Price (RRP): $249.95
There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing an electronic fitness aid. What kind of fitness regime do you propose for yourself? Does the gadget come with a sufficient range of related devices so that it will cover all your needs? Does the matching software provide all the functionality that you’d like?
I more or less stumbled into the Fitbit camp a couple of years ago without thinking about any of those things. Nonetheless it has been a satisfying experience on those criteria. I started off with a Fitbit Charge HR, a requested birthday present. It has served me well, and fairly soon I added the Fitbit Aria scales. Apart from a brief dalliance with a Fitbit Alta last year for the purposes of a review, that’s what I’ve been using until now.
But Fitbit has since released the Charge 2, and it turns out to be a huge upgrade over its namesake.
The “HR” in Charge HR stood for “Heart Rate” because it could monitor that in addition to the usual movements. That functionality has been retained with the Charge 2. Beyond that it has an improved display and an improved band.
The old one had a more on less one line display. It was clear, but limited by space. The Charge 2 has a rather flexible display some 11.5mm across by 28 mm down, as near as I can measure it. That allows it to show three or four lines of information at once. Which lines is your choice, more or less. There are quite a few options which you set in the app.
You interact directly with the Charge 2 by using the single button, or by tapping on the unit’s face with your finger. The button is on the left, if you’re left handed; the opposite of the adjustment crown on a conventional watch. There are options in the app to set the watch for right hand use. This flips the display. You can also set the hand it is on as the dominant or non-dominant hand. This adjusts the counting algorithm for more accurate results.
Unlike the Charge HR or the Alta, it doesn’t come with a dongle to allow it to work with a non-Bluetooth equipped computer. I guess Fitbit figures that pretty much everyone has a Bluetooth-capable device these days. I used it with a couple of different Android phones (one at a time, of course), but I quickly checked and found that it also worked with the dongle from my Fitbit Charge HR plugged into my desktop. But, really, you’re going to get more value from the unit if go with the phone connection because then the Charge 2 can draw on the phones power and functions and, for example, use its GPS for route tracking and mapping. Or for providing notifications – including displaying the contents of SMS messages on its screen.
So in what way is the band better than that on the Charge HR? Only in one way really: it can be switched. When the Charge 2 was sent to to me, apparently onIy one with the teal coloured band fitted was available. Teal is a kind of light green colour. But they took mercy on me and protected the general public from me presenting an even more unsightly appearance, sending down a brown leather replacement band with the Charge 2.
That itself was quite interesting in that the general consensus around here (which means my wife’s superior judgement) was that it looked kind of plastic. It was so smoothly finished that it was hard to see as being leather. But that’s what it said on the box. After a few days of sweaty exercise I decided on a likeIy explanation. I think the leather has been very thoroughly sealed to be sure it doesn’t become sweat stained. Successfully so.
That said, while it aIways retained its colour and tone, on a couple of particularly hot days my wrist was stained a little brown by the band by the conclusion of a 5+ kilometre walk. It washed off quite easily.
Anyway, perhaps the most important point is that you’re not stuck, style wise. You can purchase one of three leather bands (the brown one supplied to me, one called “Blush Pink”, and the dark grey “Indigo” – $119.95 each), or a different colour of the “Classic Band” (Black, Blue Plum, Teal or Lavender – $49.95 each).
Fitbit doesn’t give the Charge 2 an “Ingress Protection” rating on water proofing, but it does have advice on how much it can take. To used its words, the Charge 2 is “rain-proof and splash-proof and can stand up to even the sweatiest workout,” but you should not “swim or shower with your tracker”.