Fitbit Charge 4 in the test: fitness tracker with GPS

Fitbit wants to appeal to old and new sports fans with the Tracker Charge 4. We are testing what the new edition of the Charge series has on the box.

Anyone who wants to record their own daily activities and sporting progress in training as comprehensively and accurately as possible will sooner or later get around a dedicated fitness tracker. With the Charge 4, Fitbit has launched the latest incarnation of its well-known hardware – and we have tested the device extensively. In our test of the Fitbit Charge 4, we clarify whether users really get what they want here, as the manufacturer promises.

The test appears as part of our fitness tracker theme world. There we have already published tests on the predecessor, the Fitbit Charge 3 (test report) and on alternatives such as the Huawei Band 4 (test report), the Polar A370 (test report) or the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro (test report). If you are looking for a sports watch instead, should you take a look at our sports watch theme or the article sports watches or fitness tracker for joggers? read.

Somehow it seems almost ironic to us that Fitbit calls the Charge 4 a "slim health and fitness tracker" – because compared to other models like the Alta HR (test report) or the Inspire HR (test report) from the manufacturer the Charge 4 quite wide and massive. Therefore, the device seems a bit too striking for our taste and a little like a foreign body on our wrist. But this impression can vary depending on personal feelings.

The design of the Fitbit Charge 4 is otherwise pleasantly simple and is based on the common look of other Fitbit trackers: Both the housing of the tracker and the bracelet are kept in simple black, whereby the bracelet has a subtle check pattern. The housing is made of plastic resin, the bracelet made of plastic with a stainless steel clasp. The processing made a robust and long-lasting impression on us, even if dust and dirt can quickly collect in the gaps between the case and the bracelet. As always with Fitbit, the bracelets can be changed. Since the dimensions of the Charge 3 are the same, there are a lot of official bracelets, for example made of fabric or leather, as well as numerous replicas.

The scope of delivery of the Fitbit Charge 4 consists of the actual tracker, two differently long plastic wristbands and a charging adapter. The latter does not work via a magnet to which the tracker attaches, but via a mechanism into which we clamp the tracker. This requires a little sensitivity so that the tracker sits exactly on the charging adapter.

Setting up the Fitbit Charge 4 is as simple as with its predecessors: we start the tracker and download the associated Fitbit app to our smartphone. We select the "Set up a device" function in the app's profile menu and then select the Charge 4 from the list of devices to be linked. We then receive a brief instruction to charge the tracker before the app searches for the Charge 4 via Bluetooth and establishes a connection. Once we have connected the tracker to the app, it gives us an overview of the functions of the Charge 4 and explains how we have to put on the bracelet. Then we can get started.

The Fitbit app shows us all tracked information at a glance in a handy overview, sorted by days. We can switch back and forth between the individual days and display steps, floors, kilometers and calories burned. We also learn how many so-called zone minutes have already collected. More on that later.

The app also shows us our current sleep index, our heart rate and our average step rate per hour. We can also define training and weight loss goals, and log our water intake and meals. Users have the option of determining which of the data should be displayed on the start page of the app.

Clicking on the individual menus opens a detailed view of the tracked data and allows us to set specific goals. Finally, we can add further tracking functions for statistics as well as virtual competitions and training units including instruction videos via the Discover tab.

The operation of the app is intuitive and self-explanatory. At no point did we feel that the software was overloaded or that we could not find a specific function.

The Fitbit Charge 4 screen did not convince us in the test. The display is illegible in direct sunlight and the operation of the display using gesture control can be inaccurate and unstable. We encountered the problem several times that the tracker recognized swiping up as swiping left.

Sometimes the menus jerky. All of this is particularly annoying when you want to use the Fitbit Charge 4 when training and especially when running in the great outdoors.

The activity tracking of Fitbit Charge 4 focuses on zone minutes and automatic training recognition. The zone minutes are part of a concept by the World Health Organization that recommends moderate to very demanding physical activity per week for 150 minutes. Fitbit tracks these zone minutes based on the user's heart rate. Depending on how high it is, we collect single or double zone minutes from a frequency of 109 heartbeats per minute.

Using the app, we can set our own weekly goals for the zone minutes. The corresponding menu of the app then shows how many zone minutes the user has already accumulated on the current day and what the zone course looks like throughout the week. We are also allowed to set weekly training goals and set up exercise reminders. The tracker then notifies you with a message and vibration as soon as it is time to move.

A special relax function, which we can call up and start directly on the Charge 4 display, includes specific breathing exercises. We set a duration for the exercise before the tracker adjusts to our breathing. For the whole thing to work, however, we have to hold the bracelet very close to our face – whether someone with a permanently raised arm can really relax is an open question here. At least we found the function a nice gimmick at best.

Women also have the option of tracking their own cycle and having health data used to calculate predictions about the period and fertility time. However, the app requires detailed data, among other things, on selected contraceptive methods. Here users have to decide for themselves whether they want to share this data with Fitbit.

In addition to pure activity tracking, the Fitbit Charge 4 automatically recognizes some workouts. These include the sports of walking, running, cycling, cross training, aerobic training and swimming as well as training that is not generally specified. We can specify in the app which sports the tracker should automatically recognize and from what duration.

If we want to track a sports unit, we select the appropriate sport (running, cycling, swimming, treadmill, outdoor training, walking) via the Training menu on the wristband. Then we make a few settings such as GPS tracking, running detection, auto pause and the warning function when the heart rate is high. We can also set a specific training goal (calories burned, zone minutes, distance, duration).

When we activate a workout, the Charge 4 shows information on distance, time, steps, heart rate, calories and pace on the display. When we finish the training, we receive all the data in a final summary and then transfer it to the app.

The Competitions and Adventure Races menu allows us to compete with friends in training by signing up for special challenges (for example, most of the steps taken in a day). Alternatively, the app offers special adventure races in which we unlock panoramic photos when we reach specific intermediate destinations. Here we can also measure ourselves against other Fitbit users.

The Fitbit Charge 4 finally analyzes the heart rate recorded during training and at rest. A function in the app menu evaluates this data and uses it to create a so-called personalized cardio fitness index. The app determines a fitness level based on our age and gender and gives an estimate of our VO2 maximum (maximum amount of oxygen that the body can implement during training). The more heart rate data we add to the app, the more precise the index becomes – this can be a sensible opportunity for ambitious hobby athletes to evaluate their own fitness.

The Fitbit Charge 4 supports Spotify, but is quite limited. As with the Fitbit Versa 2 (test report), the bracelet only controls playback on a smartphone or a speaker with Spotify Connect (guide). There is no local storage to listen to music offline. You also need a premium account with Spotify.

Another minus point for music control on the Fitbit Charge 4 caught our eye during training: there is no way to control the music while we have activated the training tracking. We first have to end the training completely (even pausing is not enough) to be able to skip a song or pause the music. In our opinion, this is an absolute no-go for a fitness tracker and weighs even more because the Charge 4 offers no other way of controlling music apart from the integration of Spotify.

As always, the tracker shows calls, messages, appointments and smartphone notifications directly on the display. The tracker has a quick reply function with which we can reply to messages using pre-made short texts. In order to make phone calls, we then have to use the smartphone.

Virtually every modern fitness tracker has a sleep analysis. The Fitbit Charge 4 is no exception. Users can set a sleep target in hours using the app. The app processes the tracked sleep data in a special sleep index, which is intended to provide information about the sleep quality of the user.

Although the Fitbit Charge 4 reliably records our sleep throughout the night, the data are not very meaningful. The tracker suffers from the same problem as many comparable apps and devices: It measures the time we spend in waking, REM, light and deep sleep and uses this to calculate the sleep index.

In this specific case, the Charge 4 and the Android Sleep app delivered different data for the same night. In addition, the Fitbit app certified that we slept well for two nights, even though we felt that we slept poorly. As with most other wrist devices, sleep tracking is more of a rough guide to help you identify long-term trends. If you want a precise analysis, you cannot avoid a sleep laboratory.

The Fitbit Charge 4 supports Fitbit Pay. In order to set up contactless payment via the service, we have to select our Fitbit account in the app and then the Fitbit Charge 4. The Wallet menu then takes care of setting up Fitbit Pay on the tracker.

First, we set a PIN to block our tracker. Then we add a credit or debit card from a bank that supports Fitbit Pay, the current list can be found on this support page at Fitbit. You can also create your own virtual Visa card, regardless of your own bank account. If we have linked our credit card to Fitbit Pay, we can use Charge 4 to make contactless payments at compatible readers. The smartphone does not have to be near the tracker to use Fitbit Pay.

Fitbit specifies the battery life of the Charge 4 with up to seven days in normal operation and up to five hours with GPS tracking activated. We can confirm this information, but the tracker can only last seven days if we only use it as a pedometer and watch.

In our opinion, this means that the battery life is more than sufficient and is also suitable for intensive sports sessions in the fresh air or in the gym when we just don't have a charging option available.

The standard version of the Fitbit Charge 4 with a black, steel-blue or wine-red plastic wristband costs EUR 149.95. Fitbit also offers a special edition with a reflective fabric wristband in granite color and including an additional plastic wristband, which costs 169.95 euros. The street price of the standard variant was around 140 euros at the time of testing, the special edition at 165 euros was marginally less than the MSRP. The Charge 4 is therefore in the middle price segment for fitness trackers.

Fitbit Charge 4 activity tracker black (FB417BKBK)

Fitbit Charge 4, black

Fitbit Charge 4 Special Edition activity tracker black / granite (FB417BKGY)

Fitbitbit Charge 4, Special Edition black / granite

Fitbit Charge 4 activity tracker rosewood (FB417BYBY)

Fitbit Charge 4, rosewood

(No product picture available)

Fitbit Charge 4, blue

The Fitbit Charge 4 fitness tracker is a solid tracker, but with the exception of the GPS function it does not bring any really groundbreaking innovations. The associated app works intuitively and provides a detailed and clear summary of activities and sports units. Fitbit does solid model maintenance, but not everything is ideal. Personally, we were very bothered by the bitchy display operation, which works far too unreliably, especially during outdoor training. Here we hope for a software improvement as soon as possible, until then we subtract a grade.

When it comes to music, it's a shame that only the remote control for Spotify (Premium) is on board. If you could have saved your own songs on the tracker (or saved Spotify's playlists locally), you could have completely avoided using your smartphone while running. So you have to take your cell phone again if you want to listen to music while running.

With the comparatively high price point, the Fitbit Charge 4 is significantly above the competition, such as the GPS-enabled Huawei Band 4 Pro. Fitbit can score with the excellent app.

We collect many other tests of fitness trackers in our theme world fitness trackers. There are tests published for the predecessor, the Fitbit Charge 3 (test report) and alternatives such as the Huawei Band 4 (test report), the Polar A370 (test report) or the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro (test report). If you prefer a sports watch, should you take a look at our sports watch theme or the article sports watches or fitness tracker for joggers? read.