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Fitbit Force… sorry Fitbit Charge HR Review September 21, 2015

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Technology.
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fitbit-forceFitbit has become a leader in the digital pedometer movement. Of course, they more than measure steps since it can count flights of stairs, calculate miles and calculates calories. Fitbit had started with simple clip-on fitness trackers and then added wrist bands. The Fitbit Flex is a basic tracker that gets inserted into a band. It came out in mid-2013. It does have limited functionality, which is why I had want to get the Fitbit Force.
The Force came out about the same time but at higher price point. But with the extra cost came the promise of more features. The Force showed the time, whereas the Flex only showed 4-5 bars to demonstrate progress against the daily goal. Once the data was synced to the Fitbit website, the details were viewable in a phone app, but the Force also showed the actual steps taken, floors, and calories burned on the small LED screen.
The Force, from my perspective was a big step up from the Flex. In addition to the display advancement, it also offered the eventual promise of call notifications. Via the bluetooth connection, you would be able to sync the data to higher-end phones and with that, came the possibility of call notifications from the phone back to the wristband. But alas, the Force was recalled before this call notification would be realized… sort of.
Once they released the Charge series of devices in late 2013, they upgraded the firmware (software running on the device) and my Fitbit Force suddenly received call notifications. This was huge for me, since I often missed calls when my phone was on silent, vibrate or not on my personal. It was big relief to get this functionality since it was a big reason I had moved up to the Force in the first place. (I asked for it as a gift for Christmas 2013).
After using it for over a year, I started this review in February 2015 to highlight the Fitbit Force. However, in February of 2014, Fitbit opened a voluntary recall of all Fitbit Force wristband devices – only a couple of months after I got it. The Force had been recalled due to some users experiencing a rash under the wrist band.I did not have this reaction and continued to use the band for over a year after the recall. However, Fitbit offered the recall to all users regardless of if the user experienced this problem. Since the next generation, the Charge series, was only available in limited qualities (especially through the Christmas rush), I had held off on turning mine in. Shortly after I started this review though, I decided to turn in my Force and upgrade it to a Fitbit Charge HR once the product was more readily available online and at stores.
fitbitchargeThe recall process took about 6 weeks to submit my Force and get a refund. But the refund fully paid for (and some) the purchase of the my new Charge HR since I was a return customer. it felt like forever though to get my new device. I decided to go with the HR, instead of the base model Charge because I am a numbers freak. I love getting more information about my workouts. With the Charge HR, I could have immediate feedback about how hard my body was working and how well I was recovering.
The biggest downside of this instant feedback though is the battery life. While the Force could go a full two weeks, as promised by Fitbit, the Charge HR can only make it 5 days according to Fitbit. After 5 months of use, I can confirm this is accurate. It is disappointing, but it is workable. I set up the charging cord in my car and I charge my Charge HR during my 45 minute commute. It typically takes 90 minutes to charge, I charge it both ways and I am good to go for another 5 days.
While going from 14 days to 5 days of battery life is depressing, I think the re-design of the wristband made up for this weakness. The Force had a simple double male-female locking system on the band. It did not hold very well and if bumped or pulled in a certain way, the band would fall off. On several occasions, I lost my Force. It came off while taking my shirt of or when I was working in the yard. I was constantly concerned with it coming off. However, the Charge HR designed included a more standard and proven method like any belt. It holds solidly and I have never feel like it will come off, though I do still find myself checking my wrist once in awhile as a remnant of past experiences. In other words, I barely notice it is there.
Some day, I will write a review of the web site and smartphone app, but since it is constantly changing, it is hard to pin down. The app is great – I think better than the website. It displays all tracked information and allows for creating goals and challenges with friends. Since the device tracks sleep automatically, it is a great way to see if you are getting enough. It also allows you to zoom in on activities, as long as you remember to start and stop the timer during the run or activity. I like being able to see how my heart rate tracks throughout a run.
My suggestion is if you are looking to step up your game with fitness trackers, definitely consider the Fitbit Charge HR.
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