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Should you pre-order the Fitbit Charge 3 activity tracker?

Fitbit's new tracker is on the way, but how does it compare with the Fitbit Charge 2, and what are the best Fitbit alternatives?

Fitbit has announced the latest activity tracker in the Charge family – enter the Fitbit Charge 3. It’s swimproof, which is new for Fitbit’s Charge trackers, has a touchscreen display and a seven-day battery life. So what else is new, and should you pre-order this £130 activity tracker? Let’s dive deeper into the features to find out.

The Charge 3 is available to pre-order for £129.99, with shipping due in October. There were plenty of rumours ahead of the announcement on 20 August, which is unsurprising given the popularity of Charge activity trackers.

The Charge range continues to be Fitbit’s best selling suite of products, with 35 million devices sold worldwide to date. It’s been a while since Fitbit added to the Charge family too, instead focusing on the development of the Fitbit Ionic and Versa smartwatches.

If you just want to find out how the previous iteration performed in our tough lab tests, head over to our full Fitbit Charge 2 review. Or for the devices that topped our test tables, check out the Best Buy fitness watches and activity trackers.

Fitbit Charge 3 (£129.99) – what features does it have?

Design – Fitbit has redesigned the Charge 3, with adjustments designed to make it slimmer, lighter and more comfortable than other trackers. The tracker is made from aluminium, and the 18mm touchscreen OLED display is protected by strengthened Corning Gorilla Glass 3. It comes with both a small and a large rubber wrist band (available in black or blue grey), or there are two special edition versions for £149.99 – one with a woven lavender coloured band and rose gold display, the other with a white sport band (think Apple Watch Nike-style). We haven’t had our hands on the Charge 3 yet, but we’ll try out the size and comfort once we do.

Fitness tracking – it can do everything we expect from a fitness tracker, including tracking steps, calories and sleep. Added to that, the Charge 3 also has a built-in heart-rate monitor, and a cardio fitness level function that uses your VO2 max measurements over time to give you more focused feedback on your activity and fitness levels. It’s the first in the Charge range to be water resistant to 5ATM, meaning that it can be worn while swimming in the pool. There are 15 exercise modes, including running, biking, swimming, yoga and circuit training. There’s also an SpO2 sensor, that estimates changes in blood oxygen levels to track additional health indicators such as sleep apnaea. As with other Fitbit devices, the Charge 3 can be used for female health tracking including tracking periods and recording symptoms, and for predicting ovulation.

Disappointingly, especially given the price, there’s no built-in GPS. This is because adding a GPS sensor would compromise on the slim design, Fitbit told Wareable, and that it believes users aren’t looking for this feature. Based on our own research and testing, we’re not quite convinced by either of these reasons.

Smart features – Fitbit has made its first forays in to the smartwatches market with the Ionic and Versa, so it’s understandable that they’d want their flagship activity tracker to come with built-in smarts too. It doesn’t run on the same operating system as the Fitbit smartwatches, so you won’t be able to install apps or new watch faces, but you can view calls, messages, calendar alerts and app notifications on screen. Android users will be able to respond to these using quick replies too.

Battery life – Fitbit claims that the Charge 3 will last for seven days per charge, which is two more days than the previous iteration. It’s not the longest but it’s not bad either – we’ll see how it performs when we get it to the lab soon.

Fitbit Charge 3 vs Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit are going big with the Charge 3 and it looks like it’s a full replacement of the Charge 2, rather than an extra device in the range. The Charge 2 is no longer listed in the line up on the Fitbit site, and clicking on any Charge 2 link through a search engine redirects you to the Charge 3. It is available through big retailers though, and currently costs £110 – so is it worth looking out for deals closer to Black Friday, or should you opt for the latest Fitbit?

It depends what you plan to use your fitness tracker for. An obvious benefit of the Charge 3 over the Charge 2 is the fact that it’s water resistant, so the newer Fitbit will appeal to swimmers. It has a slightly longer battery life and looks nicer too, but we haven’t tried it out for comfort yet. The SpO2 sensor unlocks extra health analysis, so we’ll try this out once we get hands on – keep an eye out for our initial verdict in our full first look review soon.

Fitbit activity tracker alternatives – what can you buy for £130 or less?

The Charge 3 is reasonably priced compared with other Fitbit trackers, but we were disappointed by the lack of GPS. It left us wondering if it’s possible to get a decent GPS tracker for the same, or even less. Here we take a look at three of the options out there.

Garmin Vivosport (£139)

This activity tracker monitors steps, heart rate, sleep and calories, as well as having built-in GPS for tracking your route without your smartphone. There’s a built-in heart-rate monitor, and the Vivosport provides VO2 max estimates using your heart rate to calculate your oxygen consumption and fitness levels. Like the Charge 3, it’s got a waterproof rating of 5ATM, and should last for seven days per charge. It’s slightly over the £129.99 of the Charge 3, but it can be found in big retailers for £139. But how did it perform in our tests, and is it worth the extra 10 quid? Read our full Garmin Vivosport review to find out.

Huawei Band 2 Pro (£50)

The Band 2 Pro has an impressive feature list, including built-in GPS and a heart-rate monitor, and can be bought for just £50. Huawei claims you’ll get 21 days of battery life per charge, too, putting it head and shoulders above the Fitbit. It’s slim and lightweight, but is it accurate enough to make it worth buying? Find out by heading to our full Huawei Band 2 Pro review.

Garmin Forerunner 25 (£80)

If you aren’t set on the classic band style activity tracker, and want a device for tracking everyday activity and the occasional run, then you could pick up a GPS running watch for around £80. Alongside GPS, the Forerunner 30 has a built-in heart-rate monitor, and is swim proof to 50 metres – all within a device that weighs just 36 grams, proving that a built-in GPS sensor doesn’t mean an unnecessarily weighty tracker. The battery-life claim is shorter than the Charge 3, at just five days, but how did it perform in our battery life tests? We reveal all in our full Garmin Forerunner 30 review.

Find out whether any GPS fitness watches and activity trackers make our pick of the best cheap fitness trackers.

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