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Lifewire / Anduy Zahn
Effective weight loss aid
Slim and comfortable
Easy to use
Display is bright and easy to read
Up to 6 days of battery life
Some features require a subscription fee
Battery drains quickly when using GPS
Low power mode limits functionality
The Fitbit Charge 4 offers a fun and engaging fitness tracking experience that encourages you to exercise and generally live a healthy lifestyle. It’s also an attractive minimalist smartwatch, and aside from a few minor issues, it’s an easy device to recommend.
Before testing out the Fitbit Charge 4, I had long been a skeptic of wearable exercise technology. However, after a few weeks with this awesome little device, I’m now a firm believer in its merits as both a means towards achieving a healthier lifestyle and as a minimalist smartwatch. It has succeeded in putting me on the path towards meaningful weight loss where countless diets and New Years' resolutions have failed.
The Fitbit Charge 4 is sleek and stylish with a futuristic flare. The patterned strap is attractive and catches the light in interesting ways. The square screen is practical, but may not appeal to folks who prefer round watches. It feels pretty durable, and it's waterproof down to 50 meters. After a number of rigorous outdoor adventures, it's come through unscathed. The Charge 4 comes with a charging station and both small and large wristbands. It’s easy to swap the wrist bands out, and Fitbit sells a variety of alternative styles.
It has succeeded in putting me on the path towards meaningful weight loss where countless diets and New Years' resolutions have failed.
A quick press of the button on the side of the watch takes you back to the clock face or turns it on if it fails to show up automatically when you move your wrist (which does happen, albeit infrequently). Hold the button down and you get access to do not disturb, sleep mode, and other functions, as well as Fitbit Pay.
My Samsung Galaxy Note 9 immediately noticed that the Charge 4 was nearby when I powered the smartwatch up, and a tap of the screen of my phone took me to the download page for the app. Once installed, the app guided me through the setup process. You’ve got to enter a bunch of information about yourself, including name, birth date, weight, and gender. Next, the app shows a helpful animation of how to attach the charger. I like the smiley face the device gives you when it starts charging; it’s a small touch, but it gives the Charge 4 a little jolt of personality.
After this, it was time to actually pair the Charge 4 to my phone, and after an annoying Squaretrade “Fitbit protection plan” ad, I needed to install an update. While that was downloading I was given a list of first-time user guides. This was useful, with plenty of information about how to use the device, though I would have preferred a printed manual. After the device is up to date, a further set of animated guides showed me the various controls and gestures used to navigate the Charge 4. Finally, the app had a few product care tips and another annoying ad (this time for a Fitbit Premium account) and was ready to go.
As someone with ridiculously large wrists, I really appreciated that the Charge 4 comes with a larger watch band. It was easy to switch out the band by depressing a recessed button on the underside of the watch, and between the two included bands, the Charge 4 should fit just about anyone. I was surprised by just how comfortable this smartwatch was for me; the larger band has plenty of room to spare even on my wrists.
As someone with ridiculously large wrists, I really appreciated that the Charge 4 comes with a larger watch band.
No fitness tracker is 100% accurate, and the Charge 4 is no exception, but that’s not as much of a problem as you might assume. Though everything from step counts to elevation change to calories expended and consumed has margins for error, they nonetheless give you goals to work towards, and this rough data is perfectly adequate to help you become more conscious of your physical health.
Despite small variances in reporting vs. the actual number of steps I was taking or calories I was consuming, this device made me more aware of how much exercise I was getting and how much I was eating. This encouraged me to get more exercise and eat healthier. Also, it’s worth noting that the Charge 4 tracks so many different stats that the cumulative data from such a large variety of factors helps to iron out irregularities from any given reading.
Sleep tracking is a cool feature, and it seemed to have a pretty good idea of when I was asleep and when I was awake, though sometimes it would fail to record detailed statistics for no discernable reason. Heart Rate tracking isn’t bad either, though my impression is that it was estimating my heart rate somewhat high.
Calorie tracking was most useful to me, as it gave me a rough estimate to compare to my caloric intake. By entering every meal I ate into the app, I got an idea of how much I could eat during the day and how much exercise I needed to get. Because of this I have been going for more walks and eating healthier. I have almost entirely cut snacks out of my day, and I find myself doing circles around the driveway or going up and down flights of stairs in order to be able to have a little dessert after dinner.
I didn’t find personalized exercise reminders, the workout intensity map, or exercise tracking to be particularly helpful, but that's very much a matter of personal preference. In terms of navigation and functionality, the Charge 4 functions very well without much in the way of lag, and the interface is easy to navigate. The only problem comes when you get below 20% battery. A power-saving mode kicks in at that point and the functionality of the watch drops significantly. You’ll want to charge it before it gets to this point.
Both the interface of the watch and the companion app for IOS and Android function nearly flawlessly. Menus are easy to navigate, and data is both in-depth while also being easy to access and analyze. Though the hardware itself is a marvel of design and miniaturization, the software is where the magic happens. The Charge 4 essentially turns weight loss and healthy living into a game, and for me, this is an addictive and rewarding game indeed.
One thing to consider is that some features such as sleep score details and custom challenges are locked behind a steep paywall that will run you $10 a month or $80 per year. It’s pretty easy to set up a subscription like this, never use it, and forget to cancel it until years later when you’ve spent a hefty chunk of change on the service. Annoyingly, the ad for this premium service is permanently affixed to the toolbar in the app.
The Charge 4 lasts about six days on a charge under typical use, which is better than most advanced smartwatches. It charges quickly and most of the time isn’t something you have to worry about.
However, I did run into a few issues worth mentioning. First of all, when the battery drops below 20% the Charge 4 seems to go into a power-saving mode that limits functionality. Secondly, using features like exercise tracking that use the GPS will drain the battery much more quickly. When I embarked with a full charge on a two-day backpacking trip and set the Charge 4 to record the hike as an exercise it only lasted me through roughly 75% of the two days of trekking.
With an MSRP of $150 the Fitbit Charge 4 is somewhat expensive but fairly priced for a basic smartwatch. However, extra accessories and subscription services can quickly add to the cost.
For a more fully-featured smartwatch with a more classic watch design, the Fossil Sport is an attractive alternative to the Fitbit Charge 4. Using Google’s Wear OS and utilizing a full color LED displace, the Fossil Sport is a far more versatile device. However, the Charge 4 has the benefit of simplicity that lends a much more intuitive experience.
Whether you’re looking for a minimalist smartwatch or an effective fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge 4 is a generally excellent device.
I was frankly shocked by how much I have come to like the Fitbit Charge 4. It’s as functional as it’s good looking, and provides both reasonably accurate fitness tracking and well integrated basic smartwatch functionality. Despite a few minor flaws such as a subscription paywall for some features and battery hogging GPS I can heartily recommend the Charge 4.
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