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HOME / Wearable Tech / Fitbit Charge 3 vs 2 Review – Which is the Best Fitness Tracker?
Fitbit Charge 3 vs 2 Review – Which is the Best Fitness Tracker?
Which Fitbit should you get? Charge 3 or Charge 2?
The Fitbit Charge has been one of the most popular fitness trackers year after year. The original Charge HR had a near cult-like following. The Fitbit Charge 2 was seemingly sold by the bushel. And the Charge 3 will no doubt be worn by millions. But what sort of upgrades does Fitbit really make year-over-year? And is the Charge 3 really that much better than the Charge 2? We will explore that, and much more in this post.
Similarities between the Fitbit Charge 3 and Charge 2 fitness trackers
If you just look at an image of these two devices you can tell they have a heck of a lot in common. Fitbit basically took the Charge 2 and said, “hhm, what would make this slightly better?” And that’s how they came up with the Charge 3. Here’s what you will get with both the Charge 3 and Charge 2.
– Unisex Design: Both devices are built for men and women.
– Color Options: You can find them in various color options
– Interchangeable Bands: You can swap out the bands for more stylish or sporty bands.
– Activity Tracking: Both track daily activity stats such as calories, steps, distance, floors, and hear rate.
– Sleep Tracking: Fitbit has some of the best, most in depth sleep analytics.
– Activity Goal: You get a daily goal in order to stay motivated. This can be calories, steps, or distance.
– Connected GPS: Together with the app on your phone, you can track running, cycling, and more.
– Wrist HRM: Monitor HR 24×7 and during workouts.
– Workouts: They can track all sorts of workouts, including running, yoga, HIIT, walking and more.
– Phone Notifications: Both display text, call, and calendar notifications from your phone.
– Pair w/ Fitbit App: Allows you to track progress and connect/compete with others.
Here’s the announcement video for the Charge 3:
Why the Fitbit Charge 3 is better than the Charge 2
Given that the Charge 3 is the newer device, naturally, it makes some upgrades over the Charge 2. Some of these upgrades are small and others are quite significant.
Support for swimming
The Charge 3 is now water resistant down to 50 meters and can track pool swimming just like the Fitbit Versa and Ionic. The Charge 3 will monitor the total time of your swim, calories burned, pace, and distance covered. The Charge 2 is only “splash-proof,” which is fine, but it means swimmers need not apply.
Charge 3 can now track swimming workouts
Goal setting for workouts
Rather than just start a workout, with the Charge 3, you can now set a goal for that workout. The goals can be based on time, distance, and other factors. Nice to have.
Improvements to battery life
The Charge 3 now has battery life of about seven days on a single charge (pun not intended). The Charge 2 only has battery life of about five days. This will depend on usage, but in the past Fitbit has been nearly spot on in terms of quoting battery life. Unfortunately, both devices use a proprietary charging cable, so that’s just one more piece of tech to remember to bring with you when you travel.
Looks like a tracker, acts like a smartwatch, as Fitbit likes to say
Notifications from 3rd party apps
While the Charge 2 only relayed incoming text, call, and calendar notifications, the Charge 3 will show alerts from other apps such as the weather.
Fitbit Pay on special edition version
On the special edition Charge 3 devices, will be support for Fitbit Pay, which is a mobile payment service very similar to Apple Pay on the Apple Watch or Garmin Pay on the fenix 5 Plus, for example. . It allows you to pay for goods and services on the go via your wrist. The devices have an NFC chip inside that allows you to pay at vendors that use certain contactless payment terminals. Only a select few banks support Fitbit Pay right, but it looks like they’re working on forming additional partnerships.
Fitbit is making a big deal out of this one, but we’re not that impressed since pretty much every device out there has a touchscreen. And now the Charge 3 does. The Charge 2 had a “tap-screen” which worked, but is less ideal than a proper touchscreen. The display also has a grey scale rather than being purely black and white.
Larger display with grey scale now
Larger display on Charge 3
The display now has about 40% more useful space as compared to the Charge 2.
Despite the Charge 3 being the latest and greatest, there are still a few compelling reasons to get the Charge 2 instead.
It’s more affordable!
Whenever a newer model comes out we can expect the older model to drop in price. That’s precisely what happens with Fitbit devices and the Charge 2 in particular. You can check the current price for the Charge 2 on Amazon. It originally had an MSRP of $150, but you can expect it to be in the $130 range going forward. That’s not to say that it will always be $130 (we’ve seen it as low as $100), but just to lay expectations, you should be prepared to pay around $130 for the Charge 2.
Fitbit Charge 2 vs Charge HR
The Charge 2 has more of a smooth, continuous look to it, while the Charge 3 is more angular and looks like a smart device rather than an accessory. There’s no real practical advantage or disadvantage related to the round vs angular design, but you might have a personal preference.
Yes, we’re done with the comparison portion of this post, but there are a some areas we’d still like to address about these devices.
Neither of the Charge devices have a GPS chip. Instead, they pair with your phone during a run, bike ride, hike, etc. to provide GPS data. In other words, the pace, speed, and distance info that you see on your wrist during a run is actually provided by your phone. The whole system works well, but it’s not quite as convenient as having built-in GPS. So, just to be clear, no GPS. They have Connected GPS, which you’ll only find on the Charge 3, Versa, Blaze, and Charge 2.
The default goal for Fitbit devices is steps, however, you can change this to be distance, calories, etc. Additionally, you manually set the goal, it does not adjust automatically based on your recent activity level like certain Garmin devices. We’ve found the activity tracking features to be fairly accurate with Fitbit, however, you have to understand that everything is just an estimate. Sometimes they will register a step when you didn’t take a step. It’s just a reality of fitness trackers—they aren’t perfectly accurate.
PurePulse Heart Rate Sensor
All of the modern Fitbit devices have their PurePulse wrist heart rate monitor. It does a good job of tracking your heart rate during running, walking, and everyday use, however, like all wrist HRMs, it falls short during cross-training and weight training. This is just a limit to the technology. Any activity which involves a good deal of muscle flexion in your arm will distort heart rate readings with the optical sensor. Also, Fitbit does not allow their devices to pair with an external heart rate monitor, so the wrist sensor is the only option right now.