Coach’s biggest gripe about Fitbit devices has been the lack of built-in GPS in all but one of its models. That’s set to change, though. Fitbit is adding built-in GPS to the next generation of its flagship tracker, the Charge 4, which will cost £129.99 when it’s released on 15th April.
GPS is a far more accurate way of tracking the distance and pace of runs than using steps, and you can find built-in GPS on devices as cheap as £50. The majority of Fitbits do offer GPS – but only by connecting to your smartphone’s GPS. Establishing that connection often takes a minute, more than many people are willing to wait at the start of a run, and it also means you need to take your phone with you. Built-in GPS varies in quality and accuracy, so it will be the first thing we test when we get our hands on a sample, but we consider this change the most exciting Fitbit development since the company first moved into smartwatches.
The integration of Spotify into Fitbit devices, which began with the Versa 2, continues with a dedicated Spotify Connect & Control tile on the Charge 4, although the feature is still limited. There’s no music storage on the device so the app acts like a souped-up remote for only those people who pay for a Spotify premium subscription. As well as playback controls there’s the option to switch playlists and favourite songs. It can also control Spotify on multiple devices so you don’t have to reach for your phone when you’re on the move, or get up and cross the room if you’re streaming music through a computer.
The Charge 4 retains many of the qualities that made its predecessor a best-seller, including a light, sleek design with fashionable special editions (£149.99), a swimproof body that can automatically track lengths in the pool and a reliable battery which Fitbit says can last up to seven days. That’s the same as the Fitbit Charge 3, which will actually be a significant improvement in performance if it accounts for regular GPS tracking.
It keeps the relative SpO2 sensor too, which offers a Estimated Oxygen Variation Graph of your sleep each night. This measures the saturation of oxygen in your blood, which for most people will be the same every time and can be ignored. It can indicate, however, the possibility of breathing difficulties like sleep apnoea, a fairly rare condition but one it’s important to diagnose and treat.
The Charge 4 is also due a software upgrade and will get the Smart Wake feature currently restricted to Fitbit’s Versa and Ionic smartwatches. You set a 30-minute interval when you want to wake up and the device will try to rouse you at the best point in your sleep cycle.
Fitbit Pay is now included on all Charge 4 models, having previously only been available on the more expensive special editions of the Charge 3, so you can make contactless payments, including in the Transport for London network. The number of compatible UK banks and third-party services remains small, though – Santander is the one high street bank signed up – but perhaps that situation will improve now Fitbit is owned by Google.
The other major change, which will apply to all Fitbit devices with a heart rate monitor, is the upgrade of Active Minutes to Active Zone Minutes. This is based on the globally recognised, NHS-approved recommendation to be active for 150 minutes a week, with every minute of vigorous activity like running counting twice towards the tally. Fitbit will automatically tally up your progress, present you with daily goals in the app to keep you on track and break down the contribution made to your weekly total from each tracked activity.
At this stage, before we’ve seen the device in the flesh, it looks like Fitbit has nailed the next generation of its Charge line. It’s made a major improvement without compromising any of the great features that made the Charge 3 so popular – and it’s kept the RRP the same, although the Charge 3 is invariably available for under £100 on Amazon.
When the Charge 3 replaced the Charge 2, the differences between the models weren’t so pronounced and we couldn’t justify spending an extra £30 for the upgrade, but things appear different this time around. We’ll know for sure once we get our hands on the device in the coming days.
Pre-order from Fitbit (shipped 15th April) | £129.99