performs in bright conditions, Fitbit has added a greyscale for more detail. It is claimed the greyscale will create a visual hierarchy, while also helping the display be seen more clearly in those bright conditions.
The Charge 3 is also water resistant up to 50-metres. It is taking everything we have not to fill the rest of this page with a lot of whoops because water resistance on Fitbit's trackers has been a long time coming. Yes the Flex 2 offers it, but for those who wanted a device with a display and swim tracking, Fitbit only offered the Versa and Ionic smartwatches, both of which are quite a bit larger and more expensive than the likes of the Charge 2 or Alta HR so we're very pleased to see this on board.
Fitbit Charge 3 features
- Swim tracking, HR, auto exercise recognition
- Goal-based exercise
- Smart notifications, Quick Replies, timer, weather
- Fitbit Pay but only on Special Edition models
Naturally, as the Fitbit Charge 3 has water resistance, it will come as no surprise to most that it also offers swim tracking. The Charge 3 will display swim duration on its screen and you'll be able to see laps, distance and pace in the Fitbit app, much like what the Ionic and Versa already offer.
Additionally, the Fitbit Charge 3 will come with all the features found on the Charge 2, including the PurePulse continuous heart rate monitoring, multi-sport tracking, cardio fitness level, guided breathing sessions and automatic sleep tracking and sleep stages. You'll also find automatic exercise recognition and reminders to move, along with all-day activity tracking and connected GPS.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the Charge 3 doesn't introduce built-in GPS, a feature some may have hoped for, but it does introduce a feature called Goal-Based Exercise. This feature allows users to personalise more than 15 exercise modes with their own goal of calories burned, duration or distance. For example, it's possible to start a run on the Charge 3 and set the goal at 300 calories. Once you achieve the 300 calories burned, the Charge 3 will display a celebratory screen.
Fitbit has also added Run Detect with auto stop to the Charge 3 and you'll get smartphone notifications too. Like the Charge 2, you'll be able to see call, text and calendar alerts on your Charge 3, but you'll also be able to accept and reject calls, as well as send Quick Replies if you're an Android user.
In terms of other smart features, the Charge 3 offers alarms, like the Charge 2 does, but it also adds a timer, weather information, calendar information and the ability to see the Fitbit Leaderboard directly on your wrist. Fitbit has also said it is working with other partners to bring popular brand apps to the device.
Fitbit Pay is also available but only on the Special Edition models of the Charge 3. Traditionally the Special Edition models were just different coloured bodies and more luxurious straps, rather than extra features, but Fitbit has changed things up with the Charge 3, offering rose gold bodies as standard but only including the NFC chip in the pricier models.
Fitbit Charge 3 hardware and software
- HR monitor, SPO2, connected GPS
- Fitbit app
- More software features coming
The Fitbit Charge 3 comes with the PurePulse heart monitor as we mentioned, and it also adds the SPO2 monitor offered on the Versa and Ionic smartwatches. There is connected GPS rather than built-in GPS, and water resistance up to 50-metres, both of which we also mentioned above.
Despite the additional features however, the Charge 3 is said to offer a seven-day battery life. The Charge 2 only offers five and given the new device offers a larger and brighter display, along with those extra functions, this would be a pretty good improvement if accurate.
On the software side of things, everything is familiar in terms of the Fitbit app. If you're already a Fitbit user, you'll find all the usual statistics you'd expect, along with a few extras if you're considering upgrading from the Charge HR or Charge 2. For those new to Fitbit, it is one of the best platforms in terms of ease of use but it's worth reading our Fitbit tips and tricks feature to help you get started and find everything you might need.
There will be a couple of software features coming to the Fitbit platform soon, including Sleep Score and Personal Health and Wellness Insights but we will dive a little deeper into those when they arrive.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is a fantastic evolution of the Charge family. It's the fitness tracker we didn't even realise we wanted. The design is far more sophisticated than its predecessors, offering a premium, modern feel that is lightweight, comfortable and packed full of features.
We are very pleased to see the addition of water resistance and while it would have been great to see the Charge 3's plethora of functions topped off with built-in GPS, we are aware that we can't have it all for a £130.
We'll be testing the Charge 3 in full over the next few weeks but based on what we've seen so far, it should be an excellent successor more than capable of filling the Charge 2's pretty big shoes.
The Charge 3 is available to pre-order from 20 August for £129.99. The NFC-enabled special edition model with Fitbit Pay will cost £149.99. Both will hit shops from October 2018.