Fitbit Inspire 3 hands-on: blast from the past

When I first put on the Fitbit Inspire 3, I felt like I was stepping through a portal to 2015, a time when fitness bands reigned supreme and smartwatches were clunky devices that had yet to find their purpose. And I must say, it made me nostalgic for simpler portable devices.

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-gen Inspire, Fitbit added a color OLED display, a departure from the monochrome display 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 both sides. I appreciate the sporty feel of my review unit’s lilac silicone strap, as well as the 90s retro jelly vibe by Fitbit new translucent band. But if you want to get closer to the chic de Luxe vibe, you can opt for fancier bands also.

That color OLED is a huge step forward. It might sound silly, but adding colors really makes the Inspire 3 feel more modern, while the brighter screen makes notifications and metrics more readable. Plus, you get a larger variety of watch faces. That said, the new screen also has its limitations. Mainly, just like with the Luxe, the bezels on this thing are enormous – the OLED panel only takes up about half of the vertical space on the front. The rest is all bezel. You only notice it when you look at the screen at an angle, but then you can’t take your eyes off it.

My main concern with the new screen is how it affects battery life. Fitbits are known for lasting several days on a single charge, and the Inspire 2 led the pack with an estimated 10 days of battery life, a figure Fitbit also claims for the Inspire 3. I haven’t had a chance to put the Inspire 3 through my usual testing regimen yet, but I can already see that the always-on OLED makes a dent in that 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 your charger. For the ride, I disabled AOD and left with around 85 percent battery. When I returned home, I had about 10 percent left. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the promised 10 days.

Close-up of inductive buttons on Fitbit Inspire 3

Fitbit has always had some of the best sleep tracking among wearables, and I’m excited to see how well their new profiles work. The profiles are named after animals and are meant to give you some additional insight into what kind of sleeper you are. The problem is that it needs to track sleep for at least 14 days out of a month, and I’ve only had this for about a week and a half. Once you record the required sleep data, you should be able to see metrics detailing your sleep patterns and get advice on how to improve your sleep hygiene. On paper, it’s pretty similar to what Samsung recently unveiled with the Galaxy Watch 4 lineup, the Galaxy Watch 5 and watch galaxy 5 pro.

Otherwise, the Inspire 3 has reminded me of what I loved about fitness bands in the first place. It’s lightweight, super comfortable to sleep in, and doesn’t overcomplicate things. It won’t help you control your smart home, but it does provide basic notifications, lets you set alarms and timers, can track exercises, and most importantly, tracks your step count for the day. With Fitbit Premium, you also get access to more advanced metrics like a daily fitness score and stress tracking, though that’s optional.

You can also remove the Inspire 3 from your wristband and clip it onto a handy clip accessory, just like you could with the Fitbit One a decade ago. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed wearing a glorified pedometer on my waist again. I missed the heart rate metrics when I used it with the clip, but it was so unobtrusive that I ultimately didn’t care. If all you care about is tracking steps, this is a great way to stay active. (Everything old is new again. Newer trackers like the Whoop 4.0 also allow you to wear trackers on other parts of your body or on clothing.)

Fitbit Inspire 3 in the clip accessory on a colorful pillow

The best part is that you can forget you’re wearing the Inspire 3 at all. I wasn’t constantly looking at my wrist for anything other than the time. And even if I don’t get 10 days of charge with the Inspire 3, it lasts long enough that I don’t have to wonder when I’m going to recharge the battery. It’s a more passive experience than what 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 stuck with my old Fitbit Alta HR for so long.

In 2022, I don’t think I’ll ever use a fitness band as my primary tracker again. I like the legibility that larger smartwatch screens offer. And I admit it: I’m addicted to smart features. However, the Inspire 3’s combination of affordability and simplicity is a refreshing change of pace. It makes a compelling case for devices that No do more than the basics. Sometimes it’s enough for a gadget to do its job and blend in with the background.

Photograph by Victoria Song/The Verge

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