When I first strapped 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 didn’t had not yet found their purpose. And I have to say, it made me nostalgic for simpler clothes.
The $99.95 Inspire 3 is Fitbit’s new entry-level tracker. The fame of the Inspire line is its affordability and 10-day shelf life. For the third-generation Inspire, Fitbit has added a color OLED display, a change from the monochrome display of previous versions. It’s basically a less luxurious Fitbit Luxe. Instead of a metal casing, the Inspire 3 opts for matte black plastic with inductive buttons on each side. I appreciate the sporty feel of my review unit’s lilac silicone strap, as well as the retro ’90s vibe of Fitbit’s new translucent strap. But if you want to get closer to the chic Luxe vibe, you can opt for more sophisticated bands as well.
My main concern with the new screen is its impact on battery life. Fitbits are known to last several days on a single charge, and the Inspire 2 leads the pack with an estimated 10-day battery life – a figure Fitbit also claims for the Inspire 3. I didn’t get the lucky to put the Inspire 3 through my usual testing regimen, but I can already see that the always-on OLED puts a dent in that claim. With always-on display enabled, I got closer 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% battery. By the time I got home, I had about 10 percent left. Not terrible, but not the 10 days that were promised.
Otherwise, the Inspire 3 reminded me of what I loved about fitness bands in the first place. It’s lightweight, super comfortable to sleep in, and doesn’t over 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 exercise, and most importantly, tracks your step count for the day. With Fitbit Premium, you also get access to more advanced metrics like a daily readiness score and stress tracker, though that’s optional.
You can also pop the Inspire 3 out of its strap and stick it in a handy clip, like you could with the Fitbit One ten years ago. I was surprised how much I loved going back to wearing a glorified pedometer on my belt. I missed heart rate readings when wearing it with the clip on, but it was so unobtrusive that it ultimately didn’t bother me. If all you care about is step tracking, 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.)
In 2022, I don’t think I’ll go back to wearing a fitness band as my primary tracker. I like the readability that large smartwatch screens provide. 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 makes a convincing argument for devices that don’t do more than the essentials. Sometimes all it takes is a gadget to do its job and blend into the background.
Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge
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