Reviews

Fitbit Charge 4 Review – Active Zone Minutes Matter

I’ve bought and lost more Fitbit trackers over the years than I can actually remember, mostly thanks to the diminutive Fitbit Zip, but thankfully the tech and form factors have improved over the years, and we’ve arrived at the Fitbit Charge 4, the latest iteration in their Charge line of fitness bands. 

The Fitbit Charge 4 maintains the previous models look, feel and features while adding in GPS tracking for your outdoor exercises, and NFC for mobile payments. 

On the software side of things there’s also more accurate tracking of your effort with a new feature: Active Move Zones. Active Zone Minutes are awarded based on whether you’re in the zone for Fat Burn, Cardio or Peak through your workout. 

So, the Fitbit Charge 4 adds some new, and much needed hardware, and this new software features as well. Priced from $245 and available in a range of colours the Fitbit Charge 4 has a lot of heritage to live up to for fitness trackers, so is it worth jumping into?

Hardware and Design

The Fitbit Charge 4 is a fitness band, which means it’s fairly simple in design with a basic rectangular shape with a single button on the left side and charging port and heart rate sensor on the rear. Overall it’s a fairly simple design because it works. Fitbit though have added some style with their range of bands which clip on and off quickly with extreme ease.

Fitbit sent over the Black Charge 4 with a Storm Blue strap – there’s a choice of two strap lengths (S & L) in the box – made from silicone, and while the special edition woven strap looks nice, the silicone strap is really comfortable to wear. 

The comfort side of things is important as the tracker is water resistant up to 50m, and that means of course you can wear it everywhere including swimming or in the shower. Fitbit does recommend giving your wrist a rest from the strap every now and then, and ensure you dry the strap off after exercising etc. to avoid skin irritation.

The tracker includes a greyscale OLED, touch sensitive display. It’s fairly easy to read indoors or out, and swiping is very good with only the occasional need to re-swipe. The screen shows a load of information gleaned from the variety of sensors on-board, or information from an installed app, or just the time on one of a bunch of included watch faces.

Navigation through the menu tree is fairly simple, with a press of the lone button on the side, or simply raising your wrist waking the watch. Swiping down from the top gets you access to your notifications, while swiping up gets you access to your data. You can access apps and more functions by swiping to the left gives you access to your installed apps – I loved the fast access to weather on my wrist.

The single side button serves to both wake the device and act as a ‘back’ button to take you back in the menu tree, with a satisfying buzz of haptic feedback. 

The battery, like the form factor of the band is fairly small, with Fitbit advising you get ‘Battery life up to 7 days, or up to 5 hours with continuous GPS use’. In practice I got the 7 days of promised battery life – and a little more – which included a bike ride tracked by GPS as well as the usual sleep tracking and step counting we all love. 

Charging is fairly simple though with a nice clip on charger that keeps the tracker securely in place while it charges, while also giving you access to the single button on the side. The Charge 4 char a marked improvement over the charging cable on lower end Fitbit models like the Inspire HR which uses only magnets to keep it aligned with the pogo pins. Charging does take up to 2 hours, so be prepared to be sitting while it charges, thorough I found charging in the car on the way to work was a good compromise to keep it topped up.

The heart rate monitor on the rear is pretty decent, tracking my heart rate fairly accurately both while at rest and during exercise.

Activity Tracking

I’ve always found Fitbit to be highly accurate when it comes to step counting, and the Charge 4 is no different. The tracker also prompts me to move when I’ve been a little too sedentary.  

Sleep tracking is also nice, though as a shift worker I’m well aware my sleep patterns are screwed, so it’d be nice to get some sort of shift worker mode which lets you sleep at weird hours and doesn’t affect your ‘Sleep Score’. That said, the Charge 4 definitely tracks your sleeping hours accurately.

The Charge 4 can also track six different activity types: Run, Cycle, Swim, Treadmill, ‘Outdoor Workout’ and Walk. From the exercise menu you can configure various settings like use GPS for Run/Cycle etc. or set the pool length when you’re swimming laps. 

You can change these default exercises, but not through the app – at least that I’ve found. You can easily do it through the Fitbit website though, but it’s a niggle which I hope they fix.

Fitbit App

Most of your interaction with the Fitbit on a day-to-day basis is the tracker itself, but for full settings you’ll need to use the app.

Available for both Android and iOS, the app is fairly simple to use, and it’s great to look at. The app has a good at-a-glance dashboard to show you all your data for the day. It’s also easy to go back to see what your activity was light for previous days.

The setup process for adding a Fitbit tracker is simple & once you’ve added a tracker you can access the settings and setup the clock face, any apps you can install, don’t get excited it’s a very limited selection and they’re all pre-installed anyway. You can also setup Spotify (Yes, that’s the only on-board music option) now or organise your contactless payments with Fitbit Pay – note: you’ll need a PIN on your Charge 4 to use Fitbit Pay.

There’s only a limited number of banks available to use Fitbit Pay in Australia, but unfortunately my banks weren’t on the list of compatible providers. You can also add in your Sydney Transit info to the contactless section if you live there.

There’s 24 clock faces to choose from in the app, some simply displaying the time and date, while others include more data like steps, heart rate and Activity Zone minutes. Pick the one you like, it will sync to your Fitbit in no time.

The app settings are also where you can configure notifications, and which apps can deliver a notification. Notifications can eat at your battery a little, but they notifications on the wrist are highly useful for me, so it’s worth the hit. This is also where you can configure your quick replies to apps, I never really bother with this as the pre-set replies never tend to fit the message, at least for me.

Active Zone Minutes
The big software update for the Fitbit Charge 4 is the introduction of Active Zone Minutes. The feature launched on the Charge 4, but will come to other Fitbit trackers this year.

Active Zone Minutes is Fitbit’s way of getting an accurate look at your fitness. Active Zone Minutes also line up with recommendations from the World Health Organization(WHO), American Heart Association(AHA), as well as other health organisations, which all recommend you should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise in a week.

It basically comes down to the more intense your work out, the more Active Zone Minutes are awarded. Working out in the fat burn zone will net you 1 Active Zone Minute, while getting into cardio or peak zone will get you 2 Active Zone Minutes.

Frankly, the app busted me a couple of times during a workout, and let me know it. I am now more aware that I need to really put in that extra effort to get to the peak zone and earn those bonus Active Zone Minutes, not just phone it in – although we’ve all had those mornings and really, any workout is a good one (IMHO).

Should you buy it?
Buying a Fitbit is almost the default for most people when they think fitness trackers, and while you can start off with one of the lower end Inspire HR models, but if you want the bells and whistles like the GPS tracking and NFC options the Fitbit Charge 4 is the way to go.

In terms of features, the Charge 4 has it all for tracking your health, and workouts. The heart-rate, SP02 and GPS monitoring are big pluses on a fitness tracker, and adding in the NFC is also quite nice.

I don’t use Spotify, and my bank wasn’t compatible with the NFC options, so it is missing some functionality if you’re in the same boat as me.

Active Move minutes are a really good inclusion, pushing you to achieve those extra points, and of course badges. You’ll get this on existing trackers as well and it’s worth it if you’re into the intensity of your workout.

Beyond that, the Fitbit Charge 4 is definitely what you want when it comes to a fitness tracker. The hardware is excellent, and the app is easy to use and tracks just about everything you could want about your workout.

The Fitbit Charge 4 is a good buy if you’re after a fitness tracker. Fitbit have stuck with a tried and true formula which they’ve honed over multiple devices and several generations. You get all the new features like Active Zone Minutes first, and it’s just a stylish looking tracker.

You can check out where to buy the Fitbit Charge 4 over on their Australian website.

Fitbit Charge 4 Review – Active Zone Minutes Matter
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