The Fitbit Charge 4 landed this week, the latest update in a line of Fitbit’s advanced activity band range that started with the Charge back in 2014.
And as we concluded in our review, the Charge 4 is still the best fitness tracker money can buy today– but it’s hard to ignore that the form factor has been largely abandoned, and that Fitbit had an open goal to shoot into.
But the success of the Charge 4 draws a line under the era of fitness trackers in wearable tech, and also lays bare challenges in terms of the smartwatch market that Fitbit seems incapable of overcoming.
Read our verdict: Fitbit Charge 4 review
Just a quick check around the market, and you’ll see there’s barely competition for something as powerful as the Fitbit Charge 4.
We’re not here to bash the Charge 4 or Fitbit. What other device offers VO2 Max, SpO2 blood oxygen tracking, GPS tracking, top-class sleep analysis, auto-workout detection, swim tracking with customisable pool lengths and a fantastic app ecosystem?
But if there was any significant competition at this price point, Fitbit would have improved any number of aspects of the Charge 3’s design – namely the terrible screen, lack of always-on display and made a better fist of features like Spotify controls and workout tracking.
In the world of the fitness band it’s now alone – so advanced that it seems unlikely anyone would complete against it.
The Vivosmart 4 is probably the closest in terms of data, but it has no GPS. The Vivosport tracker does have GPS, but was released in 2017 (!) and is no-where near as advanced. The Huawei Band Pro 3 just doesn’t have the platform to compete – and is also dead in the US until that saga is resolved.
The Samsung Galaxy Fit2 Pro is obsolete, and none of the current Samsung bands offer “advanced” metrics.
The biggest competitors are the likes of Xiaomi Mi Band 4, simply by way of being cheap.
So in this period of uncertainty, the Charge 4 represents Fitbit essentially settling the account it opened – completing the unfinished business of adding GPS into the Charge case – something it should have done years ago.
But it’s the smartwatch is currently undergoing a huge period of innovation – and this is what Google is interested in with its Fitbit buyout – should its deal ever past the Department for Justice.
But bafflingly, the Fitbit Charge 4 is now more complete and powerful than the Fitbit Versa, which has neither GPS or the new Active Zone Minutes.
The Apple Watch Series 5 has ECG, detects dangerous heart rate variations, detects dangerous falls and even noise that could damage your hearing – and there’s rumors it will start to track panic attacks.
Fitbit’s entire DNA is around the fitness tracker, and still in 2020, it pushes its best features to a segment that’s declining to such a degree.
But now the real work has to start. The fitness tracker market has likely reached its high watermark – years ago in terms of interest, and here with the Charge 4 in terms of innovation. But if Fitbit can’t aggressively dominate the smartwatch like it has the fitness tracker, it’s going to really struggle – with Google money or without.