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Fitbit Charge 2 review

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FitBit Charge 2
  • FitBit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2
  • Fitbit Charge 2

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Interchangeable bands
  • Large display for at-a-glance information
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Consistent tracking
  • Cardio Fitness score is a useful metric
  • 5-day battery life
  • Updated with Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights

Cons

  • No GPS (GPS Connected mode requires your smartphone)
  • Gesture recognition is ropey
  • Basic notifications

Key Features

  • All-day activity tracking
  • Sleep tracking and silent alarm
  • Cardio Fitness Level score
  • Multi-sport with automatic tracking
  • Breathing exercises
  • New customisable bands
  • Notifications
  • Manufacturer: Fitbit
  • Review Price: £129.99

Fitbit Charge 2 long-term review

I think the fact that the Fitbit Charge 2 still finds its way onto my wrist – albeit intermittently – more than four months after I first reviewed it is a testament to its long-term appeal. If you follow any of my fitness tracker reviews, you'll notice I often make comparisons to the Fitbit Charge 2 as, more often than not, I'm wearing it as a control against whatever new and shiny wearable I'm reviewing at the time.

That's to say I've grown to trust the numbers crunched by the Fitbit Charge 2, be that the number of steps in my day, the beats of my heart or the zzz's I catch at night. I say over and over that the numbers themselves don't necessarily matter – every tracker will use different algorithms or sensors – but it's the consistency that's key, and that's what I've been finding with the Charge 2.

I find the Charge 2's automatic exercise tracking to be super handy, too. I recently went on a GoodGym-organised run, admittedly for the launch of a rival sports watch, but the Charge 2 was right there with me. It did a stellar job of tracking the start-stop nature of the day's run without any interaction from me.

Breathe mode has improved since the device launched, adding haptic feedback akin to the Apple Watch's own Breathe mode. These slight vibrations let you know when to inhale and exhale, meaning you're not sat there staring at the screen and better able to actually relax. I still don't use the Breathe function that often, but this tweak does mean that when I do, the experience is greatly improved.

Related: Best heart rate monitor

Fitbit Charge 2

App notifications have also been made better, with Fitbit expanding support to include the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – far more useful for someone such as myself, who abandoned SMS long ago. Other updates are continuously rolling out, too, which is always commendable.

Sleep Insights have been added for the Charge 2 – alongside all other sleep tracking Fitbit devices – which provides guidance and coaching to get a better nights sleep. It's literally only just become available, so the level of insights I've received so far haven't exactly been insightful, such as just telling me I get more sleep than the average for my demographic. Supposedly the insights will get more personalised over time, however.

Sleep Stages has begun rolling out to Charge 2 users as a software update, but it's not yet available to everyone. Considering it was one of the better functions of the Fitbit Alta HR, it's a useful addition. It's a much better approach to sleep tracking compared to what was offered previously, providing a much better breakdown of sleep phases as well as providing a benchmark against other users in your demographic. Previously, it was difficult to know what the numbers meant or if you were getting enough quality sleep.

Watch: Fitbit Charge 2 hands-on:

As for the physical condition of my Charge 2, four months on and my wrist wearable is beginning to look like it's been put through one too many Tough Mudders as the face is now rather scratched. A more robust material such as Gorilla Glass wouldn't go amiss here, instead of the hard-coated plastic.

The fact that there are threads discussing different screen protectors on Fitbit's forum only serves to reinforce that it's prone to scratches. I didn't even know Fitbit screen protectors were a thing, and they really shouldn't have to be.

Battery life has held up, and I generally only have to charge the device every five days – which isn't a huge inconvenience. Having to take the Charge 2 off to shower each night is still a hassle, though.

All in all, I've actually grown more fond of the Charge 2 since my initial review, which isn't something that happens often. There have been some decent updates to both the device and the app, making it a compelling fitness tracker for anyone who doesn't need dedicated GPS.

I've since reviewed the Fitbit Alta HR and I'd give the Charge 2 the edge for anyone who doesn't prioritise the slimmer design of the Alta HR.

My original review continues below.

What is the Fitbit Charge 2?

Fitbit says that its original Charge and Charge HR were its best-selling fitness tracker. So it's not surprising Fitbit has taken everything that proved popular on the original and used this as a basis for the Charge 2, which was recently introduced alongside the new entry-level Fitbit Flex 2.

First off, the heart rate monitoring of the Charge HR now comes as standard, so there’s just one model of Charge 2. This helps bring down the sheer number of Fitbit trackers available, which was becoming confusing. The PurePulse heart rate monitor of the original makes a return, and brings with it continuous and resting heart rate monitoring.

Packed with everything you could want, except GPS, the Charge 2 covers all of the basics. You can consider this device more of an evolution than a reinvention, but by correcting many of the shortcomings of the original, the Charge 2 proves to be a great all-rounder.

Fitbit Charge 2 – Design and Setup

The main change with the Fitbit Charge 2 is its more sizeable display – it's four times larger, in fact. This means significantly more at-a-glance information and better handling of notifications from your connected smartphone. The original Charge had only a tiny slither of a screen, displaying one metric at a time.

It uses a black-and-white OLED, and you can adjust the brightness; I never experienced any problems reading the screen outdoors. The display turns on when you rotate your wrist to look at it, helping to conserve battery life.

Fitbit Charge 2

Annoyingly, maybe one in four times the display failed to turn on automatically. There is a button on the side to manually turn it on and toggle through the different displays, but for times when your other hand is occupied, the finicky display is a frustration.

Each of the menus has a number of sub-menus that you access by tapping the screen. Again, this was occasionally a little hit and miss. You need quite a firm rapping of the display to get it to trigger.

Otherwise, the Charge 2 isn't a great departure from its original design, aside from being slightly more slender. The elastomer strap is comfortable to wear and since it uses a standard watch buckle, putting it on isn’t fiddly – unlike some previous Fitbit trackers that used difficult clasps. I didn't encounter any discomfort with it on, even when I became particularly sweaty during a run.

Where the Charge 2 does deviate from previous models is in its potential for customisation. Much like the new Flex 2, you now have the ability to change the bands. Fitbit has Classic, Luxe leather and Special Edition options. There’s an array of colours available, too, and the Special Edition versions have rose gold and gunmetal finishes for the tracker itself to add another layer of class and sophistication. These cost a little more (£149.99) than the standard editions, though.

Fitbit Charge 2

I was sent the standard black elastomer band version for review. I definitely prefer some of the more vibrant colour options I saw in the flesh at IFA. Swapping out the bands is incredibly easy thanks to release clasps on the underside. You can swap them out within seconds. The Fitbit Charge 2 is available in three different strap sizes; small, large and XL. It's important to choose the right size for your wrist for reasons I'll come to later.

The Charge 2 works with Fitbit’s Android and iOS app, and setting it up is as straightforward as any other tracker. Simply create a profile, entering your gender, height and weight, then select a number of goals. These include the usual steps, sleep and weight targets.

Once paired over Bluetooth, you can then sync your activity to the app and receive rudimentary notifications from your connected smartphone. These only include caller ID, messages and calendar reminders.

Originally, the Fitbit Charge 2 could only display SMS messages. I can't remember the last time I received a standard SMS message from anyone that wasn't a marketer, so how useful you'll find this is questionable.

Thankfully, a recent update to the Fitbit app now allows message notifications across different apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. This makes the function much more useful and is a very welcome update. There's still no way to interact with the message, and notifications for WhatsApp don't scroll the message, but you can at least see the message sender. It helps you to decide if it's worth whipping your phone out.

Derric

December 29, 2016, 1:42 am

How does this compare to the Fitbit Surge ?
If you had a choice which would YOU choose ?
I have a "Surge" and so far I am happy with it, annoying I cant change the band though

Lex , Just Lex

January 7, 2017, 3:47 pm

when doing a review, remember that your opinion is irrelevant if not backed by considerable experience. 01:06 "...I think we all know how to breathe already..." This opinion just showed us your experience.

AY

January 20, 2017, 12:37 am

I have been a user of the Fitbit for well over 2 years (Fitbit HR and late last year I upgraded to the Charge2). I loved the simplicity of the dashboard app and the unit tracks heartrate in a very simple and straight forward way.
Imagine my disappointment that 2 months into using my new Charge 2 the dashboard app started to fail to properly capture and display my heartrate. Initially I assumed it was just a temporary software glitch. NOT so - to cut a long story short- the software issue has been in place for well over 6 months (see lots of unhappy users comments on the Fitbit community forum). There is no fix in sight ("our tech team is working on it..."). There is a workaround but a pain for any user who wants to see their heartrate several times at any given day.
So if you want to buy a fitness tracker that tracks your heartrate in real time - DO NOT BUY the FITBIT Charge 2.

Ralph

February 16, 2017, 6:22 pm

Don't buy one of these if you want to own your own data - the Fitbit app will not let you download your heart rate data at all, so if you want to keep a long term record or even create your own graphs this is useless - try for eg Garmin which does let you download your own data. The only way you can get any sort of print out is to do a screen print on a day by day basis, but that's a seriously sub-standard data-export!

TractorEngineer

February 17, 2017, 6:14 am

I swear, Fitbit must be spreading some serious cash around. All of these websites are posting these glowing reviews of the Charge 2. They sure know how to stuff the ballot box on a Google search, too. The fact is, this thing is a piece of junk. I owned it for 3 months before it completely died after having one problem after another. The Charge 2 has been nothing but a headache. I sure am disappointed after upgrading from the entry-level Fitbit One, which is a solid platform and gave me zero problems. I feel totally suckered by Fitbit. When my current Charge 2 dies, and it will be soon if history is consistent, I will be moving on from Fitbit. What a disappointment.

TractorEngineer

February 17, 2017, 6:27 am

By the way, let me add to the cons for this review:
- Unlike the Flex 2, the Charge 2 cannot be worn in the shower or swimming
- Many items shipped with a defective charging cable. When you call Fitbit to talk to them about charging problems, they won't tell you this little factoid. They'll just tell you to make sure it's placed in the charger cradle properly and restart the device if problems continue. They'll send you a new cable after it completely dies, how nice.
- From the forums I've read, the average Charge 2 takes 3 to 4 months to die.
- The Fitbit app is not compatible with the Galaxy S7 even though it's a top-of-line Android product and it's been out for years. It's also not compatible with a lot of other smart-phones. But when the iPhone7 came out, they upgraded the app to it instantly. It doesn't take a genius to see who has pull with the company and who doesn't.
- Waking up the display by a raising motion of your wrist only works about 1/3 of the time.
- Waking up the display by tapping it doesn't work a lot of time.

The message is clear. Just skip the glowing reviews by companies that didn't review a thing (they're all just copying the industry-buzz) and head on down to the comments to see what this piece of junk and Fitbit are really doing to their customers.

Brendan

February 23, 2017, 7:12 am

The Charge 2 has major issues that Fitbit are fully aware of despite the product still sitting on shelves. I own this thing and it is utterly useless for tracking activity, particularly when using the GPS function with a paired smartphone.

Fitbit need to recall this thing, how this review was written with a straight face I have no idea.

https://community.fitbit.co...

Naka Drake

May 21, 2017, 2:31 am

Hmm, funny are all these negative comments. I've never had a problem with any fitbit device, nor with the application (though admittedly, I'm just mindful of the data the tracker gives me, so it's often days between syncs).

In my experience:
I've been using the regular Charge HR for almost two solid, nonstop use years. Recently acquired the Charge 2 and I couldn't be happier.

I don't know if it was some firmware update or what, but the waking motion has so far worked every single time. I'm assuming perhaps some people do it slower or whatever, but in my case, it worked each time and it actually partially worries me since it could be triggered even when i just jerk my arm, thus unnecessarily draining battery.

I've only had android phones and not even once did i have compatibility issues. I also haven't encountered any of the problems some google play reviewers had been complaining about in the past. Perhaps I'm just lucky...

I consider this review to be on point and more than accurate :). I wouldn't in any way or shape move away from fitbit because, quite frankly, I haven't yet found any downsides aside from the fact that it's not waterproof.

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