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Fitbit Charge 2 is an almost perfect wearable

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Wearables have an identity crisis. They are bands which track your fitness and yet they also have to be chic to be fashionable enough to be worn on a regular basis. Moreover, they are limited by the extents of battery life. Fitbit is a past-master at making wearables which are attractive and don’t have most of the issues that are known to plague the wearable category as a while. And this year it launched the Charge 2 in India which is the successor to its best wearable – the Charge HR. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been wearing it and I have to admit that it comes close to being almost perfect in terms of a wearable.

Before I dive into the details, a disclaimer. I am not big on fitness and I don’t go to the gym, so I am not the ideal test bed for this product. While saying that as a rather skinny and lanky 28 year old, I do walk a lot. I am hyperactive, which helps me get a lot of data from the wearable.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the details.

What I like

Firstly, the Fitbit Charge 2 is a rather discrete band which you strap on to your wrist much like any other wrist watch which has a belt like strap. More or less, it is going to remind you of some of the old Casio watches. It is rather comfortable to wear and it can be worn for long durations and even for days at a stretch and you’d not feel it.

Even for an extremely skinny person, I found the Charge 2 to fit my wrist quite comfortably, which is a great thing. I normally struggle in this regard with most bands – including the Gear Fit and the Jawbone UP 3.

The other thing that I liked was that it has a rather reasonably sized OLED screen which gives a view to all kinds of information. It is 1.5-inches to be precise. This is one of the big changes from the older model, which just came with a glorified strip for the display.

Out here, I could control almost every aspect of the wearable using the single button flanking the left bezel of the screen. Be it the time and step counter, the heart rate monitor, or if I was in an exercise mode like run. There are some new features too like the guiding breathing exercise which came in handy when I was losing my cool in the newsroom. It also has an alarm.

Importantly, the bigger display allowed me to get a bunch of notifications. While parsed with the iPhone app over Bluetooth, I could get my WhatsApp and iMessage notifications and also call notifications. As I would often sleep with the device on, the alarm would kick in and wake me up in the morning.

I found the heart rate monitor to be quite accurate. Fitbit actually makes quite a big deal about its heart rate monitor and the pulse technology it uses, and compared to the Jawbone UP3 which I used to use earlier this was a major step up because it was always on and provided a better insight into what I was doing. With the Charge 2 it also uses VO2 Max to calculate your cardio fitness levels which is another is another data metric that could come in handy and could be an indicator in case you have a cardio vascular disorder. I for one was glad to know that things were seemingly normal.

Like wise, the step counter was also pretty accurate and could correctly articulate how much I had walked and how many flight of stairs I had climbed.

The Fitbit app is also a delight to use. It presents all the information in a logical manner. You can keep a tab of how you’re sleeping, track how many calories you’ve burned while walking and also feed in information about what you’ve eaten and accordingly it will figure out how many calories you’ve taken in.

Fitbit also gamifies the experience as it has a mini social network built in and you can connect with friends and compare with them your exercise routines. You can also win badges and from time to time, the Charge 2 will congratulate you when you’ve crossed some kind of landmark.

What I dislike

Fitbit claims that this wearable can last 5 days on a single charge. In my tests, which admittedly weren’t the most intense ones, it can be argued that the wearable didn’t cross the 3 day mark which wasn’t ideal.

Despite the upgrades, the Fitbit Charge 2 lacks internal GPS which just puts more drain on the phone’s battery which is just a bummer. So from a battery standpoint, it’s a step back from the Charge HR.

Lastly, one of the advanced features which allow us to input our nutrient intake isn’t fully customised for India. As mostly, I end up eating north Indian or Pan Asian food, this was a pain point as I am on a weight gaining diet plan and I couldn’t figure out if I am the right path or not.

Ideally, I would’ve liked a feature which allows me to take a picture of what I am eating and the app would figure everything out. It already does that for some barcoded items, but in India, we don’t end up eating a lot of packaged food so this feature becomes redundant.

Most wearables these days are water resistant and yet, the Charge 2 remains only sweat resistant which is going to be deal breaker for many people considering it.

Finally, the strap can be made in a more refined manner as it would be more comfortable especially during work. A good example is me typing this review and it being a bit of a hassle during typing.

Overall, at Rs 14,999, the Charge 2 is a great option. It can be had in multiple colour to suit your tastes and it is comfortable to use at the same time. It has a few niggles which I am hoping are ironed out by the next version, but more or less it is an almost a perfect example of a wearable.

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