Fitbit Charge 4 has given us everything we asked for, and yet it's been released at the worst time possible. Look. We hate to say 'we told you so'… but we did. We ran a lil' piece called 6 things we want to see in the next Fitbit (opens in new tab), more in hope than expectation, and the Fitbit Charge 4 has immediately delivered all that we asked for and more.
There's a focus on more intense, 'proper' exercise over step counting – this is not unique to the Charge 4 of course, as it will roll out to all Fitbits – and built-in GPS to track runs, hikes and rides. It also adds the ability to control Spotify from your wrist, for what that is worth.
The Fitbit Charge 4 also offers Fitbit's usual excellent, Apple Watch-crushing battery life. With 'average activity levels', you apparently don't have to charge the Fitbit Charge 4 more than once a week.
Normally this would be a triumph, and inevitably make the Charge 4 and Charge 4 Special Edition the best-selling fitness trackers of the coming months. However, for reasons well outside its control, Fitbit is having to launch probably its best tracker ever for outdoor exercise and gym work, right when an increasing number of potential purchasers are less able to go out, and totally unable to go to the gym. Other than the home gym, of course. But you surely don't need GPS there.
Even so the Fitbit Charge 4 is worth considering for purchase now. It's Fitbit's attempt to bridge the ever-decreasing gap between the best fitness trackers (opens in new tab) and fitness and running watches. The addition of Active Zone Minutes and GPS puts it straight into the more serious fitness category alongside Garmin, whose smaller bands and watches have had both for several years now.
However, Charge 4 is cheaper and more stylish than the Garmin bands it's designed to go up against. It also, of course, retains Fitbit's usual, more 'casual' activity and sleep tracking, giving it very wide appeal… once people are able to go outdoors more.
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Fitbit Charge 4 release date and price
The 'standard' Charge 4 is available for £129.99 in three colours: black, rosewood and storm blue/black. The Fitbit Charge 4 Special Edition is available for £149.99 in an 'exclusive' granite reflective/black woven band plus a classic black band.
Pre-order for Charge 4 and Charge 4 Special Edition begins today at Fitbit's online store (opens in new tab) as well as select retailers online such as Amazon (opens in new tab). It'll be available online at all retailer sites worldwide starting April 15 2020.
You can further customise Fitbit Charge 4 with a variety of new accessory bands and colours including REPREVE recycled woven reflective bands in midnight and rosewood; breathable silicone sport bands in evergreen and frost white; and premium Horween hand-crafted leather in black. Charge 4 accessories are sold separately in store and online, and are compatible with Fitbit Charge 3 devices, starting at £19.99.
Fitbit Charge 4: Active Zone Minutes
The Fitbit Charge 4 includes Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes, a new personalised standard based on your resting heart rate and age. This tracks any workout from indoor biking to yoga, measuring the time you spend in each heart rate zone toward a weekly goal – the default is 150 minutes but you can set it higher or lower if you wish.
Not dissimilar to Garmin's Active Minutes feature, the Fitbit Active Zone Minutes will 'weigh' different activities based on their intensity and count one minute of vigorous activity as two 'active minutes'. So the harder you workout, the quicker you'll hit your goals for the week.
As Fitbit puts it: 'With Fitbit’s PurePulse 24/7 heart rate tracking, Active Zone Minutes uses your personalised heart rate zones to track your effort for any energising activity, whether doing a HIIT workout, power yoga or taking a vigorous walk outside. Earn credit for each minute of moderate activity in fat burn zone and double the credit for vigorous activity in cardio and peak zones – Active Zone Minutes does the maths for you so you can quickly understand how many you need to reach your daily and weekly goals.'
Charge 4 gives you alerts as you change cardio zones, so you adjust the vigorousness of your workout. When you're done, you can see 'a detailed summary of your heart rate zones in the Fitbit app, including progress toward your goals'
Active Zone Minutes will be available first on Fitbit Charge 4, then will roll out to all Fitbit smartwatches.
Bottom line: This is a WAY more useful goal for many users than hitting 10,000 steps per day.
Fitbit Charge 4: built-in GPS
As the first band-sized Fitbit tracker to have GPS – although larger Fitbits such as Ionic have featured it previously – you can finally leave your phone at home and still track your runs and cycling sessions outdoors with the Charge 4. You can track your pace and distance in real-time, in addition to over 20 goal-based exercise modes, including a new outdoor workout mode for activities such as hiking, running or brisk walking.
After completing a GPS-enabled workout, sync your device for a GPS-powered heat map in the Fitbit App. This is not the same as the running heat maps in the Suunto 7 (opens in new tab) where you check the most frequented routes by other Suunto users around you. Instead it's a personalised map that shows your workout intensity, based on your different heart rate zones along your route.
Fitbit Charge 4: Sleep tracking
Fitbit’s leading sleep features are included with Charge 4 to help you understand and improve your sleep. Previously only available on Fitbit smartwatches, smart wake (coming soon) uses machine learning to wake you at the optimal time. Sleep Score provides deeper insights into your sleep with a daily look at the quality of your sleep, now available on-wrist for Charge 4.
The Charge 4 also features a relative SpO2 sensor, which powers Fitbit’s Estimated Oxygen Variation Graph (opens in new tab) in the Fitbit app. With the graph, see an estimate of the oxygen level variability in your bloodstream, which may indicate variations in your breathing during sleep. This feature is only available for Fitbit Premium users in the app but lucky for you, you can now try Fitbit Premium free for 90 days (opens in new tab).
Fitbit Charge 4: other features and modes
In addition, Charge 4 comes standard with health and fitness essentials including SmartTrack automatic exercise tracking, Cardio Fitness Level and Score, floors climbed, 'Reminders to Move' every hour, female health tracking, food, water and weight logging, a global social fitness network of nearly 30 million people and more.
The Charge 4 is the first Fitbit tracker with Spotify. The Charge 4 doesn't actually come with built-in storage for music, but it can control the music on your phone's Spotify app. You choose the music output, play, shuffle and skip content, and 'like' songs right from the wrist.
Naturally, the Charge 4 supports on-screen call, text, agenda and app notifications, and if you are using an Android phone, you can also send quick replies or mute alerts with Do Not Disturb mode.
Now standard on all Charge 4 devices, finally, you can pay for goods in shops using Fitbit Pay, although some further support from banks in the UK would be nice, given only a few major banks are included in Fitbit Pay.
Another thing that Fitbit stubbornly refuses to fix is the lack of an 'always on' screen mode. Yes, this would impact battery life. No, we don‘t care about that. Just let us see the screen without having to flick our damn wrists! Especially during workouts, having to fire up the screen this way is absolutely infuriating.
That aside, our verdict so far is this. The Charge 4 looks like a great fitness band for the normal world that will, hopefully, be back soon. Having to launch it right now, when people are less able to exercise outdoors or at the gym, is obviously bad luck for Fitbit. Even so, it should be applauded for what it's done.
At this price point, with discounts likely to follow soon, the Charge 4 should eventually dominate the more 'serious' fitness band market, just as the Versa 2 has the more 'casual' fitness watch one.