Even as recently as 2018, choosing between a smartwatch and an activity tracker was quite simple. If you had over Rs 15,000 you could invest in a smartwatch and an activity tracker was your best bet at a sub 15,000 or 10,000 price point. A lot has changed in the Indian wearable market since I checked out Fitbit’s first major India launch – the Charge HR, back in 2015.

The wearable landscape:

Fitbit

Brands like Amazfit and Noise have shaken up India’s booming wearable market. IDC’s India market numbers for 2020 revealed a whopping 144.3% YOY growth for the wearable category (that includes watches, wristbands and earwear). Smartwatches were one of the key drivers for this growth with a 139.3% growth. But what really defines a smartwatch? That’s a question that many consumers continue to grapple with. Is it just a larger screen, in effect a connected wearable that looks like a watch on your wrist or is it a device with multiple Apps that allow you to get more stuff done without your mobile screen?

Brands like Apple, Samsung and Fitbit will argue that a smartwatch is more than just watch faces, workout tracking and features. That’s because their smartwatches have a Watch ecosystem of sorts, especially Apple’s Wear OS. Even though Amazfit’s smartwatches don’t have too many Apps they’re still billed as smartwatches. Fitbit’s new Charge 5 reopens that debate and makes the strongest case for an activity tracker over a smartwatch. But it’s a tough sell given the plethora of smartwatches with gorgeous displays in the Rs 10,000 – 15,000 price band.

An activity tracker or more?

Fitbit

The Charge 5 is easily one of the best looking trackers out there. Design-wise, it’s a big step up from it’s predecessor (the Charge 4). It’s finished in aluminium, the OLED display is bigger (1.04-inches) and brighter (326 PPI). Visibility is great even under direct sunlight, this was a major issue with earlier Fitbit trackers. Battery life varies if you opt for the ‘always-on display’ option. You should manage a week on standard mode. We checked out the platinum coloured band with a steel blue silicon band. There’s also a soft gold and graphite case option. It’s easy to swap straps with the new design. Fitbit has a bunch of cool optional straps that you can use to customise your appearance. There are no hard keys on the Charge 5. You have to navigate with a series of swipes that becomes quite easy after a couple of days with the watch. The display is also very responsive compared to its predecessors. Aside from customisable watch faces, the Charge 5 doesn’t get the same smartwatch functionality as Fitbit’s Sense or Versa 3. You can’t link up with Spotify or store music and there are no additional apps.

Loaded with wellness features:

Fitbit

Fitbit’s premium positioning for the Charge 5 is built on a couple of pillars. First there’s Fitbit Premium that offers drill-down data on a host of parameters. You get a six-month free trial offer after which it’s Rs 999 (For an annual subscription). The most useful input on Fitbit Premium in my trials is the Daily Readiness Score that recommends how hard you should work out. There’s in-built GPS in case you decide to leave your smartphone behind for a run. The Charge 5 brings quite a few wellness features that are available on the top-of-the-line Fitbit Sense. There’s SpO2 tracking that works even better than the Fitbit smartwatches – you don’t need to get a specific watch face to track it; it is measured automatically. There’s an EDA sensor (for stress levels) as well as a temperature sensor that measures skin temperature variation.

Just like the Fitbit Sense, all this data can be overwhelming but once you’ve figured how to use it, it’s quite handy. Fitbit has just added an ECG app to the Charge 5. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a test that records the timing and strength of the electrical signals that make the heartbeat. I tried it a few times and it’s seamless. All you have to do is strap it on and hold both sides of the frame for 30 seconds.

Fitbit’s Charge 5 is not just the brand’s best tracker ever, it’s probably the most advanced you can buy right now. But is it for you? That might boil down to what you’re looking for in a wearable. If you prefer to hold on to your heirloom watch or fashion watch for your left wrist and strap on your Charge 5 on your right hand, this might the perfect choice for you. It’s the ideal size and heft, unobtrusive and feather light.

Bottomline:

What we like: Raft of wellness features including on-demand ECG, premium build, built-in GPS, battery life.

What can be better: no altimeter, pricey

The Fitbit Charge 5 costs Rs 14,999 and comes in three colourways