The Fitbit Charge 4 is Fitbit’s newest activity tracker. This model has the same design as its predecessor, but it has many new functions. We have tested it for the past two weeks.
Fitbit Charge review
The Charge 4 is Fitbit’s most comprehensive fitness tracker to date. It has more features than the cheaper Inspire HR and it also has more features than its predecessor the Charge 3.
- Special Edition
The biggest innovation is built-in GPS, so you can exercise without having to bring your smartphone. This makes the Charge 4 a real alternative to the many running watches for recreational use. Top athletes might prefer a huge amount of data, but when it only comes to speeds, times and the route traveled, the new Charge 4 is more than enough. It is a pity that the GPS function is only useful when you go outside – and that is not the intention under the current circumstances.
Further highlights: Spotify support and Fitbit Pay on all models. The new feature that shows how much time you’ve spent in active zones will also be available on Fitbit smartwatches later.
Fitbit Charge 4 in short
These are the main features:
- Measure steps, heart rate and sleep
- Built-in GPS
- Measure blood oxygen and VO2 Max
- 7 days of battery life
- Fitbit Pay and Spotify on all models
- Measure duration in specific heart rate zones
- Measure various workouts
- Standard model in three colors
- Special version with extra textile strap
Design and appearance
The Fitbit Charge 4 looks almost identical to its predecessor. A grayscale touchscreen and interchangeable straps. If you still have straps for the Charge 3, you can reuse them for the Charge 4, so that’s a bonus.
The Charge 4 is very compact: it measures 35.8mm x 22.7mm x 12.5mm and is therefore slightly narrower but slightly thicker than an Apple Watch (Series 5). The appearance is of course completely different: while you wear a watch with the Apple Watch, the Charge 4 opted for the appearance of a traditional fitness band. In the model we tested (and which will also be the most sold) everything is black, with an embossed diamond pattern on the rubber bracelet.
This time you can choose from two versions: the standard version with silicone strap in black, blue or purple and a special version with two accessories: a woven nylon strap and a silicone strap. Individual copies are available for 30 euros, including a strap with a hole pattern, similar to the Nike straps of the Apple Watch. If you want to vary the appearance, you can also go to Fitbit.
The screen is unfortunately still black and white and due to the small size it is difficult to read if you are fanatic about sports. It is an OLED screen with backlight, which displays the texts sharp, but small. During testing, I always wore the Apple Watch on my other wrist and noticed that it is a lot more pleasant to see all measurements large and in color. But that is a personal preference, with the consequence that the battery life is a lot shorter due to such a large color screen.
Fitbit Charge 4 tested in practice
You can wear the Charge 4 during the day and at night – something I’ve been doing for the past few days. Because the back around the heart rate sensor is fairly tapered, there is minimal contact with the skin. This prevents sweat stains, while it is still nice to take off the fitness bracelet regularly. The band is slightly thicker than that of the Apple Watch, making it a little less pleasant when you have to type with it. The sports band of the Apple Watch has only 2 layers of material due to the special ‘push-through’ construction, while the bracelet of the Charge has a traditional strap with a loop, which gives you 4 layers of material locally.
During workouts, the optical sensor on the inside measures your heart rate every second. If you are not exercising, this will happen every five seconds. In my case it was necessary to recharge a few times. I forgot to stop the workout and then the battery really drains much faster. Unfortunately, I didn’t stand a chance in the Workweek Hustle challenge, to which I was invited. As with previous Fitbits, you need a special charger, which I didn’t always have on hand.
This tracker can be recharged in about an hour and will last for about a week with normal use. If you often do workouts, it will be shorter.
The Charge 4 stores detailed data for a week and stores the most important measurements from the last 30 days, such as total number of steps, distance, number of stairs and calories burned. Older data can be found in the Fitbit app, which is required for use. Fitbit still doesn’t sync with HealthKit , so you’ll have to use special tools for that (just like before).
The built-in GPS is a big plus if you like to exercise outdoors. It also includes an altimeter for measuring the number of floors climbed. During a walk on the beach I turned out to have climbed 32 stairs, which seemed to me personally on the high side.
You can also use the Charge 4 in the water: it’s suitable for swimming, showering and sweating, thanks to its water resistance up to 50 meters.
Fitbit Charge 4 interface
Because I am used to the user interface of the Apple Watch, it took some getting used to the operation of the Fitbit. You have a touchscreen and one (non-pressable) button on the side, which provides haptic feedback. I had some difficulty with some options. For example, when I started a workout, I sometimes accidentally pressed ‘Cycling’ and I was unable to cancel that choice or go back a step. I solved this in the most cumbersome way: starting a workout, which I broke off after 1 second. Later I found out that you can always go back with the side button. You can tap and swipe on the screen and it takes a while to get into your ‘muscle memory’.
Because the screen is quite small, you only see two menu options on the screen. You can swipe up to see your stats such as number of steps and distance traveled. You can also tap the watch face repeatedly to view your data.
Since Fitbit does not work with HealthKit and the Health app, you will have to view your data in the Fitbit app. This app really only offers one tab that was interesting to me: Today. On the Discover tab you will find statistics and workouts (for this you need the separate Fitbit Coach app) and on the Community tab you will find chat messages from all kinds of users, including people you don’t know.
You also need this app to be able to pair the Charge 4 with your iPhone at all . You log in with your Fitbit account and choose the Charge 4 from the list. This worked effortlessly via Bluetooth. With a 4-digit pin code you can be sure that your fitness tracker is paired and not that of the neighbor, who is within Bluetooth range.
New in the app is the ability to view time in active zones. This takes your resting heart rate and age into account. The type of workout also makes a difference. You have to score 150 active minutes per week. You get double points for heavy exertion. Something similar are the activity rings on the Apple Watch, where you have to train for 30 minutes a day, although there is no distinction between fat burning and cardio zones.
My Fitbit Charge 4 only had a limited number of sports and does not have an ‘Add Workout’ option like on the Apple Watch. You have to arrange this in the app, which is less user-friendly. Especially for less experienced people it will take a while to find out where you can set this (or to even know that you can adjust it). You can choose up to 6 sports, while on the Apple Watch I have 18 sports (and yes, I need them all, because I do varied activities).
- Long battery life of 7 days (if you don’t do any workouts)
- More features for the same price
- GPS built-in
- New functions that you will only find on the smartwatches
- Large user base
- Best fitness tracker of the moment
- Accurate measurements
- Small black and white screen
- Same design as predecessor
- Do not store music locally
- Interface not intuitive (for me, as an Apple Watch user)
- GPS drains battery quickly
The Fitbit Charge 4 looks the same as the Charge 3, but has a lot more to offer. Especially the addition of GPS is a step forward. The previous bands are reusable and the price has remained the same, while it has new features such as minutes in active zones.
With built-in GPS, Spotify, Fitbit Pay and more insight into the intensity of your workouts, the Fitbit Charge has more to offer than ever. This is the best fitness tracker out right now.