Having the ability to track workouts, exercise, sports, heart rate, and other physical activity from the device on your wrist has changed the world of fitness and health in so many ways.
Some people prefer to use fitness trackers, while others opt for smartwatches, both with similar features and capabilities.
Although the fine lines between fitness trackers and smartwatches have become very blurred over the last several years, there are still features of each that the other does not offer, making it difficult at times to choose between one or the other.
If you are in the market for a new fitness tracker or smartwatch and aren’t sure which way to go, educating yourself on the similarities, differences, features, capabilities, pricing, and style of each could help solidify your choice.
Features & Capabilities
Equipped with a band that has sensors to monitor different activities, fitness trackers then send this information straight to your smartphone where you can compile statistics and data based on your fitness routines.
More advanced fitness trackers have some smart features and capabilities, although they are not nearly as versatile as a smartwatch.
One of the most beneficial features of fitness trackers is their ability to have an astronomically longer battery life than smartwatches.
For example, the Apple Watch usually has to be charged every day depending on how much you use it, but a Fitbit Inspire has a battery life of about five days on average.
There are also many fitness trackers that are equipped with numerous advanced features to support particular types of sports or exercise routines, such as running, cycling, swimming, or even golfing, but they are just a little more expensive than the basic model.
There are also fitness trackers that have more advanced sensors with heart-rate monitors and basic smart notifications such as text messages or emails.
The primary capability of a smartwatch is to essentially create an extension of your smartphone on your wrist where you have the ability to check text messages, answer phone calls, look at emails or browse social media platforms.
Over time, the smartwatch has evolved tremendously and is now able to do most of the things a fitness tracker can do, especially with the latest version of the Apple Watch.
Smartwatches have the capability to track your workouts through GPS tracking software if you are tracking steps or miles and also have a sensor built-in that monitors your heart rate for more accurate tracking of your health.
It also has the ability to track specific workouts or coaching as well. Along with these beneficial features, the smartwatch also has more advanced smart features like the ability to control your music, built-in Bluetooth to connect directly to your smartphone, wireless headphones, and other devices.
Smartwatches also have built-in speakers, so you have the ability to answer the phone or use the voice assistant to ask a question or use the voice-to-text feature to reply to a text message. It also has the ability to link to your Apple Wallet or other smart wallets to make on-the-go payments for things without having to have your wallet with you.
Smartwatches allow you to see more details about your exercise or smart notifications that are easier to read from the device because of its larger screen.
Other features that are very useful with a smartwatch are the altimeter (tells you how high above sea level you are), barometer (predicting the weather), navigation, thermometer, running metrics, swim-specific metrics, and compatibility with your heart-rate monitor.
They alert you of important calendar dates and events when synced to your smartphone, email and text notifications with the ability to use smart replies, and can be customized to be more durable and rugged, with a scratch-resistance screen, depending on your desired style and use.
Pricing & Availability
Pricing is one of the areas where fitness trackers have a huge advantage as opposed to smartwatches.
Typically, you can get a fitness tracker for anywhere from $50-$100, whereas a smartwatch is well over $100 for just the basic model with no added features.
However, there are some really advanced, top-of-the-line fitness trackers that have really advanced fitness tracking features that could be upwards of $600, but even so, smartwatches with the same advanced features have the ability to cost well over $1000.
With that being said, price points should be no indicator of how well the watch performs, so you should rely on product reviews to learn more about the quality of any product before you made your final decision.
Here is a shortlist of the pricing on Amazon right now for the top fitness trackers and smartwatches:
Top Fitness Trackers You Can Buy Online
- Fitbit Charge 4 – $146.08
- Fitbit Charge 3 – $109.99
- Garmin Forerunner 245 – $329.00
- Garmin Forerunner 35 – $98.33
- Fitbit Inspire HR – $97.00
Top Smartwatches You Can Buy Online
- Apple Watch Series 5 – $384.99
- Apple Watch Series 3 – $169.00
- Fitbit Versa 2 – $198.95
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – $249.00
- Amazfit Bip S – $69.99
Also, check out our list of the best smartwatches and why for more details on the products listed above.
Fitness Tracker Basics
While fitness trackers took a bit of a hit when smartwatches came along, there are still some benefits to fitness trackers that smartwatches don’t have.
Depending on your needs and preference, a fitness tracker might be exactly what you need, without all the bells and whistles of a smartwatch.
One of the nice things about fitness trackers is their size. They are small and don’t add any bulky jewelry to your arm when you are running or working out. This is a way to track calories burned and track your distance during your workout with a device that is lightweight and comfortable.
Generally, fitness trackers are more focused on your health and the ability to monitor physical activity in the simplest way without being too concerned for appealing to the fashion-focused crowd.
As stated before, there are many fitness trackers that are equipped with numerous advanced features to support particular types of sports or exercise routines, such as running, cycling, swimming or even golfing, but they are just a little more expensive than the basic model.
There are also fitness trackers that have more advanced sensors with heart-rate monitors and basic smart notifications such as text messages or emails. But even the most advanced top-of-the-line fitness trackers are much less expensive than their smartwatch counterparts.
One of the reasons smartwatches have far surpassed fitness trackers when it comes to popularity is because of all the different things you can do with a smartwatch that you are not able to do with a fitness tracker.
The list of features and smart capabilities makes smartwatches almost as packed as smartphones with apps and storing information.
In general, a smartwatch has most of the same tracking abilities as a fitness tracker and then a bunch more that fitness trackers don’t have. Most smartwatches are equipped with GPS tracking and a heart rate sensor to track your health more accurately.
Smartwatches target more of the crowd of people who want to maintain good health and physical activity but are also looking for something fashionable they could wear that will be more attractive looking and have more of the smart features and a whole host of other options.
There are also some smartwatches that focus more on fitness, equipped with plenty of sensors and trackers for a high level of exercise and physical activity.
Smartwatches also have a wide range of options as far as design and materials go, giving you the option to choose leather, woven or metal straps, or even limited-edition versions endorsed by celebrities. Find more detailed smartwatch reviews HERE.
Is There A Best of Both Worlds Option?
There is not technically a best of both worlds when it comes to smartwatches and fitness trackers, although the line between the two is becoming increasingly blurred.
A smartwatch has the ability to deliver most of what fitness trackers can, plus so much more, but the size of fitness trackers and their comfortability that draw so many avid runner and fitness gurus are something that no smartwatch offers because of the need for the bigger screen to be compatible with all of the smartwatch features that make the smartwatch so attractive to others.
Another possible difference for people interested in a particular sport, the smartwatch may not provide the extensive metrics a smartwatch can, making the smartwatch a better choice for those who like having the fitness watch geared towards a specific sport or activity.
Although it is probably well known, it is still worth mentioning, the most popular smartwatches, the Apple Watch Series, are only compatible if you have an Apple Smartphone.
If you have a different type of phone, you will still be able to own any of the other smartwatches, just not the Apple Watch.
What Does the Future of Wearable Tech Look Like?
While data and tracker sensors in fitness trackers and smartwatches have significantly evolved over time to become much more accurate, they still have a way to go.
Some makes and models are obviously better than others, so it is a good idea to research which ones are most accurate if you are looking to focus heavily on these stats. But what does it mean for the future?
According to Tech Radar, experts believe that this is just the beginning and soon they will be filled with many more sensors and the ability to collect much more extensive data that could potentially save lives, diagnose illnesses and send constant updates right to your primary care physician or specialist.
There is currently a lot of funding focused on air sense as the world becomes smoggier and more polluted, which is very appealing to those with respiratory issues, allergies, and asthma. The focus is specific to crowd-sourcing this data to your device for real-time updates in your specific location.
Another sensory focus that is being looked into is the ability to analyze your sweat to measure things like electrolytes and metabolites. It would gather information such as skin temperature and have the ability to send alerts for things like fatigue or higher than normal body temperature to warn you of pending dehydration or illness.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are also companies working on the ability to someday be able to track blood glucose levels, interpret your mood, guess your stress levels and even monitor your blood pressure, all from the device strapped to your wrist.
Although some of these projects are still in their infancy, it’s just a snapshot into the future of what the possibilities could be. So, if you ask me, I would say the future is looking pretty amazing for these devices and it appears the possibilities are endless!
Gadget geek, watch lover, fitness fan, walker, long-time tech writer/blogger and family man.