Still photography of Fitbit Charge 5.

Fitbit gives its activity trackers a new look and style in the form of the Charge 5, bringing in additional features that make it almost like a smartwatch. The Charge line has long been Fitbit’s premium choice for its activity trackers, and that remains a fact with this launch.

While not quite a smartwatch, the Charge 5 does come close to acting like one, and that means newer features that weren’t previously available on a Fitbit activity tracker. For starters, Fitbit says the Charge 5 is 10% thinner with a screen twice as bright as the Charge 4. It retains just about everything that model offered, plus other features that were introduced in the Versa and Sense smartwatch lines.

Lifestyle photo of Fitbit Morgan.

New features in the Fitbit Charge 5

This device has a screen with more rounded corners, and is an AMOLED, which should have a positive impact on battery life. It’s also a full colour display, moving away from the monochrome screens of past Charge models. You can leave the screen always on, like you could with a watch, so as not to touch anything just to see the time, for instance. That, however, will affect battery life the most.

Like the more recent Fitbit Luxe, the Charge 5 has no buttons, nor the capacitive touch panel on the side, like previous models had. Instead, Fitbit made room on the side for sensors to measure ECG (electrocardiogram) and EDA (electrodermal activity). Note that that the ECG won’t be available in Canada just yet. Fitbit says it will be “soon” but it’s unlikely to be when the device launches this fall.

There’s also an SpO2 sensor to measure blood oxygen, which is good to have while sleeping. Plus, you get built-in GPS for tracking distance on runs, walks and hikes. And that’s all on top of the heart rate monitor and exercise tracking you get with this new tracker.

Daily Readiness

This is also a new feature that tries to provide insight into how you should be working out to get fitter and healthier. It generates a “Daily Readiness Score” based on how active you’ve been, how you’ve slept, and your heart rate variability. The score actually has just as much to do with recovery as actual movement. Fitbit says recovery is often overlooked for those who try to stay active, and this is one way to try tackling that.

If you score higher, the Fitbit app may recommend a more intense workout. If you score lower, then it may suggest something lighter so you don’t overexert or hurt yourself. The catch is that you can only access Daily Readiness as a Fitbit Premium subscriber. The Charge 5 comes with a free six-month subscription, though you will have to pay to go beyond that.

It’s also not a feature you only get with the Charge 5. Fitbit says the Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Inspire 2, and Luxe are all compatible.

Style and battery life

There are new bands to go with the new tracker, and that also means any bands or straps you bought for the Charge 3 or 4 won’t fit here. To offset that, Fitbit will have a number of different bands made from various materials, like silicone, fabric, leather and metal. And if Fitbit doesn’t make it, rest assured another vendor will.

As for battery life, Fitbit claims up to seven days per charge, but that’s only if you leave the screen off. If you enable always-on, it may hit two days per charge. That’s more on par with a smartwatch, blurring the line for the Charge 5 even more.

Coming soon

The Fitbit Charge 5 is available for pre-order now, and will be available this fall.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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