Wellness Wednesday – Fitbit Charge Review

Last week, I mentioned that I had to replace my Fitbit One tracker with a Fitbit Charge. This was not something I wanted to do. I wanted a hip-clip pedometer that tracks steps, miles, and elevation, which is exactly what the One did. The Charge tracks those three things, in addition to your heart rate, which is supposed to make the daily calories-burned number more accurate. (Oh, and they both track sleep, but I never really used that feature on the One and didn’t really care about it for the Charge.) So now, after using the Charge since the beginning of April, I have a review: it’s awful.

The Charge is a wrist-tracker, which means several things. First, it’s frickin’ hot to wear in Texas. Second, it’s big and bulky and obviously screams, “I’M A FITBIT!” Third, it has metal contacts in order to track your heart rate, and after only two weeks of wearing it, I started getting a rash in that area. (Not uncommon for me – I’ve had this kind of metal contact allergy before.) It’s hard to see in the picture, but the top half of that indentation is red and raw and shiny, starting to shred. And that indentation? That’s after wearing the band loosely.

This is a four-part thing:

  1. The so-called heart rate monitor is completely inaccurate, and it’s even worse when you’re doing any kind of exercise with your upper body. For example, when I’m using a pickaxe and shovel, my heart rate soars, but you could never tell from the wrist monitor because it slides around no matter how tight you wear it (because of the sweat from it being frickin’ hot to wear), so it never gets a real measure of what your heart rate is doing.
  2. As for steps, it seems to count them accurately only if you’re actually just walking around. If I go to the grocery store and push around a cart for an hour, I might get 100 steps out of that hour. If I’m carrying something in my hand so that my arm doesn’t swing as I walk, I might as well not be walking at all. Seriously, Fitbit, if your wrist-trackers can’t track your steps when your arm is up/immobile, it isn’t accurate!
  3. As for the sleep tracker and calorie tracker, I have no idea how accurate those are. I don’t really care about the sleep bit, and the calorie tracker seems to be extraordinarily high. Example: I took a two-mile walk on hills at an easy 20-min-mile pace. My Fitness Pal says that’s worth about 233 calories. I imagine that’s low, because it doesn’t take into account the hills. But the Charge tells me I’ve burned almost double that, at 455 calories. Um…that’s just TOO high. My daily calories burned have shot to an average of over 3000. Even my no-exercise, low-step days are around 2700. That’s a huge difference from what the One gave me (2300-2700), and the One seemed to be pretty spot on in terms of daily calorie tracking.
  4. The elevation tracker doesn’t work very well either. I actually got the Charge instead of one of the smaller, cheaper Fitbits because it tracks elevation. However, I can go up five flights of stairs and have it only count the elevation as two flights. My One usually told me that a walk around my neighborhood – with lots of big hills – was about 25 flights of stairs in elevation. The Charge calls it under 15, sometimes as low as 10, and it varies from walk to walk even if I use the same route. Highly inaccurate.

There aren’t a lot of positives in this situation, but I will highlight the few perks I enjoyed in my couple weeks wearing this thing. Every hour, if you haven’t walked 250 steps, you get a little buzz to remind you. Similarly, the thing vibrates and celebrates when you hit your step goal. Lastly, it vibrates when you have a phone call or text and it shows the caller or message on its display. Those are lovely features, but they certainly don’t outweigh the rest of this mess.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what I can do if I want to continue having a step counter. Most companies have gone the wrist direction, no matter how many people complaining about it online (and there are a LOT of complaints). In the meantime, I’ve rebooted my old One and will see if I can keep it limping along until I find a better solution. If all else fails, I suppose I’ll have to get a Fitbit Zip, which is a hip-clip that tracks steps only. Not what I want, but what else can I do? Does anyone else know of any solid, accurate hip-clip trackers similar to the One?

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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9 Responses to Wellness Wednesday – Fitbit Charge Review

  1. Michelle says:

    I loved my One and hated it at the same time. Alas, I washed it (and its replacement) and gave up on them. For me, the One’s elevation counting was EXTREMELY inaccurate. As is any step counter for steps. I say that because get me on the back of Jim’s motorcycle and not only do I get multiple flights, I also always hit my step goal within the first hour or so. There is something about the vibration of the motorcycle that no step tracker can overcome that I have found. That being said, I would like to get points for grocery shopping again. Or carrying my purse, which I always carry on the same arm as my Fitbit.


    • Amanda says:

      I wonder if the elevation inaccuracy for your One has to do with the area you live in. Mine screwed up three times in the 5-6 years I used it. Once was on a ship out on rough waters, so I don’t count that, and the other two times were when the air pressure was doing funny things all day combined with lots of wind. As for steps, mine is usually accurate within a step or two, the only pedometer I’ve ever had be accurate. I imagine the motorcycle thing would mess it up, though, heh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Word Lily says:

    This is really frustrating to read (as was the the previous post, that they’d actually, finally, discontinued the One). I’ve had a One for ages, and I keep wearing it despite the clip falling apart, and despite, now, it won’t sync with anything.

    If I went the wrist-strap way (I have pretty much all the complaints/concerns about them you do), I think I might get lots of steps … from knitting. Too bad that doesn’t actually burn as many calories as actual movement.


    • Amanda says:

      Yeah. I got lots of steps from petting my cats, which I often do in my non-dominant hand. (You can set that your strap is on your non-dominant hand, so it becomes less sensitive to movement – which only hinders issues like when you’re carrying or pushing something with your arm.) Thankfully, the reboot of my One seems to be working now. I hope Fitbit sees the light and re-releases the One, or a new product that’s similar. Or that some other reputable company sees the gap created here and decides to fill it!


  3. Word Lily says:

    OK, I had a thought. Maybe only tangentially related, but it keeps coming back to me, so I’m back here, to share it. Have you heard of the Oura Ring? It’s not exactly a fitness tracker, per se, but … I know a person or two who swears by it (The Paleo Mom, for one). It’s coming out with a new iteration, and … I think I really want one.

    Seems like it might help with your sleep, too, potentially in a real way.


  4. Kristen M. says:

    Thanks for the review. I have fat wrists AND a slight metal allergy and I’ve been wondering about getting one of these but it seems I would have many of the same issues. I hate when a company gets rid of something that worked just fine and replaces it with something that’s shinier but doesn’t work as well.


    • Amanda says:

      I have big wrists, but thankfully they offered the watch in different sizes, so that was no problem. But yeah, the rest was just not great! I think all these companies are trying to keep up with Apple watches, boo.


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