- Large display
- Heart rate sensor
- Feature-packed app
- Accuracy issues
- Mocks your lazy ways
Fitbit Charge 2 Review: We test Fitbit’s latest fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge 2, which updates the original Charge wearable with a bigger screen, customisable wristbands and some extra functionality including a heart rate sensor.
Fitbit is one of the more recognisable fitness wearable brands out there, having released several trackers in the UK over recent years. And while we weren’t overly enamoured with its first foray into smartwatches (the interesting but flawed Fitbit Blaze), we do like the simpler devices such as the Fitbit Charge.
The Fitbit Charge 2 updates the original Charge tracker with a larger screen and new features like a heart rate sensor. But is it worth upgrading for Charge owners, and should anyone with a newfound love for staying healthy get involved? Here’s our full Fitbit Charge 2 review to help you decide.
Fitbit Charge 2 Review: Design
The Charge 2 is a bit of a chunky monkey, but it’s also reassuringly light when strapped to your wrist. You shouldn’t feel it sat there when you’re working out, or even just during everyday use. And with a choice of strap sizes, your Charge should fit nice and snug against your skin.
Speaking of the strap, you now get a decent range of colours to choose from. Besides the bog-standard boring black colour, there’s a light and dark blue strap, as well as pink, red and purple. You can even get special leather straps, which are probably best saved for an evening out rather than your sweaty mid-day jog.
The rubber straps seems to be hardy enough, tolerating a lot of twisting and bending, although they do pick up dust, dirt and other much quite easily. This shows up particularly well on the black model.
Usefully, your current strap can be swapped out for another colour or style at any time. The straps are securely connected while the Charge 2 is on your wrist, but snap off pretty easily with a push of two catches when you take the tracker off.
Sadly the Charge 2 isn’t fully waterproof, so it’s not recommended that you go off swimming or diving with it. It is water resistant however, so it can get soaked in the shower and still function perfectly fine.
The Fitbit Charge 2’s controls are nice and simple. There’s a single push button on the edge, which is used to cycle through the different functions, plus that enlarged touchscreen is now touch-sensitive. More on this later.
Fitbit Charge 2 Review: Setup
Setting up the Fitbit Charge 2 is nice and simple. The tracker works with iPhones, Android mobiles and even some Windows handsets, so chances are good that it’ll be compatible with your chosen phone. Just try downloading the app to see if your mobile can handle it.
Once you’re in the app, pairing with your Charge 2 only takes a minute or so via Bluetooth. With that done, you’re free to dive into the different features and even customise the look and feel of your new tracker.
Fitbit Charge 2 Review: Usability
Raise the Charge 2 or push the side button and the first thing you see is the clock face, which delivers key information such as the time and date, steps taken and your current heart rate. This can be customised from the Fitbit app, so you can change it up if you want. Some of the alternative faces show less information, in a bigger font, in case your vision isn’t too strong.
A tap of the screen cycles through the info on display, while a quick push of the button cycles you through the Charge 2’s various features. You get a heart rate counter, workout tracker, stopwatch and relaxation session to cycle between.
This menu structure can also be completely customised from within the app, which is a nice touch. You can change the order in which the features appear and even remove features entirely, if they don’t interest you.
Each individual feature can generally be tweaked with a tap of the screen; for instance, scroll to the workout tracker feature and the default workout is ‘run’, but this can be changed to weights, treadmill, biking and more with a bit of tapping action. When you’re ready to begin, just hold down the side button to get started.
Our only complaint is with the touchscreen controls. To put it bluntly, they’re a bit crap, We’ve tried all manner of different prods and pokes and only half of the time did our taps actually register. This means the occasional bit of frustration as you try and cycle to the exact bit that you want.
Fitbit Charge 2 Review: Fitness tracking and app
There’s no built-in GPS with the Charge 2, but can use your phone’s location tracking to map out your route when jogging, cycling and so on. Pop into the app after any session and you’ll see a pretty solid breakdown of your workout, including time taken, calories burned, average heart rate and so on. You can even monitor your activity across its duration, to see how your overall stamina is shaping up.
When left to its own devices, the Charge 2 will try its best to work out what you’re up to and chart this automatically. Of course, the accuracy of this is rather sketchy, as with most other fitness trackers. The Charge 2 occasionally thought I was cycling when I was actually pushing a pram, for instance, or walking when I was making fried eggs.
However, as a general tracker, the Charge 2 does a respectable job of measuring your daily activities.
Something that’s probably going to annoy more people than it helps is the Charge 2’s habit of bugging you to exercise. Every couple of hours or so you’ll be pestered into getting off your bum, in an overly cheery manner. Thankfully you can disable these friendly little kicks up the arse in the app settings, which is just as well when you’re stuck in an office and unable to go for an impromptu 10k run.
Fitbit Charge 2 Review: Other features
As with pretty much all modern trackers, the Charge 2 features automatic sleep tracking. This can tell when you’ve drifted off and also differentiates between light and deep sleep, so you can tell if your forty winks was of decent quality. I have a small child so I already know that my best efforts at sleeping are crap, of course; I don’t need a wearable to tell me that.
More useful is the silent alarm, which works out the best point around a specific time to stir you from slumber with some full-on vibrations. It’s a great way to wake yourself up without disturbing your partner, or whoever else lies within earshot.
The Fitbit Charge 2 also includes some Guided Breathing Sessions, which basically monitors your current heart rate and then has you inhaling and exhaling on cue. It’s a basic meditative technique and it can certainly help when things start to get a little stressy, but it’s nothing you couldn’t simply do by yourself, without the guidance.
You also get notification alerts, which is handy if you’re always missing calls and texts because your phone is stashed in a bag. The Charge 2 will give a quick buzz and display any relevant info, so you know whether to hunt your mobile or just leave it be.
As for battery life, the Fitbit Charge 2 just about saw us through five full days of use, when we were using it as a simple steps and sleep tracker. Once you start to use other features such as the workout tracker, this drops to three to four days on average.
Fitbit Charge 2 Review: Verdict
The Charge 2 is, like a lot of fitness trackers, a perfectly decent way of casually monitoring your daily activities. That good-sized display means you can quickly and easily check out your vitals without having to pull out your mobile, while the well-designed app offers up all kinds of feedback and social interaction.
Of course, accuracy is as always a bit of an issue, and hardcore fitness enthusiasts will have little incentive to part with their cash. But for the rest of us who want to migrate away from the couch, the Charge 2 is a decent incentive (and occasional cheery kick up the arse) to get moving.