Dashing into stores mere days before we reach the 2014 finish line, the Fitbit Charge is the come from behind fitness tracker that's a win in the basic leagues.
That's because Fitbit has long been a top contender among daily activity trackers. It really only lost momentum when it had to tag the even older Fitbit Force back into the race.
Let's start counting steps, calories burned, hours sleep and more to find out if this fitness tracker is worth $129 (around £83, AU$159).
Design and comfort
Fitbit Charge is really the Fitbit Force re-invented, and the company readily admits it. That's because the Force, skin irritation issues aside, was among the best fitness trackers available.
Encased in the similarly sized black or slate-colored elastic band are sensors that keep tabs on steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and, uniquely, floors climbed.
All of these metrics are routine except for the stairs climbed. Most activity trackers neglect to include an altimeter to pull it off. That's a small plus for Fitbit Charge, as it was for the Force.
Bigger perks come from automatic sleep tracking instead of manually initiating it and incoming call notifications via the OLED display, all of which we'll talk about later in more detail.
Even with these extras, Fitbit Charge doesn't appear any bigger on the wrist. It only got more stylish thanks to a textured rubber design. It's far better at hiding blemishes and nicks.
That said, the better-looking blue and burgundy colors are still to come "sometime in 2015" and none are as stylish and lightweight next to the Jawbone Up24. At least it doesn't literally stab people in the back with every hug, a rare but embarrassing issue of the unenclosed Jawbone design loop.
Fitbit Charge is more subtle and the underside of the new fitness tracker is still smooth, comfortable and, yes, hasn't given me skin rashes after two weeks of non-stop testing.
Fitbit says that it gathered "scientific experts," including certified dermatologists, to enhance its testing protocols and also tests its products with independent labs.
Fitbit's list scientific experts didn't include scuba divers, apparently, as the Fitbit Charge isn't waterproof, but merely "water resistant."
It's officially rated as being "water-resistant to 1 ATM," which, in layman's terms, means that it's nothing more than splashproof. Sweat and washing your hands in the sink is okay and maybe you can get away with showering with it on.
Considering the enclosed design and proprietary USB cable charging method, this is a curious design decision, especially for an activity tracker.
A fraction of people had a problem with the skin irritation design flaw. Everyone had a problem with Fitbit Force and Fitbit Flex's awful two-pronged clasp.
The old clasp was nearly impossible to fasten and often came undone. My dad, who defiantly still wears his Fitbit Force, immediately asked if this irksome design flaw changed after I met with Fitbit to preview the Charge.
My answer: Sort of. Fitbit Charge sticks to the approach of "insert the pair of gray prongs into two of the nine oval holes," but the prongs are spaced out a little more this time.
It's slightly easier to fasten and doesn't come off nearly as often - although it did come undo when I was traveling and walking down a random street in San Francisco recently.
I only had an inkling that it fell into my loose cuff. One wrong downward motion with my arm and it could've slipped away forever. It only has to fail once still be considered a design flaw.
A more fool-proof approach is coming from the Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge, which use secure watch-like buckles. Both have an early 2015 release date but are pricier.
Fitbit Charge strikes the right balance between the best fitness tracker and best smartwatch out there thanks to its returning bright OLED display.
It offers immediate, easy-to-read access to real-time exercise stats as well as the name of contacts during incoming call notifications, something the displayless Jawbone Up24 doesn't.
It's difficult to notice at first glance, but this year's tiny screen packs a little more information onto its .75 inch x .375 inch face. The date can now be seen under the time in one setup.
A new tap gesture actually shows the clock and date (or one other quick stat) when double tapping the Fitbit Charge OLED.
That's intuitive and requires less precision when running than pressing Fitbit Charge's single button. It reminds me of the palm-to-dim-display functionality of Android Wear watches.
The rest of the stats appear bigger than before too. With the press of a left side button, you can scroll through your daily steps, distance, calories burned and floors climbed.
- Buy Fitbit Charge Wireless Activity Tracker at Amazon UK for £74.99 (opens in new tab)