California-based wearables brand Fitbit on Monday (August 20) added a new member to its Charge family of fitness trackers – the Fitbit Charge 3 – and made it immediately available for pre-order so it could start shipping sometime in October.
Even though the Charge 3 looks very much like the outgoing Charge 2, it does pack some key hardware and software upgrades that make it, well, different.
Here’s everything worth knowing about the Fitbit Charge 3 and how it compares to the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Fitbit Versa.
But, before anything else, let’s talk pricing!
Fitbit is going to sell two variants of the new fitness tracker, including a base model with an included silicon wrist strap for $149.95, as well as a special edition version costing $169.95 – the additional $20 getting you two wrist straps instead of one, plus Fitbit Pay for contactless payment.
The third-generation Corning Gorilla Glass protecting the tiny Charge 3 screen makes it, by far, a better scratch-resistant option than the previous edition; much like the Versa – Fitbit’s crown jewel.
While the new tracker still has the same black and white screen we saw on the outgoing Charge 2, it is now an OLED touchscreen version.
AND, it’s forty percent bigger.
Even though the display on the Charge 2 was tap-responsive, it can’t be called a touchscreen in the actual sense of the term.
It was more like a semi- or a half-touchscreen, if you will since typical smartphone-like swipes would get you nowhere on the Charge 2; hard taps was what it needed to register an input.
But, all that has apparently changed with the Charge 3, as you can now swipe all you want and the little OLED panel should be able to respond just like it would normally do on any decent smartphone.
As for performance, we’re going to have to wait and see how it behaves in real-world scenarios, like, for instance, when you’re trying to navigate through its menu after a good sweaty workout.
Another change on the Charge 3, worthy of mention, is a brand new inductive button on the side, somewhat like the Home button on iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, as opposed to the big button on the Charge 2 or the Versa, which, to be fair to them, was pretty convenient.
While it doesn’t move when you press it, it does vibrate to indicate that your input has been registered.
The main reason necessitating the change, if not the only one, was the fact that Fitbit was making Charge 3 a swim-proof affair, something that the Charge 3 wasn’t.
So, go right ahead and dive into that pool or ocean with your new Fitbit Charge 3 wrapped around your wrist, without fear or apprehension.
Also, Charge 3 now boasts a claimed battery-life of a full week on a single charge, which is a significant improvement on the 5 and 4 days’ worth of battery-life claimed by Charge 2 and Versa, respectively.
However, things are almost always different when it comes to real-world use; so, you can expect about five days between charges, at best.
That brings us to the last major hardware upgrade before we move on to the software changes we can expect on this new addition to Fitbit’s Charge line-up; it’s the inclusion of an SpO2 sensor we’re talking about here.
Also found on the Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Ionic, the SpO2 – short for peripheral capillary oxygen saturation – has been included to help estimate changes in your blood oxygen levels, which will, in turn, help track new health indicators, like sleep-tracking, for example.
Due for an October launch, a beta version of a new tool called ‘Sleep Score,’ being developed by the Fitbit Labs division, will be able to work in conjunction with the SpO2 sensor to monitor your breathing, sleep pattern, as well as use the improved heart-rate tracker to provide useful insight into your sleep habits.
That wraps up the hardware improvements on the Fitbit Charge 3; so, let’s shift our focus now to the software upgrades we can expect.
First off, the user interface (UI) is getting a facelift to allow for easier user-friendly navigation and more robust smartphone notifications, at par with high-end smartwatches like the Apple Watch, for example.
Furthermore, Fitbit has made it a point not to forget all those fitness-minded ladies out there by giving the Charge 3 a dedicated health tracking feature for females, very similar to what the Fitbit Versa boasts.
Now that we’re done with all the positives, let’s find out what the Fitbit Charge 3 is missing.
The first glaring omission is an integrated GPS, meaning it is still smartphone-dependent for GPS tracking.
To be honest, the GPS omission was a necessary compromise that Fitbit was forced to make in order to accommodate a bigger battery, additional sensors, and, perhaps, to keep the cost in check, as well.
Another feature that would have been good to have on the Charge 3 is wireless charging, as the included charging clip is somewhat awkward.
Having said that, it’s something you can live with because charging this thing shouldn’t be more than a once-a-week affair, considering the week-long battery life it promises.
A bigger and brighter new OLED touchscreen on the Fitbit Charge 3 allows for easier navigation through the menus.
A new inductive button gives it waterproofing capability, making it a swim-proof fitness device.
A bigger battery gives it a claimed battery life of seven days.
An improved UI makes it visually more pleasing, not to forget how user-friendly it is.
And, last but not least, the new SpO2 integration not only complements and enhances the device’s fitness tracking capabilities but also opens the door for other useful features down the road.
There’s no reason why the Fitbit Charge 3 can’t become as big a winner as the Fitbit Versa.