Fitness trackers are still a hot item, and they have been since their introduction in 2009. They’ve come a long way since then. These days, they can do so much more than just count your steps. We’re moving towards a time when fitness trackers and smart watches will be one and the same. The Fitbit Charge 6 is a big step in that direction, as it’s able to run a number of Google-based apps, while still keeping a slim profile. I’ve been wearing the Charge 6 for three weeks solid and in this hands-on review I’ll take a look at what this fitness tracker device can do, what it measures, what it’s like to wear, and how it might be beneficial to you. I’ll wrap things up by going over the pros and the cons and letting you know if I think I can recommend this Fitness band to you.
Fitbit Charge 6
A compact and effective fitness tracker for health and fitness. Overall this is a good, cost-effective choice.
- Slim, compact
- Easy-to-read screen
- Customizable color display
- Tracks lots of metrics as a fitness device
- Limitations with iPhone
- Requires Google /gmail account to use
What’s New With Fitbit Charge 6?
One of the biggest differences you’ll find from the Charge 5 is the introduction of Google apps to the Fitbit world. The ability to use Google Wallet, Google Maps, and YouTube music is brand new, and comes a few years after Google bought Fitbit. The Charge 6 also now adds the ability to connect to a variety of home fitness and gym equipment.
The Charge 6 also re-introduces a haptic multifunction button where the Charge 5 had none (which feels oddly placed on the left side of the tracker). The 6 also provides a wide range of colors, including coral.
The other newish thing about Charge 6 is Fitbit users who have existing accounts must migrate (eventually) their accounts to Google. I went through this process when I reviewed the Pixel Watch 2 and found it to be a bit clunky (complicated by the fact I had set up a second Fitbit account with a Gmail address years ago and then never used it.) With the swap in the rearview mirror, it’s fine now and I got great customer service from Fitbit to help with it. What does Fitbit Charge 6 track?
The Charge 6 works with both Apple and Android phones. It uses an app to monitor and collect data, with two levels of things it monitors; what I’ll call basic and expected stats, things like steps, sleep, activity, distance and floors climbed, as well as more advanced metrics like heart rate tracking (it will tell you if your heart rate seems too high or too low). It also tracks SP02 (blood oxygen), as well as blood glucose, skin temperature, and breathing rate, and also has a menstrual cycle tracker.
It will even track your workout all on its own.
The app has been redesigned within the last year or so and is a little less cluttered, which I quite like. The Fitbit app had gotten extremely bulky and had way too much going on in it for a while. For the most part it seems like Fitbit has returned to its simpler routes and I like the less is more approach. Even so, you can get the more is more approach by diving into some of the layers of menus and settings that do exist
Important to note is that a Fitbit device, unlike something similar like the Google Pixel Watch 2 will integrate with iPhones and send you notifications of incoming calls and texts. Though you can’t reply on the Fitbit Charge 6, you do get the alerts which can be a big help.
Is Fitbit Premium worth it?
Your Charge 6 will give you a tonne of data with just your device purchase. You can upgrade to Fitbit premium which provides guided workouts, meditation exercises, nutritional advice including recipes as well as more sleep data and stress management assistance. While I’ve had a Fitbit since they first launched their devices, I’ve never subscribed to Fitbit Premium and have not felt like I’ve been missing a thing. Premium costs about $150 per year although there are often sales and annual pay options so you can always price it out if you might be interested.
Sensors & Health Tracking
The Charge 6 features GPS for tracking runs or hikes, a calorie-burn counter, and a heart rate monitor. The heart rate monitor tracks your heart rate throughout the day, giving you a good indication of variations.
Fitbit says it also has an improved tracking system that provides up to 60% more accurate tracking for high-energy activities. It can also send a notification to you if your heart rate is higher or lower than normal.
The device has a number of sensors on the back that connect or touch your wrist and can take an ECG reading of your heart rhythm or an electrodermal scan (EDA) to measure your stress levels. It also measures your breathing rate, heart rate variability, and you’re resting heart rate.
Many of these metrics will be more than the average human needs, but if you are monitoring a health condition or training for something specific, having this granular type of data can be a real help.
Screen & Size
The Charge 6 fits like a bracelet and has a 1.04-inch screen. It also features a haptic button, a cross between a physical button, and a touch screen. This allows the Fitbit Charge 6 to operate as though it has a physical button yet is less prone to you bumping or accidentally hitting the button and triggering an action by mistake. A single press takes you back to the main menu or wakes up the screen. It will pause your workout if you’re in the middle of an activity.
Fitbit recommends wearing your tracker about a finger’s width above your wrist bone. They also recommend taking it off from time to time to give your wrist a break. Additionally, Fitbit recommends removing your device in the shower, as shampoo and soap could cause damage over time.
New Lifestyle Features: Using Google Maps, Google Pay/Google Wallet, YouTube Music, HR on Equipment on Fitbit
Google bought Fitbit in 2019, so it’s no surprise that apps like Google Maps and Google Pay/Google Wallet have made their way to Fitbit fitness trackers (replacing Fitbit Pay). You can now take advantage of these previously smart-watch-only apps right on your Fitbit.
Google Maps is a no-brainer for a fitness tracker. You can plot out a course for a bike ride or run, and if you lose track of where you’re at during a run, you can quickly re-orient yourself.
Google Wallet allows you to make payments directly from your Fitbit Charge 6, which allows you to leave your wallet behind while exercising.
The downside of this comes in a limited selection of apps for things like music. The Charge 6 comes with a one-month subscription to YouTube Music, after which you’ll need to pay $11.99 CDN monthly. There are no other music options available through the Charge 6.
Using what’s called HR on Equipment in the Fitbit app you can get your fitness metrics right on screen when you pair your Fitbit with a compatible exercise machine. The Charge 6 can connect with specific Bluetooth exercise machines including iFit, NordicTrack, Concept2, Peloton bikes, and Tonal machines to track your activity. I didn’t have access to any compatible fitness equipment during my trial so I can’t speak to how common this is or how easy it works. If you have first-hand experience with this (does it work well or not?) I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Using the Google maps integration was easy enough to set up. It takes just a couple of clicks to turn this on inside the app and then you’re ready to go. You do need to start Google Maps navigation on your phone to see it on your Fitbit device. It will track things like walking, cycling, and even driving if you want. You can easily disconnect it if you don’t enjoy this feature inside the app.
Battery Life & Charging
One of the things I really love about Fitbit, aside from its excellent accuracy, is that the company has really killed it when it comes to battery life. Fitbit has optimized a lot of its algorithms and battery usage, allowing the Charge 6 to last almost a full week on a single charge, which blows away a lot of the competition, and is days and days longer than the average smartwatch.
The device has a proprietary charging cable connecting magnetically to the band on one end and USB on the other. A full charge will take between 1 and 2 hours. You can check the battery level during charging by double-tapping the screen or pressing the button to turn it on and then swiping right to the battery screen, and battery life is always visible on the device.
Overall, there’s not a lot to complain about with the Fitbit Charge 6. Fitbit, or should I say Google, has kept all of the best features of a fitness and activity tracking band and made some improvements. Integration with many of the Google features like Google maps and Google Wallet are helpful and add to its usefulness. Other pros? I love the slim and sleek design and find it to be extremely comfortable with nothing to catch on clothing. (There are also fancier bands if you want it to look even more upscale.) The screen, though it is small and compact is quite easy to read, and the colour display with different options for watch faces means it’s infinitely customizable. (I also can’t get over how much it resembles Google Pixel Watch 2)
The Charge 6 tracks a boatload of metrics; both ones you’d be interested in every day and other ones that may be more relevant for people watching a health issue or training for something special.
When it comes to the downsides it’s really hard to find something to dislike. I think some people might be annoyed by the integration with Google, since fairly soon you will need to have a Google or Gmail account in order to use a Fitbit. But that’s supposed to make the ecosystem better not worse. Some of the other potential downsides for you could be features that it doesn’t have that you might perhaps find in a smartwatch; things like fall detection, or the ability to answer calls or reply to text messages. But if those are things you’re after, an Apple Watch or Pixel Watch 2 would be a better choice. I know some folks really dislike the haptic side button but I didn’t need it enough to develop a hate for it.
In short, I’ve been a Fitbit fan for many many years and the charge six only solidifies my feelings about it. Though I own both an Apple Watch and a Google Pixel Watch 2, the Fitbit Charge 6 has earned top billing on my wrist for now (with the more robust Watch 2 in second place followed by Apple Watch in a distant third place).
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