As far as fitness trackers go, the Charge lineup from Fitbit is widely considered to be the best value for money. The Charge 3 was the latest one to land on our review desk and, while solid, it wasn’t perfect. Now that the recently launched Charge 4 has also arrived for review, it is inching ever closer to perfection thanks to one key feature – GPS.
It is something that users have been baying for across Fitbit’s range of fitness-focused wearables, and while some options did feature built-in GPS, it was not a universal feature.
It still isn’t, but the addition of it on the Fitbit Charge 4 has made this wearable a whole lot smarter and far more covetable.
Having put to the test over the past couple of weeks, here’s what our experience of the latest Charge from Fitbit yielded.
Place the Fitbit Charge 4 next to its predecessor and we doubt you’ll be able to tell the difference between the two. This is especially the case for the black colour option with matching silicon wrist band that our review unit comes in.
Sure you could argue that a refresh in terms of design is needed, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The form factor of the Charge 4 is both unmistakable and practical, neither being obtrusive or bulky on one’s wrist. If you’re not a smartwatch person then, it is well worth considering, particularly as it is designed for wearing at night while sleeping in order to measure those elements of your day too, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
While the style of this fitness tracker has not changed much between iterations, the features have, and one has significantly been added to the mix.
Yes, the aforementioned built-in GPS available on the Charge 4 turns it into a wholly different beast. Capable of tracking both distance and speed, you’re able to begin an outdoor run (lockdown regulations adhered to of course) and capture all the necessary data.
Once done, the Fitbit app will map it accordingly and provide some insight as to what your performance was like.
In terms of capturing the necessary information, the Charge 4 appears to perform as expected, mapping accurately. How it fares no longer runs or, more isolated areas, however, is unclear as much of our testing was in a smaller environment given the restrictions of lockdown.
The addition of GPS will be welcome to cyclists too, with it capable of tracking rides. The same goes for outdoor hikes and walks, both of which can be natively tracked, but swimming is not supported by the same feature.
It’s unclear why this is the case, but triathletes or swimmers do not have access to this functionality on the Charge 4. That said, the wearable will still measure things like heart rate and calories burned during those aquatic activities.
A dip in power
The use of GPS does come at a price though, with battery life lasting up to five hours when this function is constantly engaged while working out.
That’s a significant dip from the almost seven days worth of battery life that the Charge 4 can yield, and is likely something to note given the type of workouts you plan to do with the device.
Is this a dealbreaker? Not particularly, as the battery is usually fully charged within two hours.
While GPS dents battery life severely, when not in use, the Charge 4 lasts a solid seven days without before needing a visit to a plug point. The predecessor offered a similar performance, so we’re glad to see Fitbit has kept the standard here.
As welcome as GPS has been on this device, the review experience was not without its issues. The first to crop up was device compatibility, with the Huawei P40 Pro being our daily driver. It’s been well documented that the smartphone has no access to the Google Play Store and therefore cannot download the Fitbit app in order to facilitate the setup process.
This is something to note if you have a Huawei device that sports HMS, as support is till in the offing. Interestingly when we first took a look, the AppGallery had a placeholder for the Fitbit app, but when we checked again while writing this review it was missing.
While this issue meant we had to revert to a Huawei Mate 20 Pro for setup and syncing of the Charge 4, it should also be noted that this is not a fault on the side of Fitbit, just something to be aware of.
What should draw the attention of its manufacturer is a lack of responsiveness at times. The back/power button on the left side of the Charge 4 for example proved a little finicky in our testing, vibrating when pressed but not always performing as desired.
The same goes for the OLED greyscale display, which did not always light up when we turned our wrist to look at the screen. As such we had to be more deliberate with our action every now and then.
One area the Charge 4 cannot be faulted on, however, is the accuracy of its real-time heart rate sensor. In past fitness bands we’ve noted some wildly different readings compared to an actual heart rate monitor.
That’s not the case here though, with the Charge 4 being one or two beats per minute off of the readings given by a hear rate sensor placed on our finger at the same time.
Another aspect that Fitbit has given attention to is its Premium service, which has a free trial, but costs R150 per month.
It has greeted us on a few occasions when opening up the Fitbit app, but if we’re frank, the data and insights it can provide are for those who are wanting a digital fitness coach. Those wanting to be a little more healthy and track their progress while trying to achieve this, should be more than happy with the standard version of the app.
The Fitbit Charge 4 is not cheap at R2 999 (RRP). That said it costs the same as its predecessor did when it was first launched, so its manufacturer has managed to stay consistent on that front.
The addition of built-in GPS is an important one too, and should help separate the Charge 4 from other trackers on the market, for those wanting to do a lot of running or cycling with the device.
We’re not sure that this is enough to upgrade from the Charge 3 if you already own it, but it does put the next iteration on our radar, especially if Fitbit can find more uses for GPS, or bring more features and functions onboard.
FULL DISCLOSURE: THE CHARGE WAS RECEIVED BY FITBIT AS A SEEDING UNIT.