Fitbit Charge 5 looks like the best Fitbit (until we get the Wear OS watch, at least)
The $180 tracker arrives this fall and includes ECG and stress sensing.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Fitbit makes way too many fitness trackers. But since the company was acquired by Google, its trajectory may be shifting. In the future we may see its apps on Google Wear OS, and eventually Fitbit could make its own new Google-infused watch. Until then, the Fitbit Charge 5 may be the best bet: It adds sensors that the more expensive Fitbit Sense introduced last year, but they come at a fraction of the price and in a much smaller size. Read the full Fitbit Charge 5 review here.
The Charge 5, arriving in the fall for $180 but available for preorder now, is Fitbit's update to its Charge line of fitness bands. The design -- which had an early reveal in a leak this month -- is thicker than the recent Fitbit Luxe, but has more features and sensors. It lacks the extra watch faces and apps of the Versa 3 and Sense, but that's OK: Fitbit's likely to be moving away from those as the company shifts to Wear OS watches.
The Charge 5 checks heart rate and blood oxygen, tracks sleep, has GPS and Fitbit Pay contactless payments (but not Google Pay). It has a seven-day battery life -- two days better than the recent Fitbit Luxe. It also adds an OLED color display, plus an ECG (also called EKG or electrocardiogram) sensor and EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor for stress.
Watch this: Fitbit Charge 5 is the best Fitbit you can get right now
ECG is already a common smartwatch sensor and spot-checks for irregular heart rhythm, although it doesn't detect heart attacks or other heart disease. EDA is a more experimental sensor, which Fitbit uses to spot-check for signs of stress. EDA isn't necessary since Fitbit already calculates a daily Stress Score with its Premium subscription health service, but it could factor into Fitbit's aspirations towards mindfulness and wellness features down the road. Both sensors take readings by holding steel contact points on the sides of the tracker.
The Charge 5 has swipe and tap-based navigation using the touchscreen and no physical buttons. This was annoying on the Fitbit Luxe, which has the same interface, but the larger-screened Charge 5 should be easier to control. There are some apps onboard, including a timer and stopwatch, plus a bunch of watch faces that can be swapped in from the Fitbit app.
The Charge 5 leaves a few features off the table from the Fitbit Sense: It doesn't have a microphone for voice commands or taking phone calls, and it doesn't have a skin temperature sensor. But it looks like the total fitness tracker package otherwise.
Fitbit's more interesting news might be its new Readiness Score, a metric that's rolling out to other Fitbit devices when using the company's Premium subscription service. It calculates a daily score that indicates whether you should work out hard, or take a rest. The app will also recommend workouts or meditations that pair with your daily readiness, plus give you a personalized active zone minutes goal for the day (that's Fitbit's way of calculating moderate to intense physical activity). The Readiness score is calculated based on activity data, sleep data and heart rate variability while sleeping. Meanwhile, Fitbit already has a Stress Score for daily feedback on wellness/stress levels and a Sleep Score that analyzes sleep quality.
You'll still need Fitbit's paid Premium subscription service for some of its longer-term metric trends, workouts and some watch features like the Readiness Score. Calm is Fitbit's latest subscription partner: There are 30 mindfulness and meditation activities coming to Premium soon. The Charge 5 has six months of Premium service included with purchase, but you need to either be a new customer or a customer that's ended their current service to take advantage.
Fitbit also announced that it's going to beta test a snore-detection feature on the microphone-equipped Fitbit Versa 3 and Sense watches in the coming months, which will listen for and recognize sleep disturbances. Samsung's new Galaxy Watch 4 also has snore detection, but uses a paired phone's microphone to listen in while sleeping. Fitbit's will work on the watch.