Review: Fitbit Charge 2 Activity Tracker

November 8, 2016 - Written By Alexander Maxham

When it comes to wearables, most people aren’t buying smartwatches like many smartphone manufacturers were hoping. Instead it’s activity trackers that are making all of the dough, so to speak. And in the world of activity trackers, Fitbit is leading the way. As of the second quarter of this year, IDC reported that Fitbit held nearly a quarter of the smart wearable market, ahead of Xiaomi, Apple, Garmin and Lifesense. Fitbit has been seeing quite a bit of competition in the past year or so, and they have definitely noticed. Companies like Xiaomi releasing a competing activity tracker for a fraction of the price, like the Mi Band 2.

This year, Fitbit released four new trackers in the Fitbit Blaze, Alta, Charge 2 and the Flex 2. Now we’ve been using the Charge 2 for a couple of weeks now, to get the hang of all the nifty new features that the company has baked into the smart wearable. Now the hard part is deciding on whether it’s worth the money. The Fitbit Charge 2 comes in at about $150, the same price as the Fitbit Charge HR that it is replacing. Is the Fitbit Charge 2 the best activity tracker on the market? Or are there better choices out there? Let’s find out.

Design & Build Quality

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The Charge 2 doesn’t look much like the Charge HR it is replacing. Instead, Fitbit is adopting the style that they debuted with the Fitbit Alta earlier this year. It basically looks like a thicker Alta. And that is due to the larger display, and slightly better battery life. Fitbit has been touting that the Charge 2 features a display that is 4x the size of the one found on the Charge HR. And this is great because it allows you to see a whole lot more information on the display, without needing to pull out your smartphone to view it.

Like the Alta, the band is removable and can be swapped out for another color or material. Fitbit offers bands in the usual silicon, but also in leather and metal. So you can dress up your Charge 2 or keep it pretty colorful with a Turquoise band – there’s also purple, blue and black available. The Charge 2 uses a clasp to keep it on your wrist, similar to the Charge HR, and it makes for a pretty comfortable fit as well. It definitely appears to be a well built fitness tracker, hopefully it doesn’t suffer the same build quality issues that plagued the Charge HR for some users further down the road.

Now the display is four times larger than the Charge HR, and it does add a bit more functionality than the Charge HR. We do have the single button on the Charge 2, like its predecessor, but you can also tap on the band and get different information on your wrist. Tapping on the band will give you your stats for the day. These include things like your steps taken, your current heart rate, calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed, minutes active and your 250 step goal for the hour. For those that are unaware, Fitbit built a feature into the Alta and Blaze (which later went to older products as well), where there is a 250-step goal each hour. This is to get users active more throughout the day instead of staying stationary all day long at work. This is a customizable goal, you can choose to turn it off or keep it on and decide on which hours you want to have that goal available. It’s a good idea to have it available for the hours that you are at work. Additionally, if you haven’t hit your goal yet, it’ll let you know around 50 minutes past the hour. Giving you 10 minutes to get the rest of your steps in. 250 is a pretty low number, it’s really less than 3 minutes of walking.

When you press the button on the side of the Charge 2, you get different options. When you first press it, you’ll see the time (and whatever information you have on that watch face, customizable in the Fitbit app). Pressing it a second time you’ll see your heart rate, continuing to press it you’ll see different workouts you can do. Once you find one you’re about to do (i.e. go for a run), just long-press the button and it’ll start timing that workout and give you stats specific to that workout. There’s also a stopwatch, breathing and your alarm in this menu. So you can quickly see when your next alarm is on the Charge 2.

Activity Tracking

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When it comes to actual activity tracking with the Fitbit Charge 2, there’s not much new here. The Fitbit Charge 2 will connect to your smartphone using Bluetooth and it can sync automatically or whenever you open the app. Of course, opting to have it only sync when you open the app, will preserve battery life. Which is already pretty decent at about 7 days. Fitbit, over the past year or so, has been adding more and more information to the Fitbit app, including the Hourly Activity, which expects you to take 250 steps each hour, so you aren’t stationary for a long period of time. Now with the Charge 2, Fitbit has added “Cardio Fitness”.

Essentially what Cardio Fitness does is it shows you hot fit you are based on your age and gender. These scores go from 36.8 all the way up to 60.4. There’s Poor, Fair, Average, Good, Very Good and Excellent. This score is determined on two factors. One being your weight, and the other being your cardio exercise. So the way to improve your score is doing more intense cardio and also dropping some weight. Now if you are pretty fit, but don’t do a whole lot of cardio, you may also see a pretty low score. But you can quickly change that score by doing some cardio exercises like running, using the elliptical and such.

While you can opt to manually record your exercises, Fitbit can also automatically recognize some exercises. Like walking, running, outdoor bike, elliptical, sport and aerobic workouts. These automatically default to recognizing after doing these for 15 minutes, but you can change that to be after 10 minutes. One of the advantages to having the Charge 2 track your workout (instead of auto recognizing it) is that you get more details about your workout, which is going to help you get more out of each workout and push yourself further each time.

The Fitbit App

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The app that Fitbit has on Android is largely unchanged in the past few years. Even though the iOS version does have a new dashboard, it’s rumored to be coming to Android at some point, but it’s not yet available in the Android app. When you login to the Fitbit app, you’ll see all of your details front and center. This includes your steps, heart rate, hourly activity, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, your last exercise, your current weight, sleep, water intake as well as your calorie intake. Now you can set goals for all of these, when it comes to steps, the American Heart Association recommends you to take about 10,000 steps per day. For some people that can be quite a bit. But if you do any type of cardio exercises, then 10,000 should be pretty easy to hit each day.

One of my favorite features of the Fitbit app is the ability to add friends and compete against them. You can see the leaderboard which shows where you rank among your friends for the past 7 days. You can also compete with them in different challenges. There are currently four challenges, the Workweek Hustle, Weekend Warrior, Daily Showdown and Goal Day. Workweek Hustle is a challenge that lasts Monday through Friday and you’re stepping as much as you can to beat your friends in the challenge. The same goes for the Weekend Warrior, but it’s for Saturday and Sunday only. The Daily Showdown is a challenge for that one day and the Goal Day challenge is just to get everyone to hit their goals. Which is likely the easiest challenge of them all.

Recently, Fitbit added Adventures to the app. Which allows you to walk through places like New York City, Yosemite and more coming soon. This is basically like augmented reality, as you’re able to see different landmarks once you hit different amounts of steps. It’s pretty interesting, and you can even do the full New York City Marathon, which is about 57,000 steps.

Wrap Up

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The Fitbit Charge 2 is a pretty big upgrade over the original Charge HR. Not only because of the larger screen, but it’s just a better product overall. It’s great that Fitbit opted to keep the same design that they used on the Fitbit Alta, although the bands for the Alta won’t work with the Charge 2 since it’s a bit wider. But the ability to swap out your bands is definitely a big plus. The Fitbit Charge 2 runs for about $150 normally. That’s not too bad for a fitness tracker, and if you’re a fitness buff, then this is the one you’ll want to pick up (or the Fitbit Surge). Especially since it does have that heart rate monitor included, allowing you to keep up with your activity level when working out or going for a run.

Fitbit offers the Charge 2 in both small and large sizes, as well as a slew of colors. And the official bands start at $30, with the leather bands going for $70.

Buy the Fitbit Charge 2