Fitbit Charge 2 review: Towards a healthier you

Tech

Gadgets and technology help us in doing nearly everything better and staying fit is no exception. Whether you’re a long-term fitness buff or just getting started on the path of getting into shape, a fitness tracker is one of the best gadgets one can get. These wrist-worn (generally) devices can not only track human body’s vital signs like heart rate, but also log fitness-related data such as step count, calories burnt, sleep activity and more. This data can be then used to create personalized fitness goals and diet plans, thus leading to a healthier lifestyle.

When it comes to fitness trackers,
Fitbit
is a name that needs no introduction. The company recently launched two new products – Charge 2 and Flex 2. Of these, the more expensive Charge 2 is an upgrade to the Fitbit Charge HR, which is now almost two years old.

We tested the Fitbit Charge 2 for a few days, using it for tracking everything from sleeping patterns to daily walks. So, is the Fitbit Charge 2 and its promise of a healthier lifestyle any good, especially at an asking price of Rs 14,999? Let’s find out.

Design and build quality

Fitbit Charge 2 is essentially comprises two components – tracker module and wrist band. The wrist band is made from a flexible elastomer material and comes with a stainless-steel buckle for fastening the Charge 2 around the wrist. The outer side of the band is textured, while the underside is smooth. The
wrist band
is removable and can be swapped with one of the many designer bands, which have to be purchased separately. Since it’s sweat proof, the wrist band doesn’t irritate the skin even when the Charge 2 is worn on the wrist for an extended period of time.

As for the tracker module itself, its frame is made from stainless steel. On the top rests a slightly curved black glass, under which hides a large (at least as compared to the Charge HR)
OLED
display. The left and right sides of the frame are chamfered and a navigation button lies on the left, the only button on the Fitbit Charge 2.

Flip the Charge 2 and you see the optical heart rate tracker with two flashing LEDs (one each at the top and bottom of the tracking chip). There are also three charging contacts at the bottom, which work by making contact with the pins on the clip-on charger. Other important components include a 3-axis accelerometer, an altimeter and a vibration motor.

Overall, we found the design and build quality of the Fitbit Charge 2 to be really good. While the tracker module is quite solid, the wrist band is flexible yet sturdy enough to withstand daily wear and tear.

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Display and navigation

Fitbit Charge 2 comes with a touch-capable OLED
screen
that automatically turns on when the wearer flicks the wrist, although this functionality can be disabled in the Fitbit app. The display can also be turned on with a double-tap or by pressing the navigation button on the side.

Though the display shows time and date by default, users also have the option to choose from the various styles available. To change the display style, simply select it from the ‘Clock Display’ option in the Fitbit
app
and sync the tracker with the app. The display can be single-tapped repeatedly to flip through daily activity stats like calories burnt and floors climbed.

As for the navigation, pressing the navigation button on the left repeatedly moves through various menu options (e.g. Heart Rate, Stopwatch). While a menu item is active, its related options can be cycled through by tapping the display. Lastly, long-pressing the side navigation button starts/stops the function associated with a menu item (e.g. Run).

Interestingly, on-screen options can also be shuffled through by tapping anywhere on the wristband.

Tracking performance and companion app

Fitbit Charge 2 works in tandem with the Fitbit app (available on all platforms). You also need to create a free Fitbit account (if you don’t already have one) to login to the app. The account/profile creation includes entering essential body statistics like weight and height, as these are required for setting up personalized meal plans and weight goals.

Once you login with your Fitbit account, it’s generally easy to pair the Charge 2 with the smartphone over
Bluetooth
using the app. But sometimes, the tracker does take a bit of a trial-and-error to get paired up. After pairing, you can simply wear the Charge 2 on the wrist (it can be worn on either of the wrists) and it will start doing its thing. The tracker syncs with the smartphone over Bluetooth every time the app is launched. It can be manually synchronized as well. Also, the smartphone that Fitbit Charge 2 is paired with needs to be connected to a network so that logged data can be synchronized to your Fitbit
account
.

The ‘Dashboard’ is the default landing section of the app. It displays a summarized list of all the metrics that are tracked by Fitbit Charge 2, including steps walked, calories burnt, floors climbed and sleep activity. Tapping on any logged parameter gives its logged values for the past days, with the last week’s data arranged in the form of a bar graph.

The primary daily goal is set to steps by default, but can be changed via the tracker
settings
in the app. All data logs reset automatically at the start of the next day (00:00 hrs).

During our extensive testing spanning over the course of almost a week (which included wearing the device almost 24×7), we found the Fitbit Charge 2 to be really good at logging different parameters. It detects activities like sleeping automatically and heart rate tracking is reliably accurate. Moreover, step logging is almost real-time.

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Fitbit Charge 2 comes with ‘guided breathing sessions’ (2min or 5min in length) feature. It lets you practice relaxed breathing by guiding you through inhale and exhale actions. This is something we liked a lot.

There’s also multi-sport tracking built-in. It can track activity when you’re lifting weights, running on the treadmill, cycling or even working out generally. All this data is then synced to the companion
app
. In our testing, multi-sport tracking worked as expected.

One feature we’d like to talk about is ‘move reminders’. To help you stay through the entire day, Fitbit Charge 2 vibrates on an hourly basis, encouraging you to take at least 250 steps (roughly equivalent to a few minutes of walking). Of course, the reminders can be customized from the tracker’s settings in the app.

Fitbit Charge 2’s ‘connected GPS’ functionality uses the GPS in your smartphone (provided it’s the same the tracker is paired with) to track your route, thus helping in getting real-time statistics like distance travelled. During our testing, the feature worked quite well. That said, how accurate it is depends on numerous factors such as the quality of
GPS
satellite lock-in and the connection between the smartphone and tracker.

If any of your friends uses a Fitbit fitness tracker, you can compare your fitness stats and take part in challenges together. However, we weren’t able to test this feature out.

A really useful feature of the Fitbit Charge 2 is smartphone notifications. These include alerts about calls, text messages (SMS, WhatsApp and Hangouts) and calendar events. In our testing, notifications worked exceptionally well. Consequently, we had to check our smartphone less often. But even with that, we found the alerts functionality to be limited. Competing products like the
Garmin
vivosmart HR are much better in this regard, offering not only email and social media alerts, but also the ability to control music playback and some other devices.

Coming to the
battery
life, we found it to be really good. Fitbit claims that the Charge 2 can last up to five days on a single charge and indeed, the battery lasted about four and a half days (even with 24×7 tracking) before needing to be recharged.

Verdict

The new Fitbit Charge 2 ticks nearly all the right boxes. It’s comfortable for wearing all-day, supports real-time tracking of numerous activities and the notification alerts are all good. But there are a few negatives too, such as the often inconsistent
Bluetooth
syncing and the lack of music control functionality.

At Rs 14,999, we’d say that Fitbit Charge 2 is a pretty solid and well-rounded fitness tracker and definitely recommended. For those looking at alternatives, the Garmin vivosmart HR is a great option.