Fitbit is back with the Charge 6 — and on paper, this one feels like the most Fitbit-y Fitbit since Google actively began folding the company into its ecosystem. Not only has the price been lowered from $179.95 to $159.95 but the device also adds an improved heart rate tracking algorithm, compatibility with certain gym machines, and better integration with Google services. Oh, and the side button is back, baby.
At first glance, the Charge 6 looks nearly identical to the Charge 5, with the most notable difference being the aforementioned return of the side button. But that’s huge. Fitbit replaced the physical button with an inductive groove with 2018’s Charge 3, and its reliability (or lack thereof) has been a point of contention for users ever since. While Fitbit also brought buttons back on the Versa 4 and Sense 2 last year, the Charge has been one of its longest-lasting and most beloved product lineups. Six years is a long time to wait for this button’s glorious return, but better late than never.
However, there is one caveat. I, and several other publications, had been under the impression that this was a physical button. After initial publication, Google reached out to clarify that the side button is not mechanical. Instead, it is a haptic button that gives feedback when you press it. Because I haven’t gotten hands-on time with the Charge 6 yet, I can’t say what that really means and how it’ll differ from the inductive groove. Philosophically, this opens a lot of questions as to the definition of a button — but we’ll just have to see.
The Fitbit Charge 6 will be compatible with NordicTrack and Peloton machines. Image: Google / Fitbit
Otherwise, the sensors remain unchanged from its predecessor and include an optical heart rate monitor, accelerometer, built-in GPS and GLONASS, SpO2, temperature sensor, and “multipurpose electrical sensors” for electrodermal activity (EDA) and EKG readings for stress tracking and advanced heart health alerts.
Most of the Charge 6’s updates are software-related — a running theme with most wearables this fall. Fitbit says the Charge 6 features the most accurate heart rate sensing of its fitness bands, with up to a 60 percent improvement on intense activities like HIIT, spinning, and rowing. The device takes measurements once per second during exercise and once every five seconds outside of workouts. Accuracy claims are impossible to evaluate based on specs alone, so we’ll have to see how it fares in real life.
Another fitness-focused update: the Charge 6 can now pair with certain gym machines over Bluetooth to let them track your heart rate. At launch, that will include the latest models from popular brands like NordicTrack and Peloton as well as Concept2 and Tonal. According to Fitbit, more partners may be on the way. Fitbit is playing a bit of catch-up on this front. Apple Watches have long been able to integrate with gym equipment via GymKit, and Garmin has numerous accessories that can pair over ANT Plus and Bluetooth. That said, it’s still a convenient and welcome addition.
The Charge 6 will be available in an all-black version, silver with a white band, and gold with a coral band. Image: Google / Fitbit
As for apps, the Charge 6 gets both Google Maps and Google Wallet. With the former, the Charge 6 now lets you view turn-by-turn directions from the wrist. The tracker will also allow you to control YouTube Music from the wrist. That said, this functions more like a remote control than onboard music because it doesn’t support offline playlists. Plus, you’ll need a YouTube Music Premium subscription. This fills part of the gap left by Fitbit’s decision last year to remove access to Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer, as well as the ability to transfer music from your computer, but it doesn’t exactly make up for the fact that there used to be multiple music options and now there’s just YouTube Music.
If that seems a bit like shepherding people into the Google-verse… it is. Buying a Charge 6 also means you’ll have to migrate your Fitbit data over to a Google account to use the device. (New users won’t have a choice, so this mainly impacts existing Fitbit users.) The sole exception is those with Fitbit Guardian accounts to manage devices for their children or other family members. Migration will be mandatory by 2025, but if you haven’t yet and are looking to upgrade, you may have to make the choice sooner than anticipated.
It’ll be interesting to see where the Charge 6 falls within the spectrum of Google and Fitbit wearables. Last year’s launches were a bit of a mess as Google nerfed some legacy smart features from the Versa 4 and Sense 2 while also omitting longtime Fitbit features from the Pixel Watch. It made for a confusing lineup, exacerbated by server issues and the elimination of Challenges and other social features earlier this year. Some of that has since been addressed via software updates, but amid all that change, it’s kind of nice to see a clearer delineation between products this year: a simpler Charge 6 for those who want no-nonsense fitness bands, and a Pixel Watch 2 for folks who want a smartwatch experience. (Though we’ll have to wait until we have the devices in hand to see how that line between Fitbit and Google product identities holds up.)
The Fitbit Charge 6 will cost $159.95 and is available for preorder starting today in all black, silver with a white band, and gold with a coral band. The devices are expected to ship on October 12th.
Correction, 12:35PM ET: Fitbit and Google reached out to clarify that the side button is a haptic button, not a mechanical one. The article has been updated to reflect that. We regret the error.