Surprise! Fitbit’s Charge 5 Is Actually a Massive Upgrade

Surprise! Fitbit’s Charge 5 Is Actually a Massive Upgrade
Photo: Fitbit

We already knew the Fitbit Charge 5 was getting a colour touchscreen based on early leaks, but today Fitbit announced its most popular fitness tracker is getting way more than just an upgraded screen. The Charge 5 is gaining the ability to take electrocardiograms and notify users of abnormal heart rates, features that have been reserved for smartwatches. The new fitness tracker is also equipped with an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor to measure stress, just like the Fitbit Sense.

This is a huge 180 from last year’s Charge 4, which was a solid but incremental upgrade. Design-wise, the Charge 5 shares an aesthetic with Fitbit’s other newly launched fitness tracker, the Luxe. It’ll be available in three colorways: white and gold, blue and silver, and all-black. This is also Fitbit, so expect several swappable strap options. You also get a full-colour, always-on AMOLED touchscreen that’s two times brighter than the Charge 4. The case is also 10% thinner, and in a nice touch, Fitbit is listening to the people and switching to swipes and taps for its UI. What appeared to be capacitive buttons in the leaked Charge 5 renders are actually the ECG and EDA sensors.

Back to that EDA sensor, which measures tiny changes in your sweat to assess your body’s stress levels. Charge 5 owners will see a Stress Management Score in the Fitbit app, and gain access to guided meditations, including sessions with Deepak Chopra. Fitbit is also partnering with meditation app Calm, and Fitbit Premium subscribers will also be able to choose from roughly 30 sessions.

The ECG features are the same as the ones on the Sense, so it’s remarkable that a fitness tracker is gaining the same advanced health features seen in flagship smartwatches. (Not even Fitbit’s Versa 3 has ECG.) That said, the ECG feature may not be immediately available at launch, and is limited to countries where Fitbit has regulatory approval.

Editor’s Note: Fitbit’s ECG features have been approved in Australia, and will be available on the Charge 5.

Aside from health features, the Charge 5 packs in much of what you’d expect from a top-of-the-line tracker. It offers NFC payments, an SpO2 sensor, skin temperature variance, built-in GPS, and sleep-related features like a daily Sleep Score, Sleep Stages, and SmartWake Alarms. Android users can reply to messages from the wrist, as well as utilise Google Fast Pair. As always for Fitbit, the Charge 5 will come with multi-day battery life — an estimated seven days, to be exact.

Image: Fitbit Image: Fitbit

Fitbit generally likes to launch a new software feature with each iteration of the Charge. With the Charge 4, it introduced Active Zone Minutes (AZM) — a metric for measuring whether you get the adequate amount of exercise per week. This time, we’re getting a Daily Readiness Score. The score is compiled by looking at three components: your exertion levels from activities, heart rate variation, and sleep. If you have a high score, the app will then recommend more challenging workouts. If your score is low, it’ll suggest gentler options like yoga. The algorithm will also personalise what your daily AZM target should be.

Since the Daily Readiness Score is an app-based feature, it won’t be limited to Charge 5 users. Anyone with a Premium subscription and a Fitbit Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Luxe, and Inspire 2 will also be able to access the feature. The feature is part of a recent wearables trend toward emphasising recovery, which we’ve also seen from Whoop and the Oura Ring, as well as Garmin’s Body Battery feature.

We’ll have to see how the Charge 5 holds up in testing, but at least on paper, this is the most substantial update the tracker’s gotten in several years. It’s clever timing, too, as it seems Fitbit’s taken 2021 to refocus on the trackers that made it a household name to begin with. It makes sense, given that Google’s busy working on Wear OS 3 and the smartwatches that folks seem to be most curious about are Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic.

The Charge 5 will cost $269.95 in Australia, and will be available for preorder starting today.