If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.
Following a couple of big leaks, Fitbit is officially announcing the Charge 5, the company’s latest fitness tracker, and it marks one of the biggest design changes to the popular Charge family since the first Charge HR, which came out in 2015. The Charge 5 shaves down the hard angles that have defined the Charge trackers for a more rounded look, and more significantly, it’s the first Charge with a color AMOLED display.
The Charge 5’s screen is 10 percent larger than the Charge 4’s, and can get up to 450 nits bright, up from the Charge 4’s 200 nits. That all means that the screen should be easier to see when you’re outside. And you can also opt to have the display on at all times — which means you won’t have to wait for the screen to light up just to see the time.
Fans of the previous monochrome screen might balk at the change. And I say that as someone who really likes the monochrome on the Charge 4 — it’s nice not having yet another colorful screen to distract me. But I could see how a color screen could make it easier to differentiate between stats and information, which could make the Charge 5 that much more glanceable.
And while the always-on display could also be quite useful, it comes at a significant cost of battery. While Fitbit advertises up-to-seven-day battery life with the Charge 5, that’s with the always-on display turned off. Turning it on cuts that down to just two — much closer to what you might be used to with a more traditional smartwatch than the Charge 5 resembles.
I’m a big fan of the Charge 5’s more rounded look. Gone are many of the hard angles, edges, and geometric shapes of the previous Charge trackers — everything on the Charge 5 looks smoother than it did before. (Though I do wish the Charge 5’s band kept the criss-crossed lines that stand out on the band for the Charge 2, 3, and 4.) The Charge 5 is 10 percent thinner than the Charge 4, meaning it shouldn’t jut out quite as much from your wrist, and I really like the way the sensors on the back of the Charge 5 look to blend in more seamlessly than they do on the Charge 4.
Like the recently-released Fitbit Luxe, the Charge 5 also has a buttonless design, meaning you’ll interact with the device entirely from the touch screen. (Technically, the Charge 3 and Charge 4 didn’t have buttons either, but there was a small indent on the side of those trackers with a capacitive ridge that you could push to wake up the device and feel a little haptic feedback.)
The silver rails on the side of the Charge 5 might look like buttons, but they’re actually sensors that let you take electrocardiogram (ECG) readings to check for signs of atrial fibrillation (which is only available in some countries) and electrodermal activity (EDA) readings to check your body’s response to stress. Both features are also found on the company’s Sense smartwatch line.
Like many other Fitbit devices, the Charge 5 has a host of other health tracking features, like monitoring your heartbeat, your sleep, and your oxygen saturation (SpO2) levels. Fitbit is also announcing a new “Daily Readiness Score” alongside the Charge 5, which seems similar to what’s offered by the Whoop wristband. The Daily Readiness Score suggests different levels of exercise based on your recent activity, sleep, and heart rate variability to make sure that you’re recovering effectively. If your score is higher, Fitbit will recommend more intense activities, but if it’s lower, Fitbit will recommend a lighter workout.
Only Fitbit Premium subscribers, who pay $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, will be able to get a Daily Readiness Score, though the Charge 5 will come with a courtesy six-month subscription to the service if you want to try it out. And it’s not a feature that’s exclusive to the Charge 5; the Fitbit Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Luxe, and Inspire 2 will also be able to give you a Daily Readiness Score when the feature is available this fall.
Like with the Charge 4, the Charge 5 lets you use Fitbit Pay to pay for things with just your Charge 5. You’ll also be able to see notifications on your Charge 5 and reply to notifications from certain apps with quick replies if your Fitbit is paired with an Android device. The Charge 5 can take advantage of Google Fast Pair for speedier setup with an Android device, but the tracker will still work with iOS, despite the fact that Google completed its acquisition of Fitbit in January.
The Charge family has been very successful so far — the company has sold more than 40 million Charges to date, and Fitbit claims one out of every three Fitbit users today wear a Charge fitness tracker. Over time, Fitbit has steadily added features to the Charge line that make them more competitive with smartwatches, such as the much larger screen added to the Charge 2, a touch screen and water resistance in the Charge 3, and a built-in GPS with the Charge 4.
But the new features and design on the Charge 5 come at an increased cost. The Charge 5, which comes in black, silver, and gold color variants, costs $179.95, a $30 jump from the Charge 4. And if you bought bands for the Charge 3 or 4, those won’t be compatible with the 5, which means you’ll have to spend even more to outfit the device with your preferred band.
The new features and higher cost might also make it harder to pick between a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. For $100 more, it could be worth picking up an Apple Watch SE, which offers many of the same health tracking features as a Charge 5 (though no SpO2 tracking), a bigger screen, and much better integration for iPhone users.
If you’ve got a Samsung phone, the new 40mm Galaxy Watch 4 is a compelling option, and at $250, it’s even cheaper than the Apple Watch SE. If you want to stay in the Fitbit world, there’s the $230 Versa 3 or the Fitbit Sense, which is available for $250 on Fitbit’s website and Amazon as I write this.
The Charge 5 seems like it could be a good upgrade to the Charge line, with its color screen, the option of an always-on display, and new rounded design. But one of the benefits of focused fitness trackers versus smartwatches has been that they’re often the cheaper device. And while the Charge 5 is still more affordable than most smartwatches, the price difference isn’t as big as it has been before. Before picking up the Charge 5, you might want to consider whether the extra features in a smartwatch are worth the extra cash.