Fitbit vs Apple Watch: Which smart tracker should you buy?

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You’re looking for a fitness tracker and you want top-of-the-line, but you’re not sure if you should go with Fitbit or Apple Watch. We have some advice.

When it comes to comparison, it’s difficult to compare all of Fitbit to the singular line of Apple Watch. Fitbit’s trackers come in more than a half-dozen different shapes, sizes, and price ranges, while the Apple Watch technically comes in three (Cellular + GPS, GPS-only, and no GPS). You can’t really compare them, spec-for-spec. You can, however, get a general understanding of what each brand is trying to accomplish with its wearable device and decide which one is right for you. If you can’t decide whether to go with Fitbit or Apple Watch, read on.

Note: This is not a comparison of Apple Watch features vs Fitbit features. It focuses on the fitness aspect of both brands and not the non-fitness extras.

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Fitness tracking

If you’re looking at Fitbit at all, it’s likely because you’re most interested in fitness tracking. Both Apple Watch and Fitbit excel at keeping you informed about every step you take and every beat of your heart. Fitbit has devices that range in features from nothing more than a step tracker to a full-fledged smart fitness device, complete with GPS, heart rate monitor, music storage, and more. Apple Watch has step tracking, heart rate monitoring, GPS, music storage (and streaming with Series 3), and more.

Depending on how much you want to spend, it’s difficult to decide which is better for fitness tracking specifically, Apple Watch or Fitbit.

Apple Watch Series 1 vs Fitbit Surge

Apple Watch Series 1 and Fitbit Surge are most comparable in price and features. Here’s what makes them tick.

Apple Watch Series 1 starts at $249, which is somewhat comparable in price to Fitbit Surge. Series 1 has a heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, and 8GB of on-board storage for apps. It does not support GPS. It also has the benefit of the Apple App Store ecosystem with dozens of health and fitness based apps.
Fitbit Surge costs $199 and has a heart rate sensor, accelerometer, barometer, and more. Though it doesn’t support an app store, it does support the most commonly used features of a smart device, like call and text notifications and a music playback controller.
Fitbit Surge is $50 less at $199, but it does come with less features. In exchange, it is deeply focused on exercise tracking. It even has a feature called “SmartTrack” that automatically recognizes what type of workout you’re doing and logs the activity in your data tracker.

Though the Surge is slightly less expensive and has some robust fitness tracking features, it’s lack of hardware features and additional third-party app support make it less than ideal at that price point. If you want a lot of fitness based hardware and software features, you’re better off spending the extra money on an Apple Watch Series 1.

Apple Watch Series 3 GPS vs Fitbit Iconic

If you’ve got the budget to spend a little more, Fitbit’s latest smart fitness tracker, Iconic, is most comparable in price and features to Apple Watch Series 3 GPS.

Apple Watch Series 3 GPS starts at $329 and has GPS, barometric altimeter, swim-proof, heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, and 8GB of onboard storage. It also has the benefit of the Apple App Store ecosystem with dozens of health and fitness based apps.
Fitbit Iconic costs $30 less at $299 and has GPS, barometric altimeter, swim-proof, heart rate monitor, multi-sport tracking, sleep tracking, and 4GB of onboard storage. It has a dedicated app gallery where third-party developers can create fitness apps specifically for Fitbit, though there is no information at this time how many apps or what type there will be.
Though the price is very comparable, the Fitbit Iconic has a lot of potential to be exactly the kind of fitness-focused device that some people are looking for. It’s also got a lot of the same features that the average smartwatch does, like call and text notifications, NFC payments, music storage, calendar alerts, and more. With a dedicated app gallery, it’s possible that the Iconic will really hit that niche market that fitness buffs have been waiting for.

If you’re all-in on all fitness and don’t care about all the fiddly bits that come with a typical smartwatch like the Apple Watch, the Iconic is poised to become a true smart fitness tracker. As of this writing, it’s untested and the app gallery hasn’t opened yet, but the potential is great. I still recommend the Iconic as a fitness-focused device.

Less features and lower priced Fitbits

If you’re fitness tracking needs are smaller, like you only want to track your steps, or maybe you want to have some fitness-based extras, like swim proof and sleep tracking, or heart rate monitoring and multi-sport tracking, you’ll find about a half-dozen different levels of fitness trackers ranging in price from $60 to $150. They’ve all got some great features, individually, and are all much easier on the pocketbook than an Apple Watch if the only thing you’re interested in is fitness.

Price

Fitbit offers eight different fitness trackers ranging in price from $60 to $300. The most expensive Fitbit is cheaper than the least expensive Apple Watch Series 3 and only $50 more than the entry-level Apple Watch.

If price is your most important concern, then Fitbit is your brand. You’ve got more options and a wider-ranging price scale to fit your needs. It’s not an all-or-nothing kind of experience.

Style

Style is a personal thing. Everyone’s tastes vary. What I think is stylish, you might think is gaudy. Personally, I think the Nike Apple Watch band is weird, but many of my coworkers love it. That being said, it’s hard to imagine that Fitbit has style in mind when designing its devices.

The slim bracelet style Flex 2 and Alta HR are passable, but not stylish. Though, some of the trackers can be encased inside more fashion-forward accessories, like the Flex 2, which can be worn as a gold bracelet or pendant. The Special Edition version of the Charge 2 is probably the best looking of the bunch.

The watch style Fitbit devices are much too large for most women. They look like probation monitors (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but they’re big). The Blaze has a very unusual design and the Iconic really looks like a fitness tracker, not a fashion accessory.

Though on the same token, some would call the Apple Watch ugly. My best friend wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one, no matter what technology it offers.

If you’re truly a dedicated follower of fashion, you probably won’t get a fitness tracker at all unless it’s something you’ll only wear while you work out, in which case you’ll want something less expensive from Fitbit.

If you want to be able to wear your fitness tracker wherever you go, however, you’ll definitely want an Apple Watch. Pair that fancy case with an Herm├Ęs band and you’ll be turning heads at the discotheque.

Sleep tracking

If sleep tracking is your highest priority, then your choice is easy: Fitbit. Apple Watch does not have any special hardware for sleep tracking. There are apps that you can download to help keep a watch on your sleeping, waking, and resting activities throughout the night, but because the Apple Watch battery only lasts about a day with average fitness activities, you’ll want to take it off your wrist and charge it every night, which means it can’t directly track your sleep.

All of Fitbit’s trackers except the Zip feature a sleep tracker and silent alarm, which means it’ll give you a buzz on your wrist in the morning so you don’t wake up your sleeping partner.

Versatility

This guide focuses specifically on the fitness features of the Apple Watch and Fitbit’s devices. But, you can’t talk about either without at least mentioning the additional features that each has. The Fitbit Iconic is the closest thing to a smartwatch the company has. It supports downloaded music, NFC payments, call and text notification, and more. There is an app gallery with third-party apps and a guided breathing tool to help keep your mind relaxed. For some, that’s all the smart features they need.

Apple Watch is almost overloaded with additional features. Sometimes, you can feel bogged down in all the extra software you can add to it. Most people I know that wear an Apple Watch don’t use most of the compatible apps and usually focus on the fitness and notification options. That being said, the Apple Watch has hundreds of apps that run across all different categories beyond fitness, including tiny games you can play on your wrist.

If you only need a few smartwatch features and don’t want to complicate things with a lot of extra software options, the Fitbit Iconic is a better choice for you.

If you love to play with technology and want a wide variety of smartwatch options, definitely go with the Apple Watch.

Should you buy a Fitbit or an Apple Watch?

Covering five different categories; fitness tracking, price, style, sleep tracking, and versatility, here’s the short answer.

Fitness tracking

If you want a lot of fitness hardware options, but can only spend about $250 at the most, get the Apple Watch Series 1.
If money is not an issue and you really want a top-of-the-line dedicated fitness tracker, the Fitbit Iconic is going to fit your needs.
If your fitness tracking needs are minimal, get a less-expensive Fitbit tracker like the One or Flex 2.
Price

As far as price and variety go, Fitbit is the winner. There are eight different trackers that range in price from $60 to $300, so you can pick the one that suits you best without spending a lot of money on features you don’t need.
Style

Style is a personal thing and I can’t honestly tell you which is better. I do think Apple takes fashion into consideration when designing the Apple Watch though. Whereas fashion seems to be more of an afterthought, at best, with Fitbit, especially when it comes to the watches and women. The Apple Watch is most definitely going to look better with an evening gown or tuxedo than any of Fitbit’s devices, especially if you pair it with a really nice band.
Sleep tracking

Fitbit is the clear winner in this category because Apple Watch doesn’t directly track your sleep. Plus, even with a third-party app, the battery life wouldn’t necessarily make it through your sleep cycle.
Versatility

If you want a smartwatch that only does a few things, like let you know when you’ve received a call or text and notify you of upcoming events, you’ll be happier with the minimal features of the Fitbit. It’s got the most-used features of a smartwatch without the unnecessary extras.
If you want to play with all the things a smartwatch can do, and then some, Apple Watch is your brand.
Still undecided?

If, after reading our advice, you still aren’t sure whether you should go with Fitbit or Apple Watch, head over to our forums and ask for some help deciding. iMore readers are some of the most helpful and knowledgeable people around.

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