Apple v Fitbit: How to make the right choice

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Wareable Fitbit vs Apple
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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 the 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 years using these key devices and know their benefits and pitfalls inside out.

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

Fitbit devices: Quick look guide

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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 4 and the more feature-packed Sense 2.

Both feature the same smartwatch features, built-in GPS, an SpO2 sensor, and an optical heart rate monitor. And all the Fitbit good stuff such as sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and wellness tracking.

The Sense 2 offers an ECG sensor for medical-grade style heart rate measurements. It also offers a continuous electro-dermal activity sensor designed to detect stress.

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.

Our pick of the Fitbit trackers is the Inspire 3. It was the most "basic" Fitbit tracker, but the new version packs a color screen, temperature and SpO2 sensor – and it's a brilliant tracker that most people will love.

The Charge 5 adds GPS, ECG, and stress tracking and hosts a color AMOLED touchscreen wrapped up in a wristband form factor.

And the slightly aging Fitbit Luxe, does everything the Inspire 3 does, but in a more attractive design.

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, focuses on steps, and offers features like bedtime reminders.

Apple Watch models – quick look guide

AppleSeries 8, SE, Ultra

On the other hand the Apple Watch is the company's only wearable. But there are now three versions.

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the main event, with its always-on display, and comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes. You get GPS, ECG, and blood oxygen sensors, and there's a new temperature sensor on board this year that focuses on menstrual health tracking.

Below that sits a revamped Apple Watch SE, which comes in 44mm and 40mm case sizes. Notably, it lacks the ECG, and the edge-to-edge, always-on display of the Series 7. However, it does have car crash and fall detection.

And now there's the all-new Apple Watch Ultra. It comes in a single 49mm size, which means it's pretty huge and is designed for outdoors and extreme sports. It's rugged, with 100m water resistance as well as dive rated, and it also features 36 hours of battery life as standard (which in our testing was more like 2-3 days).

Apple Watch Series 8 v Fitbit Sense 2

WareableSeries 8 vs Sense 2

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

On the looks front, there are 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 (on selected models), 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 2 works with Android and iOS devices and offers notifications and the option of Google or Alexa smart assistants. There's no app support here at all, and it's a very basic smartwatch compared to Apple's.

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.

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, and its native sleep tracking is much improved. There's little to pick between them.

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

The Series 8 is quoted to deliver 18 hours, but it can last around 30 hours in our experience. Not reaching for a charger every day feels like the Sense 2's best feature.

Winner: The Apple Watch is a better smartwatch and wins hands down in our book – but Sense 2 offers great wellness features and a week of battery life.

Apple Watch SE v Fitbit Versa 4

WareableSE vs Versa 4

The Apple Watch SE and the Fitbit Versa 4 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 (40mm and 44mm) and the Versa 3 only 40mm. 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 meters depth.

Features-wise, the SE offers notifications, on-wrist music, Siri control, Apple Pay, and an LTE version – as well as the mighty App Store.

The Versa 4 has similar support, swapping Siri for Google Assistant or Alexa, but again, doesn't offer any form of LTE connectivity. There's nothing in the way of apps for Fitbit.

As health and fitness trackers, the SE misses out on the ECG and blood oxygen sensor on the Series 8 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 4 has a pretty reliable optical heart rate monitor for continuous heart rate monitoring. It will constantly scan for heart rate rhythm issues – which the Apple Watch will only do if you have diagnosed Afib.

Both have plenty of sports modes including GPS, but the Apple Watch is by far the better workout companion. Both are excellent sleep trackers too – although Fitbit's presentation of heart rate, wellness metrics, and sleep data is simpler and easier to understand.

Battery life is a win for Fitbit again, with the Versa 4 going for a week compared to a day for the SE.

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 v Fitbit: The apps

The hardware that you have wrapped around your wrist is just one factor to help you decide between going all in on Fitbit or Apple. 

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.

WareableApple v Fitbit: Smartwatches, fitness and health tracking compared

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. Most devices in the range offer a complete suite of heart rate metrics, temperature sensing, and stress management too.

Apple is a great match for Fitbit in terms of wellness features, but sometimes its presentation is less user-friendly. Its Activity Rings approach to staying motivated to stay active and compete against Apple Watch-owning friends works well.

It collects an amazing amount of health data – as much as Fitbit – but the Apple Health app isn't as engaging to browse, and get an overview of your stats.

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

Winner: Fitbit thanks to its presentation of data

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 2 and Charge 5 both offer an ECG sensor to deliver medical-grade style readings, and any Fitbit device will continuously scan for irregular heart rate rhythms.

In addition to that heart rate sensor, the likes of the Sense and Charge 5 offer a temperature sensor, 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 8 and Ultra include ECG sensors that 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

WareableApple v Fitbit: Smartwatches, fitness and health tracking compared

Apple's sleep tracking has hugely improved since its launch two years ago – and there's now little to pick between the two.

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.

Fitbit offers a breakdown of sleep stages, sleeping heart rate, monitoring of blood oxygen levels, and useful Sleep Scores. To see all of the data, however, you'll need the $7.99 per month Fitbit Premium sub. 

Apple now offers data on sleep stages, but it puts more emphasis on creating bedtime schedules. Consistent bedtimes/wake times are one of the few controllable elements of sleep and can lead to better rest. What's more Apple's sleep tracking is also linked to the setting of alarms, and the iPhone will react to bedtimes set on Apple Watch and turn off notifications 30 minutes before bed. 

Fitbit's sleep tracking is a richer and more engaging experience, but Apple's (used properly) is a more direct route to better sleep. Take your pick.

Winner: Draw

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 personalized breathing exercises.

In the Fitbit companion app, more recent devices like the Luxe, Versa, Charge 5, and Sense 2 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.

The Fitbit Sense 2 features an EDA scan app, which uses an electrodermal activity sensor, 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 a Mindfulness app that like Fitbit's relax mode, is driven by HRV to offer guided breathing exercises, and ways to take time out of your day. Apple has also added new Reflect prompts in the Breathe app to display messages that are designed to provoke positive thoughts.

It's debatable how effective Fitbit's stress tracking is, but if you're looking for a mindfulness aspect, Fitbit's the winner here.

Winner: Fitbit

Female health tracking

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

Fitbit's cycle tracking is essentially a calendar, enabling you to add symptoms into the app. This will enable it to guide when your next cycle may be.

This was the same on Apple Watch, but with Series 8, Apple added a temperature sensor, which is used to detect female cycles. The temperature sensor will retrospectively confirm when a cycle occurred, while symptom input will help predict the next cycle. 

The Series 8 will also look for irregularities and shifts in your cycle that can be a sign of health conditions.

Winner: Apple

Apple v Fitbit: Sports tracking

WareableApple v Fitbit: Smartwatches, fitness and health tracking compared

GPS tracked workouts

In terms of Fitbit's devices, the Versa 4, Sense 2, 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 8 and SE both have built-in GPS, and the Ultra features multiband GNSS, which is far more accurate in built-up areas, or under tree cover.

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.

Winner: Apple

Swimming

The Fitbit Charge 5, Inspire 3, Luxe, Versa 4, and Sense 2 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 the Ultra is even good for diving with an onboard computer. All offer rich metrics with some great third-party apps. The accuracy of the Apple Watch is great too, so it's 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 8 and Ultra.

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 can 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

WareableFitbit Premium

Fitbit uses just a 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 on their health and fitness journey to spend time. All of the data is nicely displayed, there are 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 well-being. 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 storefront via its companion app with native and some high-profile third-party apps and heaps of watch face on offer. The process of getting those onto a Fitbit smartwatch is still a bit clunky, plus it's not a store packed to the rafters with things to download.

Apple Watch apps

WareableApple v Fitbit: Smartwatches, fitness and health tracking compared

When you get an Apple Watch you're 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, and tinker with settings and watch faces.

You also have Apple Health, which is your 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 sound 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 to understand where various bits of data live.

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

Outside of Fitness+, all of these apps are free to access and use. There are 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 data presentation is far more user-friendly.

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


How we test



Michael Sawh

By

Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.


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