Monday, December 5, 2016

FitBit Charge HR - Product Review

After doing a lot of research into fitness watches, I happened upon the Fitbit Charge HR.  My younger sister purchased one in February 2016, and many of her friends had Fitbits as well.

It seemed to be a sturdy watch that was helping my sister move around more during the day.

So, for Mother's Day 2016, the Ref bought both of us Fitness Watches.  Totally different ones.

I got a size Large Plum Fitbit Charge HR for $129. 

You can now get them for much cheaper as they have recently introduced the next generation of watches.

I've used my Fitbit Charge HR for 7 months straight, as well as many of the Smart Phone app features.  I use an Android, and my sister an iPhone.  Recently, an upgrade has made both programs nearly identical.

The first thing I did after purchasing my Fitbit, was to purchase a silicone cover for it - which I do not consider to be a wise choice.   You can read the review here -

While I do not like the watch cover I purchased, I do like the protection that is has given the overall mechanism, as I have now met several former Fitbit Charge owners who had their watches come apart or the buttons damaged.  The cover does over some protection from dirt and water and getting tugged and bumped.  ...  There are now many other choices, but they will not fit the Charge 2.

What do I like about my Fitbit?

First, it showed me just how sedentary I actually was during my day.  I expected it to show that I was moving around more, but I was struggling to reach 4000 steps, and rarely got more than a few of the movement dots.  Also, a short 150 yards walk uphill on our driveway left me breathless and my heart racing well over 140 bpm.  

I used the Smartphone app to GPS track my walks and discovered that I was quitting after a mere 1/8th of a mile, and that was taking 15 minutes.   Not real good stats.  

I quickly tired of the Calorie and Meals part of the app, since many of my meals are from scratch and it was quite difficult to match what I was eating to what was available.  

By the end of the week, I was seriously discouraged with my progress, and by the end of two weeks, I was ready to quit.  But one night I was playing with the app and began to notice some interesting things.  My heart rate while I slept had dropped by 8 bpm during the 2 weeks.  My heart rate while walking rarely went over 130 bpm now.  And I was now up to 1/4 of a mile in 14 minutes.  I had doubled my walking speed while my heart rate had decreased.  Shocked, it gave me a reason to keep going.

The second thing I loved was the GPS pairing with my cell phone.  I did have to turn on the Location services, but it was really fun to look at the data online after I had been walking and see that I was walking farther and faster.  It was even more fun to go someplace new and track my walks.   Looking at the data on my cell phone though, usually causes it to crash, however, I can easily go online and view my stats at

Third, I love being able to look back over the 7 months and see that I really have made some serious progress.  I'm now keeping up with 8,000 - 10,000 steps each day, usually without thinking about it much.  With the colder, wetter weather, it has been difficult getting outside to walk, and I don't have room in our trailer for exercise equipment.  So, I scoot back chairs and march in place - trying to get my bpm over 130.  My kids frequently march around the school room while I teach at least one lesson.  So far, my high for a day has been 17,000 steps - and I felt like pudding for several days afterward.

I love how easy it is to use.  Sometimes the lights do not come up when I tap it, but eventually, they do.  Resetting the watch is easy, just hold down the main button on the side for 15 seconds while it is on the charging cord.  I reset it whenever it starts acting "funny".

I can charge it while I'm in the shower and getting dressed.  I lose the steps, but it should not get wet, so I figure if I'm going to have it off, I should charge it.  So far, I've only rarely had to charge more often than shower times - usually on days that I forget and leave the bluetooth paired after I sync it.

And I really love the awards that I get and their fun names, like the Sarengeti Award.  I love to share them on FB with my friends.  Because my friends know I'm trying to get in shape and lose weight, they are more likely to comment that they are noticing I look better.  Maybe I do ... but it is really encouraging to have them say it.  I also love the little display lights that show when you reach your self-assigned step goal for the day.  It's fun to see what will happen each day.  My Garmin family wishes theirs had the variety that mine does.

I absolutely love the amount of control I have, I get to set all of my own goals and decide when to push myself to a new level.  Just about everything is adjustable - including how much I have to move before it counts as actual exercise - right now I have it set at 10 minutes.  This is another plus for my Fitbit over the families Garmins.

It took a while to get used to the silent buzzing - but it is nice having an alarm clock to help keep me aware of time - right on my wrist.

I like the way it tracks my walking and keeps stats during the walk.  It is pretty good at recognizing exercise.  One day, I was helping my youngest, Sunshine, get her next season clothing out, and was pleased to see that I qualified for a workout during the time.

There are also several things that I do not like.

The first thing I found to dislike is that there were no reminders to move ... I could zone out and not move for hours.  So, I didn't get my dots.  The Charge 2 is supposed to remind you - but I do not know how the feature works.   This model has no way to remind you other than the alarm clocks.

While I loved the way it tracks my sleep - and it seems to be quite accurate at picking up on when I am asleep - even involuntary naps (this is one area that it really outshines the Garmins in our house),  one thing I seriously dislike is the flashing green light that occasionally will wake me or the Ref up in the middle of the night.  The light is the heart rate monitor - but the green light is bright enough to be very noticeable and wake a light sleeper.

I do worry about having the watch on 24/7 ... sometimes if I forget to turn off the Bluetooth, my wrist aches.  And I frequently sleep with my arm/wrist near my head.  But I've not seen anything negative about this on any of the health blogs that I follow.

I do not like the watch band is stretching as I wear it.  Nor do I like the way it fits.  I latch the large on the 3rd to last notch.  And wear it over my inside wrist, as this makes it easy to check during the day.  During the night I roll it over to the outside wrist as it is more comfortable to sleep that way, but it is a lot harder to read it.  it does not fit my wrist well.  If I tighten it up, it pinches and itches, although more recently I've been able to use the 4th notch.  It may fit better as I lose weight.  The actual hard gadget part is the full width of my wrist.

Overall - I would give it 4 stars.  And I would highly recommend it for people overweight like me, just starting out.  The Challenges with friends can be a lot of fun.  You have the option of being more public and competing with a larger group as well.

I love how easy it was to get use to using, and how intuitive the phone app was to learn to use.  I love that they are constantly improving the program.  So far, I've met with nothing less than kindness and encouragement in my journey to regain my health.

Reasons to avoid this watch?

If you work with water a lot - it is not waterproof, but it is splash proof and sweat proof.

If you are more active already - you might find the programming less supportive than you want it to be.

If you run regularly - and want to train more - this watch is limited in the amount of help it will be.

I can get a full charge to last up to 3 days before it emails me to charge it again, but only if I rarely sync it and don't pair it with my phone calls.  Phone calls was a feature I used for less than 48 hours before turning it off, as my phone was usually within reach anyway.

If you want the new features, you should probably go for them rather than pinching pennies to buy the last season watches.

And as cheap as the chargers are ... I would recommend picking up an extra.  These are really short and easy to misplace.

You will get a "dongal" with the watch to pair with your PC or laptop via the USB port.  It works well, but will cause the batteries to drain faster, so I rarely plug it into my computer.

The rest of the family all bought Garmin's.  I will be reviewing those watches as well.

NOTE :  May 5, 2017

Shortly after Christmas, the watch cover began to tear and so I removed it.  The crisscross design of the watch band had little pockets of dirty salt ... so would hesitate to say using a cover is any better than not using the cover.

In late February, the watch band began to develop a small bubble above the watch face, on the right side, and one morning it had popped loose. I put some pony tail rubber bands around it. After several other spots did this, I contacted the companies warranty section and emailed them these pictures with notes added.

In less than 24 hours, they had contacted me with a few more questions, and then offered a full replacement of the same watch ... or the option to upgrade at a 30% discount.   We chose the discount.  (We had been discussing upgrading anyway as soon as the price came down to a certain point.)

When I did not immediately purchase the watch, they contacted again to see if I needed help - I explained we were waiting for the next paycheck.  And as soon as I used the coupon, they contacted me again to let me know that the transaction had gone through, and if I had any problems to let them know.

The only BAD thing was that I purchased it on Easter Weekend, so it took a LONG time to arrive - though a full day before they had predicted it would arrive.

It has a completely different charger.

They did not ask me to return the watch, but instead to take it to be recycled.   I could not find the email a second time, so I disconnected it from my account and gave it to my young niece.  Barely a week later, the watchband came off totally.  So she carries it around in her pocket and uses it to check her pulse when she's been working. She does not use any of the internet app features, she's basically limited to steps and heart rate.  But she's happy as a lark, and she has already started talking about saving up her money to get one of her own.  I didn't think the company would mind me creating a new customer for them. 
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