Fitbit Inspire 3 practical: a blast from the past

When I wore the Fitbit Inspire 3 for the first time, it felt like I was walking through a portal to 2015, back in a time when fitness bands reigned supreme and smartwatches were clunky devices that hadn’t yet found their purpose. And I have to say, it made me yearn for simpler wearables.

The $ 99.95 Inspire 3 is Fitbit’s new entry-level tracker. The Inspire line’s claim to fame is its affordable price and 10-day battery life. For the third-generation Inspire, Fitbit added a color OLED display, a departure from the monochrome screen of previous versions. It’s essentially a less luxurious Fitbit Luxe. Instead of a metal case, the Inspire 3 opts for matte black plastic with inductive buttons on either side. I appreciate the sporty feel of my review unit’s lilac silicone band, as well as the retro ’90s jelly vibe of Fitbit’s new translucent band. But if you want to get closer to the chic vibe of the Luxe, you can also opt for more imaginative bands.

That OLED color is a big step forward. It might sound silly, but the addition of colors really makes the Inspire 3 more modern, while the brighter display makes notifications and metrics more readable. Plus, you get a greater variety of clock faces. That said, the new screen also has its limitations. Mostly, just like with the Luxe, the bezels on this thing are huge – the OLED panel takes up only about half of the vertical space on the front. The rest is all bezel. You only notice this by looking at the display from an angle, but then you can’t miss it.

My primary concern with the new display is how it affects battery life. Fitbits are known to last several days on a single charge, and the Inspire 2 led the pack with an estimated battery life of 10 days, a figure that Fitbit also claims for the Inspire 3. I haven’t had a chance to put the Inspire 3 through the my usual testing regime yet, but I can already see that the always-on OLED undermines this claim. With the always-on display enabled, I got close to three days on a single charge. I also took the Inspire 3 on a four day business trip without its charger. For the trip, I disabled AOD and left with about 85 percent battery. When I got home, I had about 10 percent left. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the 10 days that were promised.

Close up of inductive buttons on Fitbit Inspire 3

Fitbit has always had the best sleep tracking among wearables, and I’m excited to see how its new profiles work. Profiles are named after animals and are meant to give you an extra idea of ​​what kind of sleeper you are. Problem is, you have to track sleep for at least 14 days out of a month – and I’ve only had this thing for about a week and a half. Once you’ve logged the required sleep data, you should be able to view metrics detailing your sleep patterns and get tips on how to improve sleep hygiene. On paper, it’s quite similar to what Samsung recently introduced with the Galaxy Watch 4, Galaxy Watch 5, and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro range.

Otherwise, the Inspire 3 reminded me of what I liked about fitness headbands in the first place. It’s lightweight, super comfortable for sleeping, and doesn’t overly complicate things. It won’t help you control your smart home, but it does provide basic notifications, lets you set alarms and timers, can track your exercises, and best of all, track your step count for the day. With Fitbit Premium, you also have access to more advanced metrics like a daily readiness score and stress tracking, though it’s optional.

You can also take the Inspire 3 off the strap and slip it into a handy dandy clip, just like you did with the Fitbit One ten years ago. I was surprised how much I enjoyed getting back to wearing a glorified pedometer on my belt. I missed heart rate metrics when I wore it with the clip, but it was so discreet that I didn’t mind in the end. If all you care about is step tracking, this is a neat way to keep yourself active. (Everything old is new again. Newer trackers like Whoop 4.0 also allow you to wear trackers on other parts of your body or on clothing.)

Fitbit Inspire 3 in the clip attachment on a colorful cushion

The best part is you can forget that you are fully wearing Inspire 3. I wasn’t constantly looking at my wrist for anything other than the hour. And while I don’t have 10 days of charge with the Inspire 3, it lasts long enough that I don’t have to ask when I’m going to recharge the battery. It’s a more passive experience than I get with my Apple Watch, but that’s not always a bad thing, especially if your main goal is to reduce distractions. In fact, I found myself remembering why I stayed with my old Fitbit Alta HR for as long as I did.

In 2022, I don’t think I’ll go back to wearing a fitness band as my primary tracker. I like the readability afforded by the screens of larger smartwatches. And I admit it: I’m addicted to smart features. However, the Inspire 3’s blend of affordability and simplicity is a refreshing change of pace. It’s a compelling case for devices that Not do more of the basics. Sometimes, it is enough for a gadget to do its job and blend in with the background.

Photograph by Victoria Song / The Verge

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