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Review: Should you buy the Fitbit Charge 3?

17 Dec 2018

The Fitbit Charge 3, retailing at NZ$269 (AU$229) is the latest from the company that, it is fair to say, spurred the wearables market into the mainstream.

I have to be honest and tell you that this the first time that I have ever had any wearable, so I am going to try and answer the question: is it worth buying the Fitbit Charge 3?

I’m going to cover the features that I find most useful or interesting, some are pretty obvious but others are just small bonuses.

First, let’s look into what the Fitbit is best known for - pedometry, or counting steps.

It’s a nice feeling, having a benchmark for the number of steps you should be taking every day, even the number is “completely arbitrary” it’s nice to have the feeling of achievement that you get when you hit the 10k and the little disco ball animation lights up the screen.

I tend to hit that number without trying so it’s not really spurring me to do extra exercise but I might put it up to 15 or 20k in the future.

The thing is, I’m a fidgeter - I can’t sit still without tapping, leg jiggling or some other repetitive movement, or else I feel a fair amount of discomfort.

I believe this means that I am getting a LOT of inaccurate step counts a day, especially because I often get a little congratulatory buzz from the Charge 3 when I’m sitting on the couch in full Netflix mode.

If there is a way to adjust the sensitivity (aside from setting it to ‘dominant’ hand) I can’t find it, so the only solution I can think of is to manually note the number of steps before and after I walk anywhere... And that’s not going to happen.

So, for pedometry, I give it a 6/10.

Next, I’m going to look at something that I am particularly interested in - sleep tracking.

If you are happy to wear the Charge 3 while you are sleeping, it will provide pretty comprehensive data about how your night’s sleep went.

I used to use an app on my phone for this, but it used the microphone and I felt kinda weird about it recording me all night so I stopped using it.

The Fitbit app also provides more granular analytics without having to pay a subscription.

As I suspected, I sleep terribly and not nearly as long as I should.

Being able to track this means that I can actually work toward making sure I try to improve my habits, and already my average sleep time has gone from 6ish hours to 7ish hours.

For sleep tracking - 9/10

A feature that I have found surprisingly useful is the heart rate monitor.

I have bit of an anxiety disorder that can have very real effects when I go through times of high stress. It’s not debilitating, but it certainly can cause issues and make me extremely irritable and unreasonable.

At least twice since I first strapped on the Charge 3 I have had what I call ‘a bad day’ and found myself in a stupid argument with my significant other, looked down at the device and seen my heart rate right up at 120 bpm (resting 69bpm) and it has had a remarkable effect.

It causes me to stop and assess my actions and think about what is really behind them, like a less murder-y version of Macbeth staring down at his blood-soaked hands.

Knowing what is happening lets me manage my symptoms far more effectively, and the ‘Relax’ feature for guided breathing is also a nice little aid to calming.

Because of all this, I have to give the heart rate monitor a 10/10.

Finally, there are a few other little things that are worth noting.

The battery life is top notch, lasting 3-4 days before I have to recharge - although it does take a while to recharge, and I can’t do it overnight if I want to keep up the sleep tracking - 7/10.

The silent vibrating alarm is far better than any audio-based one that all make me unreasonably furious when I am waking out of my (very poor) sleep - 8/10.

The swipe screen, which builds a lot on what the Charge 2 had to offer, provides a really easy interface with the device itself for accessing the timer, stopwatch, relax, weather, and other features it offers. Though, it can be a little hard to get a good swipe sometimes so - 7/10.

And having notifications on my wrist is actually far more revolutionary than I ever expected - 8/10.

Final verdict - 8/10

If you are new to the world of wearables, don’t want to dish out for the high-end device but are keen for a little insight into your real-world activity then I say - Yes.

The Fitbit Charge 3 is a great piece of kit that will change the way that you interact with the world.

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