The Fitbit Charge family of products are the brand’s best-selling activity trackers. The rather minimalist Charge came out in 2015 and became an instant hit for fitness tracking. Fitbit Charge HR was an upgrade from the popular Charge with a larger display and heart rate monitor (hence the name “HR”).
But Charge HR had its many limitations including the tiny display. A more powerful wrist tracker was called for, and Charge 2 was born. First came out in September 2016, Fitbit Charge 2 is a major improvement from Charge HR. The stylish yet discreet fitness tracker features a touchscreen OLED display, all-day activity tracking, heart-rate monitoring and advanced sleep reporting.
I acquired the Fitbit Charge 2 Rose Gold special edition with lavender bands for this review. I opted for the small size as I have the tiniest wrist on earth. Note that the Special Edition is no different from the regular Charge 2 in turns of functionality, only changing up the design. I paid a premium for the 22k gold-plated tracker and buckle, but for me it was well worth the extra.
Also note that at the time of publication, Fitbit has rolled out Charge 3, which is a swim proof upgrade from Charge 2 with more advanced fitness tracking. You can see it on Fitbit website.
The Charge 2 is no longer available to purchase on Fitbit US site at the time of publication, but still available on the Fitbit EU website. It’s priced at €159.95 with free shipping, and the special edition at €189.95 with free shipping as well.
The price for Fitbit Charge 2 on Amazon starts at $110.50 with the special edition going up to $179.90 with shipping costs and import fees (if applicable).
If you have used the earlier Fitbit trackers, you will love this much-anticipated upgrade. It’s well-suited for all-day multi-sports tracking and continuous heart rate monitoring, which is a huge plus for fitness buffs to get deep insights on their moves. Advanced fitness feature like Cardio Fitness Level (based on VO2 Max estimation) is also available in the Charge 2 app.
The Charge 2 is also a great entry-level fitness tracker for those who are new to wearables. Much of the activity tracking is automatic so you don’t need to worry about customizing too much. The active goals and “reminders to move” features are great for those who aren’t exercising regularly but wishing for simple ways to stay active.
The Charge 2 design is pretty gender-neutral, although I did find the rose gold special edition to be very feminine. The small band size makes it a rather discreet accessory, so you can wear it pretty much on all occasions. Read our post on the best Charge 2 bands and accessories if you wish to style it up even more.
The Charge 2 features a streamlined and minimalist design that easily disguise itself as a bracelet. It’s slim, slender and lightweight. The elastomer band becomes softer over time and very comfortable for daily wear. After a few weeks of wearing, I can barely feel the tracker on my wrist. The watch-like buckle adds a layer of sophistication, also works better than magnetic clasps seen in earlier Fitbit devices.
I personally love the way the Lavender Rose Gold Special Edition tracker looks. It’s elegant, simple and compliments all my daily outfits. I never had to take it off except when I shower. The only pitfall with the lavender band is that it stains quickly. You will need to invest in replacement wristbands sooner than you’d like.
The packaging was really simple – inside the box, there is the Charge 2 tracker with wristbands, a charging cable, and some flyers for the set up guide. The tracker is already placed on the wristbands, so you can simply put it on and start the setup process.
To set up your Charge 2, go to www.fitbit.com/setup, and follow the instructions. You will need to download either the Fitbit Mobile or Desktop app. After the app is installed, you will see instructions to pair the mobile app with your tracker device.
Once paired, the mobile app has a simple step-by-step onboarding process on how to use Charge 2. These are basic tips like how to navigate the tracker with tapping and the side button. You can skip the onboarding instructions during set up and refer to the user manual later. Click here for the Fitbit Charge 2 User Manual PDF.
The Charge 2 boosts a black & white touchscreen OLED display, big enough to show multiple metrics and text notifications. The clock face shows time and goal completion status, and you can customize it from a selection of pre-set designs.
You can navigate the screen by pressing the side button, or using a swipe between screens. A single tap on the specific screen will lead you to more details, and a long press on the button will start recording the work outs for you.
I found the haptic feedback to be not very intuitive or responsive. It takes a while to get used to the quirks of the navigational pattern. Also, the screen is supposed to turn on whenever I lift my arm and turn my wrist towards me, but this has not worked very well.
You receive a notification whenever you’ve hit your exercise goals or earned a new badge, which gives you a pleasant dopamine rush. The texts are friendly and cheerful. A simple “take me for a stroll” reminder might actually get me out of my chair.
Apart from work out notifications, the Charge 2 can also display phone notifications, but only for calls, text messages and calendar reminder. The tracker will vibrate when notifications come in, which comes in handy for when you are in a meeting or somewhere quiet.
Charge 2 comes in a few sizes including small, large and extra large. As a tiny woman of 5’4, I choose the small one which is 5.5″–6.7″ (140mm-170mm) in circumference, which turned out to be a good fit for me. Below is the sizing chart from Fitbit, which gives you an idea about what to look out for.
Alternatively, you can print out this size guide, and cut it the sample band to wrap it around your wrist. The right size is indicated by where the arrow points to.
It’s very easy to switch the wristbands on your Charge 2. To change the bands, turn over the device so that you can see the back of it. Then, find the tiny clip where strap connects to the tracker, and press it down with a gentle push to release the band.
You can buy replacement bands from Fitbit official website or online retailers like Amazon. A leather strap from Fitbit.com will set you back $69.95. Bands of a wide variety of material and colors are available on Amazon, you can find replacement wristbands made of silicone, metal or genuine leather for as little as $6.88.
While the first impression was good, I wore the fitness tracker for about a month to fully access its functionalities and user experience before writing the review. In a nutshell, the tracking features are more advanced than they look, and along with the mobile app, you can get a pretty accurate picture of your health & fitness.
After you’ve created an account in the companion Fitbit app, and given the tracker a full charge, you are ready to start using Fitbit in no time. The device comes with pretty good defaults, and will pick up your workout data even if you don’t do much customization at all.
There are two main advantages with Charge 2’s all-day activity tracking. For one, the SmartTrack feature will automatically recognize your exercise, which means you don’t need to remember to press the start or end button to record the workout. Secondly, the multi-sport mode allow you to track multiple exercises such as cycling, running, weights or yoga.
The app’s default setting somes with a few popular workouts, but you can change, re-order or customize workouts in the Fitbit app. I’ve added a custom HIIT workout in mine, which worked quite well with real-time stats. You can now pause a workout without ending it.
The Charge 2 tracker doesn’t have GPS on its own, but rather relies on your phone’s connected GPS to map your runs. It’s not as convenient as a standalone GPS watch, as you will need to carry your paired phone with you, turn on both Bluetooth and GPS for it to work. It could lead the distance data to be inaccurate, which is a known issue.
The main benefit of wearing Fitbit is to stay fit. Knowing all your exercise data helps you stay motivated. In my case, the calories burned data is a great source of motivation.
You might wonder how fitbit calculate calories burned. The built-in altimeter sensor counts floors climbed, and 3-axis accelerometer measures your motion for steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and how well you slept.
The key to the accuracy of Fitbit’s fitness data is in its algorithm – developed to look for movement patterns that most likely to be the activity being tracked. That’s why when you are taking the subway or driving, it will not be counted as walking.
In my month-long test, I’ve found the steps data pretty accurate. Although the distance data can be a little off sometimes if your GPS signal wasn’t consistent throughout your run, or your stride is above/below average.
Heart Rate Tracking
The always-on heart rate monitoring was such a great feature for self-assessment that I almost got addicted to checking it nonstop. For your information, a healthy resting heart rate (RHR) for adults is 50-90 beats per minute (BPM). With the access to all-day instant heart rate reading, I’m way more aware of my cardiovascular health.
The feature is very helpful when I observe an abnormally high heart rate, such as when under stress or overextending myself in exercise, and dial back if I need to. The fitness tracker also offers guided breathing sessions to help you calm down.
I’ve also found the heart rate zone very helpful for making on-the-fly decisions about my workout intensity. The heart rate zone is divided into Fat Burn, Cardio and Peak by intensity levels. So if I’m going an HIIT training but only seeing my heart rate in the Cardio zone, I can safely level up the workout for better results.
One of the features I was truly excited about is the sleep tracking. If you wear Charge 2 to sleep, it will automatically track your sleep duration and quality. It also detects different sleep stages including light, deep and REM sleep – all beautifully presented in an easy-to-read chart in the Fitbit app.
The sleep insight is a relatively new feature and in my experience isn’t always accurate. There are nights when I woke up tired but saw a restful sleep in Fitbit app. I also feel that the sleep stage graph doesn’t always tell you what pitfalls to avoid for a better night’s sleep.
I found myself wondering how does sleep tracking work on fitbit, and found official documentation that Fitbit detects sleep by a combination of movement, heart rate and their connection to sleep stages through lab research. So if you are lying wide awake without moving at all, your Charge 2 could falsely record sleep. Read more on sleep here.
I didn’t benefit from the bedtime reminder, since a single buzz that nudges me to get ready for bed doesn’t really change my behaviour. I did however find the silent alarm a great way to wake up with a gentle buzz on my wrist.
Fitbit has mastered the subtle art of motivation with gamification. It rewards you with distance badges and It sends well-crafted notifications and personalized emails when you have hit a new milestone – whether it’s a five-day exercise badge or crushing your active minutes.
I’ve been receiving Fitbit congratulation emails with cheerful graphics every now and then. They definitely helped me take pride in incremental progress and keep me moving. A helicopter badge for 500 floors climbed – what a nice achievement!
Charge 2 battery life is around 5 days on a full charge, which is a relatively long considering the all-day tracking with Bluetooth syncing. Compared to Charge 3’s 7-day battery life, it falls kind of short.
There are a few simple tips to get more out of the Charge 2 battery, such as to turn off the all-day sync and quick view. Tapping to wake up the screen less also saves some battery. Also, fewer active alarms will prolong the fitness tracker’s battery life.
To charge Fitbit Charge 2, you first need to plug the charging cable into a USB port – could be a USB charger or your computer. Then, clip the charging cable to your tracker until the gold pins are aligned. You will see a battery icon if it’s charging properly.
It takes 2 hours to fully recharge the battery. Battery replacement is possible if you are still covered by the warranty. Note that the warranty is 24 months if you purchase in Europe, but only 12 months if you purchased in the U.S..
Compatibility & Apps
Fitbit Charge 2 is fortunately compatible with all popular mobile devices running on Apple iOS 10 and higher, Android OS 5.0 and higher, or Windows 10 v1607 and higher. Pairing Charge 2 with your device should be pretty straightforward once you turn on Bluetooth. For best results, make sure your phone is only managing one Bluetooth connection when syncing.
The official Fitbit mobile app is very easy to use with no learning curve. I use an iPhone and the interface feels very intuitive. The dashboard gives you at-a-glance stats of your workouts such as steps, floors, distance, calories and sleep. Once you tap on each stats, you can see the detailed breakdown with a nice graph.
You can also customize the layout of your personal dashboard or add custom logs. You can join challenges or interest groups right in the app. You can also get personalized coaching using “Fitbit Coach”. It’s not free though – subscription costs $7.99/mo or $39.99/year.
The Fitbit app works pretty well for most fitness goals. But if you want to get more of a single exercise, there are a handful of 3rd party apps that works with Charge 2 such as MyFitnessPal and Strava.
Our final verdict for Fitbit Charge 2 is that it’s worth the investment if you are looking for a well-designed everyday activity tracker with heart rate function. It delivers on its purpose to help me stay fit. I found myself getting out of my chair more and hitting higher step goals. Compared to Flex 2, a cheaper entry-level fitness band without display, the instant access to my workout data is a great motivator.
But the lack of onboard GPS will not make Charge 2 a great running watch, nor is it built for swim tracking. The sleep monitoring needs improvement, as well as the accuracy of distance and calorie data.
If you already own a Fitbit with a heart rate monitor such as Fitbit Alta HR, there is no compelling reason to upgrade to Charge 2. If you want more tech smarts, go for theFitbit Versa watch. If you are willing to pay a little bit more, Fitbit Charge 3 is a very nice swimproof upgrade from Charge 2.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Fitbit Charge 2 Waterproof?
Charge 2 is not waterproof, so you can’t take it to the shower or swimming. It’s water resistant though, which means if splash some water over it while washing your hands, no need to fret.
How to reset fitbit charge 2
If you want to reset the time and date on your Fitbit Charge 2, you can do so from the connected smartphone. Open up the account page in your Fitbit app, and then go to “Advanced Settings” where you can manually change your country and timezone.
How to restart fitbit charge 2
If your Charge 2 isn’t synching or or not turning on after a recharge, you might need to restart the device. Clip your tracker into the charger, and long press the side button for 4 seconds or so until you see the Fitbit logo with a vibration. That’s the sign it has restarted.