Fitbit Charge 5 has just been announced. It looks like easily Fitbit's most sophisticated fitness band – as opposed to fitness watch – to date. Well of course it is; it's the newest one! However, with a renewed focus on wellness, mindfulness, stress busting, heart health and all that sort of thing, Charge 5 does feel like something properly new rather than just the fifth version of a wearable. It also comes with six months of free access to Fitbit Premium, as the brand looks to reel in more long-term subscribers with guided workouts and 'premium' features that you should arguably get for free.
The slogan for the Charge 5 is 'redefining strength'. Happily, this is not some sort of macho slogan about crushing weakness and discovering strength through joy. No, rather it is about how strength means overcoming adversity and being mentally strong. You have to search for the hero inside yourself. Search for the secret you hide. Search for the hero inside yourself. Until you find the key to your life.
'This past year we’ve endured sickness, loss, increased stress and changes with sleep, diet and exercise. As a result, we’ve been forced to become stronger and more resilient. But strength has taken on a new meaning for most… Strength in today’s world is more than what we can lift or how fast we can run. It’s also what the mind and body can handle,' Fitbit says.
Quite honestly, I don't think anyone really needed to be told that, Fitbit, but thanks anyway, guys.
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To reinforce the healing message, Fitbit adopted a decidedly 1970s California wellness aesthetic for its video launch event, with lots of loose-fitting clothing in earthy tones – brown, predominantly – house plants, pregnant women and all that good stuff.
Anyway, never mind that, what's the actual Charge 5 fitness (and wellness) wearable like? Pretty bloody good, I reckon.
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Fitbit Charge 5 release date and price
Charge 5 will cost £170 in the UK, $180 in the US, €180 in the Eurozone and AU$270 in Australia. In all cases, this includes a six-month Premium membership, regardless of whether you are a new or returning customer.
This is quite a big fiscal step up from Charge 4, which cost £130/$140/€140/AU$220 and can now often be had for a lot less – see our pricing widget beneath this story for the best prices in your neighbourhood right now. But then again, Charge 5 looks a considerably better wearable than its predecessor, and you do get that 'free' Fitbit Premium membership.
Fitbit Charge 5 will ship in 'the fall' or 'autumn'. I don't have a more precise date than that as yet.
As usual, there will be a wide range of easy-to-fit straps available for you to customise the Charge 5 with. These include 'lightweight silicone infinity bands, breathable sport bands, plush nylon hook and loop bands, and hand-crafted premium Horween leather bands.'
The ones above are especially earthy and hippy-ish as befits this more mindful and strength-redefining wearable. They were described by a colleague of mine as looking 'like an elephant's scrotum' but I rather like them.
Fitbit Charge 5 has some cool new features…
The Charge 5 keeps a similar overall look to last year's Charge 4 but adds a splash of colour to a larger AMOLED touchscreen while slimming down the case overall – the Charge 5 is 10% thinner than its predecessor, apparently, not that the 4 was exactly obese. Hopefully it's also a more responsive touchscreen, because the last one was not without issues in that respect.
As ever with Fitbit, battery life is a priority here and the Charge 5 delivers an Apple Watch-murdering seven days of life between recharges. That will of course go down if you use GPS and other more power-intensive features a lot but it's an impressive benchmark. Here are the headline improvements to Charge 5, and my opinion on them. I haven't actually used the thing yet so all opinions are subject to change.
• Always on screen
YES! I have been asking Fitbit for this for what feels like my entire life and finally they have listened. This is 'for added convenience to see your stats or while training.' That is exactly what I kept telling them and they were always like, 'you can turn on the screen by flicking your wrist,' and I would say, 'but that. doesn't always work and I just don't want to have to do it while working my ass off.'
DOUBLE YES! The display is also twice as bright as its predecessor, meaning you may actually be able to read it while running when the sun is out. Finally. Oh, happy day!
• EDA stress sensor
'During 2020, a record-high 40% of adults said they experienced a lot of stress,' Fitbit informs us. Cheers. To help us manage this, Charge 5 adds the same EDA sensor found on the Fitbit Sense. This monitors tiny changes in the sweat glands on your fingers to detect and monitor stress during a two-minute session.
As with the Sense, as well as analysing your stress levels, this process also helps reduce them, at least for two minutes. Fitbit claims that '70% of users reduced their heart rate during a two-minute EDA Scan session.'
Does anyone really need to sit fingering their watch for two minutes to tell them they are stressed? Probably not. However if the process reduces that stress, that's all good.
I am less sure about the daily Stress Management Score which the Charge 5 gives you, via the Fitbit app. This tells if you have achieved zen-like calm or are a nervous wreck when you wake each morning. Fitbit suggests you might use this to gauge, 'if you’re mentally ready to take on more challenges, or if you need to recharge.' Well, I don't know about you, but I still have to go to work in the morning regardless of whether my watch thinks I'm up to it or not, so I am not sure of the direct benefit of this feature.
However, your six months of free Fitbit Premium does include access to a wealth of meditation and mindfulness sessions. There are over 300 in total, from brands such as Ten Percent Happier and Mindful Method by Deepak Chopra, and Fitbit consistently adds more. A new tie-up with Calm, 'the #1 App for Sleep, Meditation and Relaxation' is promised very soon, for instance.
• Daily Readiness score
Another daily score that Fitbit is kindly providing us with to stress over is Daily Readiness. This will debut with Charge 5, and also roll out on Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Luxe and Inspire 2.
Daily Readiness analyses your activity levels, quality of sleep and heart rate variability, then crunches them into a simple score so 'you can understand if your body is ready for a workout or if you should prioritise recovery instead.'
The score comes with a simple analysis at how it was arrived at – you've worked out too much, your sleep was terrible, you never phone your mother, etc – and suggestions for what your activity goal for today should be.
Garmin and other running watch brands have had similar features to this for some time, and I never take any notice of them. Rather like being stressed, I feel like most people already know if they are too tired to workout. And perhaps more to the point, most people who do a lot of exercise will push through despite being tired, and probably don't appreciate being told not to, by a wristwatch.
Fitbit says that Premium content will be on hand to 'help you make the best decisions for your body,' but you'll have to wait until we get a review sample of the Charge 5 in before I'm able to tell you what that means.
• ECG testing for atrial fibrillation
An other premo feature first launched on Fitbit Sense and now coming to the more affordable Charge 5 is the ECG app. This allows you to take a more in-depth look at your heart health than the optical cardio sensor on the underside of the watch. Specifically, it may give you a warning of atrial fibrillation, which is a commonplace but dangerous condition.
The optical sensor means Charge 5 is always tracking your heart rate, and the Fitbit app will provides notifications when it goes above or below its usual range. This is not really a medical device, but an unusually high or low heart rate could be a warning to seek medical attention. In particular, if it's showing zero, you've got problems.
Used sensibly, these heart health features seem like a great idea. Thumbs up.
…And some cool, old Fitbit features
The Charge 5 has built-in GPS to track the speed and distance of your runs, bike rides, hikes and so on. This was surprisingly accurate on Charge 4 although not always the quickest to connect to a satellite. The performance of the heart rate monitor on Charge 4 ranged from excellent, when doing anything not involving your hands, ie: running, walking and so on, to barely functional when doing press-ups, pulls-ups and other things that crease your wrist. It will be interesting to see what improvements have been made for the one on Charge 5.
As usual with Fitbits with a heart rate monitor, you can set targets for Active Minutes – vigorous exercise – or go old school with a steps goal. You also get specific exercise modes for 20 popular types of workout, automatic recognition of the really popular ones and an estimate of your V02 max that can be used as an overall 'fitness score'.
Sleep monitoring is always a big feature on Fitbits and Charge 5 is no exception. 'Industry-leading sleep tools' such as daily Sleep Score, Sleep Stages and SmartWake alarms are supported although those wanting the deepest analysis will need to keep renewing that Premium subscription.
The Health Metrics dashboard includes stats such as breathing rate, skin temperature variation and SpO2.5. With Premium, you can also track long-term trends in these metrics, so if you like collating lots of info about yourself, and seeing it on graphs, this is great for you.
Premium also gives you access to over 200 guided workouts from the likes of Daily Burn, barre3, obé and LES MILLS.
Finally, smart watch features include contactless payments, phone notifications – including 'quick replies' if you are on Android and '20 colourful clock faces'.
• Find out more at Fitbit.com – there's currently a 30% off, back to school sale on too