But you will typically prefer to have the phone handy. Unlike the Fitbit Ionic, the Fitbit Charge 3 does not have GPS built in. But like the Fitbit Versa, it has a facility called “Connected GPS”. That means that it can draw on location data in your phone to record your route during exercise sessions. It later presents this as a map in the app.

Fitbit Charge 3
Some of the watch face styles available

That’s for “travelling” type exercise, of course, such as walking, running, hiking or cycling. I found this to work more reliably than it did with the Versa (although by now, the Versa firmware has probably been upgraded to improve it.)

As a fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge 3 is simply excellent.

By default, the Fitbit Charge 3 also reminds you on a regular basis to exercise. Fortunately, you can switch that off in the app.

Semi-smart watch

But the Fitbit Charge 3 adds some features which are usually associated with a smart watch.

For example, while the Fitbit Charge 3 has a display similar in size to that on the Charge 2, it is more flexible. In particular, you can install a range of watch faces to give it the looks and information that you like. They are monochrome only, but you can choose from digital and analogue versions, with things like date, number of steps, heart rate and so on. At this stage, all of them are free, developed by Fitbit.

Fitbit Charge 3
Special Edition model comes with rose gold finish

The Fitbit Charge 3 also displays notifications from your phone. When an email or text or whatever pings your phone, it’ll also vibrate your wrist. And it can display on your tracker’s display. Instead of fishing the phone out of your pocket, you can flick your wrist up and, if your eyesight is sharp enough, read the message.

You have control over which notifications display. I found after a while it was best to switch off email notifications because they would be consistently appearing when all I wanted to do was check the time.

Fitbit Charge 3
Using the GPS on your phone, the Fitbit Charge 3 can map your course

You get rid of things or display the notifications again (along with the text of the messages) by swiping or tapping the touch-sensitive button on the left of the Charge 3’s body.

Fitbit Pay

The big new feature in the Fitbit Charge 3 is Fitbit Pay. This device has NFC – Near Field Communications – built in. You can link your card from any of the big four banks to the Charge 3, and then just hold it up near the checkout scanner to pay.

Of course, you can probably do that with your phone. But that typically involves fumbling for your phone. I go into this a fair bit more in a previous review. In short, it works, and it can be quite convenient.

Especially if you live in Sydney. Fitbit has just announced that Fitbit Pay now works with the NSW transport system (those parts of it that work with the Opal card). I would suggest reading here about some limitations and possible additional costs with using it for that purpose.

Power

The Fitbit Charge 3 is charged up using the supplied charge cable, which has a spring-loaded head that grasps the main section of the Fitbit. You supply the 5 volt USB power. It takes a couple of hours to fully charge, and is rated to last for up to seven days. I certainly found no need to charge it more than every four days, despite constant use.

Conclusion

The Fitbit Charge 3 is first class fitness tracker. The Fitbit app and general ecosystem (including the Aria 2 smart scales) work well, with convenient syncing to all your smart devices. The addition of swimming tracking (and general waterproofing), and Fitbit Pay, bumps the device up into an almost-must-have.

The caveat there is that it is of no use to anyone who already has a Fitbit Ionic or a Fitbit Versa.