Edward Swift - Hands On: Fitbit Charge

Publish Date
Monday, 22 December 2014, 9:42AM
Fitbit Charge (supplied)

Fitbit Charge (supplied)

By Edward Swift

I’m not the fittest guy in the world. I’m not morbidly obese, but I’m no Channing Tatum. Ilive halfway down a very steep hill in Auckland, and walking briskly up it can sometimes leave me feeling a bit puffed. Running up it? Well that doesn’t happen often. I don’t go to the gym, but I occasionally walk the hour-long route to work in the summer months and play indoor netball throughout the year.

The reason I’m going on about my level of health is because over the last month I’ve been trialling a new fitness device from Fitbit - the Fitbit Charge. They say to stay fit you should do 10,000 steps each day, and this device on your wrist tracks every step you take (and has made me think about my exercise habits and do more).

The difference between the Charge and its predecessor, the Fitbit Flex, is that it actually has a screen so you can see the time, track your steps and see other data about your exercise patterns. It’s not a big screen so it doesn’t give much detail, but there’s enough to see whether you should get out of the office for a 30 minute power walk.

If you did want to see more information like when you were most active in the day or whether there’s a time, you can sync it up with your smartphone or computer and log your exercise data with the Fitbit app or dashboard. In there, you can see more detailed information as well as log your food intake, register whether you’re doing a more intense exercise like a run, or track your workout habits over time. The Charge certainly does live up to its name too – I only need to charge it once a week.

When synced with a smartphone, the Charge can also notify you if someone is calling and show you who it is without having to pull your phone out of your pocket. On top of that, you can also set ‘silent alarms’ – an alarm that will make the Fitbit vibrate to gently wake you up. I gave it a go and while it definitely woke me up, it didn’t feel very gentle and woke my partner up too (my wrist was right by her ear at the time). You can also use to it monitor your sleep patterns, however after trying it for a few nights, I found it wasn’t too comfortable to sleep with. A great function, but not something I’ll be using often.

The main aspect that I like is that it brings a competitive aspect to fitness. I like to win. I hate to lose. I don’t enjoy coming second. The Charge, when synced with the app or dashboard, allows you to compete with your friends who also have Fitbits on how many steps you can do in a day, a week or a weekend. I have a few friends with a Fitbit and we taunt each other about who’s winning - in person and in the app. It forces me to go that extra mile (no pun intended) to get a few more steps in each day. 



A Fitbit challenge in the Android app

There are a few downsides to this device, but most of them are sorted in new devices coming out in the new year. Firstly, there’s no heart rate monitor. For a fitness buff that wants to track their heart rate while working out, this is lacking in the Charge but is available on the Charge+HR and Surge, which are out sometime next year. Also, while this device can notify you who’s calling, that’s all it notifies you of – you can’t see txts or any other notifications. Part of that could be due to the small screen, and I understand the Surge with the bigger screen has that functionality.

But when it comes to wearable technology, would it be better to get a Fitbit or a smart watch? At the end of the day, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a device you can email, txt, see notifications, use apps and monitor steps on, but need to charge often and isn’t built specifically for fitness, then a smart watch is for you. But if you want to seriously track your fitness and not wear a big, bulky piece of technology, then have a look into the Fitbit.

Overall it’s a good device for the price and if you’re casually into fitness. If you’re looking for something with a bit more functionality or something that’s designed for intense gym bunnies or marathon runners, then it might pay to wait for the Surge to come out.

Fitbit Charge

  • Activity and sleep wristband
  • Tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes and sleep
  • Includes Caller ID
  • Two sizes – small and large
  • $179.95

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