If you’re looking for a fitness tracker that does more than just count steps and monitor sleep, the Fitbit Charge 2 is your best bet.
The Fitbit Charge 2 offers an interchangeable strap, comes in four colour options plus two special edition colours, very easy to use and the stats produced are very elaborate, yet simple to understand to make personal improvements.
Fitbit has upped their technology offering in the Charge 2 to offer a better and more accurate readings, longer battery life, the ability to track various exercises including yoga, and you can even use it for relaxation (breathing/timeout).
Fitbit Charge 2: Design
Fitbit fitness bands are not hard to miss if you see someone wearing one, and they’re very popular amongst fitness enthusiasts. Fitbit’s design DNA is written all over the Charge 2 and it takes what’s great about the HR and Charge to make it an all round fitness tracker.
Packed with a larger black and white OLED screen that’s four times bigger than its predecessor, it makes it easy to read when on the move and in any lighting conditions.
It fits well on the wrist and offers secure fit thanks to its clasp system. The wrist strap is easy to adjust for different wrist sizes, and you can even get them in different sizes and colors. The straps are also easily detachable so you accessorise it with other options available.
To use the Charge 2, you have a single button on the left side for selecting modes and navigation; you can also swipe and tap the screen to select options available. With a built-in gyro, raising your wrist will illuminate the screen to quickly see the time and begin to check other stats and operate your Charge 2. You can also press the side button to wake the Charge 2 manually.
Pressing the button will also cycle through the functions available such as your HR, Exercise modes, Stopwatch, Relax, and Alarm. On each feature, tapping the screen will reveal more information, for example, tapping the HR screen will reveal your resting heart rate.
To access a mode, you need to long-press the side button, so if you’re in the exercise mode, you can long-press to begin the selected exercise or you can also swipe down on the screen to see the list of exercises.
The Charge 2 can be worn on daily basis thanks to its slick design and comfortable straps. It feels light on the wrist and you can also tell the time and customise the main clock display to suit your style.
You can also change its classic band which comes in black, plum, blue and teal for the special edition ones which include black with gunmetal body, or lavender and rose gold for an extra cost, currently £149.99. Check Fitbit’s website for other options available.
The only problem I had with the design is that the illumination doesn’t always activate at the flick of my wrist or when I raise my arm towards my eyes and navigating the menus took some getting used to and could be better. On the menus, you can only cycle through them as there aren’t any back and forward buttons – the touchscreen doesn’t always respond to touch.
Fitbit Charge 2: App and data
The FitBit app is one of the best fitness apps there is, you can access it on most mobile devices running iOS, Android, and even Windows mobile; you can also access your data on your PC or Mac computers, as well as their web app too. It displays all the vital information but if you also prefer to only see certain things, you can move or hide them.
On the app’s dashboard, you can see the number of steps taken, floors counter, distance covered in miles, calories burnt and minutes active as the main information to consider first, then scrolling down you will see your heart rate, sleep data snapshot showing how long you slept for with how many times you were awake and restless.
Further down on the dashboard you have a weekly exercise goal snapshot to encourage exercising, a feature that reminds you to keep moving, your weight, hydration and food intake. The snapshot thumbnails can be moved around to priority or removed just by hitting the edit button at the top right corner of the screen.
What’s really useful here is the ability to see trends on each training component, so when in the Heart Rate menu, you can see your HR data over time and even go back as far as when you started using your Fitbit Charge 2. This is useful as when you see progress, it’s encouraging to keep exercising.
Without going into too much detail into every bit of the app, what’s important here is that navigating through the app is very easy, your data is clearly displayed, labeled and very easy to understand. Even with so many technical words that can be used when it comes to sleep cycle and training in general, Fitbit has managed to keep the app jargon-free, with a lot of tips and help pop-up throughout the app and it’s the same experience if you’re on the web too.
Something else worth mentioning is how you can compare yourself to your friends, or make things a little competitive with friends and family. You can choose what you share, so for example, you can hide HR data or trend from others. To keep things exciting, hit the challenges menu to see all sorts of available fun things you can do to keep you fit.
So what can I actually do with my Fitbit Charge 2?
Fitbit uses a technology called PurePulse to track heart rate continuously on your wrist to maximise workouts, better track calories burn and get a clearer picture of your health.
It does this automatically so you don’t need to wear a belt. Using the HR function, you can track your average HR, which I find useful as if I see any spike in my HR trend, it could be an indication of stress or other things that need my attention.
In order to collect HR data, the green LED lights on the back of the Charge 2 reflect off the skin to detect changes in blood flow as the heart beats (capillaries expand and contract). Fitbit’s PurePulse technology then uses that data to track your beats per minute.
Using this in conjunction with the Fitbit app, you can also see your cardio fitness level, a new feature on Fitbit Charge 2 that allows you to see a snapshot of your fitness level using a personalised Cardio Fitness Score, which is an estimation of your VO2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use when you’re working out at your hardest).
Please note, for your resting heart rate, it’s best to wear the Charge 2 to bed to get the best data. Overall the HR feature works well and will give a clear indication of your workout level. With a trending snapshot in the app, you can easily see any changes in HR data over time. I also like that the green light is hidden enough not to flash in your face at night when sleeping, that is something I encountered with some other fitness wearables.
There’s also a stopwatch feature which can be very useful for interval training. I find myself using this feature to get faster and better at running, even when doing simple exercises that involve holding a position, for example, when holding a side plank position.
Most Fitbit users are people who have a busy schedule in the day, in fact, most people forget to take time out during the day and when you do take time out, you don’t really know how to relax anymore. With Charge 2’s relax mode, you can let the watch guide your breathing in order to relax.
You simply select this mode, and you get the option to relax for 2 or 5 mins with a cool animation to follow and guide your breathing rhythm. Press and hold the side button to begin, then the Charge 2 will sense your current HR to get you started.
Following the inhale and exhale instructions whilst watching the animation takes your mind off everything else for the duration and once completed you can just go about your day-to-day. This can be performed anywhere, even at your desk in the office.
Having a silent alarm is also very useful; you can set your alarm using the Fitbit app and using the side button, you can deactivate it quickly. The vibration is strong enough to wake you up but also without annoying or startling you out of your dream.
Notifications are also available, so you can get a nice vibration feedback when you receive a message or phone call. This is nice to have but not essential, especially as it didn’t work with Whatsapp during my tests, maybe there will be an update in the near future.
With SmartTrack present, the Charge 2 will automatically pick up which type of exercise you’re doing, although you can also select them manually, but having it pick this up means you can spend more time concentrating on your training and less time looking at your wrist.
Fitbit Charge 2: Performance
It’s all well and good that it offers all sorts of functionalities, some you may find useful and some you might not even look at, what’s most important here is that the Charge 2 is an all-round fitness wearable that offers most of the things an everyday person needs without complicating things.
When it comes to fitness, it picks up exercises very well, whether you’re weight training or having a cardio session for your next marathon preparations. It would be unfair to compare steps counted or running data with other fitness gears because it poses the question of who is actually right in the first place?
What I care about here is that it’s not way off when compared, and it’s not. If you compare to Garmin, HTC’s Under Armour and the Microsoft Band 2, you will notice the numbers are very similar and you may notice a tiny discrepancy, but nothing alarming to write home about.
The Charge 2 isn’t waterproof like the Fitbit Flex 2 or some of its competitors, however, as it’s water-resistant, you can still use it without worrying about sweating with it on, after all, it’s made for exercising. You won’t be able to use it for swimming which would be pointless anyway, as it doesn’t collect any swimming data.
For battery life, Fitbit said it will last up to five days, and during out test, it lasted just shy of five days which is still more than enough, it means you can use it all week and charge it on the weekend or however you see fit. The charger is very portable and you can also carry it around with you – it doesn’t take long to charge back to full battery either.
One thing that’s missing is a built-in GPS which would have been nice to have, instead, Fitbit’s workaround is to use a connected GPS system that uses your phone’s GPS to track your training routes. Perhaps, including a GPS would help some aspects of training data collected.
Fitbit Charge 2: The social aspect
Every time someone asks me why Fitbit is so popular, I say it’s the social aspect. Besides all its functionalities, the added bonus is having the opportunity to compete with others or see how your friends are using theirs.
It makes it a little more competitive and encourages you to use it more. If you’re on Twitter and Facebook, you can even share your progress, because accountability can be a driving force or motivation to use it more and improve.
Should you buy it?
The Fitbit Charge 2 is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best if not the best all round fitness wearable available today. It’s comfortable to wear, looks nice with some fashionable options available for customisation, it offers a long battery life, encourages you to train more, as well as relax more with guided breathing and it’s compatible with various mobile platforms as well as a web option.
If you need something you can wear day to day without making fitness a chore then the Charge 2 is for you. If you want something further such as a wearable to monitor your swimming data, then you will need to look further away or if you want something with GPS embedded then no. The price point is reasonable and it’s rugged enough so you can use the Charge 2 for a very long time before the need for a replacement.
Disclaimer: The Fitbit Charge 2 was sent to use for review by Fitbit and was used over two weeks as a daily driver. All opinion remain UNILAD’s.