When it comes to smartwatch dominance, two names stand above the rest: Apple and Fitbit. Apple with the Watch, and Fitbit with the Ionic and Versa. Picking the one that’s right for you can be a challenge.
Back in the day, there were fitness trackers, and there were smartwatches. But as time has gone on, the lines have blurred. Now, most fitness trackers are decent smartwatches, and most smartwatches are decent fitness trackers. This couldn’t be truer than with the Apple Watch—which is a smartwatch first and a fitness tracker second—and the newest offerings from Fitbit, the Ionic and Versa—which are fitness trackers first and smartwatches second.
But here’s the thing: they’re both really good at being smartwatches and fitness trackers. Picking the one that’s best suited to your life comes down to a few key points.
Before we get started, however, let’s talk about what both watches can do.
What You’ll Get From Either Watch
There are some basics that you’ll get either way. With either watch, you’ll get activity tracking, step count, calorie burn, notification mirroring, and quick replies. You’ll be able to customize the watch face (to a certain extent) on both watches, with an assortment of first- and third-party options available for download.
The same can goes for app support—which we’ll talk about in greater detail later—but there are app options available for both platforms. Just like with smartphones, they do a lot of the same basic things; the difference is in the details.
First Things First: What Phone Do You Have?
This may go without saying, but to cover all the bases we need to talk about your phone first. The odds are, if you’re reading this, you have an iPhone. Perfect! The Apple Watch and all models of Fitbit are compatible with your phone. It doesn’t matter which iPhone you have—as long as it’s relatively new, you’re good to go.
If you have Android, on the other hand, then guess what? The Apple Watch is out of the question. You can still use any Fitbit you want, but if you’re thinking of getting an Apple Watch, then you’ll need to switch platforms completely. Sorry, fam.
With that said, from this point forward, we’ll be operating under the assumption that you’re an iPhone user. It just makes sense, right?
Think About What You Want on Your Wrist
What sort of information do you want at a glance? This is the first question you should ask yourself when looking at a new smartwatch. Aside from the time (which is, perhaps surprisingly, a given on both devices), do you want access to health metrics? Do you want to see your heart rate, step count, caloric burn, and similar?
Or would you rather have quick access to things like your voice assistant and calendar appointments? These are defining traits of each watch. Sure, the Apple Watch can show some health metrics on its watch face, but if you’re looking for all your health details in quick, bite-sized pieces, the Fitbit is where it’s at. The Ionic, Versa, and Versa Lite all have excellent watch faces to show things like step count, active minutes, calories, and heart rate. Find the right face, and you can get weather data and battery level right on the main screen too.
The Apple Watch, on the other hand, is a lot more versatile. You can use the Siri watch face for quick access to your favorite digital assistant, calendar events, and the like. There are a ton of other watch faces to choose from that provide a slew of different options.
So, if you want health metrics and that’s pretty much it, the Fitbit will suit your needs perfectly. If you just want more at a glance, the Apple Watch may be a better choice.
What Sort of App Support Do You Want?
If you want to do more with your watch and less with your phone, app support is going to be important. And right out of the gate, the Apple Watch is the clear winner for app support—it has a lot more options available. There are some decent picks available in the Fitbit ecosystem, like Strava and Pandora, but if you’re looking for anything niche or something specific, the odds are it won’t work on Fitbit.
Thanks to notification mirroring, you’ll get some basic app-like functionality for specific applications on a Fitbit—like simple music controls. If you’re jamming some tunes and need to flip tracks, you can do that. But don’t expect any deeper integration on any level—with any app. As I said earlier, the Versa and Ionic are fitness trackers first and smartwatches second. You certainly don’t buy a Fitbit for the app support—you buy it for activity tracking and whatnot. The smartwatch features are just a bonus.
But with the Apple Watch, there’s a lot of great app support. The best part is that apps automatically sync from your iPhone, so if you already have something on the phone and it has a Watch app, you don’t have to mess with a separate installation. This doesn’t happen on Fitbit—if you want it on your watch, you’ll have to dig through Fitbit’s (not great) app store to get it.
In short, if you’re looking for great app support and supplementing phone use with your watch, the Apple Watch is the way to go. You know, the thing that’s mostly a smartwatch.
But if you’re looking to keep your watch usage simple and only want the basics on your wrist, the Versa or Ionic may be a better fit.
What Kind of Fitness Tracking and Support Do You Want?
Here’s a fun one—and where things start to get more complicated. The Apple Watch is an excellent smartwatch, but it’s also applauded by many as a great fitness tracker. And for the most part, it is! But it’s not perfect.
While there are a lot of benefits to using the Apple Watch as a fitness tracker, with constant heart rate monitoring and the ECG feature (Series 4 only), it also lacks in certain areas. It doesn’t have native sleep tracking, for example. There are apps available that do it, but I’ve yet to find one that’s as good as what I get from my Versa.
And while sleep tracking may not seem like a make or break feature of a fitness tracker, it’s honestly crucial to making the most of your fitness. Hell, that’s true of tracking in general—intake, exercise, and sleep are the cornerstones of living a healthy life, so it’s important to keep track of all these things. And that is where Fitbit excels because you can keep up with all of these things in one place.
With the Apple Watch, you’ll need an app for tracking your food intake (which is technically done on the phone), and a different app for monitoring sleep. Throw a few different apps into the mix if you want to track different workouts, too. But with Fitbit, everything is in one place, both on the watch and in the app.
Between the watch and the Fitbit app, you can cover pretty much all of your fitness bases. You can track activities from your watch and food from the app. Sleep tracking happens automatically based on your heart rate, and it syncs to the app. Water intake tracking is available on both the app and the watch. If you’re only worried about fitness information, Fitbit is damn near an all-inclusive package.
What’s more, you don’t have to use it this way. Want to track activities in Strava? You can! Prefer MyFitnessPal as a food tracker? No problem—use what you like. You can even set both of those things to sync information to back to Fitbit, so you still get your food and workouts in the Fitbit app, right alongside your water intake and sleep details.
And that’s the biggest selling point of Fitbit stuff as fitness tracker: it’s flexible enough to allow you to use your preferred apps if you want, but still conveniently keeps everything you need in one place. It’s brilliant.
Finally, Let’s Talk About Price
When it comes down to it, there are few different Apple Watches to choose from, and Fitbit has the Ionic, Versa, and Versa Lite. Oh, and the Special Edition Versa. Oof. Here’s a [not so] quick and dirty breakdown:
- Apple Watch Series 3, GPS-only: $199-$279
- Apple Watch Series 3, GPS + Celluar: $299-$379
- Apple Watch Series 4 GPS-only: $399
- Apple Watch Series 4, GPS + Cellular: $484-$499
- Fitbit Ionic: $225-$250
- Fitbit Versa, Special Edition: $229
- Fitbit Versa: $170-$199
- Fitbit Versa Lite: $159
As you can see, the prices vary pretty wildly. The most expensive Fitbit (Ionic) is still normally cheaper than the cheapest Apple Watch (though the latter can be found cheaper on sale). There’s always the option of buying an older generation Apple Watch, but we’re currently only looking at the watches currently sold by Apple.
But yeah, when it to price, it’s hard to beat Fitbit.
So, Which One Will It Be?
Now’s the time to ask yourself the most important question: do you want a smartwatch with fitness prowess or a fitness tracker with some okay smartwatch features? If you can answer that question simply, then you already know which one is the best choice for you. And if you decided on a Fitbit, take a look at our Fitbit buyer’s guide—it’ll help you figure out which Fitbit is the best one for you.
But if you’re still struggling to decide which one to go with, then you need to figure out what fits best into your life—or the life you want to live. That’s an important qualifier because if you’re looking for a lifestyle change to get your health under control, I feel like the Fitbit Versa or Ionic is a better pick. You’ll get everything you need front and center, plus the simplicity of having everything in one place (the Fitbit app) means that it’s more likely you’ll actually use this stuff. If you start by complicating things with four different apps and a steeper learning curve (read: the Apple Watch), you’re less likely to use it. Just saying.
But here’s the best part: ultimately, they’re both amazing. I have both and can safely say you’ll be happy with either one. But in case you’re curious, the Versa is what you’ll find on my wrist daily. Can’t beat it for my active lifestyle.