Late last year I’d been looking into getting myself a fitness tracker, mainly because I like data, but also as motivation to get myself back into fitness after a long time of not doing very much at all. So for Christmas, Sasha bought me a Fitbit Charge 2, and I’m only just now getting around to reviewing it properly.
I spent quite a bit of time researching fitness trackers towards the tail end of 2016. I wanted something that hit the sweet spot between basic and bare-bones (like a Fitbug Orb), and overpriced and overfeatured (like a Samsung Gear). The Fitbit Charge 2 seemed to fall into that category. It’s very simple to use, tracks steps, heart rate, sleep, and fitness activities, while also not being overrun with unneccessary (for my purposes) bells and whistles. It has quite a minimalist design, which I do like along with my minimalist lifestyle, and it looked like the style would fit in with my reasonably basic wardrobe.
As part of my life and critical illness cover, I am rewarded with lowered premiums depending on my activity level (among other things). Step-tracking is one of the easier ways to earn ‘points’ towards this, so it was crucial to find a wearable that covered this; in fairness, the vast majority do already, but it was still something I was looking for. There’s no GPS though, which is a bit of a downside, however the Charge 2 does pair with my phone when I select an activity, such as running, and tracks GPS through the app. For my purposes this was enough.
There have been reports of inaccuracies with Fitbit compared with other fitness trackers, particularly with step accuracy and heart rate accuracy. For the price range, I think the Fitbit does a solid enough job; certainly I haven’t experienced any issues. Heart rate tracking is always going to suffer from inaccuracies compared with using a chest strap, and step tracking in my experience has always been within roughly what I would expect - maybe a couple hundred steps of drift over the course of a 10-15k step day. Not enough to avoid the Charge 2 at any rate.
Reminder to Move
One of the more gimmicky features in my opinion is Fitbit’s ‘Reminders to Move’. During set-up, you choose your ‘active period’, which is the hours each day that you expect to be up and about (I chose 8am-7pm). Every hour that I’ve walked less than 250 steps by 50 minutes past, the Fitbit gives me a little nudge to get up and walk about. 250 steps really isn’t much, but in a sedentary job like software development, it is quite easy to go a few hours at a time without standing up and stretching my legs.
Most days I hit 9 or 10 out of the 11 active hours I’ve assigned myself; sometimes you just can’t avoid being stuck in a meeting for a full hour. It is a nice reminder to stay active throughout the day, but it’s far from a dealbreaking feature.
Sleep Tracking / Silent Alarm
I already use a separate application (Sleep Cycle) to track my sleep and wake me up at the lightest phase of my sleep cycle, but as an extra feature, I use the Fitbit alarm vibrations to wake me up if I’m still sleeping by the end of my alarm period. The Fitbit can tell whether I’m asleep by my heart rate, and if it detects I’m already awake then it won’t go off - although if I’ve taken my Fitbit off to go in the shower before my Fitbit alarm, it does still go off.
The sleep charts generated by both Sleep Cycle and the Fitbit Charge 2 tend to align, so I’m at least reasonably confident that neither of them are just making data up. It’s useful to see how I can improve my sleeping patterns, although I tend not to use the data much beyond this.
When I go for a run, I tend to manually tell the Charge 2 that I’m running, in order to enable the GPS tracking and pacing, however if I forget, it does manage to make an educated guess as to what activity I was doing. Generally, it gets it right, and can differentiate between running, 5-a-side and a gym session (the only three activities I’ve tried so far), but it doesn’t trigger any additional tracking like GPS or pacing if it isn’t told to do so.
I’m not really huge on meditation, although I do want to start at some point, so I’ve only used the guided breathing assistant a couple of times. I again felt that it was a bit gimmicky, but giving you something to focus on and control your breathing is calming, which I guess is the point. I wouldn’t have bought the Charge 2 just for this, but it’s a nice-to-have feature that I’ll probably use more of in the future.
One of the more impressive features of the Fitbit Charge 2 so far has been the battery life. The company claims that you can get five days between charges, which is more than enough for me, but up until now I’ve only charged the device for the 10 minutes or so a day I’ve been in the shower, and I’m yet to fall below 50% power. Even when I spent a few days in Rome last month, the battery was fully charged again after one shower when I got home. The charger itself is a little strange, with a clamp that holds your Fitbit in place, but I suppose a traditional charger would require an ugly port somewhere on the device. It works well enough, so no complaints in this department.
Overall, I’m very happy with my Fitbit Charge 2. I may upgrade in the future to a more running-oriented tracker (I have my eye on the Garmin Forerunner 235), but for an all-round basic fitness tracker, the Charge 2 does a great job.
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|LastPass||30 Aug 2016|