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Lifewire: Erika Rawes
Includes small and large bands
Larger display screen than the previous model
Accurate tracking for most activities
Uncomfortable for long wear
Inaccurate step counter
No built-in GPS
Charge 3 is a good option for those who want a feature-rich fitness tracker under $100.
The Fitbit Charge 3 hit the market in 2018, and now that its successor is available, the Charge 4, you can easily find the Charge 3 on sale. But, how does the Charge 3 stack up against the Charge 4 and other fitness trackers on the market in 2020? I tested the Fitbit Charge 3 alongside a few other fitness trackers to find how it compares.
The Charge 3 isn’t the slimmest tracker out there. It’s thick and bulky, with a silicone removable band that’s around 0.9 inches wide. On the plus side, you get both a large and small band in the package, so you don’t have to worry about finding the right fit. The Fitbit Charge 3 is one size fits all. Overall, Charge 3 is simple and fashionable, and you can wear it with anything. This is especially true when you purchase replacement bands, which sell on Amazon for less than $10.
The backlit OLED screen is large enough to see from a distance, measuring 1.57 inches from corner to corner. The gorilla glass screen is greyscaled, but it is bright enough to see in sunlight. The Charge 3 doesn’t have any physical buttons, but rather a touchscreen and a capacitive button on the side that you press to awaken the device. The side button also serves as a back button, and it pulls up additional display options when you hold it down. The interface is easy to navigate, and you swipe up and down to check your call notification and metrics (think heart rate, steps, stairs, sleep), and you swipe left and right to access your other widgets and log an exercise.
Water-resistant up to 50 meters, the Fitbit is durable and rugged. You can wear it while swimming, showering, and exercising, and it will hold up to the demands of your busy everyday life.
While Charge 3 may be comfortable for some, I found it uncomfortable after long periods of wear. I tested the black classic band, and it feels stiff, hot, and rigid. The sides aren’t rounded enough, and I couldn’t tolerate the band well enough to sleep in it, shower in it, or wear it while doing exercises like push-ups or pull-ups.
I found it uncomfortable after long periods of wear.
I found other Fitbit replacement bands more comfortable, like the cloth band and sport band. Even with the replacement bands, the Fitbit Charge 3 isn’t as comfortable as a slimmer fitness tracker like the Garmin Vivosmart 4.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is solid and reliable, with relatively accurate metrics and an array of useful data and helpful applications. As is the case with other Fitbit units and many other brands of fitness trackers, the step counter tends to overestimate the number of steps taken. It would even occasionally count steps when I would make slight hand movements (typing, washing my hands, etc.) The heart rate monitor is more accurate than other trackers I’ve tested in this price range. It’s typically accurate within five beats per minute when compared to a chest strap.
The heart rate tracker is more accurate than other trackers I’ve tested in this price range. It’s typically accurate within five beats per minute when compared to a chest strap.
I was impressed with the Charge 3’s sleep tracking capabilities, as well as its ability to track activities like running, swimming, biking, stair climbing, and weight lifting. You can automatically or manually track your activity, and automatic tracking is reasonably accurate, especially for swimming. If you input a custom stride length, the running tracking tends to improve. Charge 3 doesn’t have GPS built-in, so it needs to connect to your phone to track distance.
You can receive notifications for calls, texts, calendar events, and emails to your Charge 3 fitness tracker. The text is clear and easy to read, and Charge 3 even displays emojis. You can also receive notifications from most apps, and you can customize quick replies and vibration settings.
The Fitbit app is comprehensive, and it has many features, including a diet tracker where you can keep a log of your food and water consumption, access to a number of different workout programs, a sleep analysis, and different communities you can join. You can further enhance the app by purchasing the premium version for $10/month. The premium version gives you additional perks like a fitness coach, additional sleep score details, access to additional programs, and customized tips to help you reach your goals.
One thing I don’t love about the Fitbit app is that historical tracking isn’t as seamless as I’ve found on other apps, which feature historical data on the main screen. On the Fitbit app, you can see today’s information, and scroll through past days. Plus, you can access a 7-day summary. You can track your progress over the long term by clicking on each activity, but it’s not as clean and easy to read as I’ve seen on other applications.
Fitbit does support a number of third party apps, including Alexa. You can say, “Alexa, ask Fitbit how I slept last night” or “Alexa, ask Fitbit how many steps I've taken” and your Alexa-enabled device will provide you with that information if you add the Fitbit skill.
Charge 3’s battery lasts for up to seven days, according to the manufacturer. A fitness tracker’s battery life typically varies depending on how frequently you're using all of the features. During testing, I was able to get just under a week of battery (6.5 days), and I took full advantage of Charge 3’s features. When using the tracker lightly, the battery lasted even longer, and it still had about 20% of the battery remaining after a full week.
To charge the battery, you clip on a clamp charger and connect it to a USB plug or a computer. It charges quickly and reaches a full charge in about an hour.
Charge 3 typically sells for $100, which is $50 down from its original retail price of $150. This is a reasonable price for the device, which offers relatively accurate tracking, durability, and good build quality.
I recently tested the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4 (view on Amazon), and I was so impressed with all it had to offer for its under $30 price tag. It even has a color display, which the Fitbit Charge 3 lacks. If you’re looking to enter the world of fitness trackers, but you don’t want to invest a lot of cash, Xiaomi’s Mi 4 Band is worth a look. With Fitbit, you do get more accurate activity tracking and a better app, but the two trackers offer a similar experience for light users. Fitness buffs will probably be happier with the Fitbit Charge 3, and you can get a great deal on the Charge 3 now that it has been on the market for a while and the Charge 4 is available.
An affordable and reliable tracker with a comprehensive app.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is a solid unit, if only it were more comfortable.