After launching the Ionic and Versa smartwatches, and the Ace for kids in the past year, Fitbit has returned to its fitness band roots by announcing the next version of its Charge tracker. The Fitbit Charge 3 offers an updated design and several new features compared to the exceedingly popular Charge 2, with the star attraction being the ability to track swimming.
It won’t have the same aquatic capabilities as the Ionic or Versa, with real-time tracking limited to stop-watch functionality, but laps and pace will be available in the app once you’ve towelled off and synced the device.
The battery life has also had a major upgrade, from five days on the Charge 2 to seven days, an especially impressive improvement given that the touchscreen display is 40% bigger on the Charge 3.
Another change is the removal of all physical buttons, with an “inductive button” instead. This triggers vibrations to let you know your touch has registered. The Charge will also now offer smart notifications similar to those on Fitbit’s smartwatches.
The Charge is also being fitted with a relative SpO2 sensor, which is present in the Ionic and Versa but isn’t being used yet. The Fitbit release says later this year it will fire it up to “test the tracking of breathing disruptions, which can be indicators of health issues such as allergies, asthma or sleep apnoea.” Intriguing stuff, but at this early stage it’s probably not worth buying one with the expectation that it will become a sleep apnoea detector.
Fitbit has kept many things that made the Charge 2 so popular, like a heart-rate monitor and the associated cardio fitness score and sleep tracking features, automatic activity tracking and guided breathing.
Fitbit has also held firm on its stance that the Charge line doesn’t need built-in GPS, with the Charge 3 needing to connect to your phone to get accurate route tracking (and therefore distance and pace stats) when running or cycling. Since most people do run and cycle with their phone it’s not an unreasonable decision, but while we had no problems using connected GPS on the Charge 2, the route-tracking on the Fitbit Versa, which also relies on connected GPS, has been more suspect. It’s something we’ll be investigating closely when we review the Charge 3.
The Charge 3 is available to pre-order online for £130 and will be in stores in October. Even without GPS that’s an attractive price, offering a similar package to £200 smartwatches in a slimmer, more stylish design. And of course there will be the array of lustworthy accessories that we’ve come to expect from Fitbit.
There’s also a special edition Charge 3 (£150) which is fitted with a NFC chip so you can use Fitbit Pay, although this isn’t expected to ship until November and so far the only high-street bank that works with Fitbit Pay is Santander. The others are Danske Bank, Starling Bank and boon. by Wirecard.
Pre-order from Fitbit | £130-£150