I got my first Apple Watch last fall when Apple released the Apple Watch SE. Like many of my Apple purchases, I try to avoid products that have a high price tag and a short lifespan. With the Apple Watch SE being more affordable, I decided to bite and have been happy ever since. But what if there was an even more budget-friendly option? What if you wanted to compare Fitbit vs Apple Watch.
In this post, I’m going to compare these devices on several fronts, using first- and second-hand experiences.
Let’s get into it!
- What is Fitbit?
- What is Apple Watch?
- Fitbit vs Apple Watch: Which ones are you comparing?
- Fitbit vs Apple Watch: The basic differences
- Fitbit vs Apple Watch: A side-by-side comparison
- Fitbit vs Apple Watch: Which should you buy?
What is Fitbit?
Before we compare Fitbit vs Apple Watch, let’s start with a definition of each.
For those who don’t know, Fitbit is a more affordable wearable that focuses almost exclusively on your health. Unlike the Apple Watch, which allows you to download games and surf the web, Fitbit has minimal features outside of fitness.
Like Apple Watch, Fitbit is a wearable for your wrist. It can replace your watch and comes in a few different varieties. Some options closely resemble the Apple Watch (the Fitbit Versa series) and others that are just a small band around your wrist (the Fitbit Charge).
What is Apple Watch?
The Apple Watch hardly needs an introduction, but let’s give it one for consistency.
It entered the market a year after Fitbit and hasn’t had much competition since then (aside from Fitbit’s devices). The design is simple: A small, rounded square screen that sits on your wrist.
Like Fitbit, Apple Watch is a fitness device first, though you can get plenty of use out of it without ever touching the fitness features.
While there are different editions of the Apple Watch, all of them follow the same basic design – you won’t find Apple Watches at different “tiers” or for different markets.
Fitbit vs Apple Watch: Which ones are you comparing?
Alright, now that we’ve defined Fitbit vs Apple Watch, we must be clear about which Fitbit is being compared to which Apple Watch. After all, Fitbits come in several shapes and sizes and at several different price points.
I’m going to be comparing the Fitbit Versa series (specifically the Versa 3) against the Apple Watch Series 6. Fitbit has “trackers”, which are bands with a small screen. Since these are not a direct competitor to Apple Watch and are just simple fitness trackers, it wouldn’t be fair to put them against Apple Watch.
The Fitbit Versa 3, on the other hand, has a comparable design to Apple Watch and offers similar features. If you want a simpler, more toned-down version of the Apple Watch without the big screen, Fitbit trackers are for you.
Otherwise, if you’re interested in buying a smartwatch, keep reading!
Fitbit vs Apple Watch: The basic differences
Alright, if you want to get into the nitty-gritty, side-by-side comparison, you can scroll a bit further. But if you just want the CliffsNotes, here are the basics.
- Fitbit Versa 3 costs $230, the Apple Watch Series 6 costs $399+
- Both come in just a few, basic colors
- Fitbit Versa 3 comes in aluminum, Apple Watch comes in aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium
- Both offer solid health tracking features and the ability to download apps
- Apple offers lots of built-in themes, while Fitbit offers third-party themes
- Both have a very similar physical design and excellent screen, though Apple Watch is slightly better at both
- Both are fairly accurate, sync well with iPhone, and are comfortable to wear
And that’s about all there is to compare on a basic level. In short, the Fitbit Versa 3 is a reasonable competitor to the Apple Watch Series 6, especially when you factor in price. However, it’s also lacking in design, ecosystem, and high-end features (like blood oxygen monitoring).
Fitbit vs Apple Watch: A side-by-side comparison
Ok, time for what we’ve all been waiting for, the in-depth comparison of Fitbit vs Apple Watch. Again, we’re comparing the Versa 3 against the Series 6.
It’s important to note that I haven’t used a Fitbit myself. Instead, I’m going to be basing the comparison on my first-hand experience with Apple Watch and second-hand experiences from friends and family with Fitbit Versa.
I don’t have a bias – I think both products are great and that you’ll be happy with whichever you buy.
Alright, let’s go!
It comes as no surprise that Fitbit Versa 3 obliterates the Apple Watch on this front. I wouldn’t even consider buying an Apple Watch that isn’t the Apple Watch SE.
These are devices with a relatively short lifespan (they start to degrade in performance after 2-3 years) and complementary features. Unlike the iPhone, which is something most of us need on an hourly basis, the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa are both optional.
For comparison, a base-line, $399 Apple Watch Series 6 costs more than Apple’s base-line iPad, which can be used as a home computer.
So yeah, I easily give this one to Fitbit Versa. It has a flat, fair price for what it is, coming below even Apple’s “budget-friendly” Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 6, on the other hand, is going to cost you hundreds of dollars at a minimum, up to $900 if you want upgrades.
Health tracking features
When it comes to health tracking features, the winner is a lot less clear. For the most part, it’s a tie.
Both the Apple Watch and the Fitbit Versa have the following health tracking features:
- Step counting
- Calories burned
- Height/Elevation climbed (for steps and hills)
- Cardio workouts
- Notifications and goals to keep you motivated
- Heart rate monitor
- Heart rate irregularity detection
- ECG tests
- Blood oxygen monitoring via SpO2 testing
- Sleep monitoring
As you can see, you won’t be missing out on any health tracking features with either device. The main difference is how the data is presented (rings vs. bars) and some quality differences.
For example, Apple Watch offers a very basic sleep tracking feature, while Fitbit Versa gives you data like how light your sleep was, when the different segments of your sleep were, and so on. However, the data collected and presented by both is considered iffy, so it’s tough to say which is better.
In other words, they’re basically the same. Health tracking features aren’t a deciding factor between these devices.
Alright, so what about the other features these devices offer? What about apps, music, themes, entertainment, smart assistants, GPS, etc.
In general, both devices are solid, though Apple wins out. It offers more robust features that feel polished and effective. Fitbit Versa’s extra features are solid and reliable, though not as deep or consistent as Apple’s.
That said, both have the basics. You can easily control your music, answer calls, send texts (Fitbit can only send texts if paired to an Android phone), and play simple games on either one. Apple Watch uses Siri, while Fitbit Versa uses Google Assistant. Both have mobile payment options.
In short, if you aren’t going to be using your smartwatch for fitness very often, then Apple Watch is the option for you. If your primary focus is fitness, however, then the extra features offered on each will mostly be negligible. Though Apple is more polished in this area.
Design and comfort
The design will come down to your tastes, though I don’t think either device is too dissimilar in this area. I prefer the Apple Watch’s design, though I mistake the Fitbit Versa for the Apple Watch pretty consistently in public. The Digital Crown on Apple Watch is unbeatable, though.
When it comes to watch faces, Apple Watch has more pleasing faces, but fewer options. Customization is limited and third-party watch faces are absent (for now). Fitbit Versa has less appealing faces (in my opinion) but you can add third-party watch faces to your heart’s content. A friend of mine specifically praised being able to have a Star Trek watch face.
Both of these devices are super comfortable, depending on the bands you get. I’ve heard that the metal bands on either can be cold or annoying, though I imagine it’s no different with any metal watchband. The cloth and silicone bands, however, are incredibly comfortable on both devices.
Battery life is super important, especially on a device that is supposed to be on your wrist as much as possible to keep track of your health.
Fitbit Versa easily wins. It’s not even close. Apple Watch Series 6 can technically last for up to three days, though you have to have GPS, cellular, and the always-on display turned off. Realistically, you’ll probably be charging it at least once a day, maybe once every two days.
The Fitbit Versa, on the other hand, can easily go five days without needing a charge and up to six. My Fitbit Versa owning friend said they generally charge their Fitbit once every five days.
This is partially because the Fitbit Versa is running a simpler OS with fewer features and polishes, but the point still stands. You could get lost in the woods for a week and use the Fitbit Versa to find your way to freedom.
Durability and longevity (how long before you need to replace it?)
This is the category that surprised me the most. I expected both devices to be about the same, but from what I’ve seen it seems like one of these devices is significantly worse off when it comes to durability than the other.
Specifically, the Fitbit Versa 3 seems to be lackluster when it comes to durability. Many users report cracked, scratched, or scuffed screens after just a few weeks of use, and it’s generally recommended that you use a screen protector and case with the device.
To be fair, this data is inconsistent. Some users claim to have had their Fitbit Versa’s for a few years with no issues, while others report a damaged device shortly after purchase. The lifespan of Fitbit Versa’s also seems inconsistent, with some users needing to replace their device after a year and others keeping them for several years.
Apple Watch, on the other hand, is far more consistent. I wrote a previous post on how durable and long-lived Apple Watch is if you want more information. Generally speaking, Apple Watch can last around five years before needing to be completely replaced. At three years, you’ll probably need a battery replacement.
While the Apple Watch is rated for swimming, being in and out of the pool frequently will shorten the lifespan of the device a bit. But the device itself is pretty durable; scratches, cracks, and scuffs are not much of a concern.
The winner in this category is the Apple Watch by far. The higher price tag gives you a more certain lifespan out of the device, while Fitbit Versa’s are a bit inconsistent and require more care to keep them going.
In terms of accuracy, official data is pretty limited. I don’t have the know-how or equipment to test the accuracy myself, so I’m instead relying on studies from reliable sources.
Accuracy of activity tracking
This report includes data from multiple reliable studies in which the Fitbit’s tracking was compared against highly-trusted, accurate medical equipment. And, sadly, the reports ended up being disappointing.
It was found that the Fitbit overestimated walking activity by 16-40%. That’s not only a significant amount but a sporadic gap in results, too. It shows that your Fitbit could be off by as much as 40% or as little as 16%, and you have almost no way of knowing which of these percentages yours is off by.
Additionally, it was found that during certain exercises (like cycling) and in household activities (like laundry), the Fitbit underestimated the users’ activity level by 27-34%. Those results are more consistent, but just as inaccurate.
The Apple Watch, on the other hand, has consistently had the highest accuracy scores of any smartwatch on the market. In a test that compared the pedometer of several different smartwatches, the Apple Watch only had a deviation of 0.3% in results.
Another independent study found that the Apple Watch was able to track burned calories with extreme accuracy. Based on the calories burned data collected from the Apple Watch, the individual’s weight should have fallen from 218 pounds to 193.7 pounds. When they weighed in using a scale, their weight was 193.3 pounds. That means that the calorie tracking of the Apple Watch was accurate enough over 79 days to predict the user’s end weight within .3 pounds.
Accuracy of detecting health concerns
Now, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between the fitness tracking features of these devices (calories burned, steps taken, hours stood, etc.) and the features that track serious health concerns. I’m talking about the ECG, heart rate monitor, and blood oxygen monitor.
These trackers have been proven to be less than accurate. Even the Apple Watch, which is generally considered very accurate, was only able to detect AFib 41% of the time in this study.
An interesting point, however, is that when the raw data was retrieved from the Apple Watch and analyzed by the researchers, the Apple Watch’s data was accurate up to 96% of the time. This means that it might be a software issue, and not a hardware issue, causing the inaccuracy.
At any rate, no one should be using these devices to replace real medical equipment yet. They can supplement doctor’s visits in many cases, but if you have serious concerns about your health, you should see your doctor. Both Apple and Fitbit make this clear on their websites and in their marketing.
Lastly, we have syncing. No need to spend too long on this – both devices are great at syncing with your phone! Apple Watch syncs with your iPhone seamlessly, automatically updating your Health and Fitness apps throughout the day.
The Fitbit Versa, on the other hand, uses the Fitbit app to sync your data to iPhone. Despite being a third-party app, though, the syncing is usually just as good as it is with Apple Watch.
The only drawback is that Apple Watch can only sync (or even be used) with an iPhone. Fitbit, on the other hand, is compatible with iOS and Android. Other than that, it’s a draw.
Fitbit vs Apple Watch: Which should you buy?
Out of all the comparison posts I’ve written, this is by far the closest tie there has ever been. I knew Apple Watch would end up being slightly better on most fronts, but I did not expect Fitbit Versa to be so close behind.
When you consider the large gap in price and minimal gap in quality, it’s easy to see why many readers should opt for Fitbit. You aren’t really missing anything (unless you want to use Fitness+).
If you’re an iPhone user who can afford the Apple Watch and is all-in on the Apple ecosystem (i.e., Me) then grab the Apple Watch. Otherwise, the Fitbit is a more flexible and affordable option without many compromises.
Thanks for checking out my Fitbit vs Apple Watch comparison. Hopefully, you’ve found it helpful in making your decision! For more posts on everything Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog.