The other day I got an email from Fitbit, telling me that I’d “earned the Nile badge”. It turns out that since I started using Fitbit devices a few years ago, I’ve walked the length of the Nile River, some 6,649 kilometres. The latest Fitbit device to count my steps is the new Fitbit Charge 3.
In fact, it was with a Fitbit Charge HR that I started my journey down the Nile. (And towards my “Spaceship badge”, which commemorates my ascent through the equivalent of 14,000 building stories). The Charge HR was a variation on the first of the Charge models. The HR stands for Heart Rate, since that version had heart rate tracking built in.
If you check out our 2014 review of the original Fitbit Charge, you’ll see that the new Fitbit Charge 3 has come a long way. It, of course, now incorporates a heart rate monitor as standard, along with a whole lot more.
The Fitbit Charge 3 comes with both small and large band sizes, so it’s kind of a one size fits all thing. Switching bands was easy. There is a choice of band colours available. In addition to the standard model with a dark aluminium finish, a Rose-Gold coloured special addition with a woven band is available for $40 more. Optional, fancier bands can also be purchased.
The main body is made of aircraft grade aluminium and the display is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for scratch and smash resistance.
The face of the Fitbit Charge 3
The display is monochrome – black and white and grey – using OLED technology. It is touch sensitive. The display area measures, as best as I can tell, 14mm wide by 23mm tall. I saw third party reports that the display had an area of 696 square mm. I don’t know how they got that figure. The entire display panel is 18mm wide by 34mm tall, and that is only 646 sq. mm. The display section is smaller than that.
Does it matter? It can make for small text which can be hard for those of us with imperfect close vision to read.
According to my scales, the Fitbit Charge 3 weighs 29.8 grams. That’s with the larger band fitted and (I’ll admit) a couple of months of accumulated grime. After that couple of months, the unit still looks quite handsome.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is categorised as a fitness tracker, but it also has some smart watch features.
As a fitness tracker in the Fitbit ecosystem, the Fitbit Charge 3 has one significant weakness. It’s kind of exclusive. You can have several Fitbit trackers connected to your account at the same time, and simply switch to the one which best suits your needs of the moment. You can have a Fitbit smart watch – the Fitbit Ionic (review here) or the Fitbit Versa (review here) connected – along with one or more Fitbit trackers. But you cannot have two Fitbit smart watches connected. And, now, you can’t have the Fitbit Charge 3 and one of the smart watches connected. Nor can you have two Fitbit Charge 3 devices connected.
That’s a real pity. If I could, I’d be inclined to keep the smart looking Versa for everyday wear and use the Fitbit Charge 3 for bouts of exercise. But if you have and like your Fitbit Ionic or Fitbit Versa, then the Fitbit Charge 3 isn’t for you.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is very good in the fitness tracking department because it adds swimming to the exercise it can track. To that end it is rated at water resistance to fifty metres. Yes, it is actually waterproof. I tried it. It survived.
When it’s tracking swimming, it tried to lock into pool lengths, counting in 25 and 50 metre increments. I am a truly appalling swimmer. I think it got confused at a couple of points by my slow speed and poorly coordinated flailing in the water. So, a couple of times it thought I was doing 50 metre laps when I was only doing 25. Pay attention at the start so you understand how it’s counting and you’ll be fine.
The unit can track other exercises: running, walking, hiking, playing golf, climbing stairs, playing tennis, doing intervals and cycling. Heck it even has measurement profiles for Yoga and Pilates. You can assign up to six shortcuts to be selected from the Fitbit Charge 3 screen and change the order. Since I mostly walk, I put that one at the top of the list, so it only took a couple of taps and swipes to start a formal “exercise” routine.
The Fitbit Charge 3 tracks your steps and distance travelled all the time, along with your heartrate. It also tracks your sleep patterns. Starting an exercise records that as a special event. Whether regular tracking or exercises, the device can hold up to seven days worth of data for later syncing with your phone, should it not be nearby at the time.