Backlight FTW

Three friends working out while wearing Fitbit Charge 5
Photo by Fitbit

I have been using Fitbits since 2012. I can't even remember what the first model I bought even was? The purchase wasn't really to track my steps or my overall health, back then I was a lot more active than I am now. This is to be expected, as the younger me had loads more energy and a great deal less responsibility and obligations to distract from daily workouts; sometimes twice a day! Gotta make sure I balance out the cardio with some lifting right? Don't wanna get too slim!

I digress. My most recent Fitbit was a model in the Charge lineup. The Charge series was originally released in 2014. I started using a hand-me-down Charge 2 from my father-in-law after my beloved Fitbit Flex 2 stopped working.

Flex 2

I remember staying away from Fitbits and smart tracking devices for a little while because I was feeling overwhelmed by all the notifications. Old-school regular watches were now my thing. I just wanted something that told me the time and that was it. Plus I couldn't wear these smart devices at work anyway, so what was the point? I ended up getting a Fitbit Flex 2 because it was a wristband with four lights. I think it was four, maybe five? Either way, it was hyper-minimally intrusive; those "Live Strong" silicone bracelets were larger than this thing.

Fitbit Flex 2
Photo by Fitbit

It was also waterproof, a big deal back when most smart trackers were not waterproof. This meant that I could go swimming and all that exercise would be counted toward my step-goals. Owning a Fitbit again also allowed me to compete and be a part of the Fitbit community, one of the most useful parts of owning a Fitbit IMHO.

Charge 2 & 3

The Fitbit Flex 2 had its issues, and I had to call up Fitbit customer service to ask them for help with my device. They were/are awesome and sent me a replacement charger first, then when that didn't work they sent over a new tracking device. Eventually, that one failed too. My father-in-law had just upgraded to a Charge 3 so he sent over his old Charge 2 for me to use.

Fitbit Charge 3
Photo by Fitbit

The Charge 2 was a significant step up from the very simple and minimalistic Flex 2. My new hand-me-down tracker had a full LCD screen that conveyed a lot more than a few single led lights could. The Charge 2 did not have water resistance, so I was unable to use it for swimming. The Charge 2 served me well for a time until I was gifted the newer Charge 3. This upgrade gave me back the water resistance and a snappier interface.

The Trackerless Time

a clock on the wall
Photo by Renel Wackett / Unsplash

Like most new and shiny things, especially lots of technology, the Charge 3 began to lose its luster. It still worked fine and tracked my steps, workouts, sleep, and heart rate, but the screen just wasn't as bright as it used to be. When outside in sunlight, forget about reading anything useful from the screen. I had to pull out my cell phone to check the time because I could not see the time on the Charge 3 tracker.  

I eventually just wore a watch and only a watch. The watch would tell me the time, and that was it. And I was content with uninstalling the Fitbit app and just not knowing my steps or sleep statistics and just telling the time was enough.

The Child

The Mandalorian and Grogu in bed reading Green Eggs and Ham.
Photo by Din Djarin / Unsplash

My wife and I were blessed with our first child. When I look at her I want to be around to see her grow and be a part of her life for as long as possible. I think this fact encouraged me to get my Charge 3 back out, backlight issues, and all to start keeping tabs on my health and movement again.

Plus, when I try to carry her, I don't need an obtrusive watch possibly scratching her, and the low profiles of the tracker-style bands do not get in the way at all. I bought a small "holster" for the Charge 3, that I could clip into a pocket or on the waist of my pants to keep tracking steps, but since the FitBit was designed to be worn on the wrist, the tracking was all over the place and highly inaccurate IMHO.

Charge 5

Fitbit Charge 5
Photo by Fitbit

I think it was a valentines day sale, but I was able to get a Fitbit Charge 5 for a pretty good price. Around ~$120 or something like that? The big lure for upgrading from the Charge 3 was for the better backlight.

Hillarious? Yes. Worth it? A resounding yes! Needing to pull out a phone to check the time and not being able to track the stats of a workout was really irritating. Using the stats and incremental progress to encourage more steps and to keep working out is big in motivating me to get up and go do it.

Even as I sit here typing this my Charge 5 is buzzing me telling me to get up and move around. And thanks to the new color screen with a very strong backlight, I have no issues seeing what the tracker is buzzing me about. Good stuff.

One of the big drawbacks I have read about and watched videos about online is the GPS on the Charge 5 isn't the best. Something like when tracking GPS, the heart rate tracking gets more inaccurate, or once you get the heart rate tracking working right, the GPS gets wonky. See the video below:

I personally have not noticed any issues, but then again, I do not comb through my stats or GPS routes. I have only gone running a few times in a typical circle in my neighborhood and the GPS and heart rate have appeared to be ok in all of those handfuls of tracked instances.  


man sitting on bed wearing Fitbit Charge 5 checking his phone
Photo by Fitbit

I would imagine that if you were into tracking GPS and heart rate over longer runs than I have performed (~3 miles), you would be looking into a more serious/hardcore fitness tracker. But for me to track my overall movement throughout the day and to track my workouts, the Charge 5 with much-improved backlight over the Charge 3 definitely does the trick for me.

If you fall into the same category that I do and want a strong social aspect and a clean interface to efficiently and accurately track your workouts without needing to recharge batteries nightly, the Charge 5 from Fitbit might just be the tracker for you.

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