Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch: Battle of the stylish smartwatches

UPDATED: Apple Watch or Fitbit Blaze? We see how the two watches match up
Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch

Before the Fitbit Blaze, you couldn't really consider the Charge HR or the Surge as a genuine rival to the Apple Watch. But that's all changed.

Whichever way you slice it, the Blaze is Fitbit's first smartwatch, even if the company flat-out refuses to call it such. It's a fitness watch, got it? And regardless of how much the company wants to avoid comparison to the Apple Watch, the truth is that people only have one wrist for tech – and for many, it will be a choice of whether to buy the Watch or the Blaze.

Essential reading: Fitbit Blaze review | Apple Watch review

That's why we've compared specs and features in detail to see if the Blaze can out-muscle Apple's first generation smartwatch.

Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch: Design

The Blaze is Fitbit's best designed device by some distance – but up close it's still not that much of a looker. The rugged elastomer plastic band has not entirely disappeared though, but there's now a selection of different straps to give it a more smartwatch feel – if you fancy forking out.

There's now a gun-metal version of the casing which holds the Fitbit Blaze element, which certainly ups the style stakes slightly. However, there's no matching metal straps yet, so it's still a little underwhelming.

Fitbit's clearly taking an Apple-like approach to design with the option of metal and leather bands, enabling you to customise for different looks.

Essential reading: Best Fitbit Blaze accessories

If you want variety there's only one winner here and that's Apple. Along with offering the Watch in three distinct models (Sport, Watch and Watch Edition), the Apple Watch comes in two different sizes with a host of (unofficial) Watch straps and watch cases. If you like your smartwatches stylish, there's even an Apple Watch Hermès Collection, but expect to pay a lot more for the pleasure of an Apple Watch with a designer strap.

Both watches have colour touchscreen displays, though they use different screen technologies. Apple employs OLED screen technology in two different sizes with a Sapphire crystal glass protection. The 38mm version has a 340 x 272 pixel resolution, while the 42mm model packs in a more impressive 390 vs 312 pixel resolution. Fitbit opts for an 1.6-inch LCD screen with 240 x 180 resolution and Gorilla Glass 3 coating to give it an extra layer of durability. By any metric, Apple's tech is far superior.

Apple Watch 42mm
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In terms of navigation, the Blaze follows in the footsteps of the Surge, using two physical buttons on the right and one on the left. There is of course the touchscreen display as well, letting you swipe to view notifications or hit the buttons to view progress.

Apple keeps navigation minimal and discreet with its digital crown that's not not like a crown on a traditional watch. You can use it to open the app launcher, but a twist will let you zoom into apps which is handy for maps. There's also the Force Touch-enabled screen, which means you can press a little harder to unlock more information from your apps.

If you care about having a waterproof smartwatch, you out of luck on both fronts unfortunately. Neither the Blaze or the Apple Watch is built for swimming, despite the Apple's smartwatch being stamped with an IPX7 certified rating, which means it's water resistant up to 1m for 30 minutes. They should both hold up for a run in the rain though.

Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch: Activity tracking

Fitness tracking is unsurprisingly the Blaze's big play here, and its list of features is a kind of refinement of the company's products to date. It'll track steps, sleep, calories, floors climbed, active time and there's an optical heart rate sensor to deliver resting HR and active time.

In terms of sensors, theres a 3-axis accelerometer, gyro sensor and an altimeter to track elevation. There's no on board GPS, so you'll have to rely on your phone's GPS to track runs and hikes via a feature called ConnectedGPS (a renamed version of the old MobileRun). You do get sleep tracking though and it's done automatically using the accelerometer to detect movement.

The Blaze can also track a whole host of exercises and uses the recently introduced SmartTrack feature to automatically recognise what activities you're doing. This means you'll always get credit for exercise, whether it's that morning walk to the office or gym workout.

You now get on-screen workouts as well powered by Fitstar taking you through sessions one exercise at a time. However, it doesn't count reps or feature any difficulty progression – so it's hardly a game-changing feature. Look to Moov Now for the best offering of guided workouts.

There's still an abundance of third party app support here as well, so you can feed data from the likes of Strava, Endomondo and Weight Watchers into the Fitbit companion app if you don't want to give up data from your existing health and fitness apps.

For the Apple Watch, activity tracking is certainly an area that needs some work, whether that's through software updates or for when the Apple Watch 2 turns up.

Much like the Blaze, it has an accelerometer, gyro sensor and a heart rate monitor that uses flashing green LED lights to detect changes in blood volume. It's a very similar to the way Fitbit's monitor works. There's no GPS here either, so you'll need to piggyback on your iPhone if you want to track runs.

Fitbit Blaze fitness watch
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Apple's Activity app is the focal point for activity tracking giving a snapshot of your day and giving you a nudge when you're lagging behind the trio of targets for calories, active minutes and standing time. A step count is available on the wrist, but the rest are worked out automatically, and will be downgraded if you repeatedly fail to hit your target. At the moment, there's no sleep tracking but there's a strong possibility it could be added in the future.

The latest version of the Apple Watch software, watchOS 3 that's set to go live in September, introduces the Breathe app. Apple's first stab at mindfulness, it prompts you to take timeout for some guided breathing activities. Superb, if you like that sort of thing. And when it comes to mindfulness, Apple Watch does have the edge on Fitbit, especially considering the third party apps on offer.

There's a pretty comprehensive collection of fitness apps that are optimised for the Apple Watch, which means if you already use Strava, Nike, RunKeeper or the like, you'll be able to continue on the Apple Watch. However, while there are plenty of apps, none bring much new to the table.

Clearly, the Fitbit ecosystem is better geared towards fitness tracking. While Apple's app is decent, the lack of comparison, insights into health trends, resting heart rate data and proper workout recording means it still can't hold a candle to the Fitbit, even if there's little difference in the hardware.

Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch: Notifications

Smartwatches are billed as smartphone companions and that basically means reducing the need to dip into your pocket for your phone to check a text, see an email or you know, take a call.

Apple certainly does a better job of this than Fitbit does currently. With the Blaze, you'll be able to do things like reject or accept calls, receive notifications from emails and control music playback. A recent update to Android app brought Whatsapp messages to the party, but at the time of writing that hadn't rolled out to the iOS version. There's also no support for Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or other notifications.

With the Apple Watch, you get all the notifications you could want including third party apps, plus you get the bite-sized bits of real time information from your favourite apps – and perhaps even more importantly, you can control which notifications you see. To complete a barnstorming smartwatch performance there's music playback control, and storage onboard to download music from iTunes/Apple Music for offline playback.

You can also answer calls from Apple's smartwatch and use Siri too add appointments to your calendar, set an egg timer or finding out whether Sean Astin was definitely in the Goonies. (Yes, he was).

Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch: Battery life

This is one of the biggest debates surrounding smartwatches right now. How much battery life is enough?

If you want lots of staying power, there's only one winner here and that's the Fitbit Blaze. While the Apple Watch can deliver between one (38mm) and two (42mm) days of mixed use, the Blaze promises five. And that was reflected in our testing, which included a number of workout sessions.

That will of course depend on which features you use on a regular basis and whether you decide to crank up the screen brightness to the max. Without power-sapping features like GPS onboard, the Blaze is up there with the Pebble Time for stamina and that's not too shabby.

Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch: Price

The Fitbit Blaze comes in at $199.95.

While more expensive, Apple Watch prices have tumbled as the world waits for its successor. If you're happy to plump for the current-gen ahead of a supposed September 2016 refresh you can bag one for $279 but that can jump to anywhere near the $1,500 mark.

Fitbit Blaze v Apple Watch: Initial verdict

Fitbit's new design is a welcome change, and for fitness fans its focus on workouts is a winner. No device can hold a torch to the diversity of the fitness metrics captured here.

But speaking of diversity, the richness of the Apple Watch's features is hard to beat. Third third party app support, the array of cheap strap customisations and penchant for notifications makes it more than just a fitness device.


  • tmatthewstuart says:

    "people only have one wrist". Seriously? Did anyone edit this? Or am I a freak to have two wrists?

    • chemmlg says:

      I hope that comment was made in jest....  It's obvious the article stated that, "off the cuff".  How many people do you know that wear 2 watches at once...and/or have the money to buy 2 smartwatches?  He was referring to the masses, the 80+% of people that are only going to buy 1 "smartwatch", hence 1 wrist...

    • mjray says:

      He said "the truth is that people only have one wrist for tech" ...  people have one wrist FOR TECH

    • O_o says:

      This is not anatomy class.

    • tman says:

      He's saying that most people aren't going to wear two watches. Yes, you have two wrists, but are you going to wear a fitbit on one wrist because of its fitness superiority and an apple watch on the other because it is more smartphone friendly with regard to notifications and the like... Probably not. 

    • mcw says:

      It's possible that you got caught up in a detail and maybe missed the essence of the article. ;P

    • Dgressotti says:

      It's a joke, people. 

    • Chazz4697 says:

      For a watch,unless u want to look like a cheap watch salesman at the circus bozo! Sorry couldn't resist!

  • jdw says:

    While style is subjective, the consensus seems to be that square watches are generally ugly. So, this entire article seems pointless. So why cater to those who only buy products for the status symbol versus actually informing your readers? Wareable, why not challenge yourself to be more, be better? (And no this isn't an ecosystem debate, go use Tizen for all I care).

    • MJP46 says:

      Style IS subjective.  Whos consensus?  I like the square design and it certainly is more efficient as a display for data.

    • Piyy says:

      Do you do everything in life based on a consensus?  Do you not have your own personality?  Be better and stop living based on what you think everybody else likes.

  • Rodger says:

    well the Fitbit blaze receive  data from a contiuse glucose monitor ? Thanks I have a Surge now

  • binarybound says:

    First this was a fun article with some great thoughts, but I still have to agree with Fitbit and this device is not a "smartwatch" in the same sense of the Apple Watch. I have an Apple Watch and primarily use it for the Activity app which BTW does provide detailed data through the iPhone's Health app. It works well but not as great as a Fitbit device.

    Here is my opinion on it, for those interested.

  • Luhhha says:

    What about the HR sensors? Which one has the most accurate?

    • danemose says:

      I have both and would prefer Fitbit if they have addressed the issue you raise. Fitbit in their other models have failed to get accurate HR when vigorous cardio exercise like rowing, biking, etc going on. I end up wearing a polar strap and watch.....Will someone solve this nicely presented question ?

  • MikaylaWhited says:

    This article is the best review article I have read on any product yet! It definitely helped me out- I am sold on the watch that would match my lifestyle! Thank you!

  • Alex37209 says:

    I think this was a great review on many different aspects of the fitness/electronic watches that are out or about to come out. My wife has the Fitbit HR and seems to like it, however does have issues with the HR monitor. I've been looking at the watches and still haven't decided which one I want. Verdict for me is to just wait a little longer to buy one. A lot of kinks have been worked out in the past few years but I bet with a little more time between Fitbit and Apple (and who knows a better company may sprout) something more accurate and stylish will be out.

  • Apple-Poor says:

    I have both now as I purchased an Apple Watch Sport and after only 6 months scratches started appearing on the rounded edges of the screen, none on the screen face or metal surround just on the rounded edges of the screen.

    I took the Apple Watch to local Apple Store as felt something not right with it as should not scratch so easily. Low and behold a huge company like Apple told me unlucky I did it malicious and wanted more than half the cost of a new watch to repair it. I complained till blue in the face and Apple was not interested. 

    So I went and purchased the Fitbit Surge instead and have been wearing for two months and then I did actually scratch the Fitbit through my fault in the gym, I emailed Fitbit to find out how to get it repaired. Fitbit just sent a replacement watch out free of charge instead and no questions asked.

    So remember Fitbit care for customers and feedback and Apple could not care less. I am in the process of taking Apple to court to claim for the product not being of an acceptable quality.

    So if you buy Apple bear in mind this as YOU will have issues if it scratches, which indicates Apple feel it's a watch that cannot be worn as a watch!

    • Vinz says:

      Thanks for sharing.. It seems to me this defeats the wearabilty of the Apple device (at least for me as I'm a klutz!! :P) My takeaway is that the utility value of each depends on your criteria for purchase.. Smartwatch vs Fitness watch..

    • leb199 says:

      I have found that Apple's customer service is totally lacking. This does not surprise me at all. Thanks for the reminder.

  • DBS says:

    I just read this article on July 15, 2016 why did it state that the Blaze would notify the owner of emails.  Certainly decreases the credibility of the review.

  • seejamiewrite says:

    Probably because it doesn't notify you of emails. I have Blaze; it only notifies the owner of texts, calls, and calendar alerts. Maybe in the future they'll be emails! I certainly hope Fitbit intends to expand on things with the Blaze.

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