At my work we have a thing about giving tacos (๐ŸŒฎ) to people when they help you out, do something great or funny – as a show of support. The tacos can be redeemed for prizes or gift cards – and one of those prizes is a Fitbit. I wanted a model upgrade from the ones our company was offering. In November 2020, Costco had a Fitbit Charge 4 bundle for $90.

I brokered a deal with my wife. I’d redeem a $100 Amazon gift card with my tacos and give it to her, and then buy the model I want from Costco.

Built-in GPS

The reason I got the Charge 4 is because it has a built-in GPS. I don’t like using my phone to record my activities as it drains the battery very quickly. Also my handheld Garmin eTrex Vista GPS is starting to act weird – it randomly turns off sometimes when I’m riding.

Hooking it up to Strava was simple, I did it through the https://strava.fitbit.com/ website. Here’s an article that goes into detail about connecting the two. When you finish an activity, Fitbit automatically transfers the information via the app (including GPS track) to Strava. As a bonus now my heart rate information is sent for more accurate effort calculation.

Battery Life

Since I considered GPS to be a requirement, this is the 2nd best feature. It would be a folly to call it charge if the battery life sucked. Without GPS use, I can easily go a week before putting it on the charger. With GPS use, I’ve found it takes about 10% of the battery for every hour you’re recording activity. By that marker, I’d guess you could use the GPS for 9+ hours before it conked out.

Sleep Tracking

All fitness trackers can track sleep. Along with a great battery life, the Charge 4 charges quickly. Putting it on the charger while I take a shower is enough to keep it topped up. I don’t ever have to take it off for a night to get a full charge.

Water Resistant 50 Meters

I always would put my phone in a ziplock bag while kayaking and still worry that it will make it’s way to the bottom of the lake. Fitbit says you can wear your tracker or smartwatch in the shower, pool and beyond. That should be just fine for kayaking – it will get wet, but it will survive.

Those are the good things, now onto some of the annoyances…

UI Issues

The swipe functions don’t always work as expected, partly because the screen is small, partly because the screen is very tall and skinny.

The most common issue is when I swipe down from the top to get the notification list (to inevitably clear it out). The Charge often thinks I’m swiping to the side because I didn’t swipe perfectly vertical top to bottom.

Another thing I do occasionally is leave the home screen on the weather. It will stay here until you press the watch button – so the next time you wake the screen you can see the weather. You’ll still get notifications on these secondary screens, but once they go away you cannot swipe down to see them again – you must go back to the home screen (clock) and swipe down from there.

Multiple Activities

I realize this is probably an edge case, but I imagine I’m not the only one experiencing this issue. The Charge 4 currently can’t pause one activity and start another. Here’s the scenario: I put studded tires on my bike and rode to the local nature center:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain Calories Burned
01:13:37
hours
00:10:20
hours
1.04
mi.
6.04
mph
8.72
mph
61.35
ft.
118
kcal
Put the studded tires on and rode to a trail nearby for some snowshoeing

I brought my snowshoes with me, and when I got to the trail, I walked around the park. On the Charge 4 you can pause and resume your activity. This is great if I bike somewhere like the library, I can pause my ride when I arrive, and resume once I head home – then it records as a single activity.

But you can’t start another GPS activity until you finish the first one. Rather than my activity showing up as three (ride out, hike, ride back) I want them to appear simply as two: bike & snowshoe.

So I used my trusty(?) Garmin for the hike and hoped it didn’t turn off on me while I was out.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain Calories Burned
00:57:56
hours
00:13:30
hours
0.43
mi.
31:07
min/mile
12:46
min/mile
27.23
ft.
29
kcal
Went to Innsbruck Nature Center… Honestly didn't need snowshoes – the trail was already hard-packed from hikers. Was good to venture off of the trail however. Tested out my SCX24 RC Crawler ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Verdict?

I looked at getting the cheapish Apple Watch for around $150 and also looked at the new Fitbit Versa 3. While they both have built-in GPS, neither of them were going to match the battery life of the Charge. If it goes on sale again for < $100 I would easily recommend it to anyone looking at a fitness watch – especially for tracking bike rides.

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