When it comes to wearable gadgets, two terms are often heard: “fitness tracker” and “smartwatch”. These two types of devices share many similarities but some major differences. Which one is right for you?
That’s a big question to answer. In many ways, choosing a device for your wrist is more difficult than choosing a smartphone. There’s a huge range of options, and features vary wildly. We’ll try to help you decide which way to go.
What is a fitness tracker?
Let’s start with fitness trackers. These devices have been around longer than smartwatches because they are inherently simpler. That’s the most important quality of a fitness tracker compared to a smartwatch – simplicity.
Fitness trackers are focused devices. As the name suggests, its main purpose is to track fitness. This includes everything from basic step tracking to advanced heart measurements and blood oxygen readings.
However, not all fitness trackers are created equal. For example, the Fitbit Inspire 2 can do a lot of the basic fitness tracking stuff you want for $100. For an additional $30, you get a Fitbit Charge 5 with added GPS, blood oxygen, EKG, a color touchscreen, and more.
“Fitness tracker” is a broad term, but the general concept is that these devices are designed with the intention of tracking fitness-related things. The functions for this vary, but the goal is the same.
What is a smart watch?
Smartwatches have a lot in common with fitness trackers. Many smartwatches – like the Apple Watch – also have a focus on health and fitness. Almost every smartwatch is also a fitness tracker, but not every fitness tracker is also a smartwatch.
Put simply, a smartwatch does more. Apps, notifications, music controls, phone call mics, speakers, NFC, cellular connectivity, GPS, and touchscreens. There are also fitness trackers that have some of these features, but any device that has all of these things is considered a smartwatch.
A smartwatch can do more, but is less focused than a fitness tracker. Pretty much all smartwatches have some form of fitness tracking capability, but they don’t all have advanced features like blood oxygen and EKG (some do). A smartwatch can have more features overall, but they’re spread across a wider range of things.
Think of a smartwatch as a miniaturized version of your smartphone. It’s a device designed to do many different things.
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Which ones should you buy?
Okay, now the big question is which device is right for you? Of course, that depends heavily on what you want to do with it, but there’s also pricing to consider.
Why you should buy a fitness tracker
As we discussed above, a fitness tracker is a more focused experience. If health and well-being are your top priorities, you’ll likely find that a dedicated fitness tracker is better.
Since fitness trackers are designed specifically for fitness tracking, these features are not added after the fact. They are often more accurate and have more advanced features than their smartwatch counterparts.
This focused approach also lends itself to being more affordable. The most advanced Fitbit model is only around $150. You can easily find fitness trackers in the $100 range or less.
Why you should buy a smartwatch
Smartwatches are a good choice if you’re interested in more than just fitness tracking. Maybe you want rich notifications on your wrist, the ability to use a few apps, and you want a cellular connection so you can leave your phone at home.
The cool thing about smartwatches is that you don’t necessarily have to give up the advanced fitness tracking capabilities. Garmin is a brand that makes smartwatches with really good health and wellness features.
The Apple Watch also has some very impressive health features. If you want a smartwatch with good fitness skills, you can hardly go wrong with the Apple Watch. Not you to have sacrificing accurate fitness tracking to enjoy the benefits of a smartwatch.
Of course, having your cake and eating it comes at a price. Garmin has smartwatches that cost over $600. But that is not the rule. An Apple Watch will cost you between $200 and $400. A Samsung Galaxy Watch is in the same range.