The pandemic has made it tougher to keep ourselves fit. If for many months you had to do all your exercises within the confines of your homes or balcony, when you could finally step out for a run most of us realised it is no fun with the mask on. For me personally, smart devices like the Apple Watch were crucial to keep myself motivated to complete my fitness goals.
However, that is not always enough to be fit as new data has shown. Despite my 10,000 daily steps, my cardio fitness showed as low on Apple Health and it was then I realised that you have to keep at a high cardio level for prolonged periods to get his value up. And this is something very tough indoors unless you have a treadmill or other such equipment. It is in this context that I started using the Fitbit Charge 4 which tracks your time in the Active Zone.
Fitbit Charge 4: What’s good?
The Charge 4 looks and feels exactly like earlier editions from this Fitbit series. In fact, there are no hardware changes with this version. The charger too is the same and it takes about an hour to juice up for 4-5 days of full activity.
Being an Apple Watch user, it is a bit hard to get back to the simple black and white screen of the Charge 4. But soon you realise that is all you need as most of our activity with smart bands and watches is still about keeping track of time, our activity and some alerts. Yes, this one shows SMS alerts and app notifications, but it is more about going back to the phone and reading what it is. You can swipe and tap on the screen to navigate from your data to preset workouts and other features, even a Spotify controller.
There are many new features though. The one I was most thrilled by was the Active Zone minutes. This does not show if you are wearing the band casually and not doing much. But as soon as you start working out or walking briskly, the Charge 4 alerts you that you have entered the Active Zone. This essentially means you heart rate is and you are burning fat. In most other bands and watches, you do not get this alert real time and I found this feature very useful to ensure that my long evening walks are not really wasted.
Interestingly, this Active Zone is customised per user based on average heart rate and other vitals. This is better than asking everyone to strive to achieve a global standard. So I could see the zone kick off as I crossed about 130 bpm, while my doctor wants me to stay above 170 bpm to push up my cardio levels. I would rather settle for the first.
The new Charge 4 also comes with a built-GPS which is activated when you select an outdoor workout mode like hiking or brisk walk. While, like on the Apple Watch, this does not result in a map on the app showing where all you have been, it does come with realtime distance calculation. I would have liked to see the activity being mapped too.
The Charge 4 can also show relative SpO2 and this happens in the back and you don’t need to initiate anything for a reading. The data keeps updating on the app, which is good. In fact, the app gives a lot of context based on your usage with data for heart rate variability, sleep reading and so on. However, you don’t get much of a deep dive into the data.
And this is why I decided to get a premium account from Fitbit, where the add-ons are mostly in the form of data. This premium account gives me access to a health report that gives a much better understanding of heart rate, sleep and activity trends. In fact, if you suffer from a chronic disease like me, then it makes sense to pay the extra money and get a premium account.
There is also access to Deepak Chopra’s mindfulness sessions, basically video modules that let you meditate, relieve stress and generally take on life better. There are also video workouts to learn from and new challenges to push yourself. These are useful, though I kept forgetting this feature was there.
Fitbit Charge 4: What’s not good?
I have used Fitbit devices on and off for many years and have never experienced any durability issues. However, the Charge 4 got a line on the display in the first week without any sort of damage to the band. I’m guessing it is a software quirk, but it is an irritant nonetheless. I would have loved Fitbit to add alerts for taking breathing sessions or just to stand up as with work from home, this is the handholding some of us need to ensure an active work-life balance.
Fitbit Charge 4: Should you buy?
Yes, at a price point of Rs 14,999, the Fitbit Charge 4 is among the best activity trackers you can buy. But in the present scenario where companies like Amazfit are offering smartwatches for lesser, the Fitbit premium is for its better understanding of health data. So it might make sense to spend a bit extra and get the premium too in case you are investing in a Fitbit so that you can take control of your health data with actionable details.