Why I Returned My Fitbit Charge HR – Review

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I’m trying out a new kind of article: the quick review. I thought that perhaps many of you would be interested in my reviews of some products and services that aren’t particularly “Mormon” themed. I’ll try to just sprinkle them in here and there, focusing mostly on LDS-focused stuff. If you’d rather not see stuff like this on MLH, let me know. So my quick review today is the Fitbit Charge HR. I bought one with my birthday money, then returned it after about 2 weeks.

Tl;dr

I really loved the physical design of the Fitbit Charge HR, and it’s capabilities. It’s one of the few watches I didn’t mind wearing (I’m not a watch guy). I didn’t like how “dumb” the software was, and some misleading representation of what it did, by Fitbit the company. Details below.

What I Liked

  • I loved the design of the physical watch. It was comfortable, light-weight, and not bulky, clunky, or lop-sided as I find many watches.
  • The little monochrome screen looks sleek, and was easy to see/read under any lighting.
  • Gestures and taps allow you to see stuff easily, without the screen being on all the time.
  • The data collected is sometimes useful and cool.
  • Much cheaper than a smartwatch.
  • It’s not a smart watch. I question if we really need more screen time and interruptions that a smartwatch would create?
  • It tracks your heart rate all the time.
  • It tracks your sleeping patterns.

What I Didn’t Like

  • I didn’t much care for the design of the app. It was difficult to navigate the app and website.
  • Hard to get meaningful data from it. Rather than present nice date that all correlates, you have to switch between things like heart rate and steps taken to get an idea of what happened. To be fair, if I’d paid the yearly subscription for the “Premium” service, that might’ve helped. But I feel like if I’m paying $150 for a device that is not a smartwatch, I shouldn’t have to pay a yearly membership to get real value from it.
  • Not very smart. I didn’t expect a smartwatch-level smarts, but the software seemed fairly dumb. For example the Charge HR has the advantage of knowing your heart rate. But it’s not smart enough to correlate heart rate with steps being taken to see if you’re actually walking somewhere. It tracked a lot of steps while I was sitting in a rocking chair, rocking our newborn. I’m no expert in this area, but my guess is a little comparison of the heart-rate data could have told it I wasn’t walking.
  • Didn’t really utilise the heart rate data (see previous).
  • Sleep data didn’t do much to help me improve my sleep. It’s just “here’s how you slept.”
  • It wasn’t very accurate interpreting my gestures and taps to turn on the screen and do other things.
  • No GPS. That would’ve made it more expensive, but thought you should know it doesn’t have it.
  • No idle reminders! Misleading info from Fitbit indicated the Fitbit would remind you to move. With a desk-job this was a key feature I was looking for. I wanted a little vibration reminder every 90 minutes that I was sitting at my desk, like the Apple Watch does. It does not do this!
  • It buzzes you when someone calls. Not really a negative if you want that feature, but it accentuated my previous point. So it can’t remind me when I’m idle, but it can when someone calls?
  • Can’t use it as a “trusted device” to keep your phone unlocked. It’s not constantly connected to your phone. It only connects when you tell it to sync or when the phone sends an incoming call notification.

I really wanted to like this little device. I feel like with some much smarter software (maybe even just on the app and website) it could really be a handy little device. However, that one shortcoming made it far less useful than it could have been. Add to that the fact it doesn’t do idle notifications as Fitbit claimed it did (and has since corrected), left me quite disappointed. As Mormons we believe our physical bodies are a gift and “temple.” I admit that taking care of mine has recently been a real weakness for me. I was hoping the Fitbit could help me with that. But just plain data doesn’t do much, especially if it’s not smart enough to use the data in really meaningful ways.



I did my research before buying, and this is the best fitness band out there, unless you pay smartwatch prices, and then you might was well get a real smartwatch. If it disappoints this much, my recommendation is don’t get a fitness band. Perhaps the next generation of them will have better software, or Fitbit will update their software for the current ones, to make it more useful. Until then, I’ve got my eye on the Moto 360 Sport, because it’s got all the features of the Charge HR, with the acumen of of a smartwatch. I’m not looking forward to the bulk of that screen though….

4 comments
  1. I really like my Vivo Fit by Garmin. I already had a number of fitness watches by garmin and this was a nice addition. It does not vibrate but the screen indicates inactivity.

  2. I’ve had my Fitbit Charge HR for about 10 days now and have been quite happy with it — most likely because I see it merely as a sensor for the Fitbit app on my iPhone/iPad (vs. some kind of smartwatch or fitness device in and of itself). As such, it functions quite well, though I agree it does have a problem with ‘false steps’ — I wear it on my right wrist, which is also my ‘mouse’ wrist, and it seems to count my mouse activity as steps to some extent. (I also agree that a ‘sitting too long’ reminder would be far more useful than the ‘incoming call’ reminder.) I find the sleep tracking data useful — it (the Fitbit app) shows each night periods of both restless sleep and wakefulness, and I have an easy-to-read history of amount and quality of sleep each night. Perhaps most useful in the Fitbit app itself is the calorie tracking, both calories consumed and calories expended. I’ve never tracked calories before in my life (I’m in my early 60s), so this has made me very conscious of what and how much I eat.

    If I had it to do over again, I’d probably get the higher-end model with GPS, but even this model appears to be reasonably accurate in tracking how far I walk each morning (which has been 3 to 4 miles since I got the HR). Best of all, between the calorie tracking and the walking to reach 10,000 steps each day, I’ve lost 5 lbs in the past 10 days after being stuck at my prior weight (or higher) for months. And that’s exactly why I bought it.

  3. I just found your site yesterday and really enjoy the posts I have read so far. Thank you for all of the information you are sharing.

    I recently switched from the Fitbit One (loved it, used it for 3 years) to the Charge HR. I’m also not a watch guy, so it’s been tough getting used to it. I liked the One better, in general The key point that keeps me using the Charge HR, which you actually have listed in your CONs section (incorrectly, in my opinion), is that the HR auto detects where you’re doing different activities. It detects when you go to sleep so you don’t have to start and stop the sleep timer like you do with the One. It also auto detects when I am playing sports or doing vigorous activities. Because of the auto-detect feature, I could never go back to the One. My 2 big complaints are that the HR only lasts 3-5 days per charge and the One lasts 10+ days. I was charging the One twice a month and I am charging the HR twice a week (obviously due to the constant HR monitoring lights). Also, you cannot dim the LED screen. When I move my hand at night (like to scratch an itch on my nose, it’s like a small flashlight in my face! It has also woken up my wife a few times. I actually use it as a flashlight when checking on the kids at night or looking for something in the dark. So I guess it has its benefits…

    A quick comment on the usefulness of the data and the app interface. Up until they redid the interface a couple years ago, the data was very…geeky? Which I loved. Everything was charts and historical diagrams and comparisons. After a while they moved to the newer, bubbly, more colorful than useful interface and actually reduced the amount of data displayed. I opted out of the new interface as long as possible, until they forced everyone to switch over.

    My personal PROs and Cons of the Charge HR:

    PROs:
    Auto-detection (not 100% accurate, but I could never go back to the manual timer button)

    CONs:
    Shorter battery life (3-5 days) than previous, “dumber” Fitbit devices (10+ days)
    Cannot adjust LED screen brightness (too bright for nighttime)

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