I was pretty excited for the Fitbit Charge 6. I even wrote a post about why I thought it would be the watch for me when it launched and when it did arrive, I chose it over the Pixel Watch 2 as the new Google wearable that would be on my wrist.
And though I like a ton about this new Fitbit, there are two specific pitfalls that make it the wrong watch for someone like me. Take heart, however, if you were interested in the Fitbit Charge 6: it’s still pretty great, and for a lot of people not looking for what I was in a watch, this could be a fantastic, affordable fitness tracker for you.
What I look for in a watch
First, I suppose it is necessary to explain what I look for in a smartwatch or similar wearable. Multitudes of apps or watch faces don’t really concern me as I’m really just looking for the core features in a device that lives on my wrist. Tell me the time, count my steps, show me my heart rate, let me triage my notifications, and let me pay with my wrist when necessary. That’s it.
I know modern fitness trackers and smartwatches are capable of far more, but I don’t really use all of that stuff. Again, like I said in the opening, there’s a good chance you and I don’t align on what we look for in a watch at all. I didn’t wear a watch for many years and I still find rummaging through apps and menus on a watch-sized screen isn’t the best use of my time. I like to stick to the basics.
What I liked about the Fitbit Charge 6
So when I saw what the Fitbit Charge 6 offered, I was very interested. Not being a watch guy, I’m totally fine with something that looks far more like a wristband than a watch on my arm and I love the idea of it being lightweight enough that I forget it is there most of the time.
For this, the Fitbit Charge 6 was great. I wore it on our cruise during fall break and it never bothered me regardless of the activity. I loved that when I needed plenty of battery, switching off the always on display gave me days on end of use and I loved the fact that Fitbit finally has their notifications in a spot where dismissing one on the Charge 6 also dismisses it on my phone. I hated the lack of that feature on my previous Versa watches.
And for this device, Fitbit and Google added in some great Google-y stuff to round out the experience. YouTube Music is here (well, robust controls for it on your phone, anyway) along with Google Maps turn-by-turn and Google Wallet. I don’t use Maps too often on any watch, but having YouTube Music controls on my wrist was helpful on my trip and the promise of Google Wallet was also a big selling point. More on that in a minute.
I also really enjoyed the simplicity of the interface. There aren’t a ton of watch faces, but the standard one it shipped with was great. Tapping through, I could quickly see my battery life, steps, the time, the date, and calories burned for the day. Like other Fitbits, it automatically tracked some exercises like walking automatically and like other Fitbits I’ve owned over the years, I felt confident that it was giving me an accurate readout on my general activity throughout the day.
There are also tons of added sensors and features that, again, I don’t really take advantage of on any watch. I love that they are present if I need them, but things like the included real-time heart rate sensors that can sync to exercise equipment, the ECG app, EDA stress sensors, SpO2 tracking, and sleep tracking are all features I simply don’t use on any device, so I can’t really speak to how well they all work.
What didn’t work for me
However, having only a small set of things I want in a wearable has its drawback. Namely, when any of those things fail to work, it ruins the entire experience for me. And there were two key things that didn’t work as intended that made me eventually decide to go back to my Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
First, the battery life was either amazing or very ho-hum. And it all had to do with the always-on display. When turned off, I could get 6 days easily. When turned on – my preferred setup – I had days where it was dead by bedtime. I did have a couple days where I was headed to bed with about 25%, so it wasn’t exactly one-day use, but for those wanting to track sleep, the always-on option is not a reality.
And that’s off-putting for me. I like to glance down at my wrist to check the time and not having that as an option really felt limiting. Having to overtly raise my arm to check the time feels odd in 2023 and when you are with company, it can really come off as rude. I totally get the always-on display hurting battery, but if it was still a 2-3 day situation, I wouldn’t complain. Forcing the Charge 6 to get only a single day of use just felt a bit silly to me.
Second, and probably most damning for me, was the lack of Google Wallet support I ran into. Sure, Wallet is there to use, but the cards that work currently for me on all smartphones and on the Galaxy Watch 5 and Pixel Watch simply don’t work on the Charge 6. I reached out and confirmed that both my German American debit card and Square Cash card were both unsupported despite being supported in Google Wallet on all my other devices.
I know paying from my wrist isn’t exactly a necessity, but it is one of the few features I do tend to use with other smartwatches, and having it overtly advertised as an option was one of the key factors that made me want the Fitbit Charge 6. I just don’t understand Google Wallet working with certain cards on certain devices and not on others. I was pretty bummed by this.
Still a lot to like
But that’s really it. Those two failings for me are enough to choose to take the Fitbit Charge 6 off my wrist. If some update showed up down the road that extended battery life with the always-on display and made Google Wallet work with my banking cards, I’d be ready to give it another go for sure. I really did like the device overall!
All the good stuff I said about this wearable is still valid and again, I reiterate that having a small list of things I want my watch to do is both a blessing and a curse. But what may be deal-breaking issues for me may not be of any concern to you. I’m sure many of you don’t care about Google Wallet or may have banks that work just fine with the Charge 6. And if you are totally fine with a display that only lights up when you raise your wrist, you may be able to take my issues with this tracker and throw them out the door.
If that is the case, I think the Fitbit Charge 6 is a fantastic fitness tracker and smartwatch alternative. It is Spartan in its feature set and if you are at all like me, you’ll find it almost freeing. While I wish I could say it was a perfect experience with the Charge 6 for me, I simply cannot. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be great for you if you don’t place high value on the stuff that turned me off of it. And for a standard price of $159 (hopefully we’ll see some sales soon), it’s far more affordable than something like the Pixel Watch 2 or an Apple Watch. And that alone may make it worth a look for you.
UPDATED – 11/11/23: Today, Best Buy has added the Fitbit Charge to their 3-Day sale that will last through the weekend. If you act fast, you can snag this awesome fitness tracker for just $99.95, but it will end at midnight on 11/12/23. Just use the buttons found above to get there!