Fitbit’s Charge 3 Offers a New Take on an Old Tracker

This 12 months, Fitbit lastly found out make a smartwatch individuals actually like, whereas gross sales of its light-weight exercise trackers have been on the decline. But that’s not stopping the corporate from placing out new exercise monitoring wristbands. It simply introduced its latest machine: the Fitbit Charge 3.

At first look, the Charge Three seems merely like a brand new tackle an previous tracker. It has the identical wristband type issue, the identical unremarkable show as earlier Charges, which traditionally have been Fitbit’s hottest product. It even has the identical value because the Charge 2 did when it launched: $149.95 for the usual mannequin, and $169.95 for a “special edition” mannequin that comes with Fitbit Pay and an additional black traditional band. But the Charge 3’s construct, guts, and software program options have modified sufficient to warrant critical consideration should you’ve been fascinated by updating your Fitbit.

The show on the Charge Three is sort of 40 p.c larger than the show on the Charge 2. It’s the primary within the Charge lineup to have a touchscreen. Sure, the black show nonetheless has an oddly-large bezel you may see should you peer intently sufficient at it, and Fitbit nonetheless feels compelled to have the phrase “Fitbit” written on the face of its merchandise. But this can be a Fitbit, not an Hermès watch.

The module is now manufactured from space-grade aluminum as an alternative of chrome steel and plastic. There’s an inverted, inductive button on the facet somewhat than a mechanical button. Press your finger on it, and the Charge Three will give haptic suggestions. On the tracker’s underside, you’ll discover an up to date heart-rate sensing module—the identical one which’s within the Fitbit Versa, which incorporates an SpO2 sensor to measure oxygen saturation. (Since this can be a shopper machine, it isn’t an alternative to medical gear, however it can provide an approximation.) The SpO2 sensor additionally performs a task in Fitbit’s grand plans for future well being monitoring.

As with earlier Charge merchandise, there’s no built-in GPS sensors for measuring distance whereas operating and biking. But this additionally boosts the battery life. For the Charge 3, that interprets to a declare of as much as seven days on a single cost. It additionally comes with yet one more proprietary charger, which needed to be redesigned to accommodate the Charge 3’s new coronary heart price module.

Thanks to its bigger display and upgraded processor, Fitbit has crammed smartwatch-like interactions into the Charge 3: You can swipe as much as see your day by day dashboard, swipe right down to see notifications from smartphone, swipe left to undergo exercise choices and apps, and so forth.

Like many Fitbits earlier than it, the Charge Three will monitor an entire bunch of well being metrics and exercise actions: steps, distance traveled, energy burned, stairs climbed, strolling, operating, biking, yoga, elliptical, power coaching. One new characteristic: It’s waterproof as much as 50 meters, so there’s a brand new swim mode on the machine. It additionally auto-pauses should you cease at a stoplight (or cease since you’re winded, like I do) throughout a run.

Fitbit says it has improved its coronary heart price algorithms “in the order of 10 to 20 percent in running and cycling conditions,” in line with Conor Heneghan, the corporate’s lead analysis scientist.1 (In the previous, customers have filed swimsuit in opposition to Fitbit for what they claimed was inaccurate coronary heart price monitoring by a major margin.) And now Fitbit is making an attempt to correlate extra insights for individuals; it would inform wearers, for instance, that their coronary heart price knowledge prompt they had been notably pressured one week, and they also would possibly need to attempt Fitbit’s “Relax” app.

Finally, Fitbit is launching a beta model of one thing it is calling “Sleep Score.” It’s a rating that shall be assigned to wearers every day as an total evaluation of their sleep high quality, however can even embrace info on sleep disruptions, the corporate says. This is not restricted to Charge 3; it’ll roll out to any Fitbit with newer coronary heart price sensors.

This is a Fitbit, not an Hermès watch.

Fitbit is loading on the options at a time when competitors is barely getting stiffer in wearable land. And by pre-announcing a wearable that isn’t delivery till October, Fitbit appears anxious to get the Charge Three on the market forward of no matter wearable Apple would possibly exhibit subsequent month. Samsung additionally simply introduced a brand new flagship smartwatch, the $350 Galaxy Watch.

Despite Fitbit’s model recognition, its considerations about Apple Watch are well-founded, for the reason that firm ceded the highest spot to Apple final 12 months in wearables. For a companies like Apple or Xiaomi, wearable gadgets are simply part of their total technique; for Fitbit, it’s your entire enterprise. Fitbit co-founder and chief government James Park insists there’s nonetheless room for development in each light-weight exercise trackers and smartwatches, and that should you had been to take a look at a Venn diagram of the 2 sorts of customers, there’s some overlap there (individuals who would possibly think about each). He could also be proper. But proper now, Fitbit isn’t promoting sufficient in both class to beat out its opponents.

Fitbit’s efforts round extra superior health-tracking have been sluggish going too, though these are probably a number of the extra attention-grabbing options that the corporate’s R&D staff is engaged on. Last 12 months it mentioned was arising with an answer for monitoring sleep apnea by means of its extra superior wrist wearables—together with the brand new Charge 3, which has the newer coronary heart price sensors. It additionally mentioned it was working with glucose monitor maker Dexcom to develop an app that might assist individuals with diabetes maintain monitor of their glucose.

“When you look at the killer app for these devices, it’s health,” says Park. “And people’s interest in their health and well-being is only going to increase over time. So I think we have to deliver devices, and more importantly, algorithms and software, that make it relevant for people.”

The Dexcom app and sleep apnea monitoring product haven’t launched but, although, and Fitbit would wish FDA approval earlier than it hooked up any form of official medical claims to its gadgets. Park mentioned that the corporate is working individually with the FDA on a regulated product for superior sleep monitoring, however didn’t have a timeline but for when that may launch. “We see things like this as check engine light or a seat belt for your health,” Park mentioned. “Something that, one day, you wouldn’t want to leave your house without. And I think the addressable market for these types of devices is huge.”

That’s an enormous “if” for Fitbit. But if it will get there, it certain can be an enormous leap—or many steps—past fundamental exercise trackers.

1Correction: An earlier model of this text attributed a quote to Dennis Hsu, Fitbit’s director of product advertising and marketing. The story has been up to date to say that it was Conor Heneghan, Fitbit’s lead analysis scientist, who made the assertion about coronary heart price monitoring enhancements.

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