This is the age of lethargy and indolence. The perennial search for the easy option has led us collectively down the dark alley of ill health. Technology has played an enormous role in this. Although tech itself is as neutral as a lever; its potential to push us towards self-actualisation is just as powerful as its potential to keep us separated, unexercised, fat and sick.
Fitbit charge 3, the latest incarnation of fitness trackers, pushes that lever in a positive direction, towards mindfulness and healthfulness.
Until quite recently there has been a sharp contrast between smartphones and fitness trackers. This difference coming down to whether you want a wearable device that assists you in communication or one that exclusively tracks health markers. There’s an increasing number of fitness trackers that provide more advanced notifications, and smartwatches with built-in activity-tracking capabilities, but until the Fitbit 3, none that does both well.
It has been 2 years since the release of a Fitbit charge edition, and the charge 3 is the first that has much of the functionality and features of Fitbit’s higher-end smart watch editions: the versa and ionic.
Right out of the gate, I’m comfortable saying, at this low price point ($220), it’s the best smartwatch/fitness tracker on the market. Why?
THE HEALTH & FITNESS COMPONENTS
Regarding its health-tracking capabilities, it’s a marked improvement on previous editions.
The most intriguing and potentially beneficial component of the sleep function is the ‘relative SpO2 sensor’. This is an optical sensor that tracks oxygen saturation using infrared light. Sleep apnoea is a serious medical condition which changes concentrations of oxygen in the blood. To be able to measure this could help identify the condition.
Also within the ‘sleep scorecard’, a sleep disturbance tracker is included as part of the sleep dashboard panel. Because Fitbit has been tracking sleep for a long time, they have a huge amount of data which they are now using to provide sleep improvement suggestions. A welcome advance.
Together with your sleep score, all data collected (heart rate, steps, exercise etc.) are correlated together in order to provide suggested pathways towards optimal health. For example, crunching your data then providing guidance and cautionary notes, such as ‘hey you’re pre-menstrual, you will need more sleep than usual over the next week, and your sugar cravings will increase’; or ‘hey you only slept three hours last night, so don’t be alarmed that this morning’s workout performance was way below your best – there’s a reason for that’. It’s a nice evolution for a company to have collected this data and now making constructive use of it.
Female health tracking includes data on not only the menstrual cycle but also
pregnancy and fertility.
For most of us merely looking to track our progress and be regular in our exercise habits, all the standard features are included in the Fitbit 3: heart rate monitor, step counter, calorie counter, heart rate zone monitor, odometer etc. Also, its customisable goal-based exercise function is a winner: Set a goal for your exercise based on a given target – calories, distance, steps, time….19 categories to choose from, or set your own.
But for the advanced athlete, the Sp02 function can be utilised to increase V02 max.
How this is done requires a technical description beyond the scope of this article but in brief “Measuring your SpO2, says author and ultramarathon runner Arianne Brown, can be beneficial during specific workouts to show athletes and their coaches a specific work rate an athlete can sustain before their bodies begin to require more oxygen than is being produced, (allowing them to see declining trends in oxygen percentage, implying you are working above your body’s limit).
Not before the time comes to the waterproofing function (50 meters) as part of the new swim tracking system.
A lightweight design, large display – 40% larger than the Fitbit charge 2, and touchscreen functionality that’s simple to transverse. Oh, the Australian version has Fitbit Pay Support on the standard edition.
Other innovative functionalities are its airtight waterproof ‘touch button’ for backscroll and power, the reduced weight of 20% from the previous model, construction of the pod using aerospace grade aluminium, an increased processor speed allowing new onscreen animations, and gorilla glass display (which is a chemically strengthened glass designed to be thin, light and damage-resistant).
To ensure you can its use as a smartwatch, there are numerous swappable bands available in all manner of colours and styles to suit any situation whether it’s attending a business meeting, running, swimming, or going out for dinner. You’ve got the choice of a woven material, or a perforated white sports band, or a black classic band. A single button releases the band allowing easy swap. No tools needed.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s Android Quick Replies, allowing you to respond without accessing your phone to text. These can be personalised.
Fitbit has taken a bunch of the most popular apps on the ionic and versa, taken first party control over them, and put them into the charge 3. In addition, 3rd party apps are due for release later in the year (for example, Uber). Fitbit are yet to release the names of these apps.
In ‘industry-talk’ devices such as the Fitbit 3 are called ‘connected GPS devices – just a fancy marketing term for ‘there is no GPS’. It means that it can connect to another device, your MB for instance, and use its GPS. So when you go for a run it’ll still track steps, distance etc. but when you’re done it won’t have mapped your run. The reason for that is probably battery life. Fitbit 3’s battery life has been extended from 5 to 7 days. If it had included GPS, this battery life would have been substantially lowered, so although not having GPS is a detraction, it’s a trade-off they were willing to make.
For the price it’s unbeatable. Unless you’re an experienced athlete looking for next level analysis, or need sport specific functionality and are willing to pay for it, Fitbit Charge 3 won’t let you down.
Women Love Tech would like to thank J. A. Gleeson for his review.