Review: FitBit Charge – Return of the Force

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This may be the quickest review I have ever written. “Fitbit created a device. Fitbit recalled the device. Fitbit fixed the device and released it under another name for the same price. End of Review.”

I’ll start with a little history. Late in 2013, Fitbit released the Force. It was an update of the Fitbit Flex that added a screen to see your exact progress throughout the day and the ability to track stairs. It essentially was a Fitbit One combined with a Fitbit Flex. The other two features were automatic sleep tracking and incoming caller id when paired with an iOS device. The Caller ID feature was not available out of the gate and added later in a firmware update.

Then in February 2014, Fitbit made the surprise announcement that it was recalling all Fitbit Force devices due to many users suffering skin irritation as discussed in A letter from the CEO.

On October 27th, Fitbit announced three new devices, the Fitbit Charge, the Charge HR, and the Surge with the Charge HR and Surge being released in 2015. The Charge is available now.

What is the Charge? Well, it is the Force with a new band, better clasp and bit wider. If you own a Fitbit Force and have no skin issues, you have no reason to upgrade.

The Charge is .83 inches versus the Force at .75 inches or 2 millimeters wider (21.1 vs. 19.1). The Fitbit Flex is .6 inches or 13.99 mm.

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The clasp on the Fitbit Force was a source of aggravation as well. It was very easily unsnapped causing people to drop the devices frequently. The new clasp has addressed this and is much more secure. As can be seen in the image below, the new clasp on the top has the posts farther apart and a little thinner. They do noticeably hold the band together more firmly.

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As far as the rest goes, I have trouble finding differences between the devices. The software is the same as you can see below (Notice the firmware):

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It does seem like the Charge connects and syncs a little faster with the phone, so there may be some hardware tweaks inside, but really, the Fitbit Charge just seems to be the Force completed.

This makes it a bit less exciting. Technology has changed over the past year and Fitbit seems to have not put forth the effort to grow with it. One example is the fact that the Charge is still not waterproof. The Charge is also still priced at $130. This makes it tough to recommend when you have the Garmin Vivofit which has just had a price drop to $99 at Clever Training and on Amazon (both links are affiliate links which will give me a small commission at no cost to you).

Another troubling development from Fitbit appears to be a dispute with Apple. Apple featured Fitbit at the 2014 World-wide Developer Conference (WWDC) which is a major boon for most companies as shown on the below slide from The Verge article Apple HealthKit announced: a hub for all your iOS fitness tracking needs.


After receiving all this attention, Fitbit mysteriously confirmed that they were not actively developing for Apple Healthkit as reported by MacWorld in the article Fitbit says no to Apple’s HealthKit for now. In response, Apple has pulled all Fitbit devices from their stores as documented in Apple Insider,

Considering that other players like Garmin, Jawbone, Withings, Strava, MyFitnessPal etc are all working with Apple HealthKit, it is hard to recommend staying with Fitbit at this point.

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Eric Hunley

RRCA Certified coach. Started to change lifestyle in 2012 when weight was up to 283 lbs. Eventually started running later that year and racing in 2013. Has run in dozens of races and has been featured in some podcasts. Full Bio on About Page.
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