As nice as it is to see smartwatches like the Apple Watch, Fitbit Versa, and upcoming Samsung Galaxy Watch push health and fitness features as core to ownership, it turns out many people still prefer a simpler and cheaper fitness tracker.
Available in October for $149.95 ($169.95 for the Special Edition), Fitbit says it focused on three key pillars: a more premium design, improved health and fitness tracking, and smartwatch functionality.
Comfier and more stylish
At first glance, the Charge 3 looks similar to the Charge 2, but Fitbit’s tweaked the design so that it’s more gender neutral, fashionable, and comfier.
Rubber silicone isn’t the only band option anymore. In addition to the sporty bands, some of which now have perforations so that they’re more breathable, there’s a variety of woven heathered ($35) and Horween leather bands ($50). My favorites are the casual, but stylish woven heathered straps because they don’t scream fitness to everyone.
These bands, unlike the ones for the Fitbit Versa, are much easier to swap out. The single button mechanism is smooth and struggle-free.
I’ve never been a fan of how Fitbit’s fitness trackers feel — I’ve always found them too stiff and uncomfortable on my small bony wrists — but the Charge 3 is really comfy. It’s 20 percent lighter than the Charge 2 and the aluminum body is better contoured to wrap around wrists.
The OLED display is now a touchscreen (Charge 2 wasn’t) and is almost 40 percent larger than than on the Charge 2. It’s also made of a more durable and scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Additionally, the screens’s also brighter and more visible outdoors.
Adding to the Charge 3’s more premium construction is a new inductive side button. It’s not a mechanical button — pressing it initiates a vibration much like the faux home button on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and the haptic buttons on the HTC U12+. It’s sensitive and I had no issues with it during my brief hands on with the Charge 3; Fitbit says it’ll work fine even if your fingers are wet or sweaty.
7-day battery life, water-resistance, blood oxygen levels tracking
The Charge 3 has many of the same features as the Charge 2, including a 24/7 PurePulse heart rate monitor and connected GPS, but Fitbit says its users wanted more.
So the Charge 3 has even longer battery life: up to 7 days on a single charge (up from the 5 days of power on the Charge 2).
The fitness tracker’s also fully water-resistant up to 50 meters and comes with new swim-tracking features.
The Charge 3’s also Fitbit’s first fitness tracker with an SpO2 sensor (same one as on the Fitbit Ionic and Versa smartwatches) for monitoring blood oxygen levels.
New sensors, however, aren’t the only new features on Fitbit’s new fitness tracker. Like with the Versa smartwatch, the software’s also capable of female health tracking (for logging period and ovulation data) and will show this information on the tracker as opposed to only in the Fitbit app.
Additionally, Fitbit’s launching a new Sleep Score beta feature later this year that uses the PurePulse heart rate tracking to help users get a better idea of their sleep quality. The score’s based on a number of factors: sleep duration, sleep composition (i.e. light, deep, REM), and revitalization (heart rate levels and breathing quality during sleep compared to reseting levels).
The goal with this Sleep Score is to help detect early signs of allergies, asthma, or sleep apnea, the company says.
Fitbit’s also made the software a little more personal with better guidance prompts, which should help users stay motivated.
Though the Charge 3 isn’t a smartwatch, it has inherited some features from Fitbit’s smartwatches.
Charge 3 users can see all of their phone notifications right on the wearable’s screen, as well as answer and reject calls (coming soon).
Android users will have access to quick replies for text messages. iOS users won’t get such functionality because Apple doesn’t allow other wearables to do so.
On the Special Edition Charge 3, there’s built-in NFC for Fitbit Pay. Fitbit says
The Charge 3 also features several lightweight apps that make it more smartwatch-like. There’s a more robust alarm, calendar, time, weather, and even a Fitbit leaderboard app (coming soon).
Fitting into the family
If you’re looking for a full-featured fitness tracker that also has some smartwatch features, the Charge 3 has a lot to offer.
It’s really light, comfy, and it costs less than the Versa smartwatch ($200). However, you really have to weigh what you get and don’t get. For just another $50, you can get the Versa.
Fitbit’s been blurring the lines between its fitness trackers and smartwatches and it’s definitely tricky to figure out which wearable is right for you. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Maybe you don’t want a larger square screen with more smartwatch features. Or maybe you prefer the longer battery life on the Charge 3. Fitbit’s offering choice. It’s up to you to figure out which of its wearables fit into your lifestyle.