So you want to get into the fitness tracker scene, and Fitbit seems like a great place to start. It is! But there are also a bunch of models to choose from, so picking the right one can be confusing.
The good news is that picking the right one comes down to a few key features. Like with most things, each upgraded model only adds a few things over the one below it, so you can draw your line in the sand and go from there. But, first things first, you need to decide whether you want something from Fitbit’s smartwatch line or its fitness tracker line.
What You Get From Every Fitbit
Before we get into the differences between all the smartwatches and fitness trackers, we should probably talk about what you get with every Fitbit device—the base functionality that you can expect to see regardless of whether you spend $70 or $250. For the same of simplicity, here’s a bullet list:
- Step tracking
- Calories burned
- Basic sleep tracking
- Silent alarms
- Female health tracking
- Exercise autotrack
- Move reminders
- Hourly activity counts
- Mirrored notifications (from your phone)
If those are the only features you’re after, then even the $70 Inspire will suit your needs. That said, the picks can get pretty dang granular from there—for example, you get basic sleep tracking with the Inspire, but far more advanced sleep metrics with the Inspire HR, which monitors heart rate.
But that’s just one example. Let’s break down all the picks, shall we?
What’s the Difference Between a Smartwatch and a Fitness Tracker?
Ah, I’m so glad you asked! When it comes to Fitbit’s smartwatches and fitness trackers, the critical difference can be summed up in one word: apps. Simply put, the company’s smartwatches have app support, where the fitness trackers don’t. Easy, right?
Well, not so fast.
That’s the main difference—but it’s not the only difference. Things start to get a bit blurrier from there, with the higher-end fitness trackers like the Charge 2 covering a lot of the same features (and sometimes more) as the low-end smartwatches, like the Versa Lite. For example, the Charge 3 supports Swim Tracking, something that the Versa Lite doesn’t support. But we’ll get into more of these granular comparisons later.
The point is, if app support is important to you, then you should at least start with the smartwatch family—that’s the Versa, Versa Lite, and Ionic. Now, that said, you’ll need to keep your expectations in check here. There aren’t a ton of apps for the platform right now, so don’t expect to get into full smartwatch territory with any of Fitbit’s offerings. If you’re looking for the full smartwatch shebang, you’ll be better off with an Apple Watch or Samsung Gear.
Remember, Fitbits are fitness trackers first and smartwatches second, regardless of how the company classifies them. Also, it’s worth pointing out that all Fitbits have notification mirroring, so you’ll see notifications from your phone on your wrist. So if that’s the main “smartwatch” feature you’re after, you’ll get it regardless of which tracker you choose!
Looking for a Smartwatch? Here Are Your Choices
Currently, Fitbit offers two smartwatch models: the Ionic and the Versa. But within those models, the Versa has three different versions: the “standard” edition, Special Edition, and Lite edition. As you might expect, each of those has features that separate them from each other. I’m all about quick and dirty lists, so here’s the skinny:
- Ionic, $250: This was Fitbit’s first smartwatch, and it remains the company’s flagship product. It’s also the most expensive. When it comes down to it, there are only two things that make it stand out from the Versa—it has built-in GPS (for tracking without the phone) and on-screen Adidas workouts. Woo.
- Versa Standard Edition, $200: This is the “regular” version of the Versa, and it has almost identical features to the Ionic—save for the aforementioned built-in GPS and Adidas workout support (it does have on-screen workouts via Fitbit Coach, though). Unless you’re married to the idea of running without your phone or love the idea of on-screen Adidas workouts, there’s no reason to buy the Ionic over the Versa.
- Versa Special Edition, $230: This model is exactly like the Versa, but it also includes NFC for using Fitbit Pay (a feature the Ionic also has). If you like the idea of paying for things with your watch, this might be the one for you. But at just $20 cheaper than the Ionic, it’s worth a look at both models to see which one tickles your fancy. Man, that’s such a weird phrase.
- Versa Lite, $160: This is the company’s affordable Versa, and it strips away some of the more superfluous features to bring the cost down. You’ll miss out on floor climbing, swim tracking, on-screen workouts, and music storage for local playback, but that’s about it. If you don’t need or want any of those features, this is a great way to save a bit of money on an excellent smartwatch.
So there are your choices for Fitbit’s smartwatch category—as I said, each one sort of builds off the last, with little things that differentiate each one. For the most part, I recommend the Versa or Versa Lite to most users (depending on their needs, of course), with the Versa Special Edition finding a spot in the hearts of contactless payment lovers.
The Ionic has an offputting design to most (myself included), and I find that most users prefer the subtler style of the Versa. The good news is you get the same classy look (relatively speaking, of course) with everything in the Versa lineup.
Cool, So What About Fitness Trackers?
As I said earlier, all Fitbits are fitness trackers—the smartwatches just have, well, more smartwatch features, like apps. For the fitness tracker selection, there are (more or less) four choices: Charge 3, Charge 3 Special Edition, Inspire HR, and Inspire. Breakdown time!
- Charge 3, $150: As suggested but its $150 price tag, the Charge 3 is Fitbit’s “flagship” fitness tracker. At only $10 cheaper than the company’s entry-level smartwatch, you have to wonder what the Charge 3 offers that makes it special. First off, it has the “floors climbed” feature that the Versa and Iconic also have, which might matter to some? Otherwise, you get swim tracking and, erm, that’s it. So the floors thing and swim tracking. Yeah. It’s also smaller and more narrow, which may be a decent selling point for the tiny wrists among you.
- Charge 3 Special Edition, $170: This just like the Charge 3 but includes NFC for Fitbit Pay. If you want contactless payments from your watch without dropping $230 on the Versa Special Edition, this guy might be the one for you. 😘
- Inspire HR, $100: The Inspire HR is slightly thinner and sleeker than the Charge 3, but has almost the same features. It lacks floors climbed (which I still can’t figure out if anyone really wants), quick replies to notifications, and Fitbit Pay. That’s it.
- Inspire, $70: The HR in “Inspire HR” means heart rate, so I bet you can already guess what this version is lacking. (Spoiler: it’s the heart rate monitor.) Because of that, you don’t get advanced sleep tracking metrics (which is one of my favorite things on my Versa), guided breathing sessions, swim tracking, exercise modes, or cardio fitness level. It’s also missing any pace/distance tracking—it can’t even use the phone’s built-in GPS like some of Fitbit’s other trackers. This is by far the simplest tracker Fitbit has (well, for adults anyway).
- Ace 2 (for kids), $70: This is Fitbit’s tracker explicitly designed for kids, but we include it here for the sake of completeness. It’s a very basic fitness tracker with step tracking, basic sleep tracking, move reminders, and call notifications being the only features available. But, you know, it’s for kids. It probably doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles!
So there you and there you go—all of Fitbit’s fitness trackers. If you’re not interested in apps for your wrist, one of these trackers is the way to go. The Charge 3 offers the best features of the bunch, but may be considered pricey at $150-170. The best balance of features and price is probably the Inspire HR, as it offers a lot of what you get from the more expensive Charge 3, but at a $100 price tag. The inclusion of the heart rate sensor is well worth the extra $30 over the base Inspire—the additional features you get from being able to track your heart rate make the HR model a smart upgrade. The value in advanced sleep tracking metrics can’t be overstated for anyone who is looking to get healthier.
Ultimately, They’re All Great
In the end, it’s up to you to decide which one will fit your lifestyle better, but I will say this: Fitbit makes some great stuff. If you’re looking to get in better shape and take better care of yourself, this is an excellent route to go—my Versa has given me far more insight into my health than I would’ve been able to get otherwise (even from the Apple Watch).
Advanced sleep tracking is one of my favorite features, so I definitely recommend going with a model that supports that. You’d be surprised how restless you really are at night and how that affects your daily performance!
But I digress. I hope this guide has helped make an educated purchase decision. Enjoy your new Fitbit!