Apple watch vs Fitbit

10:36 AM


 

If you are an Apple user who decided to go on the fitness band/smartwatch bandwagon, there is a solid chance that you are pondering between two brands : Apple Watch and Fitbit. 

Which one is best? Which one to buy? What can I expect? 

Well! I have been using a fitness tracker since 2016, back then I had a Fitbit Charge HR and an Android phone, then I got a Fitbit Versa in 2019 and used it with my iPhone. The Versa stopped charging last December. Back then hubby was using it more than me because I was on a "PandemicHiatus" when it came to tracking my activity, plus Fitbit was incredibly annoying reminding me to log in steps all the time, and seriously when you stay home, how many times do you need to walk from rooms to room to keep that pesky band happy? 

I decided around Christmas that I had to put an end to that Pandemic couch potato mode, and I know from experience that a fitness tracker is the way to get me moving again. With my Fitbit out of commission and the fact hubby treated himself to an Apple watch, I decided to get one for myself as well. After all, I have everything Apple already and I know from experience that the Apple ecosystem works pretty flawlessly from device to device. 

What got me to consider the Apple watch was a few annoying flaws of the Fitbit too, the main one being that it glitches way way way too often at synching with the phone, be it Android or Apple. I have spent many a time trying to force my fitness tracker to communicate with the phone and having to restart the app multiple time to get to that. So I break from having to synch my devices regularly was VERY appealing. 

The last Fitbit I used was the Fitbit Versa, which I got in January 2019 and the Apple watch I have now is the SE model (both links are Amazon affiliate links).

I have no experience with later Fitbit models, and the reason I chose the SE over the Apple watch 7 is that I tend to like my device to do exactly what I need them to do, and I didn't need the ECG and Pulse Oxymeter feature, and didn't particularly care about the "always on screen" feature either. I don't want random people to see which activity circle I closed, thank you very much! 

What you end up choosing should depend on what you need! 

Both the Apple Watch and the Fitbit are pretty much neck to neck when it comes to features, so ultimately you need to know what you need out of your watch/fitness tracker before making a choice. 

Namely, are you a fitness fanatic or just a regular person trying to be a bit more active?  

This is something important to figure out right away because both watches have a VERY different approach to fitness tracking and depending what you need out of your watch, one is going to work better than the other. 

Fitbit was designed for fitness tracking, while the Apple watch was always more of a "jack of all trade" smartwatch designed to do a lot more than just tracking your activity. 
As a result, if you really want to go in dept about your heart rate fluctuation, pace and intensity of workout, Fitbit is the better choice. 
If you just want a more general idea of how active you've been, Apple watch will do just fine. When you start an activity on Apple watch, it will measure your pace, and some of the heart rate fluctuation just fine, but it's far more basic, which frankly is  fine by me. 

If I had to describe the difference between Fitbit and Apple watch on that front, I'd say that Fitbit is like having a drill sergant strapped to your wrist which Apple is more like a workout buddy that will push you gently without obsessively wanting you to log steps. If you respond more to the gentler approach, then Apple watch is for you. 

They don't emphasise on the same metrics to track your fitness

Fitbit is mainly about the steps, it wants you to be on your feet and the default target is 10k steps a day (you can change that to suit your goals), it does have a goal for excersise, sleep, and move, but the steps is what it's all about. Your Fitbit will vibrate and give you a digital firework one you hit your step goal, and not even congratulate you on your other goals. You'll have to log into the phone app and synch to know how you did on the whole move, exercise and sleep targets. 
It also just count any activity session as an exercise day, so if you walked 10 minutes fast enough for Fitbit to recognise it as a workout, they count it as a workout day, even if you spent the rest of the day on the sofa. It will remind you to move through the day and tell you you need to reach your 10k steps, but other than that, it doesn't really care if you did a 10 minutes workout or a 2 hours long one, it's logged the same in the "workout day log".

Apple watch tracks you on 3 goals and is a lot more defined as to what count to close a particular circle. The big red one is your active calories, you can't set a specific active calories goal, just opt between "mild", "moderate" and "high" activity level and the watch will decide what it means for you. My moderate active calories goal is 550 calories a day. 
Active calories are counted on the basis of movement and heart rate and what it means for your age, weight and heights. Apple watch counts any calories you burned while moving, even if the movement was just cleaning your home at a slow pace. Those will progressively go toward your red ring, and it's a lot harder than you think it is to close it. 
Fitbit adds your basic metabolic rate to the number of calories you burn while moving, but doesn't really tell you how many of these calories are active ones (more about that later)

The green circle on the Apple watch is the second largest circle and it's the "Exercise circle", this is the one that will fill ONLY when your watch recognise an active workout or when you inititate the workout, and it only counts the minutes you spend moving. To fill it, you have to reach a specific amount of minutes of exercise in a day. When you set the watch on "moderate" like I did, it means you have to be working out 30 minutes through the day for it to close. 
I usually start the workout "Outdoor walk" manually when I go walk my dog, and even if the timer said I've been at it 20 minutes, it might only tally 15 minutes on the circle because the watch does not count the time I stood still for my dog to sniff cars or poop as active. It's another circle that is a bit challenging to fill if you are not DELIBERATELY going on for a workout. True story though, I was in IKEA last week and had to brisk walk through the entire store on two levels to get something we wanted to buy but forgot to pick, I didn't initiate a workout, but after 10 minutes my watch beeped and asked me if I wanted to start a walking workout. I didn't launch the workout app so I missed on the whole pace and distance stats, but it still logged it on the green circle regardless. 

The blue circle is the amount of hours you have been at least one minute on your feet walking about. This circle is the one I love the most over Fitbit! 
Fitbit has a "stand tracker" but when you set the goal, Fitbit has no option but to chose consecutive hours, if for any reason you miss 1 hour in the 8am to 8pm slot, but then walk at 9pm, Fitbit will still mark your goal as a FAIL. Apple watch doesn't care which hours you walk in the day as long as you reach your target at the end of a day. My goal on the Fitbit and the Apple watch has always been 12 hours of "stand hours". I fill that circle EVERYDAY on my Apple watch, on the Fitbit I think in 4 years of using one I completed that goal twice. 
Fitbit will remind you 10 minutes to the hour if you completed less than 150 steps in the last hour and do that every freaking hour. So if you are watching a movie in theatre and can't stand, then that's it kiss that goal goodbye, you are toast you big failure! 
Apple will only remind you that you haven't moved in a while if you have been sedentary for a while, and because you don't have to stand 12 consecutive hours, it's also a lot more flexible, not to mention more realistic. 

As far as steps are concerned, the Apple watch do count them, but it's not an important metric the way it is in Fitbit, you can always check how many you walked by tapping on the activity app on the watch, or checking in the health app on the iPhone where all the stats synch to. 
The Apple watch just wants you to stay active through more flexible goals unlike the Fitbit that wants you to hit a specific "Step target". 
It's not that one is better than the other, it's just a matter of what you prefer being tracked on. Personally, I prefer the circle approach on the Apple watch, it's more compatible with my lifestyle and I'd rather see active calories and exercise minutes than steps, which by the way, on the Fitbit I hit everyday. 

Calories accuracy

Experts say both trackers are neck to neck in that department, but I beg to STRONGLY differ. Fitbit was always VERY generous in deciding how many calories I burned walking, to the point it bordered on the ridiculous. 
I have a low metabolism so I always take those calories burned with a pinch of salt, but Fitbit would state that I burned a total of 1900-2400 calories a day by just walking or swimming for one hour...yeah...nope! Fitbit will tally everything at the end of 24 hours, so it takes an already inflated basic metabolic rate, and then pile up workout calories on top. 
To give you an idea, Fitbit would decide I burnt 90 calories dropping my daughter to school and walking back home in a 10 minutes walk, which is NOT accurate. 

Apple watch on the other hand tells me calories I burn in a workout if I initiate a workout. Walking my dog for 20 minutes at pretty much the same pace I walked when I dropped my daughter to school tells me that I burned at the most 50 calories. THAT, I can believe! This is also why closing a calories red circle on the Apple watch will require you to really get off your butt. Apple is far less generous in doling out calories than Fitbit. But then again, Fitbit's main metric is "Steps goals".

Both watch will give you an estimate of calories in the end, I would not take any of it at  face value anyway. What you burn on an activity is influenced by more than just your height, weight and heart rate, never forget that. 

Sleep tracking

If you are looking for accuracy and tracking sleep is important to you, then Fitbit is THE tracker to wear to bed. It will tell you which amount of time you spent in light sleep, deep sleep, REM mode and awake, even the micro awakening moments. 
I'm insomniac and a generally light sleeper, and tracking my sleep was at first an eye opener and then a source of stress and anxiety. 
Fitbit will also track any sleep period automatically, so if you nap long enough through the day, it'll record it. 

The Apple watch on the other hand is not really designed to track sleep. It won't do it automatically to begin with. You have to set up a sleep goal, and then a wake time, and the watch will then recommend a bedtime accordingly. If you sleep past the wake time in the morning, it won't record it as sleep, and if you go down for a nap, it won't track that at all. 
There is the possibility of downloading a 3rd party app compatible with the watch via the health app, I haven't tried it though, I know I sleep like crap and as I said Fitbit gave me anxiety about it anyway. 

Just know that if you want accurate sleep tracking, Apple is NOT your friend. 

Notifications and non fitness stuff

My Fitbit versa had a few notification settings like knowing when a text message came in or when someone was trying to call you on the phone, but that was about it. 
There was the option to download music to the watch and pair it with bluetooth earphones but I never did it and quite frankly kept reading it was tedious task from other users. 
I have no idea if they improved that in the latest models, but Fitbit remains a watch geared toward fitness tracking above other things. 

The Apple watch is designed to be an all rounder, it does fitness tracking, but it's not what if was exclusively designed for. A number of apps from your iPhone will mirror on the watch, and you can get notifications for all messaging services on your wrist. I opted to turn most of them off because I do't like being notified of everything non-stop. 
You can also pick up a call from your wrist, via bluetooth if you have GPS watch and if your watch has the cellular mode, you can even go out for a walk leaving the phone home and still be able to answer calls. I opted for a simple GPS watch, hubby got one with cellular. 

The favourite feature on my watch is the perfect one for frazzled middle age mom : the "beep my phone" button. Hubby didn't even know his watch had that feature because he always knows where his phone is. Me? Not so much, I often leave it in crazy places around the home and before having an Apple watch, I would look frantically everywhere, repeat "where is my phone" non stop, and more often than not, calling it from hubby's or my daughter's phone would not work because I tend to leave it on mute. 
One tap on the "beep my phone" button and the phone will emit a loud beep even when on mute, as long as the phone is in bluetooth range. 

Another feature that is neat to have when you have several devices on your personal Apple ecosystem is that when you step out of the home and get within a specific distance of your other device, the watch will let you know that you left something behind. My watch has reminded me a few times that I left my iPad behind. While right now I don't really care, and I almost never step out without my iPad, I can see the use of it for someone commuting between home and office who might have forgotten a device they needed. The alarm sounds when you are still close enough from the last known location of your device, so you can walk or drive back quickly to pick it up if needed. 

Synching and the ecosystem

Fitbit had synching woes for as long as I used it, Android phone, iPhone it didn't matter. It SUCKED and I am not chewing my words here. I have no idea if it's now better with Google acquiring the brand, but reports from friends suggest that it's still a pain in behind. 

Technically, Fitbit is supposed to synch continuously with your phone, but in reality you will spend a lot of time refreshing the app to initiate a synch and get the latest stats and graphs on your phone. This can wear out real thin after a while, and I've had too many instance of having to refresh and restart my app for 15-20 minutes before everything I wanted to see was up to date.

Apple! Well, Apple is Apple! Say what you want, hate the brand, if you have used it, you will KNOW that devices synch effortlessly within the ecosystem and you won't have the urge to hit your head against a wall in frustration with anything Apple. 
I've had an iPad, MacBook and iPhone for years, and the one thing I love the most is how easy it is to share informations between devices and transfer a file from one to the next. The watch is not different, it continuously synchs with the phone and the health app and I never have a need to refresh or initiate a synch.

Battery life

Sorry Apple, you loose this one! The Apple watch needs to be charged about once a day, thankfully it charges fast enough. The Apple 7 is far more of an energy guzzler than the SE because it has the always on screen and continuous heart rate monitor that the SE doesn't have. 

On the other hand, Fitbit can got 3-4 days without a charge, but then again, it's probably because it tend not to synch continuously with the phone either, so that could be it. I'm willing to bet that the quick battery drain on the Apple watches is due to the fact it constantly stays in touch with your iPhone. My phone also gets drained faster since I've been using the watch. 

Accessories

Apple watch is known for the fact you can change the wristbands at will and have a lot of different options. It has always been a thing, which is a nice touch as the default silicone sports band is kind of ugly. It does the trick if you are going to be sweating it out at the gym or taking your watch to the pool, but might not be elegant enough to wear in the board room or to that semi-formal event. 
If your wristband breaks, it's also quite easy to find a replacement, and you can use all your previous wristbands even after upgrading your watch provided you stick to the same watch case size. Bands comes to fit two different sizes of watches : 38/40 mm and 42/44 mm, as long as your new watch has the same size as the old one, you can reuse your bands.

The new Fitbits have wristbands options too, but not in the same variety as the Apple watch and they are model specific, so once your watch dies, the old bands aren't going to fit a different model. 
The big problem I had with BOTH my Fitbits was the strap slowly breaking apart, especially the little loop that is meant to hold the end of the strap secure and the impossibility to get it replaced on the Charge HR. In that department, Fitbit could do a lot better. The original silicone strap of the Fitbit isn't winning a beauty contest either, it's as ugly as the Apple watch's band but looks a lot less durable because it has more moving parts.

Right now I am not out to win any appearance contest, and the basic strap works fine for lounging at home in yoga pants and comfy t-shirts, but I am considering ordering one of my watch strap design on Society6 in the near future. 

Mind your budget

Let's face it, Apple anything is going to be more expensive than other brands. I could argue that you get what you pay for and that not a single of my Apple device has died prematurely. We still have an iPad 4 bought in 2013 that is in working order (though is limited in what it can still do), in the end, it's not in everyone's budget. 
The Apple watch will ONLY work with an iPhone, so if you read until this far as an Android user without noticing that it was geared toward Apple users in the first paragraph of this blog post, I am repeating it now : Not compatible with Android. Fitbit works with both ecosystems making it a more versatile choice. 

If you are in the Apple ecosystem already and own a phone, the real question is how much you want to spend on a smartwatch. 
The latest Fitbit models that will look the most similar to the Apple watch will set you around 20k rupees in India while the Apple watch 7 can set you up to 40-50k depending the features (GPS or GPS+cellular) and the SE is around 30k. 
You can still get older series of watches and with Apple the price of a model drops the instant the new one is released, so you could still look around and find a series 5 or 6 that would be quite competitively priced against a Fitbit. 


In the end, pitting any two devices of any brand against each other is going to show perks and limitations on both sides. Apple is not better than Fitbit or vice versa, they are two similar watches, that track similar things in a different way. 
I personally prefer the more flexible approach to tracking fitness goals on the Apple watch and find it a bit less stressful than the Fitbit ever was, especially where sleep and standing hours were concerned. 
I also get a better and more conservative idea of active calories burned on the Apple watch which considered my slow metabolism is still going to be generous, but not as generous as Fitbit was and is a better reminded not to overdo the eating part because what I actively burn is right in front of my eyes on the watch face the instant I look at it. With Fitbit you had to dig to find that info. 

I get that this flexible, more gentle approach to tracking if not for everyone, some prefer having a drill sergeant strapped to their wrist and for that, Fitbit is your buddy, especially if you need a device to tel l you day after day how much of a sucky sleeper you are, it might be just what you need to make better lifestyle choices. 
Me? I prefer a watch that reminds me at 9.15pm that my set bedtime is at 10 and that right now is a good time to wind down. The watch also goes in do not disturb mode, and switch my phone in the same mode when the wind down time starts, so I'm going to be less tempted to check notifications and get off my screen quicker. Do I sleep at 10pm? On most days I try, but if I don't I don't worry, because I am not going to have my sleep tracker show me how poorly I did to the extent Fitbit did, and that is a lot whole pressure on this anxiety prone lady! 

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