Fitbit fans, the wait is over. The Fitbit Charge is finally here.
Fitbit's Force never arrived in Singapore, as it was pulled from the shelves in the United States after some users complained that it gave them a rash.
That was a pity, as it was the successor to Fitbit Flex, which I found to be the most well-rounded fitness tracker of 2013.
The Charge looks like the Flex and the Force, with a small rectangular Oled screen and a button on the left side. It is slightly wider than the older Fitbits, with a textured elastomer wristband and a more secure-stainless steel clasp.
It can be worn comfortably all day. So far, I have not developed any rash.
It comes in two sizes and is available in black and slate (version tested).
A blue and a burgundy version will be available at a later date.
While the Flex displayed just a row of lights, the Charge displays the time, steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and the number of flights of stairs climbed.
A double-tap on the wristband wakes up the display; press the button to toggle through the panels. Once the Charge is paired with an iOS, Android or Windows smartphone (not all models are supported), a caller ID will be displayed if there is an incoming call.
One disadvantage is that you will need the proprietary USB cable to charge the device.
It also comes with a USB dongle to sync the device wirelessly with a PC.
To set up the Charge, connect the wireless USB dongle to your Mac or Windows computer, download the Fitbit Connect software and follow the on-screen instructions.
You can also sync the Charge with your smartphone by downloading the Fitbit app. No pairing is needed. Just ensure your phone has Bluetooth switched on and launch the app. It will search for the Charge automatically and sync the data.
Its tracking of fitness statistics is quite accurate. When I compared its results with those from my personal calibrated Nike+ Fuelband fitness tracker, the difference was never more than 2 per cent.
The sleep-tracking system is smart. I put it on my study table overnight to see if it recorded that I was sleeping, but it did not.
The Charge was able to automatically track when I slept and when I woke up. It could detect when I was awake, restless and in deep sleep.
I found it to be accurate, as the period of time it said I was awake coincided with the time I took a toilet break.
It also has a silent vibrating alarm to wake you. However, I am a deep sleeper and it did not rouse me. It might be a good idea to stick to your smartphone's alarm.
The battery life is decent. It lasted seven days and the device was constantly synced to my smartphone.
While the Charge is water-resistant, do not swim with it. It did fine when I washed my hands or went jogging with it in a drizzle.
On the downside, the Charge lacks a built-in heart-rate monitor.
If you can wait, the Charge HR, which is essentially the same device with such a monitor, will be available soon. And it costs only $30 more.
If you want a no-frills fitness tracker without the extras, such as a heart-rate monitor, the affordable Fitbit Charge is ideal.
Material: Rubber wristband with stainless-steel clasp
Water resistance: 10m
Value for money 5/5
Battery life 4/5
This article was first published on Jan 21, 2015.
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