The Fitbit Charge 4.
There are a lot of band options.
You can make payments now.
The heart rate and SpO2 sensor.
There’s a button on the side.
The screen is still monochrome.
Fitbit is still out there living its life and launching products despite a looming acquisition by Google that could upend the entire company any month now. Today Fitbit announced the Charge 4, the latest in its line of Charge devices that kind of sit at the halfway point between a smartwatch and a basic fitness tracker. The Charge 4 has the same body as the Charge 3, just with updated internals.
You won’t be installing apps or playing music on it anytime soon, but it can sync to your smartphone and show notifications on the greyscale OLED touch screen. The device is mostly focused on fitness features with exercise recognition, an activity dashboard, move reminders, and tracking of just about everything, including your general activity, your heart rate, and sleep tracking.
Some big additions to the Charge 4 seemed designed to let you leave your smartphone at home. The first is an internal GPS for location tracking, which will let you log runs without a phone, but it will also severely cut down on the battery life. Fitbit claims the Charge 4 will last up to seven days if you don’t turn on GPS, but turning on the GPS will cut that time down to five hours, a stunning 97 percent decrease in battery life. To go along with the new location tracking, there are now seven GPS-based exercise modes. Sync the device to the Fitbit app and you’ll see a new “GPS-powered heat map” showing where your toughest workouts were.
The second big addition is NFC, so you can do payments without a phone now through the Fitbit Pay feature. The one smartphone feature the Charge 4 can’t cover is onboard music playback, but it can at least control music playing on a paired phone thanks to new Spotify controls.
The Charge 4 is up for pre-order now for $149, and the device will hit store shelves April 13.
But what will Google do?
Google announced a $2.1 billion buyout of Fitbit in November 2019, but the deal hasn’t closed yet. A big acquisition like this takes months to close, since it needs approval from shareholders and regulatory review. So right now, Fitbit is in a weird acquisition purgatory. It’s an independent company launching its own products, but when Google takes over, how much will change?
As has been well established, Google is not afraid to shut down existing services and kick users off a platform. Existing Fitbit users need to only look at another Google acquisition, Nest, and the clumsy account transition that is happening right now. Google is pestering Nest users to migrate their accounts to Google’s infrastructure, but doing this results in a loss of functionality for their existing devices. The entire “Works with Nest” ecosystem is being shut down as part of this account transition, and that breaks some third-party apps and devices that relied on these APIs.
Google called the Fitbit deal “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market” which doesn’t sound like a strong endorsement of Fitbit’s existing products and services. Nest survived inside Google for years, but Nest was brought on as an independent company at first. Fitbit is not going to be run as an Alphabet company—it’s being absorbed into Google’s hardware division. Since Google hasn’t made any kind of commitment to keep the existing Fitbit services running, any current or future Fitbit customers should be aware that you’re signing up for an uncertain future.
Listing image by Fitbit