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Hands on review: Fitbit Charge

18 Dec 14

The Fitbit Charge promised to ‘Energise my day’ and it did just that. But I’m not completely won over.

When I started out with the Charge I was equal parts excited, thinking this little wristband could revolutionise my life, and sceptical, thinking it might be nothing more than a gimmick. To a certain degree, I was right on both fronts.

The Fitbit Charge is stylish and comfortable. The slim, black band is understated, light and looks good. I could even go as far as to say it makes me feel cool. It’s the small touches, like the grooves on the band and the way the display face ‘slides’ on, that I appreciate.

There are five trackers you can see on the Charge wristband: time, steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and floors climbed. As far as I can tell, distance and floors are accurate, but steps, not so much.

Thinking it would be easy, I tried to trick the Charge’s step counter. I walked down the street at varying speeds, moving my arms, not moving my arms, taking long strides and slowing right down. No matter how I walked, it ticked along fairly accurately.

But later I found the Charge also tracked some of my wrist movements as steps even when I wasn’t walking. If you’re a wildly animated person, live down a bumpy road and drive a jeep, or play the maracas for a living, hey look at that you’ve walked 100 steps without standing up.

The Charge doesn’t account for other types of exercise, or how much effort you put into your exercise. It occurred to me if I walked slower, I could potentially do more steps albeit while travelling the same distance. With power walking in my blood (my Dad walks faster than some people run) this thought quickly evaporated, but it would be nice to know how much I was putting into my run or walk and have that extra motivation to push harder.

As someone who likes switching it up - trying yoga one day, boxing another and swimming the next - I was a bit frustrated this didn’t always ‘count’. Particularly with swimming. I love swimming and wished I could leave my Charge on when I jumped in the ocean. All of that frolicking in the stormy sea, and for what, my general wellbeing and happiness? Fitbit stats or it didn’t happen.

On the Fitbit site you can create a login and see all of your information, including calories, water intake, weight, the week’s activity and recent exercise. I mainly paid attention to my active minutes and sleep patterns. For one day alone it’s interesting to see how active I’ve been and how restless I was during the night, and it’s even more interesting to see how this tallies up over time.

What were you doing on Saturday the 13th of December? Eating chips and sitting on the couch? You rascal. Fitbit won’t let you slide that one under the rug.

The dashboard displays all of your information with a friendly, clean, easy to read design. Each segment has a tracker and shows how close you are to your goal - red when you’re far off and green when you’ve excelled.

Not going to lie, I felt some glee at receiving the Urban Boot badge for walking 15,000 steps in a day and the Ferris Wheel for 75 floors in a day. (Not that I’d publicly gloat or anything.) But I don’t really think the badges would motivate me to go out and climb 100 floors in a day.

On the site you can also join groups in the ‘Community’ section. You can choose how much of your details can be seen and compete to travel the most steps or lose the most weight. This can bring out a competitive streak in even the least competitive people, and all for a good cause.

Because that’s the thing. While it may be a bit frustrating to not know how accurate the step counter is, or go to yoga and not have it ‘count’, wearing the Fitbit can make you aware of your activity. It give you that final push you need to pull on your sneakers and go for a run, even if it’s just so you can have the small pleasure of seeing the flashing lights 10,000 step figure.

At a RRP of $179.95 I wouldn’t buy one for myself. Maybe I’d fork out for the Fitbit Charge HR, which comes in at $199.95 and is equipped with a heart rate monitor, but then again maybe not.

Some may say it’s a glorified pedometer, others may say it’s a fantastic tool to lead a more active life. For me, I’ve worn the Charge non-stop since I’ve got it and have enjoyed it. Like a blind date that’s turned into a fling. Beautiful.

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