REVIEW | Fitbit Charge 3 the smart tracker


The Fitbit Charge 3 is the latest health tracker from Fitbit. It’s more than a simple activity tracker and less than a fully features smartwatch. Fitbit likes to call the new Charge 3 a smart Tracker.

Steven Ambrose takes the new Fitbit Charge 3 out on runs and to the gym to see how smart it is.

The Fitbit Charge line has been a resounding success for Fitbit over the years. The original Fitbit charge all the way to the charge 2 were simple and easy to use with just enough usability to make them indispensable trackers. The latest Charge 3 takes the range to new heights and adds lots of carefully thought out touches that make the Fitbit Charge 3 the best fitness tracker available today.

The Charge 3 has some smart features, in my opinion just the ones that are needed and all the required sensors to deliver a superior fitness tracking experience for pretty much anybody

The hardware

The Charge 3 is slimmer than the Charge 2, and its screen is now a bigger brighter OLED based touchscreen.

The Charge 2 had a simple tap screen.  The button on the side of Charge 3 is now inductive and not physical. The reason for this is firstly reliability and secondly waterproofing. The switch is responsive and buzzes with just a bit of pressure from your thumb. The battery life has been improved to last 7 days between charges.

The body is smaller than the Charge 2 and made from aluminium like the Versa. There is careful attention to the way the band clips on and the rounded edges and angles make this the most comfortable Charge device I have worn

Straps are removable, and there is a good range of options from Fitbit including a Silicon sports strap and some fabric and leather options.

The screen on the Charge 3 looks crisp from any angle and is very responsive. It is only black and white but has enough grayscale to look decent. Swiping through the various screens and options is easy to learn and quickly becomes second nature.

The sensor array is the same as the new Versa and is reportedly far better than those used in the Charge 2. Heart rate sensing is significantly improved. The sensors now include a SpO2 sensor which can estimate how much oxygen is in your blood. That sensor helps it ‘track new health indicators, like sleep apnea,’ according to Fitbit.

The charge 3 is water resistant to 50 meters and can automatically track your swims and six other activities including walking and running. In my experience, the automatic start and stop were reasonably accurate but if you want to be pedantic its best to start and stop your activities manually.

The Charge 3 does not have its own built-in GPS. For super accurate route tracking, you will need to pair the Charge 3 with your phone. I found the calculations of the Charge 3 without GPS to be pretty precise as to pace and distance and this will only bother those who do serious outdoor running and do not want to take a phone along.

There will be two models on offer the basic without NFC and a premium model with NFC to allow for Fitbit Pay. My experience is that this will not bother the majority of the intended market for the Charge 3, although on the Versa using Fitbit pay, especially when travelling, was a real pleasure.

The software

The Fitbit app is available for iPhones and Android and is substantially identical across both platforms.

The app is simple to set up with clear guidance for pairing the device. The layout is not exciting but in combination with the tracker gives you all the information you need to track your activities, sleep, and general health.

There is also a female health function which tracks periods records symptoms and can even give you a simulated ovulation calendar and some other female-specific information.

The Fitbit app also includes an excellent food tracking function with a decent food database that maps to South African foods really well, so dieting and controlling your calories, taking your activity into account, has never been easier.

Overall the app is clean simple and very useful. The app interfaces with Discovery Health and allows the sharing of activities including heart rate so you can get all your vitality points.


The Fitbit Charge 3 is simple, functional, and very well made.

The price is now R2,995.00 for the non-NFC version and R3,495.00 with NFC. Fitbit has improved their basic tracker in every way, and the Charge 3 has an excellent range of functionality blended with some smart features such as notifications and multiple activity tracking.

The build quality is significantly improved, and the range of accessories is excellent. The Charge 3 is for those that do not want a smartwatch and wish to have an unobtrusive health tracker while wearing another watch. The price is well below that of a decent smartwatch, through the Fitbit Versa is a compelling proposition for only third more.

Overall the Fitbit Charge 3 is a fully-fledged smart tracker and should keep you off the couch and let you know how active you are. It is highly recommended.

Steven Ambrose | Techhuman | @ambio | mail me |

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