Does the Fitbit Charge 4 have GPS tracking?
In-built GPS tracking is a new feature, that got introduced on Fitbit’s Charge 4 series of fitness trackers.
Prior to this, the Charge fitness trackers did not have in-built GPS tracking. It would rely on your phone’s GPS connection to pull in the locational data. Having GPS tracking capability is one thing; accurate GPS tracking is another thing and the one to be seen. Garmin has been making fitness trackers that produce precise, reliable and robust GPS data. It is not without a reason that most sports enthusiasts prefer Garmin devices over other brands. Reliable data is what separates Garmin with other competitors.
However, for the price, Fitbit Charge 4 is an advanced fitness tracker that performs more than adequately for regular GPS tracking. GPS tracking through the in-built GPS tracking feature on the Charge 4 is the newest addition to the list of capabilities of the Fitbit fitness trackers.
GPS settings on the Fitbit Charge 4 allow you to use any of the 3 GPS settings:
Dynamic – it allows the use of Charge 4’s in-built GPS tracking alongside the GPS tracking afforded by your mobile phone. If the phone is in proximity with the fitness tracker, the Charge 4 uses the GPS data pulled in from the phone. If the fitness tracker loses contact with the phone, it starts making use of the in-built GPS ability of the Fitbit Charge 4 tracker.
The rationale behind dynamic setting of GPS seems to be to preserve battery life. Using in-built GPS functionality is learnt to cause major battery drain. Fitbit Charge 4 claims a 7 days battery life. But, the battery is known to degrade very fast; if and when, you make use of the in-built GPS tracking.
Built-in GPS – Fitbit’s Charge 4 comes with an in-built GPS functionality. This allows the Charge 4 tracker to pull in the GPS data such as the speed, distance and route. The in-built GPS tracking is a resource hog as it consumes considerable amount of battery power to collect data in real time. Some cross country runners have complained that using the in-built GPS tracker caused a battery drain of 50% in a matter of 2 hours. Read Gr4ndP4’s post on the thread to find more about the battery drain on Fitbit Charge 4 when you use the in-built GPS tracking. To fix the battery drain, Fitbit released a software update. While that, seemingly, fixed the battery issue, it seems to have caused issues in terms of accuracy of GPS data. GPS data on offer is not accurate. Post this update, many users have complained about inability of Charge 4 to remain connected on the GPS signal. Basically, the Fitbit Charge 4 drops the GPS connection intermittently. The Fitbit support team advised to
- enable in-built GPS
- enable GLONAS setting on the fitness tracker – this will reduce the time it takes for the fitness tracker to pick the GPS connection.
- disable the ‘low battery power consumption’ mode
Using these 3 settings, the quality of GPS connection improved on a Fitbit Charge 4.
Phone GPS – This is Fitbit Charge 4’s third GPS setting. It allows the Fitbit Charge 4 device to enable collection of GPS data from your paired phone. All distance and speed metrics are pulled in from the connected phone to report GPS tracking data. This setting is battery-friendly and is known to given the wearer a promised battery backup on the Fitbit Charge 4.
Having mentioned all the GPS settings on the Fitbit Charge 4, there are a few points that merit your consideration.
- to improve quality of the GPS connection on a Fitbit Charge 4 (when using the in-built GPS), enable the GLONAS and disable the low battery power consumption mode.
Doubts have been cast over the accuracy of distance data presented by the Fitbit Charge 4 fitness tracker. Runners have complained that the data recorded by the Charge 4 fitness tracker is off by quite a margin when you compare it against distance data recorded by the phone’s GPS tracking system.
This is a known issue with most Fitbit devices. Fitbit measures distance as a combination of GPS signal data and in terms of counting steps. So, if you travel from A to B and back from B to A, Fitbit’s Charge 4 may report different distance data for either direction. The different data is attributed to difference in the number of steps take by the runner in going in either directions; and also because of quality of the available GPS connection. It may sound inaccurate, but this is the way Fitbit calculates distance.
Here is what Fitbit writes on its website about GPS tracking reliability:
All devices with GPS sensors require a direct path to GPS satellites to calculate location. A weak GPS signal might affect the accuracy of your route and other activity data. Your device uses your step count to calculate distance until it finds a signal, so the total distance calculated for a workout may be slightly less accurate when GPS isn't available for the entire time. Here is the link for your reference - https://help.fitbit.com/articles/en_US/Help_article/1136.htm#gps
There is nothing much you can do about it.
If you are looking to upgrade your Charge 3 to Charge 4 for the in-built GPS tracking feature, do consider that there is nothing much that has changed in terms of GPS data offered by Fitbit Charge. In Charge 3, Fitbit would use the phone data and run it through the on-board chip to report distance and other metrics. The process remained the same – counting the number of steps or length of your stride. In Charge 4, you are given multiple options to measure GPS data. But, metrics are calculated the same way as they have been on the Charge 3 devices.
So, if you wish to upgrade Charge 3 to Charge 4 for the GPS tracking, you may save this money and thank me later. And, if your job or role needs absolutely rock solid GPS data, then consider using a Garmin tracker or a Polar GPS tracker.
For others, the quality of GPS data provided by the Fitbit Charge 4 is accurate, with a margin of error of +/- 10 percent.
From this discussion, a few things do get clear. If you need accurate distance data, the quality of GPS signal needs to be good. And, your device needs to be configured to ensure connection does not drop intermittently. Do not forget to enable GLONAS and disable the ‘Low battery power consumption’ mode on the Fitbit Charge 4.
- in-built GPS tracking drains the battery
- distance data recorded by Fitbit Charge 4 may not be as accurate as a Garmin or Polar GPS tracker
- to improve GPS connection quality, configure your Charge 4 fitness tracker to enable GLONAS and disable the low battery power consumption mode.
Finally, for the price at which Fitbit Charge 4 is being sold, the quality of GPS data is acceptable. For absolutely accurate and error-free readings, use a more sensitive and accurate fitness tracker.
Helen is a geeky nerd who seeks to find and fix tech gaps in the latest gadgets. She is always on the lookout for resolving technical queries of users, and is an avid writer on technical subjects.