Well, I’ve only had it about 18 months, but my Fitbit Surge has effectively died on me. Well, died is probably a bit harsh as technically it still works for its primary intended purpose (tracking exercise), but first the bit between the notches on the band broke giving me the option of one big notch that was too loose or using the next tightest one which cut of my circulation, and then the touchscreen stopped working, which meant that although it would track my steps I couldn’t actually see my step count (or anything else useful) without going to the app on my phone, both of which make it significantly less helpful than I’ve become accustomed to. I have enjoyed having a Fitbit, so I needed to get a replacement. And quickly, before my Surge stopped working altogether, because if it stops registering my step counts I may as well not bother even getting out of bed. It’s like the ‘if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no-one around to hear it’ thing – if you do exercise and have no way of recording it so that all your friends can see, is it really worth getting the exercise at all?Fitbit released a new ‘watch-a-like’ – the Fitbit Blaze – a while back, and I had been eyeing that up, but then a week or so back they launched another new model – the Charge 2. And that turned out to be exactly what I needed. Firstly, it is much smaller than the Surge – like about half the width – which means it looks more like a fitness band than a watch. Which is a good thing, as I have several nice watches that I like to wear (and hope to inherit some more at some point – are you listening, favorite father of mine?), but wearing a watch and a Fitbit Blaze just makes me look like a tool who is wearing two watches. I’d joke that it was to keep me ‘balanced’, but people would just give me a weird look (not as weird as the look they gave me when they saw me coming out of the restroom sniffing my fingers – because the hand-soap smelled nice! – but a weird look, nonetheless…). Plus, having a fitness tracker that looks like a smart watch but isn’t an Apple Watch is annoying because of all the smug fools who do have Apple Watches who then give you that pitying head-tilt “Oh, could you not afford an actual Apple Watch?” look. Yes, I could afford an Apple Watch. In fact I could afford two – one for each wrist – if I really wanted; I just don’t want to (literally) buy into the Cult of Apple.
Another annoyance with the Surge is that it has a rubber-coated band. This sounded very practical at first, but it has a bit of a grip to it, and it was always getting snagged on my shirt cuffs. I was always trying to free it with a quick flick of my wrist, but that just made me look like I was trying to disgorge flowers from my sleeve, like a budget kid’s party magician, or practicing shooting my spidey-web – both of which admittedly sound more exciting than the mundane truth, but it was still annoying. So I ended up rolling up my shirt sleeves all the time, which then just accentuated the fact that I was wearing two ‘watches’. Besides, Winter is coming™, and even though this is Texas, where we might get a couple of weeks in the year where the temperature drops below 70°F (21°C for your foreigners), I don’t want to be known as ‘that idiot going around with his sleeves rolled up in the middle of ‘Winter’. Plus, this rubber coating was wearing off along the edges – usually from where I’d smacked it against door frames which I manage to do with surprising regularity, and unfortunately the strap isn’t replaceable (unless you send it in to Fitbit the company, but then I’m back to not moving for a week until I get it back). By contrast, the strap on the Charge 2 is more of a soft plastic than a rubber so it doesn’t get caught on my sleeves (it’s also not as thick so there’s a bit more clearance) and is replaceable – so even if I do manage to damage the band on this one (which I got in a nice shade of blue, instead of the more utilitarian black, just to make sure there was no doubt it was a fitness band and not a second watch) I can just get another band, instead of a whole ‘nother Fitbit. Again.
Functionality-wise, the Charge 2 is basically the same as the Surge, with the exception of not having built-in GPS. Instead, it uses the GPS on your phone (which it’s paired with anyway). That has worked pretty seamlessly so far and as I never go anywhere without my phone (a Blackberry Priv – the last one they made themselves before giving up on making their own hardware. sob.), that’s not a problem. In fact it’s really a plus point as it allows the Charge 2 to be thinner, and gives it a longer battery life. The lack of in-built GPS aside, you get all the usual functions: step count, heart rate monitor, sleep monitor, and the ability to track various activities – although all I really track is my steps (of which my last Fitbit measured 5,809,439 since June 2015) and my sleep (of which I’ve managed around 2,898 hours over the same period). There’s also still the ability to receive phone call/text notifications so that you don’t even have to get your phone out of your pocket to see who you want to ignore. Which is exactly what I do, now. I get so many ‘solicitations’ and junk calls that I don’t even answer my phone any more if it’s not someone I know on caller ID – so being able to quickly glance at my wrist to see if it says “Unknown caller” – instead of having to pull out my phone just to tut loudly at it – is kinda handy. Of course even if I ignore the announcement on my Fitbit the phone keeps ringing because the Fitbit has no way of accepting/rejecting calls (why would it? your phone is still in your pocket so if you ‘answer’ it on your Fitbit, what are they going to hear??), but if I put my phone on vibrate mode and place it strategically about my person, I can turn a nuisance call into an altogether more pleasant experience!
That said, this Fitbit is a bit more naggy. If you haven’t managed 250 steps in an hour (which I seldom do at work, being a dedicated desk-jockey) it will gently (by way of a vibration and on-screen message – it thankfully makes no sounds. ever.) suggest that you get up and walk a bit (with a cheery “Take me for a walk!” message. Maybe “Hey, lard-ass, move!” would be more effective). Which I don’t do, just to prove that I’m the one in control here. Rise of the machines be damned; not on my watch (pun intended). And I’m not really a fan of the way the app tries to shame you into getting more exercise, by highlighting the number of hours during the day when you barely moved, or the number of days in the week that you didn’t get enough of what it would consider ‘exercise’ (typing furiously apparently doesn’t count). If I really wanted extra incentive to exercise I’d post naked pictures of myself on the fridge (hey, maybe that’s what those new-fangled fridges with the built-in screens are for…).
Anyway, Fitbit Charge 2: pretty good. If you’re in the market for a fitness tracker, and don’t want to look like an idiot, you could do worse. Or if you don’t care about looks (and thankfully my GF doesn’t or she wouldn’t be dating me…) I’ve got a ‘slightly worn’ Fitbit Surge I can sell you…
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