Fitbit had launched its most popular fitness tracker in a new edition. The Fitbit Charge 3 is the first of its series to have a touch display, an even more powerful battery, is suitable for swimming and should bring advanced health and fitness functions – besides smart everyday features.

They build the tracker with high-quality lightweight materials such as an aluminum housing and gorilla glass in a slim, modern silhouette. The design of the new Charge 3 is even sleeker and is water resistant, so it can accompany users during swimming. The touchscreen OLED display, which according to the manufacturer is almost 40 percent larger and brighter than Charge 2, is probably unusual for Charge users. The optimized battery promises a life of up to seven days. Besides the innovative hardware, Fitbit has also worked on the software: it should now be more interactive and motivate users even more with “playful animations” or reward them for fitness milestones achieved.

Even smarter fitness and health features

With over nine trillion minutes of heart rate data in the background, Fitbit has improved its heart rate technology compared to Charge 2. Charge 3 provides more accurate information on resting heart rate and calorie burning during training, and more accurate workout evaluation than ever before. The pulse sensor should also detect changes in blood oxygen levels and enable more accurate sleep tracking.

The extended health and fitness functions of Charge 3 at a glance:

  • Goal-based training modes: For the 15 training modes, such as cycling, swimming, running, weight lifting and yoga, users can define training goals such as calorie consumption, distance or duration and track them with real-time statistics.
  • Waterproof to 50 meters depth: The Fitbit Charge 3 can withstand a bath in the tub, rain, pool or sea, according to the manufacturer.
  • With SmartTrack exercise recognition, Charge 3 automatically detects many of your workouts and counts your laps in the pool.
  • Charge 3 uses your smartphone’s GPS to track your outdoor sports units. Thanks to Auto Pause, it subtracts traffic light pauses.
  • As usual, the new Fitbit-Wearable also determines your fitness age.
  • The women’s health monitor includes a menstrual calendar that logs menstruation and ovulation and records symptoms. In the dashboard on the device, you can also view these health data at a glance. This data is supplemented by the water balance, the sleep display, and a weight diary.
  • Personalized insights into activities, heart rate, nutrition and sleep will soon help users achieve their goals even better with tips from the App Coach.
  • Memory functions for more exercise in everyday life and breathing training for relaxation round off the health features.

Fitbit wants to further improve sleep tracking

Fitbit sees itself as a pioneer of sleep tracking in the fitness tracker space and wants to revolutionize this bit by bit. With Sleep Score Beta from Fitbit Labs, the company announces extended sleep tracking for the end of the year. This will be available on all devices with enhanced 24/7 PurePulse heart rate tracking, providing users with a more complete picture of their sleep quality. Devices with a relative SpO2 sensor, including Charge 3, Fitbit Ionic and Fitbit Versa, will ideally also detect respiratory disorders that can be signs of health problems such as allergies, asthma or sleep apnea.

Fitness tracker with Smartwatch functions

Besides fitness and health tracking, the Charge offers three smart features for everyday use and shows users calls, calendar, text and app notifications on the display. Calls can be answered, rejected, or responded to with fixed quick answers. Standard apps such as alarm, timer, weather and calendar run directly on the device. Similar to the two fitness smart watches from Fitbit, Ionic and Versa, selected third-party apps will be added to Charge 3. The Charge 3 Special Edition devices with NFC, however, already support cashless payment from over 100 financial institutions in 18 countries with Fitbit Pay.

Is it worth upgrading to Fitbit Charge 3?

No other Fitbit fitness tracker has been as eagerly awaited as the Fitbit Charge 3 – this was especially clear as there were a high number of pre-orders. But is the hype about the model justified? And much more interesting – especially for owners of the Fitbit Charge 2 – is an upgrade worth it? I did the test.

Those are the questions I was asking myself. I own Fitbit Charge 2 and had the Fitbit Alta HR before. I never regretted the first upgrade. But is the jump to Fitbit Charge 3 also worth it? A look at the specs summary has shown that the fitness tracker doesn’t offer too many new features. But as you know, the devil is in the details.

A real eye-catcher

This is already noticeable directly in the design. Although Fitbit Charge 3 doesn’t look much different from its predecessor at first glance, a closer look reveals what’s different about the new model.

The most striking difference: The button on the left side of the display has disappeared. However, the functionality is still there. How does that work? Thanks to haptic feedback, similar to the iPhone 7. This innovation allowed Fitbit to well use the resulting space and install a larger battery. And it was worth it: the fitness tracker now lasts up to seven days instead of four!

The tracker itself has become somewhat flatter, and the transition between the case and wristband has become smoother. It now fits even better around the wrist and ensures that the heart rate sensor sits closer to the skin. The OLED display is also no longer just black and white, but can now show different shades of gray, giving the Fitbit Charge 3 more display options.

Revamped OLED display

Like the previous generation, Charge 3 features a rectangular OLED screen to which they attach the wristband. This time, however, the screen is a true touch screen, and the responsiveness is very good, as is the display of information. The display has sufficient brightness to be visible under all circumstances, even in bright surroundings. I can also recommend the automatic brightness control.

On the screen, you can see the time and heart rate by default. As always, Fitbit allows you to change the dials and thus the information. By dragging down, it displays the notifications. Messages, calls and appointments are displayed, you can also reply to notifications.

A swipe up shows you the complete dashboard about movement, heart rate, distance covered and more. A side finger swipe takes you to the menu with exercises, relax mode, weather (only updated via smartphone), time, alarm and settings. To return, click on the touch area that has been replaced by the Charge 2 button. The screen can also be activated with a double tap.

You can start tracking directly from this screen. Charge 3 can also automatically detect jogging or swimming. Automatic detection works well.

Overall, Charge 3 is a beautiful fitness tracker suitable for all users, even those who are more demanding. The number and variety of bracelets offered by Fitbit will satisfy every taste. As always, the high quality materials and the fit of the bracelet are comfortable and stable. The lightweight of 29 grams provides a very good comfort on the wrist and the water resistance, one novelty of Charge 3, provides protection against splashes and when swimming.

Let’s get started!

I hate to repeat myself, but it’s always a pleasure to add and set up a new Fitbit Fitness Tracker to your account. This is also the case with Fitbit Charge 3: load the tracker, add the new tracker in the Fitbit app, synchronize, and the wearable is ready for use.

And also the handling is uncomplicated as usual and there is a small innovation. They have removed the physical button. It has been replaced by a touch button (or an “inductive button”, as Fitbit calls it). Besides a more aesthetic appearance, operation is even easier.  A long press, activates a shortcut menu in which you can set whether the display should be active and whether the Fitbit Charge 3 should receive and display notifications.

Known features in fast forward mode

I don’t want to go into the already known features too long, because they are the same as those of other Fitbit trackers and the Fitbit Charge 2. It contains a pedometer and a 24/7 pulse measurement. The fitness tracker measures the burned calories, records your sleep, and analyzes it afterwards. It automatically detects activities such as swimming, cross trainer units, or running. In addition, there is an hourly motion reminder, the option of guided breathing exercises, and the display of smartphone notifications. Although Fitbit Charge 3 still doesn’t have its own GPS sensor, it offers the option of using your smartphone’s GPS.

Waterproof thing: The new features of Fitbit Charge 3

Much more exciting than the already known features are the innovations with which the Fitbit Charge 3 comes up.

Innovation number one: The Fitness Tracker is finally water resistant! This makes the new model interesting for swimmers for the first time. But this feature also proves to be a real added value in everyday life. Now you don’t have to have a guilty conscience anymore or break into a latent panic in case you forgot to remove the tracker for showering. Also, washing up or, as in my personal case, bathing the dog can be easily done without checking whether the tracker is dry or safe.

Innovation number two: They have equipped Fitbit Charge 3 with a countdown function. No question, the timer function of the Fitbit Charge 2 is practical, but personally I always missed the countdown. When I go to workouts, I limit most of my exercises to two minutes. So far, I had to constantly look at the clock or let the timer run for two minutes. With the countdown feature, I can now do my exercise and concentrate fully on it. As soon as two minutes are over, the tracker vibrates. That’s exactly how I wanted it.

Fitbit Pay: Yes, where is it?

The third innovation that has attracted my main interest in Fitbit Charge 3 is the integration of Fitbit Pay. At least the Special Edition appears with NFC and allows cashless payments. But for testing we got the standard version of Fitbit Charge 3, so unfortunately this feature could not be tested yet. In addition, Fitbit Pay is currently only supported by few banks. So we have no choice but to trust that Fitbit Pay is a good thing in theory.

A reliable fitness tracker

Fitbit has a good reputation in tracking, which is underlined by Charge 3. Like any good fitness tracker, Charge 3 offers three different sensors to monitor daily activities. This also includes an optical heart rate monitor. The heart rate measurement works perfectly in the test.

The Charge 3 also has a 3-axis acceleration sensor, an altimeter and a sensor to measure oxygen saturation. This last measurement is made by pulse oximetry and enables you to detect breathing difficulties during sleep. There is no GPS, take a smartphone with you.

You will find all your physical activities in the Fitbit app, which is available for free in the Play Store and will always be as pleasant to use as ever.

Charge 3 is well suited for most users. This fitness tracker will disappoint only athletes looking for more accurate data. However, it’s unfortunate that the data isn’t synchronized with Apple Health or Google Fit.

One week without recharging

Fitbit rarely disappoints in the battery life of its products, and Charge 3 is no exception. The bracelet has a battery life of one week, which is very good. That was Fitbit’s promise, though, and reality confirms it. In Charge 2, the battery life was five days. You can also manage a week with activated notifications. The absence of GPS is an advantage here, it reduces power consumption. The 7 days are more helpful compared to a Smartwatch with GPS, because the device doesn’t have to be plugged in so often. This provides continuous activity tracking, including sleep activities.

Another advantage is that the charging is quick. In a little more than an hour, charge 3 is full again. But be careful not to lose the charger, because it is a proprietary connection.

Upgrading or not – that’s the question here

If you don’t own a fitness tracker yet, or if you own an older model, I can recommend the Fitbit Charge 3. It offers all the features you would expect from a fitness tracker, and the occasional athlete (like me) will appreciate it.

But it is also suitable as a simple everyday helper: It’s waterproof, reminds me to take a few steps at least once an hour (which can be a great benefit as an online editor) and helps me to compensate for any stress with breathing exercises.

Fitbit Charge 3: How a successor does almost everything right

The Fitbit Charge 3 is a versatile and uncomplicated activity tracker that not only has the basic functions of a fitness wristband but also some extras and implements them very well. The successor of Charge 2 does a lot better and almost everything right. The only thing we would have liked was a more tactile button to make the operation even more comfortable. In the competition, you can alternatively look at the Polar A370 or the Garmin Vivosmart 4.

Since the trend is towards more sports watches or Smartwatch and the number of fitness tracker bands with small displays continues to decrease, Fitbit is upgrading and improving the display of Charge 3 accordingly. The following features have been improved or are new compared to the predecessor:

  • Better battery life: 7 days
  • Integrate your smartphone’s GPS receiver for pace and route recording.
  • Health tracking for women (menstruation and fertility cycles with the help of the app)
  • Not only water-resistant but also suitable for swimming, i.e. waterproof (up to 50m/5 ATM)
  • 15 different training modes including a new swim tracking mode
  • More and more controllable (smartphone) notification options
  • Larger, brighter, and easier to use the display. Now equipped with Gorilla Glass 3
  • New SpO2 sensor. In the ideal case, it should detect respiratory disorders.
  • Aluminium housing & slimmer design. Lighter compared to the predecessor.
  • No physical key any more, only a soft touch key
  • Interchangeable wristbands and more designer accessories as with Versa: from sports to leather wristbands

Case and bracelet

The workmanship of the Charge 3 case makes a high-quality and stable impression. The supplied wristband also feels pleasant and valuable. The wristband must not fit too tight while wearing, as otherwise the blood circulation could be disturbed and thus the measuring accuracy could be influenced. Many holes, into which the buckle can reach, ensure a perfect fit.

Display and operation

The Fitbit Charge 3 offers more and more robust features compared to its predecessor. These include an improved OLED touch display. Although it’s not like the color display of Polar’s A370 or Samsung’s Gear Fit 2 Pro, it’s bigger and brighter compared to its predecessor. This allows it to display more and better readable information.

The usability also benefits from the display. Charge 2 is partly difficult to access via the display. They have eliminated this weak point with the new display. However, the display can’t keep up with the two competitors mentioned above. Charge 3 has no always-on display because the display switches off when not in use.

Besides the OLED touch display, there is also a touch-sensitive control button. Here we would have wished for a better tactile button. Especially during sports, a button that is always easy to operate and feel is more helpful and often more reliable. Fitbit probably chose this path because it made it easier to make the wearable waterproof.

You navigate Charge 3 by tapping the screen, swiping from one side to the other or up and down. The button can also scroll backwards or to stop the movement during training. If you hold it down longer, you will reach the quick settings.

Workouts and Fitness

The built-in Activity Tracker records step count, calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed, and active minutes. You can’t expect high accuracy here. Fitness wristbands, for example, not only record steps taken but also arm movements in the shower. Each or several of these arm movements can be counted as a further step, resulting in inflated totals in the statistics.

Charge 3 supports training goals based on distance, time, or calories. The SmartTrack option often automatically detects workouts that last at least 15 minutes.

In sports mode during workouts, it displays real-time data. Also shown is the heart rate, burned calories, distance or elapsed time, and a summary after training. We can view complete training statistics in the Fitbit app. Route and speed information is also available if connected GPS was used.

Training support through HR zones

With Charge 3 you can train according to heart rate zones and thus adjust the training intensity. This feature is almost identical with the Fitbit watches with larger display (such as Fitbit Ionic, Fitbit Versa or the new Fitbit Versa 2). Charge 3 shows the current zone and the progress in relation to the maximum heart rate graphically next to the heart rate display.

Heart rate zones can be configured in the Fitbit app or set by the app according to the usual formula “220 minus age”. We can also set an individual maximum heart rate. How long you have spent in a certain area during the day or during a workout can also only be seen in the app.

Swimming and waterproofing

Finally, the Fitbit Charge 3 is waterproof. One of our criticisms of Charge 2 is history. It’s annoying when you wear a modern wearable and constantly have to fear that penetrating water could damage the device. According to the manufacturer, Charge 3 can withstand water pressure up to 5 ATM, which is enough for swimming in the pool. However, dives should be avoided.

Competitor products have long since advanced in this respect and can offer swimming enthusiasts corresponding features, such as the automatic counting of laps or arm pulls. Fitbit has also added to this. The device has a swim tracking feature that ensures that elementary swim metrics can be viewed in the app.

In the Fitbit Charge 3 test, we therefore covered a few lanes in the swimming pool to see what and how exactly the tracker records and what the operability is like. To our surprise, it performs well overall. The side button was very easy to use with wet fingers during the breaks.

All covered laps were determined correctly. It also includes pauses between the laps to test the pause function. Arm pulls are unfortunately not tracked.

Tip: to get the most accurate measured values possible, fitness trackers should not stop in the middle of the swimming pool and make a clean turn at the end of each lane. The decisive factor here is pushing off from the edge of the pool, which the acceleration sensor perceives as a change of direction and thus as a new lane. We should also maintain the swimming style as far as possible.

Even the pulse was recorded during swimming, although we doubt that this is exactly determined in water with cold skin. The pulse values appear to be too low.

GPS

An integrated GPS receiver would be the crowning glory for Charge 3. Unfortunately, this feature is missing and you have to be content with connected GPS. This means that we can also use the GPS receiver of the smartphone. Many Fitbit Wearables can alternatively read the GPS signals of the smartphone, but do not have a GPS receiver themselves. Therefore, the smartphone must always be carried along if you want to record the route while running, for example. Only the Fitbit Ionic and the older Surge have integrated GPS.

Notifications

Charge 3 can display a smartphone call, text, calendar and app notifications and store up to 10 notifications. This keeps you up to date without having to look at your phone. When Charge 3 is within range of the phone, the tracker will vibrate noticeably on incoming notifications. Up to 10 notifications can also be read later, if you don’t have time to look at the display immediately. You can do this by swiping down on the display. The notification option can also be deactivated completely.

If Charge 3 is paired with an iPhone or an Android smartphone (8.0+ or higher), you can accept or reject incoming calls.

Fitbit Charge 3: FAQ and Tips

   1. Is it worth making the change if you own the predecessor Charge 2?

        That depends on whether you need one of the new functions. For example, swim tracking or health tracking for women. The display on Charge 3 is also a step forward compared to Charge 2. However, if you only need the classic tracking functions (steps, sleep, calories), you don’t need Charge3.

   2. Are stopwatch and countdown timer available?

        Yes

   3. Can alarms/alarm times be configured?

        Yes: Up to eight alarms can be set on the Fitbit app. This can be a single or multiple alarm for the week.

    4. Can set alarm times also be activated and deactivated on the device?

        Yes, you can do this without having to open the app. However, setting new alarms is only possible via the app.

   5. Is there a snooze mode?

        Yes, if a silent alarm is triggered, the tracker will vibrate and its display will light up. Pressing the button turns off the alarm. A snooze mode for 9 minutes is activated by tapping the ZZZ icon. Or, if you do not press the button after an alarm is triggered after one minute.

   6. Are iOS smartphone notifications also supported?

        Yes, messages such as WhatsApp are displayed.

    7. Does the Charge 3 have integrated GPS?

        No, the device can use the GPS of the smartphone if you have it with you.

    8. What is different about the Fitbit Charge 3 Special Edition?

        The Special Edition has a cashless payment function via NFC chip. This is called Fitbit Pay. All other functions are the same.

    9. Can the wristbands of a Charge 2 be used with Charge 3?

        Unfortunately no

   10. Can Charge 3 also track floors climbed?

        Yes, but it counts one floor if you climb about 10 feet.

Charge 3 has interchangeable wristbands. Our tip: Even if the bracelet is not changed, it should be removed and cleaned regularly. Otherwise, a lot of dirt and dust will accumulate over time.

Support and Updates

We look after months to see whether a manufacturer will continue to develop and support its product over the longer term. This means above all that it offers important software updates that eliminate errors or contain new functions. We also had this in mind in the Fitbit Charge 3 test.

Several updates have been offered over the last few months. Most of them include bug fixes. This is a good sign that a manufacturer is responding to customer reports and actively fixing bugs. Other updates brought new features. These include, for example:

  • Track runs automatically with GPS: After you have started a running workout, the training app opens automatically to display real-time statistics such as heart rate, pace, distance, or route.
  • Windows 10 users can receive notifications on batch 3
  • New dials
  • Answer and reject calls directly at the wrist
  • Android users: use “short response” on Charge 3 to respond to messages from specific apps