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FitBit Charge Activity and Sleep Wristband Review

The holidays are around the corner and fitness devices are going to sell like hotcakes. Luckily, Fitbit recently released one of the best fitness monitors out there: the Fitbit Charge Activity and Sleep Wristband. The Fitbit Charge combines the best features available on the market: all day comfort, a week long battery, built-in display with Caller ID, automatic sleep monitoring, silent/vibrating alarms, wireless syncing, and of course, nonstop activity monitoring. You’ll not only learn a lot about yourself, you’ll learn how to make yourself even better.

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The Fitbit Charge is an adjustable wristband that’s sold in three sizes: small, large, and XL. It’s made of a flexible elastomer material similar to that of sports watches. It’s like a durable rubber that’s very comfortable. There’s a double-notch clasp that does a pretty good job of keeping it secure to your wrist. In weeks of use, I only had it unclasp a few times including once while sleeping. The Charge is water resistant up to 1ATM, so you can literally wear the Charge 24/7. Fitbit recommends you always take it off after a shower to dry the area underneath—I’m lazy and didn’t bother. I had no problems with irritation or moisture buildup.

The Fitbit Charge is like a watch band all the way around. It seamlessly houses all of the technology on the top, where it gets thicker and flatter. There’s just one button, and the screen is discretely hidden on the top of the band. The OLED display is small, but surprisingly high resolution. You wouldn’t think it could fit more than 4 or 5 characters, but it’s big enough to clearly display the date and time on one screen. The button toggles through all of the Fitbit views or can start an activity.

It’s a feature-rich device. The battery lasts 7-10 days depending on how you use it. You can go 30 days without syncing and it saves 7 days of detailed motion data. Syncing is a breeze. You just have to be in the vicinity of any Fitbit USB dongle, or, you use the low-energy Bluetooth 4.0 connection to pair to your phone. The Bluetooth 4.0 opens up a lot of functionality for your phone and Fitbit. Other than wireless syncing and detailed activity data, Fitbit functions as a caller ID built on your wrist. There’s a lot more functionality Fitbit can offer in the future through updates (i.e. text message updates, email updates, etc). Bluetooth 4.0 is available on most phones and tablets that were made in the last few years (iPhone 4S and later).

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On to the main purpose: activity monitoring! The Fitbit Charge monitors steps, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, and even sleep. Best of all, unlike other sleep trackers, you don’t have to tell it when you’re going to sleep. It’s smart enough to figure it out and it’s surprisingly accurate. You won’t just learn how much sleep you get, you’ll learn about the quality of your sleep. It logs wakeups and restlessness throughout the night. The sleep monitoring was very accurate, the step and distance monitoring is a bit optimistic. I had Fitbit log a 1 mile walk while my GPS (Runkeeper app) logged 1.01 miles, which was surprisingly close.

With that said, most people aren’t walking all day, they’re at desks or typing away on computers where there’s more arm movement than body movement. Arm movement inflates activity. I found the step counting to be about 20% higher than average based on my iPhone’s step counter. I also found that hitting 10,000 steps/day happens a bit sooner than it did with my old Fitbits. Don’t fret — everything is relative. If you find yourself walking 10,000 Fitbit Charge steps per day, then push for 12,000 Fitbit Charge steps per day. You could even argue that arm movement (like lifting weights at the gym) should be factored into daily activity.

Fitbit Charge also functions as a watch with date and time. The button on the side takes you through each view (clock, steps, distance, calories, floors, and alarm) and you can customize the order. There’s even tapping functionality that allows you to skip to any view with a double tap of the band. Double tapping shows me the clock, and a press of the button show me steps– two things I care about most on-the-go. The silent timer is great for gently waking you up from sleep. It has a pretty powerful vibrate motor built in, but it if you’re a heavy sleeper it may not actually wake you up. The band will also vibrate when you hit your goals.

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Fitbit does a lot to keep you motivated. It sends you notifications, sets goals for you, and encourages you with progress badges. The social integration also helps. There’s a lot of good info at your fingertips, literally, and with the online dashboard it’s very easy to start acting on it. The dashboard enables you to learn as much about yourself as you want. The app also features almost all the same data and charts. In most cases, the app is easier to use and act on. The app even allows you to track your food intake, water intake, exercise, and body weight. While the Fitbit data and encouragement is good, they charge $49.99/year for Fitbit Premium. Premium takes encouragement to the next level by ranking you against other Fitbit users in your age/gender. It offers more insight and suggestions based on your activity, sleep, food intake, and exercise.

Verdict

Pricing in at $129.95, the Fitbit Charge is priced similarly to the competitors. You’re paying a little extra for the display, which really makes the device worth it. Having a fitness device is a pretty eye-opening experience. It makes you re-consider your level of activity and really encourages you to adopt a healthier attitude. The Fitbit dashboard and app does a good job of helping you set goals and getting you to think about important health decisions. These days there are step counters built into a lot of phones, but the Fitbit Charge is a much easier (and hopefully more accurate) method of tracking activity. Also, there’s no phone that can monitor sleep like Fitbit! The Fitbit Charge is currently available from Amazon in black and slate. It will soon be available in blue and burgundy.

Good: Comfortable, Vibrating alarms, Automatic sleep tracking, Great app/phone integration, Built-in resolution display, Display is customizable and backlit, Online dashboard is great, Long battery life, Built-in caller ID

Bad: Clasp could be a little easier and secure, Fitbit premium not included

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