Smartwatches, fitness and health tracking compared

Smartwatches, fitness and health tracking compared

Apple or Fitbit? These are arguably the two biggest names in the wearable business – but take drastically different approaches to fitness tracking, wellness and smart features.

The Apple Watch is an iconic wearable – but choice is limited and it’s only suitable for iPhone users.

On the other hand Fitbit has two smartwatches and three fitness trackers, and the Fitbit Charge 5 blurs the line between the two.

We’ve spent plenty of testing time with all the devices that form Apple and Fitbit’s current wearable families, so if you’re weighing up whether to go Apple Watch Series 7 or Fitbit Charge 5, we break down the key differences to help you decide whether to go Fitbit or Apple.

Here’s how the Apple Watch compares to Fitbit’s legion of watches and trackers.

Fitbit devices: Quick look guide

Fitbit devices

When you look at the devices you have to pick from, Fitbit has more options than Apple and it offers smartwatches and dedicated fitness trackers. Here’s a quick breakdown of the collections:

Fitbit Versa and Sense smartwatches

If you want a Fitbit smartwatch then you’ve got the choice of the Versa and the more feature-packed Sense. They look the same, but key difference between these two watches is that the Sense offers an ECG sensor for more medical grade style heart rate measurements.

With the Versa 3, you’re getting all the same smartwatch features, built-in GPS, an SpO2 sensor and an optical heart rate monitor. Fitbit does still sell the Versa 2 as well, which offers similar features to the Versa 3, but misses out most notably on the onboard GPS and quick-charge feature available on the Versa 3.

Charge, Luxe and Inspire fitness trackers

If you don’t like the idea of a smartwatch, then Fitbit also offers fitness trackers and there’s four different trackers up for grabs.

At the top of the tracker family is the Charge 5. Fitbit’s flagship tracker includes features like GPS, ECG, stress tracking and hosts a color AMOLED touchscreen wrapped up in a wristband form factor.

Next in the family is the Fitbit Luxe, which is a more fashion-focused tracker with a slimmer look than the Charge 5, but also offers a color screen and features like heart rate monitoring and blood oxygen monitoring.

Below the Luxe is the Inspire 2, which offers the best battery life on any Fitbit device (up to 10 days), but features a monochrome screen and along with fitness tracking staples, tracks outdoor activities using your phone’s GPS signal.

Last up there’s the Fitbit Ace 3, a fitness tracker designed for kids, which removes some of the features included on the other trackers like heart rate, and focuses on steps and offering features like bedtime reminders.

Apple Watch models – quick look guide

Apple Watch models

On the other hand the Apple Watch is the company’s only wearable.

The Apple Watch Series 7 sits at the top of the Watch family, giving you the best Apple currently has to offer in features, looks and hardware.

It comes in the new 41mm and 45mm sizes, offering more screen estate than previous watches, an improved durability rating and all the same health and fitness features included in previous Watches. That includes an ECG and blood oxygen sensor.

Below that sits the Apple Watch SE, which comes in 44mm and 40mm case sizes. Notably, it lacks the ECG, blood oxygen sensors and the edge-to-edge, always-on display of the Series 7.

Finally, there’s the Apple Watch Series 3, which sits at the $199/£199 price mark and comes in 38mm and 42mm case sizes. It lacks those more cutting-edge serious health features you’ll find on the SE and the Series 7.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Fitbit Sense

Apple Watch Series 7 v Fitbit Sense

These are the two flagship smartwatches in the respective families, and offer plenty in the way of features, sensors, tracking smarts and wrap them all up in neat designs.

On the looks front, there’s AMOLED displays across both devices, and removable bands with plenty of first and third party strap options to choose from.

Apple includes a watch crown to help navigate its software, while Fitbit builds a button into the case.

On the smartwatch front, Apple offers LTE connectivity, notifications, Siri smart assistant support, a built-in music player and extensive app support.

The Apple Watch can only be paired to iPhones, while the Sense works with Android and iOS devices and offers notifications, a music player a smaller app store front and the option of Google or Alexa smart assistants.

The smartwatch experience is certainly a richer one on the Apple Watch, but you have to own an iPhone to use it.

For health, fitness and sports tracking, both offer ECG sensors to measure your heart rate rhythms – and both will also alert the user to low/high heart rates. Both will measure blood oxygen levels for wellness purposes. And both offer GPS and optical heart rate monitors, though we’d say the Apple Watch delivers more accurate data for workouts and exercise in general.

Fitness tracking is at Fitbit’s core and it offers step counts, stress tracking and some of the most reliable sleep tracking going. The Apple Watch offers motivating activity tracking features via the Move, Exercise and Stand rings, though its native sleep tracking is simplistic in comparison, eschewing sleep stages and sleep scores in favour for a measure of time asleep and bedtime consistency.

Fitbit offers the best battery life, going for a week or a few days with the always-on display mode.

The Series 7 is quoted to deliver 18 hours, but it can last a couple of days depending on usage. Both offer quick charging features, though Fitbit’s feels the more useful by topping you up with a day’s play from a short charge time.

Winner: The Apple Watch is a better smartwatch – but Fitbit offers a focused activity tracking experience

Apple Watch SE v Fitbit Versa 3

Apple Watch SE v Fitbit Versa 3

The Apple Watch SE and the Fitbit Versa 3 are the smartwatches that sit below the two mentioned above, offering largely the same core experience as their more expensive counterparts, but with some bigger features left out to keep the price down.

In terms of design, they look similar to those pricier Apple and Fitbit smartwatches, with the Series SE offered in two size options and the Versa 3 in just the one. They both offer AMOLED displays with the option of an always-on mode and similar waterproofing that make them safe for swimming and showering up to 50 metres depth.

Features-wise, the SE offers notifications, on-wrist music, Siri control, Apple Pay and an LTE version.

The Versa 3 has similar support, swapping Siri for Google Assistant or Alexa, but again, doesn’t offer any form of LTE connectivity. Both have access to app stores, though the Apple App Store has a lot more going on for it than Fitbit’s storefront.

As health and fitness trackers, the SE misses out on the ECG and blood oxygen sensor on the Series 7, but does still have a pretty reliable optical heart rate monitor to use for high/low heart rate alerts and does offer support to pair up external heart rate sensors. The Versa 3 has a pretty reliable optical heart rate monitor for continuous heart rate monitoring, but also includes an SpO2 sensor and the ability to monitor skin temperature variation too.

If you’re turning to them for sports tracking, both offer GPS and the ability to sync data with third party apps like Strava. The SE feels a bit better built for serious training and outperforms as a run and swim tracker based on our experiences.

The Versa 3 and SE will track your steps and push you to keep moving during the day, while the Fitbit smartwatch offers a much richer sleep tracking performance and will now use that information to help determine whether you’re fit for a strenuous day.

Battery life is a win for Fitbit again, with the Versa 3 going for a week compared to the 18 hours or maximum couple of days we got from it.

The Versa 3 is cheaper too, coming in at $199/£199 and offering a solid smartwatch experience overall for the money for both Android and iOS users.

Apple Watch Series 3 vs Fitbit Versa 2

Apple v Fitbit: Smartwatch fitness and health tracking compared

The Apple Watch Series 3 ($199/£199) is the cheapest option you can buy officially from Apple, and offers an older look, but most of the same redeeming design features albeit doubts over how long it will still receive software updates to improve its abilities.

The Fitbit Versa 2 ($129.95/£149) comes in cheaper and adopts a similar look to the pricer Versa 3, offering a similar smartwatch and health and fitness tracking experience for less.

Design-wise, the Series 3 comes in 38mm and 42mm case options and the Versa 2 in just the 40mm option. They both have removable straps and color screens, though the Series 3 doesn’t offer an always-on mode like the Versa 2 can. There’s physical buttons on both watches and similar waterproof ratings to let you take them for a swim.

As smartwatches, the iOS-only Series 3 gives you notifications, a music player, Apple Pay, a speaker and microphone for Siri support and access to Apple’s App Store to throw on some apps. The Fitbit Versa 2 (iOS and Android) offers notifications, a music player, Amazon Alexa and access to Fitbit’s app store too, though it pales in comparison to what you can find in Apple’s store.

They’re both well built for fitness tracking, with Apple offering its motivating Rings approach and Fitbit doing what it does best making it easy to track steps, distance and absorb that data on and off the watch. There’s sleep tracking on both smartwatches, but Fitbit offers richer sleep tracking out of the box and can monitor blood oxygen levels, track stress, keep tabs on breathing rate and generally feels more insightful.

As sports watches, the Series 3 does have onboard GPS while the Versa 2 doesn’t. You have access to third party fitness apps, though Apple offers the greater support. They work for swims, but Apple offers both open and pool swim tracking while it’s just the pool for the Versa 2.

Fitbit wins on battery life again promising 6+ days battery compared to the 18 hours battery quoted for all Apple Watches. It can push to a couple of days, but it’s Fitbit victory for staying power.

Apple v Fitbit: The apps

The hardware that you have wrapped around your wrist is just one factor to helping you decide between going all in on Fitbit or Apple. You need to pay close attention to the software, compatibility and understanding just what the experience is like off the device to understand these devices are capable of.

Apps compared: Fitbit app ultimate guide | Apple Health guide

Apple v Fitbit: Fitness tracking

If you care about steps, competing against friends to keep active and making small, but important changes to get you moving around more regularly, this is going to be an important section for you.

Fitbit heart rate tracking

Fitness tracking

Fitness tracking is what Fitbit is known for and if you’re looking for an approach that makes it easy to understand and absorb your stats and keep a check of your daily progress, Fitbit is up there with the best. Some devices offer more data than others, so check if the Fitbit includes an altimeter to measure elevation, which is useful if you climb a lot of stairs.

Apple might not have been in the fitness tracking game as long as Fitbit, but it’s more than matched Fitbit on that front. Its Activity Rings approach to staying motivated to stay active and compete against Apple Watch-owning friends works well. Like Fitbit, it’s gone big on putting virtual badges up for grabs when you hit different milestones. Like Fitbit, not all Apple Watches include an altimeter. The Apple Watch SE and Series 6 or later do, while the Series 3 cannot track your elevation.

Whichever platform you side with here, we think you’re going to be well catered for here.

Winner: Draw

Heart health

Both platforms care about letting users track their heart rate and how it could be used to indicate that something might not be quite right.

For those Fitbit devices that support it, the optical heart rate sensor can be used to send out high and low heart rate alerts and also keep track of resting heart rate and continuously monitor heart rate to identify trends in data over time too. The Fitbit Sense and Charge 5 both offer an ECG sensor to deliver medical-grade style readings.

In addition to that heart rate sensor, the likes of the Sense and Charge 5 offer a temperature sense, which doesn’t carry medical use approval, but could be used along with the heart rate information to detect when you might not be well.

The Apple Watch is no slouch in this department either. The Series 7 and Series 6 both include ECG sensors have been given the approval to be used to help detect signs associated with atrial fibrillation. Its optical heart rate sensor is designed for resting and continuously monitoring heart rate (including during the night) and offers similar high and low heart alert notifications too.

These two wearable platforms offer some of the best heart rate monitoring features and support in terms of potentially raising the alarm that there may be an issue and displaying trends to help understand changes in heart rate data.

Winner: Draw

Apple vs Fitbit: Sleep tracking

Apple watch sleep tracking

If we are comparing the native sleep tracking support that Apple and Fitbit has to offer, Fitbit beats Apple on that front, but we’re sure things will get closer in the future.

This is a staple for Fitbit and in our years of testing its sleep tracking, it still offers some of the most reliable data from the wrist.

In terms of what it’s tracking, you’re getting a breakdown of sleep stages, sleeping heart rate, monitoring of blood oxygen levels and useful Sleep Scores.

Apple has only recently added native sleep tracking to its Watches, which keeps things basic. It puts the emphasis on creating bedtime schedules and seeing how much sleep you’ve managed each night. Apple has also introduced the ability breathing rate during sleep to give you a better sense of your overall health.

There’s richer, more detailed sleep tracking apps in the App Store, if native support doesn’t cut it for you. Bottom line though, Fitbit wins the battle of the sleep trackers right now.

Winner: Fitbit

Stress and recovery

Stress is becoming more of a topic for wearables in general and both Apple and Fitbit have built features around it. We’d say that Fitbit currently does a bit more on this front.

For starters, it features its Relax mode, which uses the onboard optical heart rate monitor and heart rate variability measurements to offer personalised breathing exercises.

In the Fitbit companion app, more recent devices like the Luxe, Charge 5 and Sense offer Stress Management scores, giving you a single score based on resting heart rate, sleep and activity logged to understand just how much stress your body is under.

Devices at the top of Fitbit’s family include an EDA scan app, that is able to to detect electrodermal activity, as a way of understanding your body’s response to stress.

More recently, Fitbit has added new Daily Readiness Scores. This Fitbit Premium feature aims to tell you how well rested and recovered you are for a tough workout based on daily activity stats, sleep and heart rate data.

The Apple Watch has the Breathe app that like Fitbit’s relax mode, is driven by HRV to offer guided breathing exercises. Apple has also added a new Reflect prompts in the that Breathe app to display messages that are designed to provoke positive thoughts.

If you want to delve deeper into your workout data and the stresses that are being out on your body, you’ll need to find a third party app to do it, as Apple remains light on these kinds of insights.

Winner: Fitbit

Female health tracking

Both Apple and Fitbit offer dedicated female health tracking features, which is good to see first and foremost.

In terms of what you’re getting from Fitbit on that front, it will allow users to log periods, track ovulation and discover patterns in your cycle.

Flip over to Apple, and it recently introduced Cycle Tracking, letting users track their menstrual cycle and receive notifications when the next period or fertile window is coming up. There also a host of women’s health-focused apps you can download in addition to Apple’s own Cycle Tracking app.

Winner: Draw

Apple v Fitbit: Sports tracking

If you want your smartwatch or tracker to double as a sports watch, how do these two fare and which one will offer you the best performance? Here’s how we see it.

Apple Watch Sports tracking

GPS tracked workouts

In terms of Fitbit’s devices, the Versa 3, Sense and Charge 5 have built-in GPS with other devices relying on connected GPS. That means piggybacking off your phone’s GPS signal to track outdoor workouts. You can fire that data out to third party apps like Strava.

The Apple Watch Series 3, SE and Series 7 all have built-in GPS, with the newer Series 7 has support for the big five satellite systems and offers dual band GNSS support to improve accuracy in typically problematic areas and locations.

In terms of that GPS performance, the Apple Watch has performed better in our testing and for runs particularly offers an experience on par with top sports watches from the likes of Garmin and Polar. Fitbit does a good job of tracking overall, but if you care about that accuracy, Apple does a better job.

Winner: Apple


The Fitbit Charge 5, Inspire 2, Luxe, Versa and Sense are all capable of tracking swims (pool only) and will give you core stats like distance tracked and pace, with some additional metrics in the companion Fitbit app.

The Apple Watch models mentioned in this piece are all equipped to track swims in the pool and open water, and offer rich metrics with some great third party apps letting you drill more into your data. The accuracy from the Apple Watch is great too, so it’s crucially a reliable swim companion too.

Winner: Apple

Heart rate in workouts

If you care about tracking heart rate during exercise, in our testing experience, the Apple Watch is a better fit for that job. Particularly the Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 7.

Both platforms will let you track heart rate during exercise, letting you see heart rate zones and current heart rate readings. For steady paced workouts, both Fitbit and Apple do a good job on that front. When you up the intensity, we’ve found the later Apple Watch models offer some of the best wrist-based monitoring during exercise.

Plus, with the Apple Watch, you have the ability to pair up Bluetooth-enabled external heart rate sensors, if you want to get the most reliable data.

If you care about heart rate focused exercise metrics, both offer insights into VO2 Max, which is called Cardio Fitness Score on Fitbit devices and Cardio Fitness Levels on the Apple Watch.

If you take advantage of heart rate focused training apps in the Apple App Store, you can glean more insights from your heart rate data during workouts too.

Winner: Apple

Fitbit app

Fitbit app

Fitbit uses just the single companion app as your place to go to take a closer at your stats, adjust device settings and download apps and watch faces (if your device supports it).

One of the most appealing things about Fitbit’s platform is that it’s designed to be a great place for those starting out on their health and fitness journey to spend time with. All of the data is nicely displayed, there’s good social aspects and the ability to take on friends in challenges and it’s an app that’s easy to navigate.

Fitbit has started to offer richer health metrics in recent years for things like heart rate variability, blood oxygen, temperature and sleep heart rate. These metrics can start to give you a sense of your general wellbeing. Some of those additional metrics however require signing up to Fitbit’s Premium subscription service to access.

That Premium service also gets you access to features like workout programs and additional mindfulness features too. Fitbit does play nice with third party apps too like Strava for instance, so it’s not an entirely closed-off platform.

Fitbit does offer an app store front via its companion app with native and some high profile third party apps and heaps of watch faces on offer. The process of getting those onto a Fitbit smartwatch is still a bit clunky, plus it’s not a store absolutely packed to the rafters with things to download.

Apple Watch apps

Apple Watch apps

When you get an Apple Watch you’re actually dealing with a few apps if you want to make the most of Apple’s smartwatch. The main Watch app is where you get things all set up, tinker with settings and watch faces.

You also have Apple Health, which is you hub for all of your health-centric data from the Watch and third party apps and devices. There’s also the Fitness app, where you can keep closer tabs on closing your rings or your tracked exercise. This is also where you can access the Fitness+ platform, which is something you need to pay for.

Three apps sounds like a lot to deal with but the good news is that the apps are in general easy to get to grips with. Apple Health is the busier of the three and may take some time understanding where various bits of data live.

Through Apple’s Watch app you do have access to the Apple App Store, which really elevates what the Apple Watch is capable of and is arguably the best smartwatch store front right now.

Outside of Fitness+, all of these apps are free to access and use. There’s no additional payments to think about here.

Apple v Fitbit: The verdict

So we’ve broken down the key differences between Apple and Fitbit and what they have to offer. We’ve shown that both have some clear strengths and weaknesses as platforms, but both offer strong experiences overall. If you have to pick, here’s how we see where the biggest wins and losses are.

Why choose Apple Watch?

Choose the Apple Watch if you own an iPhone and you want the very best smartwatch experience first and foremost. Whether it’s notification support, extra connectivity, apps or music features, Apple excels in that department compared to Fitbit.

We’d also say that Apple offers better, more reliable sports tracking, which is extended greatly by that app support. The heart rate monitoring whether via ECG (on supported models) or the optical sensor, is well executed and feels nicely accurate too.

Why choose Fitbit?

Choose Fitbit if you want something that works with Android and iOS devices and you’d rather have a fitness tracker or smartwatch capable of lasting for a week compared to the couple of days you’ll enjoy on the Apple Watch.

Fitbit’s devices are some of the easiest to use, particularly for fitness tracking and the onboard sleep tracking features are a step up from Apple’s native sleep features.

It also pays much closer attention to stress, mindfulness and paying attention to your mental wellbeing as much as your physical wellbeing.

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