Fitbit Charge 3

I bought my first Fitbit, the Charge HR, about three years ago. I got it more out of curiosity about my heart rate than obsession about tracking my steps. I particularly wanted to know what my heart was up to when hiking, and a general curiosity about my resting heart rate.

Weak point (repaired)

That first one lasted nearly a year. It’s demise was due to a weakness in the construction around where you plug in the charging cable. I emailed their support line, including a photo of the thing. I was thinking along the lines of, could I glue it back together? We determined, though, that it was still under warranty and they sent me out a new one.

Bubble

The next one lasted just over a year. It failed in the same way. This time, though, it had the added problem of the neoprene (or whatever material it is) of the wristband separating from the underlying structure. First it developed a big bubble, then the adhesive failed all the way to the hard plastic of the face.

The third one met the same fate as the first two, surprise, surprise. I superglued the charging bit back together. For the first few days after that, it wouldn’t charge. But finally it got itself connected and has been hanging on since then. Shortly after the glue operation the neoprene formed a bubble and entropy has been increasing.

Silly me, after having two of these things more or less fall apart in about a year, I bought another one. I forget exactly what I paid for them, but it was in the neighborhood of $140. I’m a bit old-fashioned, I guess, in that I expect a watch to last for several years. Although I haven’t worn a watch since the advent of the cell phone, that last watch is more than 20 years old and still works. Yes, I know a Fitbit isn’t a watch. But it doesn’t have any moving parts and gets treated in pretty much every way like a watch does so I expected it to last more than a year. It certainly isn’t worth about three bucks a week to satisfy my curiosity about my heart rate.

And yet.

And yet, here I am, the proud owner of a new Fitbit Charge 3. It cost $150, purchased through Amazon, and I went the extra mile and paid the twenty bucks or so for a three year warranty. We’ll see how that turns out.

I ordered it before it hit the market. Shipping was delayed once, but it finally arrived after about a month. I opened up the box to find… an incomplete package. I thought I got only half the wristband, but it turns out they ship with both the small and large wristbands. I had the large one, but the Fitbit itself was missing. So I went through the return process. The replacement arrived this morning.

They’ve upgraded the way it connects to the charge cable. It looks like this new method will not suffer the problem of the earlier model. Also, the material on the wristband looks different. It’s probably the same stuff, but the texture is different and I’m hoping that they’ve addressed the bubbling issue.

Old (left), new (right)

First thing you do with these things is charge them. It took me five tries to get it to connect. The first couple I just didn’t have it properly connected. After getting the satisfying “click” of a proper connection, it still wasn’t charging. Eventually, it started working. I don’t know why it was so reluctant.

Next thing was to get it set up. That means using the phone app to connect to it. As I already have the app installed, this should be dead simple. I’ve done this three times before. Today, it took four or five tries. “Be sure bluetooth is activated” “Be sure the device is near your phone” “Be sure no other Fitbits are nearby” “Be sure your phone is updated” and so on. Eventually it made the connection.

So I’m up and running on the new device. I’ve only had it a couple of hours, but my first impression is it’s an improvement on the original. The display is bigger and shows more information without having to press the button. I’m not expecting great things – I wanted a direct replacement, no additional features (such as GPS). So I’m only hoping that it works as well as the last 3, but, of course, lasts longer.

The first one required that I push the button for it to record an activity. The second and third ones recorded my activity without my intervention. They were fairly accurate. Occasionally, it would take a minute to show me my pulse when I was particularly active, and every now and then it would record a pulse that was unreasonably high. But for the most part I was happy with it.

As to distance, the older model was quite accurate when I was walking on the sidewalks through the neighborhood. It overstated my distance when hiking, which makes sense to me. On a sidewalk, my stride is pretty consistent. On the trail I’m stepping over rocks and roots and my stride varies considerably. So the device tells me I’ve covered more distance than I really have. I’m confident that it has accurately recorded the number of steps I’ve taken.

Well, usually. The old one credited me with steps when I was driving. This didn’t have anything to do with driving a stick shift. I got steps in both the Lotus and the Chrysler, though I got more steps in the Lotus. I’m guessing it has to do with the firmness of the ride. Amusingly, when in the Lotus at the track, it records my activity as “Outdoor Bike”. Regular highway driving doesn’t get recorded as an activity. A session on the track gets my heart going about the same as hiking at 10,000′ above sea level, but regular driving doesn’t do much.

 

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