Android & iOS App & Software Review

Fitbit Charge 6 review: practically a Pixel band

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Fitbit, what are you doing?

That’s a query I’ve requested myself rather a lot over the previous 12 months as Google has additional built-in the corporate into the fold. Up to now 11 months, Fitbit has had a number of main server outages, angered longtime customers by sunsetting Challenges and social options, after which quietly stopped promoting its merchandise in over a dozen international locations. These are the highlights in what’s been a bumpy integration, so I used to be heartened when Google introduced the $159.95 Fitbit Cost 6 earlier this fall.

How we fee and overview merchandise

The Cost 6 appeared like a return to kind. It’s $20 cheaper than the Cost 5, with a greater coronary heart fee monitoring algorithm, extra Google companies, and — for the primary time — health club gear integration. The Fitbit app was redesigned this fall. These are all good and tremendous, however the change I cared about most was the return of the aspect button. Fitbit did away with the aspect button on the Cost 3 in favor of an inductive groove, and let’s simply say it wasn’t a well-liked alternative.

I remorse to say that whereas the button is again, it’s not fairly what I hoped for. However as soon as my ire cooled, it grew to become extra obvious simply how way more of Google is on this gadget — to the purpose the place I’ve began calling this the Pixel Band in my head.

Facet button side-eye

The Cost 6 seems practically equivalent to the Cost 5. The one visible cue that this can be a completely different tracker is the brand new aspect button.

When the Cost 6 was first introduced, I assumed it could have a bodily aspect button. So did a lot of other folks. So I felt bamboozled and betrayed after I unboxed the tracker. Sure, it seems like a button, with its rectangular form and tactile bump, however if you press, nothing strikes. There isn’t a click on. In the event you do it proper, you’ll really feel a buzz. As a result of this can be a haptic button — not a mechanical one.

If you press the aspect button, it buzzes. That’s it.

I get why. Fitbit’s bodily buttons have by no means been as dependable as Garmin’s. They typically acquired caught because the years glided by. Why invite the {hardware} headache if the haptic button works simply as effectively? However that’s a giant gamble on this area.

With wearables, bodily buttons are beloved for a motive. They sign that you’ve acquired a wearable that works even when your fingers are sweaty or in gloves. More often than not, in addition they double as shortcuts for often used apps. It’s freedom from the touchscreen, if that’s what you need (although most individuals like having each). Plus, some folks identical to urgent buttons.

This quasi-button has up to now been extra dependable than the groove and fewer liable to unintentional presses. Urgent as soon as will both get up the gadget or deliver you again to the primary watchface; urgent twice brings up Google Pockets. Throughout actions, it brings you to the pause button on the backside of your exercise knowledge. Functionally, it really works, however as a card-carrying member of Crew Bodily Button, I’m a bit dissatisfied.

In addition to the aspect button, it’s just like the notification says. Nothing new.

Whereas the haptic button works, it’s not as straightforward to press with a single finger. It requires a very good quantity extra stress to activate than the bodily buttons on my Garmins. I wore the Cost 6 on my left hand and tried to make use of my proper pointer finger to press the button. I didn’t reach activating the button, however I did push your entire tracker up my wrist. It was simpler on the fitting aspect, however that is the kind of factor mechanical buttons do higher. As a rule, I ended up needing to make use of my thumb and index finger to squeeze the perimeters of the case in an effort to get the button to press. My predominant concern right here is people with restricted hand dexterity or mobility might need points relying on the place the button is positioned. I’d really feel higher when you might swap watchface and button orientation, like you possibly can on some smartwatches, however that’s not an possibility.

For most individuals, that is simply one thing they will get used to. However when you ask me, as a substitute of this haptic enterprise, Fitbit and Google ought to simply get good at making bodily buttons.

An informal health tracker

Health and well being monitoring are what Fitbit does finest, and that’s the place the Cost 6 shines. It’s additionally the place it feels most like a Fitbit gadget. Total, it’s much like the Cost 5 in that that is finest for informal customers who need to be extra lively.

GPS monitoring nonetheless isn’t nearly as good as a Garmin. In my testing, the Cost 6 tended to overreport runs by as a lot as a tenth of a mile in comparison with my Apple Watch Extremely 2 and iPhone 14 Professional Max, each of which embrace the extra correct dual-frequency GPS. That’s pretty typical for this class, but it surely’s a factor long-distance runners ought to have in mind when tacking on extra mileage. It additionally takes a bit to discover a GPS sign. As for coronary heart fee, the whole lot was on par with my Extremely 2 and Polar H10. I discover it lags a bit after I change up paces, however nothing too egregious.

This easy tracker is finest for informal customers.

For well being monitoring, it’s all the same old staples — Energetic Zone Minutes, sleep monitoring, nightly SpO2 readings, EKGs, and EDA scans. However there’s a new potential to broadcast your coronary heart fee to health gear. It’s an extended overdue addition, however your mileage might range. Fitbit says it’s solely assured to work with the newest fashions of iFit, NordicTrack, Concept2, Peloton, and Tonal machines. That stated, it’s doable it might work with machines that help Bluetooth equipment. So if in case you have an older machine at residence, or at your native health club, this may occasionally not change what you’ve acquired already. I attempted this at my health club, which primarily makes use of Life Health machines, and it was a no-go. Whereas the machines had been capable of join with the Cost 6, they couldn’t preserve the connection and my coronary heart fee by no means confirmed up on-screen. In any case, this can be a good to have, and Fitbit says it’s engaged on extending compatibility over time.

Battery life can be good with the always-on show off. I averaged a few week with a number of GPS walks and runs, sleep monitoring, SpO2 monitoring, and notifications on. With the always-on show enabled, you’re extra like two days. This has been the case for some time now with Fitbit trackers, however it’s a little disappointing that we haven’t seen a lot progress in AODs.

Redesigned app

Google’s fingerprints are everywhere in the Cost 6’s software program. For starters, legacy Fitbit customers should migrate their knowledge to a Google Account to make use of the gadget — similar because the Pixel Watch 2. New customers should log in with a private Google Account. (Workspace accounts aren’t supported.) Whereas the deadline emigrate isn’t till 2025, Google’s been prompting people to make the change since earlier this summer season.

The brand new app design has left some longtime Fitbit customers disgruntled.

The Fitbit app redesign additionally borrows a lot of its streamlined look from Materials You. It has some advantages over the previous design, however up to now it doesn’t seem to have stuck the landing with longtime Fitbit users. There’s additionally no darkish mode and when the redesign first rolled out, it angered many Fitbit customers by eliminating step streaks and rearranging the way in which knowledge was introduced. Some even have criticized the minimalist design for being much less readable. Personally, I’ve gotten a bit extra used to the brand new design after additionally testing the Pixel Watch 2. It’s simpler to learn than Garmin’s Join app, however I agree it’s not as glanceable as earlier than.

Google has since re-added step streaks and even introduced the beforehand iOS-only function over to Android. Simply this week, it’s additionally added purpose celebrations and the flexibility to customise your Focus with particular metrics as a substitute of simply choosing from presets. Final however not least, battery percentages have been added again within the Right this moment tab and to the “Gadgets Related to Fitbit” menu.

It’s a very good factor that Google is keen to take heed to person suggestions. However as with many issues associated to the Google-Fitbit integration, this was yet one more state of affairs that might’ve been simply averted.

Subscription fatigue

Exterior of well being monitoring, the Cost 6 has a greater app choice than the 5 in that it has any exterior of fundamental notifications and well being monitoring. Nonetheless, that is Google’s get together and the three apps you’re getting are Google Maps, YouTube Music, and Google Pockets. RIP Fitbit Pay.

That is good and unhealthy. Good as a result of we’re getting extra apps once more after third-party apps like Deezer, Spotify, and Starbucks vanished from final 12 months’s Sense 2 and Versa 4. Dangerous as a result of the Cost 6 solely comes with a one-month trial of YouTube Music and no different technique to play music when you don’t need to pony up for the $11 month-to-month subscription thereafter. In the event you tack on Fitbit Premium ($10 month-to-month, $80 yearly), you’re probably spending $15 to $21 a month to get the complete expertise. All of us get why Google locks you out of different music companies on the Cost 6 — to push you towards its personal. It’s irksome nonetheless.

Including YouTube Music is nice for media management, however the $11 month-to-month subscription is just not.

You now get turn-by-turn instructions with Google Maps for biking, driving, and strolling.

Some may argue that’s not a ton, in comparison with the worth of a Peloton All-Entry membership or Whoop’s $30 month-to-month subscription. However anecdotally, I don’t know many athletes who solely have one health subscription or who use YouTube Music as their main streaming service. Including one other month-to-month payment to the combo for the privilege of music management — it doesn’t really feel nice. It’s higher than nothing, however solely simply.

Don’t anticipate something too fancy out of Google Pockets or Google Maps, both. For starters, you don’t have loads of display screen area to work with, so these are very utilitarian. I used Google Maps for a few walks across the neighborhood. (It additionally helps biking and driving instructions.) It will get the job carried out, but it surely’s nonetheless simpler to drag out your telephone. Particularly since it’s important to begin instructions in your telephone anyway. I can see this being extra helpful for cyclists. Likewise, Google Pockets is equally utilitarian. It’s a ache when it prompts you to enter your PIN code as a result of it’s important to do a LOT of scrolling, however you don’t must do it each time. Google Pockets, nevertheless, is a way more expansive community than Fitbit Pay ever was, so that is nonetheless a step up.

The Google-fication of Fitbit

Regardless of my gripes, I’m glad the Cost 6 exists. There’s been a particular shift towards smartwatches during the last two years and never a ton of choices for people who need easier trackers. It’s good to see a new health band from a much bigger, established model.

Nonetheless, $160 is on the pricier aspect for a health band, particularly if you issue within the subscription prices. Plus, there are many cheaper trackers with big function units just like the $50 Amazfit Band 7. In the event you discover the Cost 6 on sale for about $100, nevertheless, that’s a fairly good cut price. On the flip aspect, paying $120 to $150 extra will get you an Apple Watch SE or a Samsung Galaxy Watch 6.

Are you on board with Google’s wearable ambitions?

However other than value, for the Cost 6 to make sense, you may have be keen to wager that Google’s imaginative and prescient for wearables can succeed. Thus far, I’ve seen combined alerts. On the one hand, Google continues to spend money on wearables, making small updates all year long. Its ongoing efforts on this Fitbit integration are additionally proof of that. As I discussed earlier, Google did return and handle suggestions in regards to the redesign. On the similar time, huge server outages aren’t a joke and on occasion, I’ve to surprise about unforced errors like eliminating Challenges and Step Streaks.

Part of me feels nostalgic for the Fitbit of previous, however the Google-fication of Fitbit is barely going to proceed. I’ve began to make peace with that. Have you ever?

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