Should I buy a Smartwatch or Fitness Tracker?

Runner sat down using his fitness tracker

Choosing between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker is a difficult decision these days.

On the surface, many of the products out there seem remarkably similar and a lot of smartwatches and trackers pretty much deliver the same. However, there is still a gap between the products that makes considering the options an important one.

As a rule, if your fitness’ accuracy and versatility are a priority, you may be better suited to a fitness tracker. In contrast, a smartwatch is often for people who want to track their fitness as well as having a stylish and attractive looking watch with smart features.

While many fitness trackers have smart features and many smartwatches have fitness tracking, the level of degree to which they offer this feature will determine which option is best for you.

Since both fitness trackers and smartwatches vary so drastically within their own market, it’s not too easy to see compare them side to side, but let’s take in their differences in a general sense!

Pros of a Fitness Tracker

In general, they’re much cheaper than a smartwatch

If you’re unsure about making such a significant investment, you can buy a fitness tracker for as little as £20 and often no more than £160, while many smartwatches start over the £200 price mark and continue to £1,000. And since many have the same smart features like a watch, you may be paying much less for a very similar experience.

If you don’t like the idea of paying for things on your watch or feel perfectly content using your phone for day-today getting round, then why pay for what is essentially another phone?

Better battery life than the majority of smartwatches

Every device will vary in battery life depending on what features you run, but if you forget to charge things up or low battery life just generally winds you up, then a fitness tracker might be a better option.

Aside from the Vectra Contemporary Luna smartwatch, many watches have a battery life of fewer than 20 hours compared to 7 days and upwards with fitness trackers.

They’re more accurate

The main difference with fitness trackers is that the features they’re offering for health and fitness tend to be more specialised. And while some smartwatches have seriously impressive fitness features, customers have often complained that their smartwatch doesn’t offer accurate readings of steps taken and calories burned.

Another main difference is that brands like Fitbit allow you to set yourself specific goals for Steps, Distance, Calories Burned, Active Zone Minutes, and your Hourly Activity Goal. The Apple smartwatch only allows you to set goals for calories burnt. Fitness trackers are generally better calibrated to capture exercise metrics in a useful and interpretable way.

It’s not just your fitness but your well-being as well. A lot of fitness trackers provide detailed information about your quality of sleep rather than just monitoring how long you’ve slept for, in fact, fitness trackers like the Fitbit Charger 4 have some of the best sleep tracking technology available with a daily sleep score, in-depth information on the different stages of your sleep and a silent alarm to wake you up more naturally. A lot of trackers also monitor your heart rate 24/7 rather than every 10 minutes like the Apple Smartwatch.

Man using smartwatch

Pros of a smartwatch

They’re more aesthetically pleasing

Some fitness trackers are pretty, but they’ll never have that old-school holographic screen that a watch has. Both fitness trackers and smartwatches have the option to customise. Still, in general, the broader screen and the sleek, sophisticated look of many smartwatches make them prettier… in fact, just as pretty as many swiss watches.

They have more features

The biggest pull to a smartwatch is that they’re like a mini smartphone, so much that with many smartwatches you no longer even need to bring your phone out. If you want to be able to receive text messages, make phone calls, and get directions straight from your wrist as well have a fitness tracker then a smartwatch may be better. Not to mention the super important social media notifications, humans are social creatures after all.

And if you’re thinking that actually, you’re a bit of a lone wolf, it’s still important to have daily reminders of things you need to do, or if you’re expecting a call from your boss on a busy train, you don’t have to faff around trying to get your phone out of your bag.

In fact, you might just find the need to check your phone endlessly decreases because you know if it is important, you’ll receive the notification on your watch.

Smartwatches offer unique features that are still yet unbeaten

The Garmin Instinct smartwatch still remains the forerunner for GPS signal and durability. It has navigational skills like no fitness tracker with GNSS support, ABC sensors and Tracback Routing if you ever get lost up a mountain.

Then, the Apple Smartwatch Series 6 can take a blood O2 reading in just 15 seconds at any time of day, while Fitbit only measures your blood-oxygen levels while you sleep. This is handy for monitoring health, especially if you’re at risk of a chronic health condition, including heart disease or asthma.

They’re more versatile

Think of a smartwatch like a great all-rounder and a fitness tracker as a niche specialist. Smartwatches are great for helping you with all the annoying day-to-day inconveniences. Left your wallet at home? No problem, just pay on your watch. Lost your phone? Your smartwatch will help you find it and help you lock it while you’re looking. If you like to stay in contact and reachable while exercise, carrying a smartphone on a run or going for a swim just wouldn’t work, but with a smartwatch, you can ditch the clunky phone and still be contactable.

To conclude

If it annoys you having to get your phone out, if style and statement are essential to you and you want a pretty great all-rounder, then a smartwatch is for you.

If you’re specifically focused on wellbeing and fitness and accuracy is really important, as well as longer battery life and some smart features for a much cheaper price, then a fitness tracker is a better choice for you.