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- The new $150 Fitbit Charge 3. Valentina Palladino
- The OLED touchscreen has 40-percent more active area than the Charge 2 has. Valentina Palladino
- Users can access the Today Dashboard and more apps on the Charge 3‘s display. Valentina Palladino
- Inside are an optical heart rate monitor and an SpO2 sensor to contribute to sleep and breathing data. Valentina Palladino
- The new induction button saves internal space, and users will feel haptic feedback when they press it. Valentina Palladino
- The $150 tracker will be compatible with silicone, woven, and leather bands. Valentina Palladino
It has been two years since Fitbit updated its fitness tracker, the $150 device that represents the most advanced activity band in Fitbit‘s lineup before you enter smartwatch territory. Today, Fitbit announced the Charge 3, a new tracker that maintains the Charge 2‘s spot but further bridges the gap between fitness tracker and smartwatch.
Fitbit made subtle changes to the Charge 2‘s design to come up with the Charge 3. Immediately noticeable in my short demo of the Charge 3 is its lightness—at 20-percent lighter than the Charge 2, you can barely feel it when it‘s on your wrist as you‘re wearing it.
The OLED touchscreen has 40 percent more active space, and the side button on the aluminum module has been reduced to an induction button. That means it‘s not a physical button that you can feel moving inward when you press it. Instead, you‘ll feel light haptic feedback when you press the left side of the module‘s case.
Including the induction button helped Fitbit make the Charge 3 swim-proof and water-resistant up to 50 meters. While swimming, users will see the activity duration on the Charge 3‘s screen, as well as stats like distance, pace, and laps once they sync to the Fitbit mobile app.
Inside the Charge 3 is the regular array of Fitbit sensors: an accelerometer, gyroscope, optical heart rate monitor, and an SpO2 sensor that will come in handy in the future when Fitbit rolls out more advanced sleep and breathing tracking features. It doesn‘t include a GPS, but the Charge 3 can track running and walking routes when you bring your smartphone along using the connected GPS feature.
Forgoing GPS and including the induction button saved some internal space, opening up room for a larger battery. Fitbit estimates that the Charge 3 will last at least one week on a single charge.
More than a dash of smartwatch
After focusing on smartwatches for the past year or so, Fitbit decided to trickle down some features from its and devices to the Charge 3. The fairly new Dashboard comes up when you swipe up from the bottom of the Charge 3‘s display, and it shows stats like steps, calories, current heart rate, and more.
The Charge 3 is the first device in the Charge family to get app alerts, a feature that was sequestered to Fitbit‘s smartwatches until now. Charge devices received call, text, and calendar alerts, but the Charge 3 will also receive the smartphone alerts that you choose from the Fitbit app—this could include all apps or just the most important ones for you. In the future, the Charge 3 will also be able to accept and reject calls and send canned text replies for those who pair it with an Android smartphone.
With its grayscale OLED display, the Charge 3 isn‘t designed to run full apps like the Versa and the Ionic are. However, Fitbit will bring some apps to the Charge 3 so that users can have some of the company‘s most beloved smartwatch features, such as weather, timers, and alarms. While Fitbit didn‘t provide much detail, it did say it‘s partnering with brands to bring more third-party apps to the Charge 3 in the future.
Some may be disappointed to find out that music storage and music controls aren‘t options on the Charge 3. While users won‘t be able to bring music with them without a smartphone, Fitbit may add music controls to the device in the future with a software update. As for Fitbit Pay, only special editions of the Charge 3 will have it (similar to the special-edition Versa models). Those will include an NFC chip inside so users can pay at less payment systems without their smartphones or wallets present.
The Charge 3 will have all of the same exercise features found in the Charge 2: step, distance, and calorie tracking; sleep tracking; and Smart Track automatic exercise recognition. Fitbit is introducing a new feature as well: goal-based exercise mode. This is much like Apple‘s goal-setting feature on the Apple Watch that lets you set a distance, duration, or calorie goal before you begin a workout. While exercising, you‘ll be working toward that goal as the Charge 3 tracks your progress and eventually shows a congratulatory animation on the screen once you‘ve hit your goal.
Despite the growing popularity of smartwatches, Fitbit is convinced that the fitness tracker market is still strong. The company describes the need to support two different types of customers: one that wants a fully imagined smartwatch that can keep them connected as well as keep them fit and one that wants a more discrete (and often more affordable) device that combines the essential features of smartwatches and fitness bands. The Charge 3 will appeal to the latter customer, especially with its $149 price.
The Charge 3 is available to preorder today and will be widely available this October for $149—or $169 for the special-edition models.
Listing image by Valentina Palladino