Apple Watch vs Fitbit: which watch is better?

Cream Fitbit Sense and blue Apple Watch 7
(Image credit: Future)

If you've been thinking about buying a new smartwatch or fitness tracker, you may also be wondering which device is the best for you – Apple Watch vs Fitbit? We're here to guide you through the key differences between the two brands, and equip you with the facts you need to make an informed choice.

While Fitbits and Apple Watches share many similar features, including daily activity and heart rate tracking, there are also lots of key differences that you should know about when choosing between the two.

Knowing where to start can be daunting, and upgrading can also throw up myriad possibilities that make it tough to choose which is the right watch for you. With that, here’s some help in choosing the right device for you.

Top Cyber Monday Apple Watch deals right now:

Apple Watch SE (1st Gen): was

Apple Watch SE (1st Gen): was $279.00 now $149 at Walmart
The original SE isn't as good as the Series 8, Ultra, or the updated SE from a hardware point of view, but there's still a lot to love here for $150. With a recycled aluminum case, it's swim-proof, great for hiking with real-time compass and elevation readings, and allows you to take calls and answer messages from your wrist.

Apple Watch Series 7: was

Apple Watch Series 7: was $499 now $339 at Best Buy
If you don't need the Series 8's body temperature sensor or crash detection, this predecessor is much the same Apple Watch for a lot less money in this great deal. You get exercise tracking, an ECG, Apple Pay, access to Apple Fitness Plus (with a separate subscription), plus all the usual fitness-tracking modes.

Top Cyber Monday Fitbit deals right now: 

Fitbit Charge 5: w

Fitbit Charge 5: was $148.95 Now $99.95 at Walmart
Save $50 or 33% on the Charge 5, the most comprehensive and advanced of Fitbit's "true" trackers/ It's water-resistant to 50m with advanced sleep tracking, built-in GPS, automatic workout recording, seven-day battery life and Fitbit's Daily Readiness score. Take it off once a week to charge, and the Charge 5 does the rest of the work for you. 

Fitbit Versa 4: was

Fitbit Versa 4: was $229.95 Now $149.95 at Walmart
An excellent, unprecedented deal on a brand new piece of kit, the Versa 4 offers over 40 exercise modes, up-to-date heart rate and sleep tracking, built-in GPS for those long runs, 50-meter water resistance for swims, six months of Fitbit Premium free, and Fitbit's up-to-date sensor hardware and tracking algorithms. 

Apple Watch vs Fitbit: models

Since Apple Watch was first released, it’s seen a course correction from a focus on apps for the device, to focusing primarily on your health.

Currently there are the following models on sale directly from Apple:

All of the above use Apple's latest operating system for wearables, watchOS 9, which introduced new mindfulness tools, improved outdoor cycling features (including more accurate calorie counting for e-bikes), a pilates workout mode, and an updated photos app with new portrait watch faces.

It’s best to see the Apple Watch versions as good, better, and best. All are fundamentally excellent smartwatches that benefit from a mature operating system, so it's a matter of balancing your budget against their features.

The SE, especially the latest version, is a great entry point for those who want an Apple Watch with a heart rate feature at the lowest price. The Apple Watch 6 and above include many of the same features, including blood oxygen monitoring, plus an on-demand ECG. Fitness is the primary function of the Apple Watch in 2022, so if that's your main concern then you won’t go far wrong here.

The Apple Watch 8 is a relatively iterative upgrade, with the main difference being the addiction of new functions like Crash Detection to detect car and bike accidents, and skin temperature sensors. It retains the 7's slightly larger case sizes (41mm and 45mm compared to 40mm and 44mm for the Apple Watch 6). There's a 70% brighter always-on screen mode for use indoors, the display is topped with tougher crystal, and the watch's case is now rated IPX6 for protection against dust.

Apple Watch 7 in five different colors

The Apple Watch 7 has a slightly larger screen, but otherwise wasn't a huge upgrade from its predecessor (Image credit: Apple)

It’s hard to believe that the first product Fitbit released back in 2009 was a clip-on device that only measured steps and sleep. Now there multiple varieties of Fitbit available to suit many different groups of customers.

The company made waves in creating smartwatches with fitness as a priority, and it came to a head in 2020 where Google announced it was buying Fitbit to bolster its wearable armory. They're not just for Android, though; Fitbit devices also work with iOS, making them a great choice for whichever handset you use.

From basic activity tracks for monitoring your heart rate and step count to fully-fledged smartwatches, there’s a Fitbit for everyone. As we’re talking about the Apple Watch here, the closest products that rival it are the newly launched Fitbit Versa 3 and the Fitbit Sense.

However, that might soon change. Fitbit is now owned by Google, and the two companies recently announced that they're currently working on a premium Fitbit powered by Google's smartwatch operating system, Wear OS. We don't know much about it yet, but this is likely to be much more of a direct competitor to Apple.

There's a wide range of Fitbit devices available, from the sleek Fitbit Luxe to the sports-focused Fitbit Charge 5, but if you're looking for something comparable to an Apple Watch, the Versa 4 and Sense 2 are the two you should be looking at.

Fitbit Versa 4

The Fitbit Versa 4 is the more affordable of the two Fitbit smartwatches, and is an excellent alternative to the Apple Watch for Android device owners. It's slightly more fitness-orientated than the Sense 2, boasting more activity profiles as well as top-tier sleep tracking. You can respond to notifications from Facebook, messages and email, make contactless purchases with Fitbit Pay, control your Spotify playlist, track workouts and more, all from your wrist.

Alongside the hundreds of watch faces that can be enabled on the device, there’s also a variety of colors to choose from.

Fitbit Sense 2

The Fitbit Sense 2 is the higher-end of Fitbit's two new smartwatches, with a similar design but a more advanced feature set to monitor your health and wellbeing. Alongside the features of the Versa, it has the electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor of its predecessor, which can detect signs of stress based on changes in your skin's conductivity. It can also detect variance in skin temperature, which can be a sign of an upcoming illness, plus your heart rate and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2).

Fitbit Sense 2 on a person's wrist as they write in a notebook

The Fitbit Sense 2 is currently the company's top-end smartwatch (Image credit: Fitbit)

Apple Watch vs Fitbit: battery life

Your Apple Watch's battery life mainly depends on how often you will use the fitness features throughout the day, but as soon as you put it in at 8am and then come back to watch Netflix at 7pm, you will usually be left with 40% charge remaining.

Both the Fitbit Sense 2 and the Versa 4 offer a six-day battery life (though the exact duration will vary depending on the features you use), with a minimum of a 12-minute charge to keep you going for the rest of that day.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit: fitness tracking

If you choose an Apple Watch, you'll get a ton of features that you can cater to your needs, including a raft of activity-tracking options, plus on-board GPS so you can leave your phone at home and still record your runs, swims and rides.

Alongside this, if you know of others who also have an Apple Watch, you can see their fitness goals throughout the day, and even compete with them over a seven day period.

Better yet, exclusive fitness goals appear during the month, to further challenge you on the tasks you usually take part in. From walking, to pilates, and strength goals, they’re all here.

Another great feature, which you'll find on every device except the Apple Watch 3, is fitness detection. If you're 10 minutes into a walk, for example, the Watch will display a prompt asking whether you want to track it. Those first 10 minutes will already be logged if you choose 'Yes', meaning your entire journey will be tracked. It's a very handy feature, and means that even if you're just running errands and wouldn't normally think to activate tracking, it will still count towards completing your daily Rings. Since the launch of WatchOS 8, your watch can also track cycling automatically, so your daily commute to work will could towards your goal as well.

If you're interested in getting more active at home, it's also worth noting that you'll get a free three-month subscription to Apple Fitness Plus when you buy a new Apple Watch, giving you access to hundreds of instructor-led workouts on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.

Apple Fitness Plus instructors working out

A subscription to Apple Fitness Plus will help you get more from your Apple Watch's workout features (Image credit: Apple)

As you might expect, fitness tracking is where Fitbit shines; once the app is downloaded onto your phone, simply sync your device and a wealth of health and fitness data will be available at your fingertips - all presented in a format that's clear and easy to interpret. In addition to heart rate, sleep and activity metrics logged by your Fitbit device, you can also use the app to log your hydration, set weight goals, log food, and track your menstrual cycle.

Things get even better with a Fitbit Premium subscription, which gives you more in-depth analysis of your sleep data (with new Sleep Animals coming soon), plus a Daily Readiness score. There's access to a huge catalog of instructor-led workouts, meditation classes, and mindfulness sessions as well, plus nutrition advice. You'll get a free trial of the full service when you buy a new Fitbit so you can decide whether you want to sign up longer term.

If you're mostly interested in fitness and not so concerned about other smartwatch features, it's worth checking out the full range of other Fitbits as well. The Fitbit Charge 5 is particularly impressive, with on-board GPS to track outdoor workouts, the same stress monitoring tech as the Fitbit Sense, workout tracking, an ECG sensor, heart rate monitoring, and sleep tracking – all packed into a compact case much smaller than the Sense or Versa 3.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit: conclusion

If you're still not sure, the decision comes down to a few factors. If you use an iPhone, it makes perfect sense to complement it with an Apple Watch. You gain features that are exclusive to the Watch, such as Siri and deep integration with iOS.

Currently, Apple is leading the way in the smartwatch market, and the current lineup of Apple watches are great all-rounders that benefit from a mature operating system, long-term support from Apple, and a wide range of apps. Although they don't focus on health as much as Fitbit's devices, their workout tracking features and Apple's upcoming Fitness Plus subscription service encourages you to go that extra mile and consider the effects of your lifestyle on your wellbeing.

If you’re using an Android phone, a Fitbit device is the one to go for, especially now that the company has been purchased by Google, and a premium Fitbit smartwatch powered by Google Wear OS is coming soon.

Fitbit's heritage in workout tracking and health makes its devices a good choice if you're particularly interested in monitoring your workouts and cardiovascular health. The Fitbit Versa 4 offers you a similar feature set to the Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen), alongside the SpO2 feature that the SE model lacks. Its lower price might also be enough to tempt iPhone users.

If you're interested in practicing mindfulness, the Sense 2's stress tracking, mood logging and breathing exercises could make it the best device for you, helping you manage the pressure of life in 2022.

Overall, the decision is yours; it just depends on the phone you have and how much tracking your fitness means to you.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)