Smartwatch or fitness tracker: Which one should you buy to improve your fitness?

By | December 19, 2019

smartwatch vs fitness tracker

Fitness enthusiasts may get confused over the choice between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker. Some would say they are practically the same thing since they do share some obvious features – both are wearable devices you put on your wrist that provide you with some interesting information useful for tracking your fitness efforts.

However, they actually differ in some important features, such as comfort, practicality, type and amount of info provided. This article should help you understand the positive and negative sides of both devices and confidently decide which gadget will most efficiently help you achieve your fitness goals.

What exactly is a fitness tracker?

There is a good reason why fitness trackers (or fitness bands) are becoming increasingly popular (just see Statista). In the fitness world, it’s more important than ever to understand your body, track your activities and be aware of what happens during exercise. It’s only when you bring that awareness in, you will be able to adjust your workouts, targets and intensity. Not tracking your performance and your body’s response will not help you see where you are right now and what you need to do to improve your fitness and reach those goals. A fitness tracker is what you need.

A fitness tracker is basically a digital wrist band that can measure and track changes in your body, such as your heart rate, calorie consumption and distance travelled. It can count steps and can detect the various type of movements. Not all fitness trackers come with the same features though and some are more advanced than others.

A fitness band can also be connected to your smartphone if needed and can provide notifications, or even the option to respond to a text or a call.

There are various brands and types of these wearables that are suitable for different fitness levels and exercise goals. Whether you are looking for a light workout, or you are a serious runner, a fitness tracker can help you take your workouts to the next level.

What is a smartwatch?

A smartwatch, on the other hand, is a multi-purpose watch-like device that can, among others, provide great features useful in fitness. Its diversity makes it a good choice for those who have really busy days when each minute counts and a proper workout must be combined with work. A smartwatch gives you the option to leave your phone aside and have access to your email, use apps, text and never miss an important call.

Similarly to a fitness tracker, a smartwatch can also monitor physiological changes in your body, although with more restricted and less specific options.

Smartwatch vs. Fitness Tracker – Key Differences to Be Aware of

Depending on what kind of a consumer you are (i.e. what qualities you are looking for), in order to make a smart purchase these are the questions you need to ask yourself:

1. WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL FEATURES FOR MY NEEDS?

When deciding on which device to choose, the most important thing to consider is its purpose. Both a smartwatch and a fitness band can be successfully used as an aid in fitness tracking, however, the amount and type of information provided by both differ.

Fitness trackers are packed with fitness-related features suitable for advanced athletes and sportsmen. Many of them have the exercise recognition feature which gives you the possibility to work out without having to manually set the parameters for the type of exercise you are doing. Activity sensors are able to detect whether you are cycling, walking, or running and measure your activity accordingly.

Even more detailed options exist – some devices give you an option to choose whether you are jogging, running a full marathon, a half-marathon, etc. All with the purpose of making it all easier and faster for you.

Some fitness trackers are even waterproof and have additional metrics, such as counting laps and turns, which is great for swimmers.

What’s more, some fitness bands come with the GPS feature, a very useful feature for mapping routes and measuring distance travelled, ideal for cyclists, hikers and long-distance runners.

While a fitness band sounds like a perfect choice for some, on the other hand, if your time restrictions demand divided attention, a smartwatch could be a more practical choice. Since it can basically operate as a smartphone on your wrist, it makes multitasking feasible and easy. Although smartwatches do not come with all of the additional features of a fitness band, an average consumer will find they will be enough for their needs.

2. HOW MUCH DO I WANT TO SPEND?

Determining your price range is also important when considering a fitness tracker or a smartwatch.

Smartwatches are usually seen as high-end devices, whereas a decent fitness band can be available at a fairly cheap price. However,  as the brands differ in quality (for example, Garmin vs. Fitbit) more advanced fitness bands get more expensive with the improvement of performance and features, so you may as well spend some extra money on a good-quality smartwatch that will be useful outside of the gym too.

3. ARE THE DESIGN AND SIZE IMPORTANT?

Smartwatches are still on the more fashionable and stylish note, varying from the classic watch look, to more futuristic and modern designs. Fit bands are described as more comfortable and workout-oriented, specifically designed to be less noticeable and bulky.

4. DO I NEED A LONG-LASTING BATTERY?

When it comes to practicality, fitness trackers are still leading in resilience and battery quality. In terms of fitness, a long-lasting battery is usually a must and basically a key feature for far-distance runners, hikers, etc. Needing to constantly recharge your smartwatch and worry about it when out and about is the last thing you need so do pay attention to battery life when buying one of these gadgets.

FINAL THOUGHTS – SHOULD YOU BUY A SMARTWATCH OR A FITNESS BAND?

In the end, it all boils down to what you as a user are leaning towards the most. Carefully consider the things mentioned above before reaching a final decision – purpose, amount and type of info needed, price, comfort, and quality.

As a general rule of thumb, the younger population is more likely to opt for smartwatches due to their multi-purpose advantage, whereas the older population focuses more on the specificity and narrow-purpose aspect of fitness bands. After all, there is a reason why there are devices specifically designed for fitness tracking.

That being said, as technology changes and improves, these features are getting more and more intertwined and there are more devices on the market that can perform a lot more than their original purpose.

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