Fitbit and Garmin are leading players in the market for fitness trackers and smartwatches, particularly for those who are interested in monitoring their health and fitness.
Although Garmin has been in the industry for a longer period, their focus has shifted from sports watches to incorporating smartwatch features such as music streaming and contactless payments, enabling users to carry out activities without their phones.
Fitbit entered the market after Garmin and initially focused on fitness trackers. However, it later expanded its range to include smartwatches. Although the company still emphasizes fitness tracking, it is also looking into improving health monitoring and activity tracking, such as for running and swimming.
Both companies offer various models and features, which can make it challenging to determine the most suitable option for you. Hence, this guide aims to assist in making that decision by highlighting the significant distinctions in hardware, software, and features between these two leading wearables manufacturers.
In the early 2000s, Garmin introduced its initial Forerunner watch, and since then, the company has expanded its product range to include additional lines such as the Vivoactive and Fenix watches. All of these watches prioritize sports tracking and come in a variety of designs with a blend of features.
Garmin is known for providing its fitness trackers and watches with impressive battery life. Whether you opt for an affordable device like the Vivofit fitness tracker or a high-end product like the Forerunner 945, Garmin usually offers nearly a week of battery life, and sometimes even more.
The company also recognizes that using features such as GPS or heart rate monitoring during an activity can significantly decrease battery life. Therefore, its outdoor-focused Fenix series includes an UltraTrac battery mode that enables more tracking time while reducing the rate at which it records data like GPS. Furthermore, Garmin’s latest power-saving and battery modes disable power-hungry features that you do not regularly use, conserving battery life for the features you do utilize.
Garmin’s most smartwatch-like device, the Venu, has a color AMOLED display that can operate in an always-on mode, making it the only device in its collection to do so. Despite using a more power-consuming display technology than the transflective display technology found in most of its other watches, the Venu still manages to last several days on a single charge.
It’s safe to say that Garmin’s watches and fitness trackers have a wide range of monitoring capabilities. While the specific features vary across their devices, many core features remain consistent throughout the product range to provide a more uniform user experience.
From the Vivosmart to the Fenix, users can expect 24/7 tracking of their activities, continuous heart rate monitoring, and sleep tracking. Additionally, Garmin offers motivational fitness tracking features like Move IQ and adaptive step counts, designed to encourage users to stay active throughout the day. Other features available include stress monitoring, guided breathing exercises, women’s health tracking, and Garmin’s Body Battery monitor, which assesses metrics such as sleep and heart rate to determine a user’s energy levels for the day.
Garmin’s devices are particularly noteworthy for their sports tracking capabilities, with the ability to track core sports like running, cycling, and swimming (both in pools and open water), offering a plethora of rich metrics for users to explore during or after their activities. For users willing to spend more on watches such as the Fenix or Forerunner 945, there are sports profiles for more niche outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, climbing, and paddleboarding, which also offer activity-specific metrics and features such as mapping and navigation.
Garmin’s heart rate monitoring is a key feature that helps users with training and recovery, as well as measuring their effort levels during exercise. If users question the accuracy of the sensor on the wrist-worn device, Garmin provides the option to pair with an external chest strap.
Although Garmin’s watches and trackers are primarily geared towards sports and fitness, they now offer more smartwatch-like functions. These devices can work with both Android and iPhone devices and provide basic features like receiving notifications, checking the weather, and syncing data to the Garmin Connect app.
If you choose to invest in more expensive models, such as the Forerunner 245 or Fenix, you’ll have access to additional smartwatch features. These include mobile payments and a built-in music player that lets you store music or playlists from streaming services like Spotify and Deezer, even when you’re offline.
If you’re interested in apps, most of Garmin’s watches with sufficient storage offer access to the Connect IQ store where you can find watch faces, data fields, widgets, and other apps. However, the extent of Connect IQ support varies depending on the watch. For instance, the Forerunner 45 only supports downloading watch faces, whereas more expensive models like the Forerunner offer complete access.
Fitbit’s initial wearable was a step-tracking pedometer device that also monitored your sleep. However, it has since expanded its offerings to include new sensors, designs, and entered the smartwatch market to compete against Apple, Samsung, and Google’s Wear OS watches.
Although it still prioritizes fitness tracking, it has evolved to function better as a watch and now provides a wide range of connected features that make it a valuable addition to your wrist.
Fitbit has always aimed to provide a battery life of almost one week, starting from its initial tracker days. Despite several years passing, the company has maintained this goal, and has even improved its strategy to tackle the battery issue faced by traditional smartwatches.
Fitbit’s latest smartwatches, which have an always-on display, will have a similar impact on battery life to Apple and Samsung’s watches. As a result, Fitbit is introducing a new fast-charging feature that can provide a day’s worth of battery life with just a 12-minute charge.
Fitbit’s primary focus has always been fitness tracking, and this is evident in all of its current and upcoming devices. Every Fitbit device comes equipped with features that track your daily steps, monitor your heart rate around the clock, monitor your sleep, and provide inactivity alerts. Its sleep tracking features are quite comprehensive and provide additional insights by monitoring your heart rate during the night.
In addition to these features, Fitbit has recently added menstrual health tracking, which can be viewed on its smartwatches. It also offers guided breathing exercises, and its new Sense watch can even indicate how your body responds to stress.
For those interested in tracking specific sports, most Fitbit devices can track a wide range of activities. They offer automatic activity recognition for when you don’t want to manually select an activity, and the Charge 4, Versa, and Sense now come with built-in GPS to make outdoor activity mapping more convenient. Fitbit’s PurePulse heart rate sensor can be used to unlock training in heart rate zones, as well as features like Active Zone Minutes and Intensity Maps. Fitbit’s watches and Charge 4 tracker also track swimming, but currently only work for pool swimming.
Fitbit users can access the Premium platform, where they can find workout programs and gain deeper data insights from the sensors on their watch and tracker.
Fitbit tried to bring smartwatch-like features to its fitness trackers, but due to the limitations in screen and design, it was challenging to go beyond basic notification support. However, since Fitbit entered the smartwatch market, it has been able to offer more than just fitness tracking features. Fitbit’s smartwatches, such as Versa and Sense, are compatible with Android and iPhones and provide a range of features, including notifications, payments, apps, watch faces, and built-in music players. Moreover, the latest smartwatches come with smart assistant support for Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant support is also on the way. The experience of using a Fitbit with an Android phone or iPhone is similar, but some features, such as responding to notifications, are only available on Android. Fitbit also has an app store called the App Gallery, which is growing, and it includes high-profile names like MySwimPro and Spotify. However, unlike Garmin, Spotify only allows users to control the streaming service, not add offline playlists. Fitbit provides many watch faces to choose from, and users can keep up to five watch faces on their smartwatches at the same time.
Garmin or Fitbit?
Choosing between Fitbit and Garmin can be a tough decision since both offer a variety of devices with different features and looks. Ultimately, the decision may depend on several factors that could sway you towards one platform or the other.
If you prioritize fitness tracking over recording outdoor activities, Fitbit may be the better option. Fitbit devices are user-friendly and their companion app provides the most comprehensive and useful sleep tracking available on a wearable device. For beginners, Fitbit is a great choice. Additionally, Fitbit offers advanced sensors that are designed for serious health monitoring, such as ECG and skin temperature sensors that are included in their new Sense watch.
If you’re looking for advanced sports tracking and long battery life, Garmin’s watches and trackers may be a better fit. Their devices offer reliable tracking and the ability to add external sensors for increased accuracy and data recording.
Aside from fitness tracking, both platforms offer additional features. Garmin has desirable features such as proper Spotify support and safety and assistance features, while Fitbit offers smart assistant support.
Ultimately, the decision between Fitbit and Garmin depends on your personal preferences and what you value most. Both platforms offer highly capable devices with impressive hardware and software. It’s clear that they excel in different areas, and hopefully, this information will help you make an informed decision.
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