Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Fitbit Charge review

Photo of my Fitbit charge

I’ve bought myself a fitness tracker – a Fitbit Charge.

My primary reason for buying one was that I needed a new watch strap for my basic Skagen watch. Instead of buying a strap I decided to just get a new watch, as the Fitbit wasn’t much more expensive at the time and it can function as a watch, amongst other things.

There are lots of fitness trackers out there but I went with a Fitbit for a couple of reasons:

  1. Price – I was able to get one for a good price on Amazon at the time
  2. Recommendation – my manager at work has a Fitbit Charge (having previously owned a Fitbit Flex) and she recommended it to me
  3. Third-party integration – Fitbit integrates with Runkeeper, which I use for tracking exercises and walks, and with IFTTT
  4. User reviews – the Amazon reviews of the Fitbit Charge tended to be better then other trackers such as the Jawbone Up or Misfit ranges

Screenshot of the Fitbit iPhone app I’ve had the Fitbit for 10 days now, which happened to include the time period when we were moving house, and so I clocked up a lot of steps and stair climbs initially. It’s set for five basic daily targets: 10,000 steps, 8.05 kilometres distance walked (that’s five miles in old money), 2,937 calories burned, 30 minutes of activity and 10 floors climbed. I upped the floor climbs to 20 as I was often hitting 10 floors before lunchtime, but I’ve kept the rest at the defaults.

I’ve exceeded 10,000 steps on some days (and 15,000 on a couple) but on other days I’ve missed the target by some way. This is despite my normal daily commute consisting of around 45 minutes of walking, split into four blocks. I was surprised at this, but it’s useful to know that I need to get more exercise during the day. I managed over 80 floors climbed one day as well, although this seems to be because the Fitbit is interpreting some of the steep hill climbs in our area as stairs. Something to bear in mind if you live in a steep-sided valley like I do.

Fitbit app

You can track your progress using the Fitbit mobile phone app, which synchronises with your device via Bluetooth. By default it does this regularly throughout the day but you can turn this down if needed. The all-day sync mode does have some effect on your phone’s battery life but it’s not too significant in my experience.

If you have friends with Fitbit devices, then you can also view their progress. The ‘Friends’ view in the app shows the total number of steps taken over 7 days. At the moment, I’m on 54,374 – this is less than the 70,000 that I’m aiming for but puts me fourth out of seven, and only two of my friends have hit this target. You can also take part in challenges – most steps in a day, week or weekend, and also specific goals like stairs climbed. It’s a good motivational tool, although it does result in the app sending notifications when you’re close to overtaking someone, or vice versa, which gets annoying after a while. Thankfully, these can be turned off.

My main reason for purchasing the Fitbit Charge was that it also tells the time. The time doesn’t show on the screen all of the time, but can be illuminated by double-tapping the screen, pressing the button on the side of the screen, or lifting your wrist towards you. It’ll also show your key targets – steps taken, stairs climbed, calories burnt and distance walked, which you can scroll through by pressing the button.

The Fitbit’s battery life is reasonably good – a full charge should last between 7 and 10 days, depending on usage. It charges via a USB cable, but with a custom port on the back of the device. You can’t wear the device whilst it’s charging.

The Fitbit Charge comes in four colours and two sizes. I accidentally bought the small one, which is a bit too small for me but alleviated by an additional strap that I bought separately. Some of the Amazon reviewers had found that their Fitbits fell off easily and so I had bought an extra strap anyway. If you have medium-sized arms, I would recommend the large size though.

Overall, I’m impressed with the Fitbit. It seems to count steps quite accurately, despite being worn on the wrist, and performs well. It’s also good at motivating me to take the stairs rather than lifts, and to get out and walk more to maintain my targets.

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