The Fitbit Charge line has produced some of our favorite fitness trackers on the market since the original model’s debut in 2014. Now in its fourth generation, Fitbit builds on what we like about the Charge family with the addition of GPS to map your exercise route without a phone, Spotify support, more sleep tools, and a motivating new metric called Active Zone Minutes. Plus Fitbit Pay is now available on all Charge 4 models, not just the more expensive Special Edition. Though we’d like to see a color screen, the $149.95 Charge 4 is an excellent update.
Design, Navigation, Battery Life, and Setup
The Charge 4 looks sleek, measuring less than half an inch at its thickest point. I especially like the styling of the Special Edition (pictured in this review), which costs $20 more than the standard model, but comes with a reflective granite/black woven band, plus a classic black flexible plastic band you can use for sweaty workouts. Swapping out the bands couldn’t be easier. There are two small buttons on the back of the tracker—just press them to release one band and snap on a new one.
By default, the screen shuts off quickly to save battery life, though you can adjust how long it stays on via the Screen Time Out setting. You can wake it by tapping the inductive button on the left side of the device (which also allows you to go back when navigating the interface), giving your wrist a small shake, or tapping the screen itself. In testing, I sometimes had to tap the screen several times to get it to wake up, which can be annoying. Overall, the display is definitely the main issue we’d like to see addressed in the Charge 5.
Fitbit says the Charge 4’s battery lasts up to seven days, or up to five hours while using GPS. After wearing it for a full 24 hours , the Charge 4 still had 85 percent battery, which is pretty good. Using GPS to track a workout depleted that number significantly faster, but that was expected.
To preserve battery life, you can enable a feature called Dynamic GPS that uses your phone’s GPS when you have it with you, and the Charge 4’s GPS when you don’t.
The Charge 4 is water resistant to 164 feet; I wore it in the shower several times without incident. Fitbit says you should dry the tracker after wearing it in water to avoid skin irritation. Fitbit also recommends regularly cleaning it and your wrist, especially after working out or sweating.
Fitness and Health Tracking
The Charge 4 tracks your steps, distance, floors climbed, calories burned, and Active Zone Minutes, a new metric earned for time spent in fat burn, cardio, or peak heart rate zone. Women can use the Fitbit app to track their periods and fertile windows, and view where they are in their cycle from their wrist.
Thanks to the Charge 4’s GPS, you can leave your phone at home and see your real-time pace and distance on your wrist. The GPS works with seven different types of activities: running, walking, bike riding, hiking, interval workouts, and a new outdoor workouts mode for things like kayaking, surfing, and skiing.
During a run, the Charge 4 shows your distance and pace on the screen, as well as how long you’ve been going. When you reach fat burn, cardio, or peak zone, it will vibrate and show an encouraging notification on the screen. After completing a run, the Charge 4 shows a summary, including the length of your workout, how many miles you traveled, your average pace, how many Active Zone Minutes you accrued, your average and max heart rate, how many calories you burned, the number of steps you took, and how high you climbed.
The Charge 4 tracks the amount of time you spend in light, deep, and REM sleep each night. While sleep tracking has been available on Fitbit devices since the original Charge, the fourth-generation model features some sleep tools that were previously only available on the more expensive Versa 2 smartwatch. That includes the ability to see your Sleep Score on your wrist, and Sleep Mode, which dims the display and silences all calls and texts at night. To see your Sleep Score, just swipe up from the clock face. To enable Sleep Mode, long press the left button then swipe right.
Your daily Sleep Score gives you a “snapshot of your sleep quality and duration,” based on the amount of time you spent asleep and awake, how much deep and REM sleep you got, your sleeping heart rate, and how restless you were. The app explains that, “during deep sleep, your muscles relax and repair themselves, and during REM sleep your memory and mood are refreshed as you dream.”
Spotify, Fitbit Pay, and Notifications
Spotify support has been a top request among Charge device users, so it’s nice to see it on the fourth-generation model. To set up Spotify, go to the Charge 4 section of the Fitbit app, select Apps, then select Spotify. From there, press Settings and log into your Spotify account. Note that you must have a Spotify Premium subscription to use the music streaming service on Fitbit.
The Spotify app on the Charge 4 lets you browse your recently played music; play, shuffle, and skip content; like songs; and choose the music output. The app is a nice addition to the Charge 4, but its controls are somewhat basic. You can’t, for instance, click into a playlist and select a specific song you want to hear. You also need to have your phone connected.
If you’re looking to level up your health and fitness, the Fitbit Charge 4 and its excellent companion app offer a wealth of insights that can help encourage you to get moving and improve your sleep. Its display could be better, but the Charge 4 has a sleek design, good battery life, and is water-friendly. In Fitbit’s lineup, it sits in between the $199.95 Versa 2 smartwatch and the more basic $99.95 Inspire HR fitness tracker. Thanks to the addition of GPS, Spotify controls, more sleep tracking tools, and Fitbit Pay on all models, the Charge 4 stands out as one of the best advanced fitness trackers you can buy.