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Fitbit's just made its first big mistake of 2024 – are its devices still worth buying?

 Fitbit Charge 5.
Fitbit Charge 5.

Reports are surfacing that Fitbit Charge 5 devices are being rendered “unusable” recently, allegedly by Fitbit’s most recent firmware update, with one of the most common complaints being a shortened battery life. Not all Charge 5s are affected, but there have been outcries from hundreds of users that are left with a dud device, although Fitbit has flat-out denied it’s because of the most recent firmware update.

It’s a shame, because the Fitbit Charge 5 was, for a long time, one of the best Fitbits you can buy before it was replaced in its range by the updated Fitbit Charge 6, which is a fine fitness tracker, but didn’t review as well. With many Charge 5s going down after the firmware update, some users are self-reporting being offered up to 35% off the price of a new Fitbit Charge 6.

Unfortunately, this first gaff of 2024 comes hot on the heels of a very disappointing 2023. Underwhelming releases (apart from the excellent Google Pixel Watch 2), controversies over the handling of sensitive health data, and the fury over the redesigned app and gutted community features have left Fitbit in a very different state than it was when Google acquired it. Existing Fitbit users have been at the brunt of this gradual decline, and still are - most Charge 5 owners are legacy Fitbit users, as it’s a much older device.

Of course, this isn’t to say Fitbit is totally worth investing in if you’re thinking of buying one in 2024. The Google Pixel Watch 2 smartwatch and Fitbit Inspire 3 fitness tracker both reviewed very well, with the latter being a great choice for people looking for a cheap, reliable way to track health and fitness metrics without forking out lots of cash for one of the best smartwatches.

A phone on a green background showing the Fitbit app
A phone on a green background showing the Fitbit app

The Fitbit app, although it has axed some legacy features, is still very usable for new joiners even without paying for the additional Fitbit Premium content. Getting a Fitbit Inspire 3 remains a great way to help you get active, and record your progress.

While Fitbit’s recent track record doesn’t inspire confidence, the basic Fitbit Inspire 3, the stylish Luxe, the excellent Versa 3 and its flagship Pixel Watch 2 remain fantastic devices, so there’s plenty to like about Fitbit still. We’d say these devices, along with the Charge 6, are still worth buying, and Fitbit Premium remains an outstanding service. However, Fitbit’s obstinate denial that there is a widespread problem with Charge 5 devices is just adding fuel onto the mounting fire of distrust, driving existing users away and causing itself problems down the line.

Fitbit is no longer synonymous with fitness tracking in the same way it was when it debuted in 2009, especially now it’s got renewed competition not just from smartwatches, but also the best smart rings and the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Fit 3.

Google will have to fight hard to keep its market share in the face of such competitors, producing high-quality devices, and high-quality content for its apps, and generally ensuring its output is of an excellent standard. Bricking hundreds of copies of one of its best devices isn’t the best start, and if the last couple of years is anything to go by, Google has started as it means to go on.

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