Fitbit’s new Charge 5: small changes make a collective difference and a compelling offer

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit’s latest activity tracker for 2021, the Charge 5, doesn’t deviate a great deal from its predecessors, but the incremental changes it offers are in many of the right places.

It’s easy to find an activity tracker these days, but not always effortless to find one that delivers consistently good performance in an attractive package. The new Charge 5 is small enough to sit comfortably on your wrist yet powerful enough to keep you up to speed on all the health metrics that matter the most.

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There is almost a sense of urgency around Fitbit’s positioning of Charge 5. The past few years have not been kind to most of us as we have had to endure sickness, loss, and increased stress levels.

With a focus on ‘Holistic Health,’ the new Charge 5 is built to be your tireless companion as you recover and re-energize.

In this article, we look at the details of the new Charge 5 and compare it with another popular activity tracker from Fitbit, the Fitbit Luxe.

Features and Design

The new Charge 5 is ten percent thinner than its predecessor, the Charge 4, and appears sleeker with a bright screen with curved edges.

The Charge 5’s AMOLED screen does not disappoint. The new display is bright, colorful, and optimized to last long. Fitbit’s Charge 5 is the company’s first activity tracker to offer an always-on-display.

No more tapping to see your stats while you are running or swimming. Rotate your wrist, and you have the stats, thanks to the new always-on-display. 

The new color display is two times brighter than that of Charge 4.

Most importantly, the new Fitbit Charge 5 offers this without sacrificing battery life. Charge 5 is expected to last 7 days before you need to re-charge the battery.

Users can choose lightweight silicone infinity bands, breathable sport bands, plush nylon hooks, and loop bands. There is also a line of premium, hand-crafted Horween leather bands made available by Fitbit for that exclusive look.

Built-in GPS and easy location tracking

When Fitbit launched the first Charge in 2014 for $149, it did not include location tracking. The company subsequently offered Fitbit Charge 2 in 2016, but numerous bugs plagued the product. The Charge 2 did not offer an embedded GPS module but used the user’s smartphone to pull in the location details.

This ‘Connected GPS’ feature was retained in Charge 3 and would only change with Charge 4.

From the beginning of 2014 to 2018, the company was effectively staking its claim to an activity tracking category few others were going after, and it met with decent success.

That was then, but in 2020 the game changed, and so did consumer expectations, raising the stakes for the Fitbit Charge 4. This was the year when brands such as Samsung and Xiaomi started to catch up in this expanding category.

One of the core features of the Fitbit Charge 4 was the embedded GPS module on the activity tracker. 

Fitbit has rightfully retained this core feature in the new Charge 5 by including a better GPS module that allows users to track their location.

Users will use the built-in GPS to see their pace and distance on screen during outdoor runs, rides, hikes, and more and see a workout intensity map in the app that shows their heart rate changes along their route.Fitbit Charge 5 activity tracking

On the Charge 4, the multi-day battery lasted up to 7 days and up to 5 hours when using built-in GPS consistently. Fitbit promises the same performance levels on the new Charge 5 despite including the new always-on-display color screen.

FDA approved health software makes Charge 5 stand apart from the crowd 

As we said initially, the Charge 5 has been positioned, keeping the current macro environment in mind.

Affordably priced and designed, the Charge 5 does not disappoint when it comes to ‘approved’ health offerings.Fitbit Charge 5 health metrics dashboard

Many activity trackers from various companies offer functionality such as heart rate tracking and SpO2 monitoring, but how many of these are actually approved by the FDA?

Fitbit has attractively positioned the new Charge 5 by the ECG and Afib functionality.

Previously available only on the Fitbit Sense, the ECG app will be available soon on Charge 5 and will allow users to monitor their heart rate on a 24/7 basis. Users can now set up notifications for high/low heart rates and effectively track their cardio health.

This is huge, and there aren’t many activity trackers out there that offer an FDA-approved ECG functionality at such an affordable price point.

The Charge 5 is also Fitbit’s first activity tracker to include an EDM sensor. Electrodermal sensors measure your body’s response to stress through tiny changes in the sweat glands on your fingers.

Fitbit had incorporated the electrodermal sensor on the Fitbit Sense, which was released last year. This innovative biosensor has now been included in Charge 5 to help support stress detection.

Fitbit Charge 5 focus on ‘Recovery’ is a step in the right direction

Wearables such as Whoop revolutionized the concept around strain and recovery metrics.

The belief was that if you strain yourself by working out hard, your body needs an appropriate amount of rest, sleep, and good eating habits to be fully ‘recovered’ before taking up another endurance training.Fitbit Charge 5 daily readiness scores

Fitbit has clearly understood the customer’s needs and has incorporated the ‘Recovery’ concept into its software platform.

Whether you are a casual step counter or an avid runner, you can now use the ‘ Daily Readiness experience’ feature to understand if your body is ready for a workout or if you should wait and rest up some more.

Fitness trackers from Whoop or Garmin offer this using sophisticated algorithms that monitor your resting heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and sleep metrics to provide a recovery score. Garmin calls it ‘Body Battery’ while Whoop calls it ‘ Strain and Recovery.’

You can now use this on your Fitbit Charge 5 daily to understand your exercise recovery scores. The feature will be made available via the Fitbit Premium platform.

Buyers of Charge 5 will get 6 months free of the Fitbit premium platform.

Fitbit Charge 5 Health and Fitness Features

Fitbit has not held back when incorporating activity tracking and health monitoring features on the new Charge 5.

Here are some of the important features that have been made available on the Fitbit Charge 5.

  1. 24/7 Heart rate monitoring with support for high and low heart rate notifications
  2. ECG and Afib 
  3. Health Metrics Dashboard 
  4. Monitoring of Breathing Rate
  5. Skin Temperature variation monitoring during the night
  6. SpO2 monitoring to understand nightly blood oxygen saturation levels
  7. Extended support for Sleep monitoring that includes tools from sleep score, sleep stages, and SmartWake alarms. Detailed analysis and insights around sleep made available via Fitbit Premium platform
  8. Stress management Scores. Premium members will be available to leverage tools and content made available by ‘Calm’ as part of the premium platform.
  9. Two-minute EDA Scan session
  10. VO2 Max monitoring for Cardio Fitness levels

Beyond the numerous health and fitness monitoring and management features, the new Fitbit Charge 5 also brings in the normal productivity features common in so many other trackers.

Fitbit Charge 5 supports contactless payments, support for mobile notifications, the ability to send quick replies from the band ( only for Android users), and 20 different clock faces that you can customize to get the information you want on your tracker.

The Charge 5 is available for $179.95 (USD), including a six-month Premium membership (for new or returning customers).  The new Charge 5 will ship this fall.

Fitbit Charge 5 Advanced Fitness & Health Tracker with Built-in GPS, Stress Management Tools, Sleep Tracking, 24/7 Heart Rate and More, Black/Graphite, One Size (S &L Bands Included)
  • Optimize your workout routine with a Daily Readiness Score that reveals if you’re ready to...
  • Get a daily Stress Management Score showing your body’s response to stress and take steps to...

Fitbit Charge 5 vs. Fitbit Luxe Fitbit Charge 5 compared to Fitbit Luxe color screen fitness tracker

If you are in the market for a Fitbit activity tracker, you have several choices.

The two newest activity trackers from Fitbit are the Fitbit Luxe and Fitbit Charge 5.

Choosing between the two for what you want to achieve via the activity tracker is not hard but can be confusing.Fitbit Luxe

In this section, we want to provide an overview of some of the key differences between these two activity trackers and help you make your decision.

Display specs and design differences

The Fitbit Luxe, much like the Charge 5, also has an AMOLED color display. The dimensions of the Luxe are 1.43”(l) and 0.69”(w). The viewing area on Charge 5 is 1.04” diagonal, and the screen height is 0.58”. In terms of the display design, both of these activity trackers are very similar. 

In terms of design, the Luxe has a chic design, and you can easily switch bands to match your outfit. Luxe is definitely a better option for fashion-conscious users.

The biggest difference in display specs is that the Charge 5 has an always-on-display, while the Luxe does not. Additionally, the Charge 5 also displays rugged protection from Gorilla Glass 3 technology.

Battery performance (7 days vs. 5 days) 

Fitbit Luxe offers you a 5-day battery life between charging, whereas the Charge 5 can keep the activity tracker humming for 7 days ( depending upon how often you use the built-in GPS).

Health and wellness sensors

This is one area where there is a notable difference between Fitbit Luxe and Fitbit Charge 5.

While the Luxe supports 24/7 heart rate monitoring, oxygen saturation monitoring (SpO2), sleep monitoring, and stress monitoring, the Charge 5 does all that and much more since it has an electrodermal sensor. Stress management scores and daily recovery scores will be more accurate on the Fitbit Charge 5 because of this extra sensor.

Additionally, the heart rate sensor on the Fitbit Charge 5 is newer. It uses the PurePulse sensors that were originally introduced with Fitbit Sense.

The Fitbit Luxe does not support ECG monitoring or Afib detection. These features are only available on the Charge 5.

Heart rate variability (HRV) is available on both the trackers, but once again, because of the Purepulse technology, you will get better readings from Charge 5 than Fitbit Luxe.

The Fitbit Charge 5 also has the ‘Sleep Mode’ feature that you can use to manage notifications on the device. Combined with this, the Charge 5 features a clever ‘Smart Wake’ option that helps you wake up feeling rested!

Both Fitness trackers offer support for Menstrual Cycle tracking, all-day activity tracking, and active zone minutes.

The Charge 5 also offers personalized reminders for hydration, sticking to a sleep schedule or finding time to exercise, and more.

Workout tracking

Although both the fitness trackers support 20+ different exercise modes, the devil is in the details.Fitbit Luxe vs Fitbit Charge 5

With the Fitbit Charge 5, you will have the option to evaluate your workout performance using the Workout Intensity Map.

You can see your pace as well as your heart rate zones throughout your route. If you are a runner or cyclist, this comes in super handy! This is possible since the built-in GPS helps you understand the workout intensity in a map view.

Since the Luxe does not have the built-in GPS, it does not offer the workout intensity Map feature. You will need to connect your Luxe to your phone’s GPS to see real-time pace and distance information.

For Endurance trainers, the Charge 5 brings forth the new ‘Daily Readiness Score.’

This feature is similar to the recovery feature offered on the WHOOP fitness band. The Charge 5 tells you if you are ready for another strenuous training session or if your body needs additional rest to get optimal performance.

The Fitbit Charge 5 provides VO2 Max monitoring. This feature called cardio fitness levels helps you understand how well your body uses oxygen while working out.

Both the fitness trackers offer water resistance up to 50 meters so that you can use them for swimming.

In terms of mobile phone connectivity and integrations, these trackers offer Google Fast Pair for easy setup.

You can check all your notifications, such as texts and messages, and send a quick reply on Charge 5. On the other hand, the Fitbit Luxe allows for checking notifications but does not have the provision of quick replies for Android users.

Pricing

Fitbit Luxe is priced at $129.95 whereas the Fitbit Charge 5 is priced fifty dollars more.

Fitbit Luxe Fitness and Wellness Tracker with Stress Management, Sleep Tracking and 24/7 Heart Rate, One Size S L Bands Included, Lunar White/Soft Gold Stainless Steel, 1 Count
  • See how jewelry gets smart with a tracker that doubles as a timeless accessory and features a...
  • Get better sleep to power your days with sleep tracking and sleep Score in the Fitbit app

We think that you get a lot more value out of the fifty dollars by choosing the Fitbit Charge 5 over Luxe.

Fitbit Charge 5 Advanced Fitness & Health Tracker with Built-in GPS, Stress Management Tools, Sleep Tracking, 24/7 Heart Rate and More, Black/Graphite, One Size (S &L Bands Included)
  • Optimize your workout routine with a Daily Readiness Score that reveals if you’re ready to...
  • Get a daily Stress Management Score showing your body’s response to stress and take steps to...

If you are more health and fitness-focused, you will definitely want to have the built-in GPS and the readiness score features. Whoop users shell out more than $20 a month in subscription fees to get inputs around their ‘Recovery scores.’

Concerning the Fitbit Premium platform, you will get six months free subscription with either of these activity trackers. 

If you are buying the activity tracker as a gift, the Luxe is definitely a great choice. Still, if you consider an activity tracker to keep you healthy and fit, we definitely recommend the Fitbit Charge 5.

Last update on 2021-10-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products and have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In my day job, I advise fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health&fitness-tech evolution and keep a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch or Fossil Gen 5 LTE and keep a close eye on my HRV and other recovery metrics.

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