The Fitbit Charge 4 is an advanced activity tracker, with built-in GPS, meaning it does not rely on your phone for position tracking. Unlike the Fitbit Inspire HR reviewed earlier, it is larger and boasts more features, similar to the Fitbit Charge 3 before it.
We spent a month with it, and literally, put it through its paces. Here’s what we thought about it.
Design and Ergonomics
For those who have used Fitbit devices before, the design is pretty straightforward, with a vertically aligned touchscreen in the center, and silicone straps that go around the wrist. The fit is comfortable and though it is larger than the Inspire HR, even with small hands it doesn’t feel oversized.
Fitbit designs attractive gadgets, and in keeping with that, the Charge 4 likewise sports a versatile lifestyle design and is well-suited for work, play, or a when it’s time to work up a sweat. This makes it great as a daily wearable.
The top surface is a touch-screen that can be tapped or swiped, while the main button is on the left side. Responsiveness is top-notch, with the twist of the wrist gesture being quickly sensed and the screen lighting up instantly. So, if you need to see the time or check your workout stats, it’s always onscreen when you want it.
Software and User Experience
If you are new to such wearable devices, you’d be happy to know that the user interface is very intuitive. Even without referring to the manual, getting started and using the device is fairly simple.
That said, we did face quite a bit of trouble with the setup:
- Blank Screen – Blank screens and Frozen screens are not new to Fitbit devices, but seemed to be more pronounced with the Charge 4.
- Device Not Detected – The smartphone app failed to detect the device, and kept looping back to the instruction screen of the setup.
Going by online research, the above issue is well documented and common with the Charge 3 and 4.
After a few phone restarts, reinstalling the Fitbit app, disabling and enabling Bluetooth several times, and resetting the Charge 4 device a few times, we finally had it set up and good to go. The trial and error process was honestly a frustrating experience.
The home screen displays the time and other customizable data. As it uses the same OS as other Fitbit devices, the user interface is the same. Check out our Inspire HR review for detailed notes on the software UI.
Features and Activity Tracking
As the Charge 4 is marketed as an advanced fitness tracker, we will only be talking about its key functionality over and above the basics, such as step counts, calorie burn, heart rate, exercise recognition, etc.
With built-in GPS being the USP of the device, we decided to focus on that:
- Unfortunately, during our testing over 4 weeks, it rarely connected
- On one of the runs where it did connect, it tracked the distance successfully
- Syncing and refreshing the Fitbit app on the phone takes a while and sometimes needs to be executed a few times before it goes through
If a run gets tracked and mapped correctly, there is some added info the Charge 4 provides:
- 3 additional data tabs: Map, Splits, Elevation
- The Map data tab has three versions: Default, Heart Zones, and Pace
- Visually mapped out Heart Zone and Pace are features not available on the Inspire HR and Versa. These were nice, as it helps see the effort put into stages of the run
Another new feature is the Active Zone minutes. Some of this info was previously available under the heart rate monitoring feature in the Inspire HR. Here it’s presented differently.
For detailed notes on the other general features, check out our Fitbit Inspire HR review.
Specs and Performance
With such wearable devices, people seldom care about the hardware under the hood, as what matters is the user experience being snappy and seamless. Given that, below is our summary of what worked and didn’t.
- Workout Intensity Map: Best feature by far is being able to see the heart rate and effort of the run for each km. As a runner, it helps analyze which aspects of the run need to be improved and whether the runs’ planned intensity was met.
- Sleep Score: The sleep score rates the quality of sleep; on the Charge 4 it can also be seen in the watch face! Good sleep contributes to overall fitness, and thus the extra focus is nice.
- Aesthetics: Despite the added tech and larger watch face (than say the Inspire HR), the watch is not overwhelmingly large, and still looks fashionable.
The Areas for Improvement:
- Unreliable GPS: It was difficult to connect, and often disconnected during the run. Only 2 of 10 runs connected. This made bringing the phone along necessary; defeating the purpose of a GPS enabled fitness tracker.
- Software Niggles: The initial setup was annoyingly troublesome, and the software issues continue with the device failing to turn on sometimes. This is well documented online as ongoing Charge 3 and Charge 4 battery and software related bugs.
- Touch-enabled Wake: Unlike other models, the Charge 4 is touch-enabled, so there is no tactile feedback to give the user assurance that the sensor has recorded the touch. The issue is exasperated during a run, as sometimes you need to hit the sensor several times/ways to wake up the device. Which is not ideal when you want to quickly check active run stats.
Battery and Charging
The battery takes between one and two hours to charge fully and lasts about five to seven days depending on usage. This is without the GPS connected, as that drastically reduces charge levels. To conserve battery, the screen turns off. So, if you’re particular about an always-on display, the Fitbit Versa may suit you better.
While charge levels are not much of an issue, the nuances mentioned above in terms of software and battery are concerning, and a bit of a deal-breaker, given that it is well-known.
Included with the device is a magnetic base which the device attaches to for charging. It has clamps that secure the device, but there is still a little wiggle room. There were times we had to double or triple check to ensure that it was clamped on and charging.
The base in-turn connects to a standard USB port. The package does not include a dedicated charger, instead, there is a USB cable, as the expectation is that most users would hook them up to laptops or other chargers featuring USB connectivity.
Value and Competition
The Fitbit Charge 4 retails for P9,590 and is available online from the official Fitbit Store on Lazada and Shopee. It is can also be found at all Digital Walker physical stores. Additionally, there is a Special Edition of the Charge 4 which costs P10,890; it has a reflective black woven band, plus a classic black flexible plastic band you can use for sweaty workouts.
In terms of competition, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 is cheaper at P7,995 but is feature-packed. While it has a narrower screen, it does have a Pulse Ox Meter, and an Energy Monitor.
Having tested multiple fitness trackers and owning a Fitbit Inspire HR for over a year, expectations were high going into the Charge 4. While the larger screen and added features are nice, the overall experience was dampened owing to the software glitches and poor GPS connectivity. You may luck out with a bug-free device, but unless Fitbit can sort out its issues, it’s going to be hard to suggest this device.
- Model: FB 417
- Price: P9,590
- Verdict: A potentially great device plagued with software bugs