Fitbit Charge 4 vs. Fitbit Charge 3: What's the difference and should you upgrade?

Fitbit Charge4 Lifestyle
Fitbit Charge4 Lifestyle (Image credit: Fitbit)

Fitbit Charge 4 vs. Fitbit Charge 3: Let's talk upgrades

Does the newer Fitbit Charge 4 have enough to warrant an upgrade from the previous model, the Charge 3? Our Fitbit Charge 4 vs. 3 pits two excellent wristwatch-style trackers against each other. Both models have their perks, from price tag to features, but it really comes down to what you're looking for in a tracker. Before we dive in, let's look at how they compare.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Fitbit Charge 4Fitbit Charge 3
Release dateApril 2020October 2018
Battery life7 days7 days
DisplayOLED touchscreen, grayscaleOLED touchscreen, grayscale
Built-in GPS-
Step counter
Heart rate monitor
Sleep tracking
Swim tracking-
Spotify Connect & Control-
Active Zones-
Smartphone notifications
SensorsGPS, accelerometer, heart rate, altimeter, vibration motor, SpO2, NFCAccelerometer, heart rate, altimeter, vibration motor, SpO2, NFC

There are some pretty significant feature upgrades with the Charge 4, but both are still viable options depending on what you need out of your fitness tracker. Let's examine what each piece has to offer.

Fitbit Charge 4 vs. Fitbit Charge 3: Taking a closer look at the Charge 4

Fitbit Charge4 Lifestyle

Fitbit Charge4 Lifestyle (Image credit: Fitbit)

The most significant update to the Charge series comes in the Charge 4. We have begged Fitbit to add onboard GPS for years, so we don't have to carry our phones on every run, walk, or hike to measure pace and distance. Fitbit listened. The newly released Fitbit Charge 4 comes with GPS built-in, and it's reliable.

If you're a swimmer, the inclusion of swim-specific measurements gives the Charge 4 the upper hand over the older Charge 3. Active Zone Minutes is also new. It measures the amount of time you spend in elevated heart rate zones throughout your workout. The default setting on the Charge 4 is 150 minutes per week, which is the magic number thought to help prevent disease, improve sleep, lower anxiety, and maximize workouts.

For years, we have begged Fitbit to add onboard GPS, so we don't have to carry our phones on every run, walk, or hike to measure pace and distance.

Both models shine in the sleep tracking department in our Fitbit Charge 4 vs. 3 showdown, though the fresher 4 has ramped up the results. The newest software update, currently available only on the Charge 4 but coming to the 3, is Fitbit's "smart wake." It uses machine learning to track your sleep patterns and then find the optimal time to wake you each day. If this is a turn-off, you can go the old school route and enable alarms instead of maintaining personal sleep schedules.

New to the Charge 4 is the inclusion of Spotify music controls. You're able to control your phone's music playlist and podcast lineups from your wrist. With the purchase of a new Charge 4, you're treated to a free trial period of this service. After that, you're required to sign up for premium service to continue using Spotify.

NFC is an option on the Charge 3, but only if you invest in the Special Edition models. With the Charge 4, NFC is standard, allowing you to utilize services like Fitbit Pay to make purchases with your wrist in stores.

The externals are primarily the same. The Fitbit Charge 4 is ever so slightly bigger than its younger sister but still perfectly fits large and small wrists.

Fitbit Charge 4 vs. Fitbit Charge 3: The Charge 3 is still relevant

Fitbit Charge 3 Lifestyle

Fitbit Charge 3 Lifestyle (Image credit: Fitbit)

Fitbit's Charge 3 remains a capable health and fitness tracker with many of the same features found in the newer Charge 4. You'll get 15 exercise modes, 24/7 heart rate tracking, a sleep tracker, a calorie counter, and the same water resistance that lets you play in the water safely down to 50 meters. And since it's been around a little longer, it has the advantage of having more available accessories, like cool metal bands

While not built into the Charge 3, it does have some GPS capabilities through your smartphone. You won't be able to exercise sans phone, but if you carry your phone on a hike or run, you'll be able to view real-time pace and distance stats. Sure, there's a tradeoff, but there's also money savings to be had by going with the Charge 3.

The Charge 3, like its newer sibling, will alert you of incoming texts and phone calls. A handful of apps also keep you up to date with weather forecasts and other important news. Also, the sleep tracker measures the amount of time you spend in light, deep, and REM sleep stages, and keeps track of patterns so you can make changes to your schedule as needed.

As a fitness tracker, the Charge 3 doesn't feel outdated. It's every bit as capable of tracking activities, alerting you of incoming messages, and measuring sleep quality and calorie input and output.

Fitbit Charge 4 vs. Fitbit Charge 3: Which should you buy?

Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbit Charge 4 (Image credit: Fitbit)

If I were buying a fitness tracker today, I wouldn't hesitate to invest in Fitbit's newest release, the Charge 4. The addition of swim tracking, advanced sleep-tracking and heart rate zones, Spotify controls, and built-in GPS combine to make it a device that you won't outgrow anytime soon.

If you want something a little simpler, the Charge 3 is still capable of doing all the basics well. Unless you need or want GPS and more feature-rich heart zone metrics, the Charge 3 is still a solid activity tracker.

Jodi Owan

Jodi Owan works behind a keyboard and a camera. She's a freelance writer for iMore, Android Central, and Windows Central.