Fitbit keeps releasing products! It's almost like they are desperately trying to iterate their design in order eventually release the perfect product. Well, the Fitbit Charge 3 gets as close to the company's mission statement of accurate tracking in a long-lasting, stylish body — and it brings some much-needed smartwatch features along for the ride.
An all-round great wearable
The Fitbit Charge 3 gives the Charge line a touchscreen and improved ergonomics without sacrificing its core competency of being an outstanding fitness tracker. It tracks 15 types of workouts, can dive 50 meters into the water, gets seven days of battery life, and does notifications from your iPhone or Android device. It's a truly versatile product for a very reasonable price.
Who should buy this
I'm often asked which Fitbit someone should buy, and I always ask them two questions: are you a casual or serious runner; and do you want to use apps on your wrist? Most people say that they're casual athletes of some sort, and almost everyone says that they just want to receive notifications on their wrist.
That's why I almost always suggest the Charge lineup from Fitbit. The Charge 3 improves on the previous versions in every way, with a bigger, brighter OLED panel that's now a touchscreen, water resistance up to 50 meters, and improved health tracking including more accurate heart rate sensing and more reliable sleep tracking. Plus, Fitbit's operating system has improved immensely, with easy-to-understand navigation and a host of useful features.
Is it a good time to buy this Fitbit?
Yes. The Fitbit Charge 3 was released in October 2018, and likely won't be upgraded for at least another nine months. At the same time, Fitbit has a great track record of updating older products with new features, so you can rest assured that, should your wearable not have any hardware problems, you can safely wear this for years to come.
Reasons to buy
- Comfortable to wear 24/7
- Accurate heart rate and sleep tracking
- Useful tools on-board
- Week-long battery life
- Waterproofing up to 50m
Reasons not to buy
- Limited app compatibility (no third-party apps)
- Fitbit Pay only available on more-expensive Charge 3 SE
- Accessories are pricey
The ups and downs of a Fitbit user
The reality is that if you're looking for a Fitbit, you've probably considered a few other options, like an Apple Watch (more expensive) or another tracker from one of Fitbit's myriad competitors. But like the loyal customer you are, you're probably considering a Fitbit after having used at least one over the years. And, like many Fitbit customers, you've likely had your ups and downs with the product, and the brand.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is the best Fitbit for most people because what it offers — accurate step counting, exercise tracking, sleep measuring, and rudimentary smartwatch features — it does with aplomb. But I'd be remiss not to mention the many complaints leveled against Fitbit the company, and the Charge 3 itself, in regards to bugs and quality control issues. While I've yet to have any showstopping bugs on my Charge 3 unit when paired with my iPhone, I've had numerous issues with it paired to an Android phone (though they were all resolved with a recent software update).
Fitbits used to be known for their hardware problems but now the issues are mainly with software bugs.
You only have to take a look at Fitbit's community support forums for a brief list of issues that people have experienced to date with the Charge 3, from alarms that don't go off at the scheduled time to a blank screen when the tracker is removed from the charger, to see a cross-section of the company's troubles with its latest product.
That said, Fitbit's issues used to be primarily hardware-related; a few years ago, almost everyone I knew who bought a Fitbit had a story about broken chargers, snapped bands, or outright hardware defects. There were even rashes. Thankfully, the company seems to have sorted out those problems, leaving surmountable issues that can be addressed via firmware updates.
In my experience, and especially for the price, you get a tremendous amount of value from a Fitbit product, and the pros far outweigh the cons, but it's certainly true with any company that makes a lot of products, some will be more problematic than others.
Alternatives to the Charge 3
The Charge 3 isn't the only Fitbit game in town, and depending on your needs you may want something with a few more features, or battery life, or both. Or maybe the Charge 3 is too big, and you'd be better served with a smaller, more compact Fitbit.
The Fitbit smartwatch
A well-rounded smartwatch
The Versa is Fitbit's answer to the Apple Watch, and for the most part, it stays relatively competitive. With a growing ecosystem of third-party apps, a bright screen and playful touch-enabled software, and extensive notification support, the Versa is a reliable waterproof companion.
The Versa looks and feels the most like a smartwatch out of Fitbit's lineup, and it offers a comprehensive suite of apps, watch faces, and fitness-related features to satisfy even the most hardcore of users. While it's fully waterproof, it lacks GPS for standalone runs, and its 4-day battery life isn't quite as long as the Charge 3's or the Ionic's. At this price, it's quite a bit cheaper than the Apple Watch Series 4, but it's also not as well-equipped.
The Fitbit for athletes
A GPS-connected exercise coach
From notifications to payments and a few apps, Ionic has a beautiful OLED touchscreen that makes navigating a breeze, and tracking workouts even breezier. It's not cheap, and Fitbit still has a long way to go to mastering the smartwatch experience, but with a GPS radio, plenty of battery life, waterproofing, and personal coaching sessions, it's an excellent value.
The Ionic is Fitbit's successor to the Surge, and a true beast of an exercise-tracking smartwatch. It's bigger and more angular than the Versa, but also offers considerably more battery life, a bright screen, and an awe-inspiring range of on-device coaching lessons for various workouts. Pair it with Fitbit Coach and you have a full-spectrum exercise program at home.
The Fitbit for beginners
One of the best deals around
The Flex 2 still doesn't have a display, but it is waterproof. And then there are the standard features: step and exercise tracking; sleep tracking; reminders to move every hour; and automatic synchronization to an excellent iOS app, along with ample five-day battery. All it lacks is a heart rate monitor.
If you have a smaller budget, the Fitbit Flex 2 is an outstanding Fitbit when paired with the iOS app — which is necessary, because this thing doesn't have a screen.
There are a lot of Fitbits out there today, but most people will fall into one of the four categories outlined above.
For the athletes, the Ionic is the cream of the crop. Beginners will love the lightweight flexibility of the Flex 2. The Versa is a surefire hit with anyone who wants a smartwatch without having to spend more than few hundred dollars.
And the Charge 3 is the best of all worlds. It's not quite a smartwatch, but it does most of the things one would expect it to do. It aslo only needs to be charged once a week.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Daniel Bader is the Managing Editor of Android Central and an editor at iMore. He owns all the Fitbits — even the bad ones. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there's a correlation.
When Joe Maring isn't acting as the News Editor for Android Central, he can be found sharing his opinion about Fitbit with iMore's friendly readers. He was last spotted at Starbucks surrounded by peppermint mochas. Have a tip? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Lory Gil is the Managing Editor of iMore and has been testing smart wearables since they first hit the scene. If it can be worn and it's got smarts, she's interested.
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