Fitbit Charge 4 REVIEW

June 7, 2020
The monochrome look of the Fitbit Charge 4
Fitbit 4 Charge REVIEW


Fitbit Charge 4 REVIEW

Fitbit’s latest looks identical to its predecessor but PAT PILCHER discovers that for the same price it’s much smarter.

$269.00 (at the right stores)


The Fitbit Charge 4 and its box

Depending on where you shop the Fitbit Charge 4 can be had for as little as $269.95. Price-wise, this isn’t all that different from the Fitbit Charge 3’s launch price. Given the shiny new features baked into the Charge 4, this price point looks like pretty good value for money.

In my review of the Fitbit Charge 4, I look at the advantages and disadvantages of upgrading to the new model.

Design-wise, Fitbit chooses to stick with what worked well with the Charge 3. The Charge 4 looks almost identical. This isn’t a bad thing. The Fitbit Charge 4 is so slim and light that you could forget it’s strapped onto your wrist. As it’ll get worn round the clock, being comfy and unobtrusive is only ever going to be a good thing.

The monochrome look of the Fitbit Charge 4

The review unit (a Charge 4 Special Edition) comes with two straps. These are a black silicone number and a nifty woven nylon jobby. Silicone watch straps often react with the wearer’s skin and (in my opinion) they look cheap. The woven strap looks and feels more upmarket and is less likely to cause skin irritation.

The OLED screen is greyscaled which could get seen as a downer for those wanting colour, but it is bright even under direct sunlight. Going monochrome also helps with battery life, which in my books is good a design decision.

Steps (plus steps climbed) and distance covered over the last 30 days get stored on the Charge 4. Fitbit has also added GPS and altimeter functionality. These both make the Charge 4 a solid contender with other fitness trackers.

The Fitbit 4 Charge app

Another handy addition is NFC. This allows ASB bank customers to use the Charge 4 as a payWave card, which means that wearers can go out on a run without carrying cards or cash. The Charge 4 can also control the Spotify app on a paired phone via Bluetooth. While it’s handy, I’d have preferred actual storage for music files so wearers wouldn’t need to carry a phone when out running.

On a positive note, the Charge 4 is also water-resistant up to 50 meters. This means it’s fine for swimming, showering (and working up a sweat at the gym).

One of the biggest selling points with the Charge 4 is its battery life. Fitbit says you’ll get a week between charges. This was borne out in real-world testing. Charging is also straightforward with the supplied USB cable which clips onto the Charge 4. It can only connect one way around so lining up the connectors is almost bomb-proof. Charging takes under an hour.

The Fitbit Charge 4 in the hand

In use, the Charge 4 is a complete doddle to drive. Accessing stats or notifications involves swiping the screen. Swiping up shows daily stats (step counts, distance, calories burned, etc). On the left-hand side, there’s a touch-sensitive back button. It takes the wearer to the previous screen or watch display. Helping things along is haptic feedback which accompanies button presses. A handy trick I discovered was activating ‘do not disturb’ mode by pressing and holding the screen.

There are a small number of apps available to install. The weather app is the most useful. While it is no-frills, it gives you what you need, when you need it.

The only irritating feature is the Charge 4’s reminders to get up and stretch. These often de-railed my train of thought. Thank goodness they can be turned off.

On the workout tracking front, you’re well covered. The only options missing are pint lifting and chip packet opening reps. The Charge 4 tracks six activities. You can only create shortcuts for four activities. This forces the wearer to take a punt, choosing which workouts they’re most likely to use. It’s a bit of an omission, so here’s hoping it gets addressed with the Charge 5.

The Fitbit Charge 4’s charging thingy

It can also detect when you’re working out. If you’re outdoors, it’ll track your movements using GPS. This means your route can be overlaid on a map along with speed, distance, heart rate and so on. A key gotcha is that you must choose a workout activity before tracking starts to happen.

The Charge 4’s cardio capabilities get bumped with Active Zone Minutes. While their relevance is not obvious, the Fitbit app explains all. It turns out that Active Zone Minutes is a workout measurement that looks at resting heart rates, age and so on. It monitors workouts that raise your heart rate. The aim of this is to spend 150 minutes in three key heart rate zones (fat-burn, cardio, and peak).

The Fitbit mobile app (Android/iOS), is a strong point. Getting it set up is dead easy. After installing it on your phone you choose which type Fitbit hardware you’re using. The app then scans for it via Bluetooth and steps you through the pairing process. The app’s functionality is easy to find thanks to large buttons and almost no hard to find sub-menus. A lot of other mobile app makers could learn a thing or two from the Fitbit app.

For those wanting more detailed workout stats, Fitbit also offers Fitbit Premium, which is available to try for free for 90 days.

It might look a lot like the Charge 3, but the Charge 4 is a solid evolution. This is thanks to useful features such as GPS. The lack of a colour screen may get seen by some as a shortcoming but the week-long battery life is a real selling point.

As mentioned, about to the only real negative is a lack of storage for local music playback, but it isn’t a showstopper unless you’re determined not to carry your phone on or near you when working out.

If you’re wanting to step up your fitness game, the Fitbit Charge 4 is a worthy contender.

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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