Google is supposedly going into the autumn this year with a tandem approach on wearables. A Pixel Watch 2 is supposed to take inspiration from sister brand Fitbit, but Fitbit also plans to update its Charge series with a new device. So, what do we make of the newly announced Fitbit Charge 6? We're sorting it out right here.
Fitbit Charge 6
Google is making its mark on Fitbit with the Charge 6. YouTube Music and Google Maps integrations get top billing, the navigation button returns after it was missing from the Charge 5, and it costs $20 less than its predecessor.
What happened with the Fitbit Charge 5?
For some context, the Fitbit Charge 5 came out in 2021, right after Google closed its two-year acquisition effort of Fitbit, meaning that this was the last Charge that was built from the ground up by an independent Fitbit.
The Charge series packs in about as much biometric hardware as a tiny fitness tracker can without having as large of a case and display as a smartwatch, so in that sense, we're talking about a masthead product here. And, for the most part, the Charge 5 did its job. The one design aspect that did rankle buyers, though, was the lack of a home button - users had to rely on long backward sequences with the graphical interface or obnoxious gestures to get around their device effectively.
As of 28 September 2023, Fitbit and major online retailers have stopped selling the Charge 5. Some brick-and-mortar chains are continuing sales, so you may be able to spot some final sales in the days and weeks to come, especially as we're nearing the high shopping season.
Fitbit Charge 5
Best Buy is one of only a few retailers that is continuing to sell the Charge 5. If you're hunting for a deal, perhaps check back soon to see if any clearances are on.
Fitbit Charge 6 material build and design
- Same as Charge 5, mostly. Aluminum and stainless steel case, silicone Infinity Band
- Three color combinations
- Navigation button returns
Rumors suggested that the Charge 6 would be more evolution than revolution from the Charge 5, and the intelligence seems to have nailed it.
Design-wise, the only way to win a "Spot the Difference" game is by pointing out the navigation button on the left side of the Charge 6. Critics panned the Charge 5's lack of the longtime feature and lamented having to swipe back from the screen to move between apps at a snail's pace. Easy navigation is prized highly for a device you'd use while on a run, and that one change alone might have some Charge 5 owners upgrading after just two years.
Otherwise, we're dealing with the same mix of materials, the same standard 5 ATM of water resistance, the same inch-long AMOLED display, and the same silicone Infinity Band in the box. You have three choices for colorways: Obsidian with black aluminum, coral with champagne gold aluminum, and porcelain with silver aluminum.
Fitbit Charge 6 specs
- Bluetooth 5, NFC, GPS/GLONASS
- Optical heart rate monitor, sensors for ECG, Infrared and red sensors for SpO2
- 7-day battery
As expected, you get all of the usual tech trimmings for a fitness tracker in the Charge 6: NFC for Google Wallet mobile payments, GPS/GLONASS, and Bluetooth 5 connectivity. The biometrics sensor load here will allow you to track your heart rate and SpO2 metrics and perform an ECG via a dedicated app. Other items include a three-axis accelerometer, device thermometer, ambient light sensor, and a haptics motor. The heart rate monitor, in particular, is touted to be 60% more accurate than the Charge 5's based on HIIT, spinning, and rowing tests.
The battery lasts for up to seven days on a two-hour charge. On-board memory should be able to keep up to a week of minute-by-minute motion data and daily totals for a basket of scores and figures on a moving 30-day basis. Heart rate data is logged during workouts every five seconds outside of those sessions.
Nothing changes with device compatibility: modern Android and iOS devices will work with the Charge 6.
Fitbit Charge 6 features
- Google Maps and YouTube Music
- Heart rate syncing with exercise equipment
Fitbit has transitioned its user base off of its own account system and onto Google's for data tracking, importing, and exporting. You won't be surprised to learn that you'll need a Google account to get along with a Charge 6.
Google really is making it all about itself with this product launch, boasting Google Maps for navigation and entertainment with YouTube Music as fresh new Google Essential experiences. Both are sensible additions though they may need to be attuned for easy access during exercise and, specifically for Maps, post-workout reporting. After all, what good is GPS if you can't trace funny shapes with your run path and then share them with your friends afterward?
More specific to fitness, SmartTrack can detect a number of movements related to different exercises and automatically start workout tracking if you didn't remember to set it up. All the data collected by your device generates metrics such as VO2 Max and Sleep Score that you can peruse along with your connected phone's notifications via Fitbit UI and the Fitbit app. And on exercise equipment that supports the Bluetooth Heart Rate Profile, you can sync up your Charge 6's heart rate readings to appear on your machine's larger display - extended compatibility is said to be in the works.
Speaking of visibility, Google also notes that it has enabled zoom and magnification on the Charge 6 so that you'll be able to blow up any tiny text you can't easily read on that compact display. It's a thought if a minor accessibility gesture that deserves a note.
You can expect more software features down the lifespan of the Charge 6 as Google has taken its Pixel-boosting penchant for Feature Drops over to the Fitbit portfolio as well, with its first one taking place back in June (via Android Police). However, some Charge 5 owners weren't pleased to find their devices broken after the update. Hopefully, we won't see a repeat of that with the Charge 6.
Fitbit Charge 6 pricing and availability
Fitbit Charge 6
- $159.95 from Fitbit or the Google Store worldwide
- Pre-orders until first shipments 12 October
As of 28 September, the Fitbit Charge 6 is available for pre-order on Fitbit.com and the Google Store for $159.95. Wider retail distribution is planned for later this autumn. Google One subscribers can take advantage of cashback in the form of store credit and zero-interest financing for 12 months at the Google Store.
Both retailers, oddly enough, have different promotions regarding Fitbit Premium, which gives you access to a range of extra workouts and a Daily Readiness Score. The Google Store includes a six-month membership for free, while Fitbit is selling a year's membership plus a two-year device protection plan for $34.98 - a savings of $75.