Fitbit and Apple are two of the biggest names to consider if you've been thinking about buying a new smartwatch or fitness tracker – but which is the right one for you? We're here to guide you through the key differences between the two brands, and equip you with the facts you need to make an informed choice.
Much of the world is still in some form of lockdown, and the upcoming console launches may render you or your other half glued to a screen for many an evening. All of these factors may just prompt you to look at something that could help with something as little as standing up every hour, or changing your exercise routine completely.
Thankfully, smartwatches are the companion to have in 2020, motivating us for most of this year to get those steps in when possible, monitor our stress levels and heart health, and take steps to improve our overall wellbeing.
But for a first time buyer, it could be a smartwatch-minefield of where to start, or even to upgrade from. With that, here’s some help in choosing the right smartwatch for you. From the current Apple Watch models to the latest Fitbits, we have you covered.
It’s been five years since the first Apple Watch was released (alongside the $10,000 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition), and since then it’s seen a course correction from a focus of apps for the device, to focusing primarily on your health.
Currently there are three models available directly from Apple:
All three use Apple's latest operating system for wearables, WatchOS 7, which introduced new watch faces, and much faster animations, so everything feels snappier, alongside sleep-tracking and even hand-washing detection.
Your Apple Watch's battery life mainly depends on how often you will use the fitness features throughout the day, but as soon as you put it in at 8am and then come back to watch Netflix at 7pm, you will usually be left with 40% charge remaining.
This will be further extended on the Series 3 and SE due to them not having the always-on screen of the Series 6.
There are a ton of features that you can cater to your needs, including a raft of activity-tracking options, plus on-board GPS so you can leave your phone at home and still record your runs, swims and rides.
Alongside this, if you know of others who also have an Apple Watch, you can see their fitness goals throughout the day, and even compete with them over a seven day period.
Better yet, exclusive fitness goals appear during the month, to further challenge you on the tasks you usually take part in. From swimming, to walking, and strength-goals, they’re all here.
Another great feature, which is exclusive to the Apple Watch SE and Series 6, is fitness detection. If you're 10 minutes into a walk for example, the Watch will display a prompt asking whether you want to track it. Those first 10 minutes will already be logged if you choose 'Yes', meaning your entire journey will be tracked. It's a very handy feature, and means that even if you're just running errands and wouldn't normally think to activate tracking, it will still count towards completing your daily Rings.
Towards the end of the 2020, Apple is also bringing out a new service called Fitness Plus, which will let you work your way through workout sessions led by professional coaches that you can curate to suit your needs. The price is $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$14.99 a month, but existing Apple Watch owners will get a month free, and new owners will get three months.
It’s best to see the three Apple Watch versions as good, better, and best. All are fundamentally excellent smartwatches that benefit from a mature operating system, so it's a matter of balancing your budget against their features.
The Series 3 is a great entry point for those who want an Apple Watch with a heart rate feature, at the lowest price. But it’s a design that’s already outdated, with a smaller screen than the others and unavailable watch faces that are only accessible on later devices.
The SE is a great in-between option. It includes the features of the Series 4 onward, though it omits the ECG, so if you want an Apple Watch that can detect irregular heart rhythms then you won’t get it here. It's another excellent entry-level device though, if you can afford to spend a little more.
The Apple Watch 6 gives you a lot more features for measuring your health and wellbeing, including blood oxygen monitoring, plus an on-demand ECG, for a significantly higher price. Fitness is the primary function of the Apple Watch in 2020, so if that's your main concern then you won’t go far wrong here.
It’s hard to believe that the first product Fitbit released back in 2009 was a clip-on device that only measured steps and sleep. Now there multiple varieties of Fitbit available to suit many different groups of customers.
The company made waves in creating smartwatches with fitness as a priority, and it came to a head last year where Google announced it was buying Fitbit to bolster its wearable armory. They're not just for Android, though; Fitbit devices also work with iOS, making them a great choice whichever handset you use.
From basic activity tracks for monitoring your heart rate and step count to fully-fledged smartwatches, there’s a Fitbit for everyone. As we’re talking about the Apple Watch here, the closest products that rival it are the newly launched Fitbit Versa 3 and the Fitbit Sense.
Fitbit Versa 3
The Fitbit Versa 3 is the more affordable of the two Fitbit smartwatches, and is an excellent alternative to the Apple Watch 3 or SE for Android device owners. You can respond to notifications from Facebook, messages and email, make contactless purchases with Fitbit Pay, control your Spotify playlist, track workouts and more, all from your wrist.
Alongside the hundreds of watch faces that can be enabled on the device, there’s also a variety of colours to choose from:
- Midnight / Soft Gold
- Pink Clay / Soft Gold
The Fitbit Sense is the higher-end of Fitbit's two new smartwatches, with a similar design but a more advanced feature set to monitor your health and wellbeing. Alongside the features of the Versa, it has the first electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor, which can detect signs of stress based on changes in your skin's conductivity. It can also detect variance in skin temperature, which can be a sign of an upcoming illness, plus your heart rate and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2).
The colours to choose from are:
- Carbon / Graphite Stainless Steel
- Lunar White / Soft Gold Stainless Steel
Both the Fitbit Sense and the Versa 3 offer a six-day battery life (though the exact duration will vary depending on the features you use), with a minimum of a 12 minute charge to keep you going for the rest of that day.
This is where Fitbit shines; once the app is downloaded onto your phone, simply sync your device and a wealth of health and fitness data will be available at your fingertips - all presented in a format that's clear and easy to interpret. In addition to heart rate, sleep and activity metrics logged by your Fitbit device, you can also use the app to log your hydration, set weight goals, log food, and track your menstrual cycle.
If you're mostly interested in tracking your fitness, it's worth noting the the Sense and the Versa 3 aren't your only options. Fitbit also offers a wide range of activity trackers that are more specialized, but also much more affordable. If you only want to track workouts and heart rate, a device like the Fitbit Inspire 2 or a Charge 4 with a small screen for monitoring your vital stats could be ideal.
Apple Watch or Fitbit
If you're still not sure, the decision comes down to a few factors. If you use an iPhone, it makes perfect sense to complement it with an Apple Watch. You gain features that are exclusive to the Watch, such as Siri and deep integration with iOS.
Currently, Apple is leading the way in the smartwatch market, and the current lineup of Apple watches are great all-rounders that benefit from a mature operating system, long-term support from Apple, and a wide range of apps. Although they don't focus on health as much as Fitbit's devices, their workout tracking features and Apple's upcoming Fitness Plus subscription service encourages you to go that extra mile and consider the effects of your lifestyle on your wellbeing.
If you’re using an Android phone, a Fitbit device is the one to go for, especially now that the company is due to be purchased by Google. Google's own foray into the smartwatch scene with WearOS never took off, so Fitbit-branded Google watches could be something to look out for next year, and we're sure to see closer integration between the two in future.
Fitbit's heritage in workout tracking and health makes its devices a good choice if you're particularly interested in monitoring your workouts and cardivascular health. The Fitbit Versa 3 offers you a similar feature set to the Apple Watch SE, alongside the SpO2 feature that the SE model lacks. Its lower price might also be enough to tempt iPhone users.
If you're interesting in practicing mindfulness, the Sense's stress tracking, mood logging and breathing exercises could make it the best device for you, helping you manage the pressure of life in 2020.
Overall, the decision is yours; it just depends on the phone you have and how much tracking your fitness means to you.