The Smartwatch Showdown

The Smartwatch Showdown

The Smartwatch Showdown WatchOS for the Apple Watch is the key differentiator between the two brands since it blends natively with your iPhone. Messages, notifications, Apple Wallet, calendars, and more are just a tap or swipe away to create a phone-like experience on your wrist complete with calls and texts that seamlessly handoff between the watch and phone. From here you can do things like scroll through news feeds, play games, and glance at your daily scheduled meetings while customizing your layout either in a grid or list for scrolling. In addition to a frictionless layout, multi-tasking is smooth, apps are fully featured with visual elements, and you can talk to the Siri smart assistant on all models. This power and display costs battery life, which in our testing is often just over a day and a half with moderate use. Overall, the UI is seamless and a cut above Fitbit’s for usability in everyday tasks but missing in-depth fitness tracking. Basic details like specific workout types or the max heart rate you’ve hit on a run to actionable sleep advice and in-depth tracking of the Fitbit are lacking on the Apple Watch.

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Platform

Which mobile device you use will determine whether you go with an Apple Watch or a Fitbit. Android owners can scroll to each Fitbit by price tier to see which works best for their goals and budget, since an Apple Watch is off limits. But even if you own an iPhone, don’t write off Fitbit entirely, as you may prefer the richer health data and connected fitness experience. Otherwise, Apple Watch offers a seamless iPhone-like experience on your wrist so you don’t need to get distracted by pulling out your phone as much or even bring it around if you add your watch to a cellular plan.

Health Sensors

Health sensors relay your vitals. Every watch below can measure your heartbeat, but higher-end devices with electrocardiograms (ECG) can check for irregular rhythms. Electrodermal Activity (EDA) scanners measure perspiration to help you monitor stress levels and control them. Blood oxygen is measured in SPO2 and checks for circulatory system functionality from organs like your heart and lungs. Premium watches can even monitor temperature variability from your skin to let you know if you’re getting sick.

Screen

The size of your smartwatch screen determines how much room you have to read texts or view notifications and interact with your finger by touch. Bigger isn’t always better, as seen by how the Charge 5 activity band we recommend below makes the most out of its limited screen space. However, with a proper capacitive touchscreen like on the large Series 7, you can better type, navigate, and see visuals from your wrist—good for those with poor eyesight or larger fingers.

How We Selected

To put together a pool of watches to test, I ordered both Apple and Fitbit’s current lineups—from their entry-level devices to their most premium offerings—breaking them down into three categories based on price and performance. While I’ve owned some devices, specifically the entry-level Apple Watch Series 3 and Fitbit Charge 5, I took testing notes on each device over the course of one week. I integrated each smartwatch into my daily life from tracking my sleep to ten hours of daily desk work and a nightly one-hour exercise session consisting of weightlifting and cardio. This gave me an idea of the performance accuracy of each watch, real-world battery life expectations, and overall usability across different scenarios such as checking information while banging out work or starting a workout routine up. I used each app to dive deep into advanced functionalities, like the Apple Watch 7’s ability to check SP02 on the fly and the Fitbit’s diet planning and achievement system, thoroughly exploring every nook and cranny to see what works and what doesn’t.

Key Specification

Brand 
Color 
Connectivity Technology 
Supported Application 
Human Interface Input

Fitbit
Lunar White/Soft Gold
GPS
Photo Gallery, Sleep, Phone, GPS, Heart Rate Monitor
Input Touchscreen

Review:

At $169, the Fitbit Charge 5 is a lightweight smartwatch that punches far above its weight in comfort and health features. Not only does it feature an EDA stress and SP02 blood oxygen sensor usually found on higher-end watches, but also an always-on display similar to the most expensive Apple Watch Series 7. You won’t have access to an app store, so you can’t download lifestyle software like Starbucks or Uber like you can with every other option on the list. Instead, you simply tap and swipe the full color AMOLED touchscreen to kick off a workout or set a smart alarm that can wake you up as you exit REM sleep.

Since the display is smaller and there’s no background apps fetching data, I’ve gone as long as six days on a single charge. This is surprising since there’s a built-in GPS for tracking my admittedly short 1-mile runs. I’ve been able to leave my phone behind while running around my apartment complex and solely need to carry keys and my license. The smaller screen size isn’t perfect, as swiping left or right can be initially annoying. But once you get the hang of swiping on the space it’s a breeze to navigate the streamlined interface. With a tap, I can check out at any store that accepts tap to pay just as easily as I can start tracking a weightlifting session without any fussing around between apps or menus—especially important if I need to poke at the screen in the middle of a workout.

Positive
Negative

Key Specification

Brand 
Color
Special Feature 
Compatible Devices 
Screen Size
Operating System 
Style 

Apple
 Gold Aluminium Case with Starlight Sport Band
Sleep Monitor, Activity Tracker, Voice Control, GPS, Heart
IPhone
44 Millimeters
OS
GPS

Review:

The Apple Watch SE is Apple’s mid-range smartwatch that feels way more expensive than it actually is. It’s leaps and bounds better than the older entry-level Series 3 in that it’s much faster thanks to the S5 chip, incorporates higher-end health features like an improved optical heart sensor, and offers haptic feedback on a larger screen, all for under $300. You get modern vital tracking and fall detection, as well as a majority of the most important features (outside of the newer concave screen and bike fall detection on the 7). This is the smartwatch for any iPhone owner: a 32 GB productivity powerhouse on your wrist with advanced health and fitness tracking to rival even the most expensive Fitbit at an excellent value.

Positive
Negative

Key Specification

Brand
Color
Wireless Communication 
Band Color
Human Interface 
Water Resistance 
GPS 
Battery Cell 

Fitbit
Midnight Blue/Gold
Standard Bluetooth
Band Color Blue
Human Interface Input Microphone
Water Resistance Level Water Resistant
GPS True
Battery Cell Composition Lithium Ion

Review:

An outstanding buy: A full-featured 55-inch smart quantum dot 4K TV for less than $500. It offers six zones of full-array local dimming backlighting for better light- and dark-scene detail while most 55-inch models at this price offer far less precise types of backlighting. Also included are full HDR compatibility for higher contrast and FilmMaker Mode that adjusts your TV (colors and frame rates) so the picture hews to the filmmaker’s vision.

Positive
Negative

Key Specification

Brand Apple
Color
Screen Size 
Operating System 


Apple
Midnight Aluminum Case with Midnight 
45 Millimeters
WatchOS

Review:

The Apple Watch Series 7 is the latest smartwatch in the tech giant’s lineup. A large 1.9-inch, always-on OLED display shows the clock face even when your wrist is down, and the concave screen shape provides more surface area for your view. New USB-C compatibility means the watch recharges 33 percent faster than the SE when you use the included cable. I was able to get eight hours of battery life for sleep tracking in just under eight minutes of charging; from fully drained, the watch climbed up to 21 percent battery in that time. At 45 millimeters, the face of our test model is nicely sized for the average wrist but can feel a tad bulky. These features are some pretty major boosts to warrant an upgrade for those looking for a bigger screen and the latest health sensors. Plus, the Series 7 comes in the most finishes beyond stainless steel, with aluminum and titanium options as well.

 

Positive
Negative

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