Top critical review
A big step back vs the Charge 4
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 3 October 2021
I've been using the Charge 4 for several years and have loved it. When they announced the Charge 5, which basically looked like a fancier Charge 4, I was excited. Slimmer profile, nicer looking (minus the strap; the Charge 4's band was prettier), colour display, EDA sensor, and most importantly, ECG sensor.
Unfortunately, having tried the Charge 5 for a few days, Fitbit have made some really stupid decisions that make it a big step back vs the Charge 4.
1. No physical back button: It's a shame there's no physical button to go back or turn the display on. I find this particularly awkward if I wake up in the night and want to see the time. I end up having to tap the screen endlessly until it comes on. This also means to dismiss alarms you need to swipe and tap the screen, rather than just squeezing the side.
2. Poor clock face selection: I was never amazed by the available clock faces on the Charge 4, but the Charge 5's are even worse. They've incorporated colours into the clock faces, but they're not configurable! This is completely stupid as what could be good faces are let down by colours you may not like. Most of them also display a single stat at a time, and you tap the display to cycle through the stats. This is incredibly frustrating when you only ever want to see a single stat, such as heart rate in my case, and accidental taps (particularly due to point #1) change the stat unintentionally; you're then left tapping 5 times to get back to the previous stat. I'll often find throughout the day when looking at the display that the stat has changed for some reason.
3. No way to remove or order menu items: This is particularly frustrating because I haven't enabled notifications, as I have no desire to have my phone notifications on my fitness tracker. Yet the Notifications app still appears in the menu AS THE FIRST ITEM!! with no way of removing it! At least with the Charge 4, notifications were accessed by swiping down rather than right to open the menu. Why didn't they just keep them there? The same happens with Payments, which appear when swiping down even if you haven't enabled them. Why??? Just hide what you're not using!
4. Water registers touches: The Charge 5's touch screen seems to be triggered by water, though I never had this problem with the Charge 4. This means if you shower with it on, expect the screen to constantly register touches, exacerbating point #2. There is a Water Lock option to avoid this, but its effectiveness is dubious and it's buried in the options (past the useless Payments (point #3) which appears even if you haven't enabled it).
5. No ECG or Readiness Score at launch: One of my biggest reasons for upgrading to the Charge 5 was for the ECG function, yet it's not even available at launch.
Beyond these points, something I really hate is how Fitbit are putting more and more behind their Premium subscription. I have absolutely no intention of paying monthly for basic features that should, in my opinion, be free after paying so much for a device. I am particularly angry about the Readiness Score being a Premium feature when there's no reason for it, other than greed. The full breakdown of the Stress Management Score is yet another Premium feature that wasn't obviously advertised as such, which limits the usefulness of the EDA sensor.
Some good points!
- Always on display during workouts: I really like this as it means I don't need to keep raising my wrist to quickly see my heart rate and ensure I'm still in the right zone.
- Screen much higher resolution: The screen does look much nicer than the Charge 4, and being in colour is nice (minus the downside of point #2).
- It looks nice and it's slim so it feels really comfortable as it fits flatter against your wrist.
- (Mostly) everything else that makes the Charge 4 great is still here, e.g. Smart wake, Sleep mode, GPS (though I only use 'Phone' option to save battery).
If you have a Charge 4 and are thinking of getting a Charge 5, I wouldn't recommend bothering because of the above points. If you don't have a fitness tracker and are interested in a Fitbit, I can somewhat recommend the Charge 5 if the above points don't bother you.
I'm hoping Fitbit can improve some of the software related problems I've mentioned, but I'm not holding my breath.