In its heyday, the Fitbit Charge was, for most people, the best wearable you could buy. It was incredibly functional, focused, and attractive enough to only gently scream your fitness aspirations to whoever caught a glimpse of it on your wrist.
That was long ago, before smartwatches got sleeker, slimmer and more capable — before they started making traditional wearables look like pharmacy gadgets.
But Fitbit can’t give up on wearables such as the Charge. Sales may be down, but the company still doesn’t sell anywhere near enough smartwatches to give up on its Charge line, even after the Versa proved Fitbit could make a pretty decent smartwatch.
So here we are. It’s August, images of a new Fitbit device have leaked, and if the leak is accurate, Fitbit is nudging its next Charge in a smarter, sleeker direction. That’s a good thing, because while smartwatches continue to improve, they’re still pretty clunky and convoluted things that can get in the way of a good workout.
According to Android Authority, Fitbit’s Charge 3 may include an actual touchscreen (the screen on the current Charge 2 is junk for touch-based interactions), an Android-only quick reply feature, water proofing, Fitbit Pay for payments, and a nice seven days of battery life.
My only misgiving here, judging by the leak, is that Fitbit doesn’t appear to be going far enough to make the Charge 3 exciting in 2018.
The device reportedly might include heart rate monitoring and even an optional NFC payment feature, but it apparently won’t come with GPS — the feature I’ve grown to depend on as I’ve ditched treadmills and sought distance from my horrible smartphone.
This may be forgivable for the Versa, which is effectively a discount Apple Watch, but the Charge needs more to stand out in the years to come. Borrowing the best feature of Fitbit’s clunkier tracker, the Surge, would’ve been a nice way to do just that.
If the next Charge is supposed to prove there’s still life left in the traditional fitness tracker business, then why did Fitbit skip out on GPS, a feature that’s useful for a lot of folks, including runners, cyclists, hikers, and just about anybody else doing stuff outdoors? Ultimately, Fitbit may have simply not found a way to slim down GPS tracking enough (or the battery life required to sustain it) to put it in the Charge 3.
This may be a totally reasonable compromise, but it’s a compromise I’m less interested in making today than I once was, as more full-featured options such as the Apple Watch grow more appealing and their higher prices get easier to swallow.
Reached by Gizmodo for comment on the reported leak, a spokesperson offered the following statement:
We appreciate the interest and excitement around new Fitbit products. As you know, we are constantly innovating to provide people with products and services that help them live healthier lives. We don’t have news to share at this time, but you’ll be amongst the first to know when we do.