Man on bicycle adjusts smart watch

Smart watches versus fitness trackers - which should you buy?

Published 23rd December 2022
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Both smart watches and fitness trackers have exploded in popularity over the last few years, with so many people hoping to benefit from their health monitoring features. So what's the difference between the two, and which one should you buy? That's the question this blog is designed to answer!

What is a smart watch?

A smart watch is a wearable piece of technology that offers a range of useful functions. From tracking step counts and workouts to providing the ability to pay for goods in-store (via applications such as Apple Pay or Google Pay), smart watches have an outstanding range of abilities.

There are many smart watches on the market, made by big brands. Some of the most popular are:

Some features you can expect to find on a smart watch (alongside a digital clock) include:

  • A step counter.
  • An alarm function.
  • Sleep monitoring
  • Workout tracking.
  • Heart rate monitoring.
  • Map apps with real-time navigation.
  • An app store.
  • Music streaming apps.
  • Customisable watch faces.
  • A timer.
  • A 'find your phone' function.
  • Weather reports.

There's a wide variation in functions and features offered by each different smart watch and not all devices provide the same. Read our blog on smart watch features for more information.

What is a fitness tracker?

A fitness tracker is a small device that can be worn on the wrist to monitor and record your physical activity. It’s a convenient way to keep track of your daily exercise, such as steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and other statistics about your exercise and health.

Fitness trackers come in many varieties, from models that measure basic metrics like steps taken, calories burnt and maximum heart rate to more advanced ones with built-in GPS tracking and the ability to receive notifications from a smartphone. Many fitness trackers also have a certified water resistance of 5ATM, making them suitable for swimming in pools and other swallow water.

Because they're designed to help you work out, most have a series of exercise modes for common routines, including running, swimming, aerobics and even yoga and weightlifting in some models. Choosing the right exercise mode means the tracker will record more accurate movement data, calorie information and so on.

The main benefit of using a fitness tracker is the ability it gives you to better understand your body's progress over time – whether it’s improving endurance levels or simply keeping tabs on how much exercise you are doing each day. The most popular fitness trackers have their own special companion apps to help you track your results and plan ahead. Examples include the Fitbit Premium service for Fitbit smart trackers.

By monitoring your data over time, you can pinpoint patterns in your habits that may need adjusting in order to achieve optimal health results; this includes everything from eating habits to sleeping times. Knowing what works best for yourself helps make achieving goals easier than ever before!

In addition to providing insight into personal trends, fitness trackers offer users another valuable feature: motivation! With so much data readily available from their apps, it becomes easier than ever before to stay inspired when working out by comparing past performance against current activity levels.

Most fitness trackers allow you to:

  • Track a variety of workouts.
  • Track your heart rate.
  • Check your cardio fitness level.
  • Monitor your stress levels.
  • Follow guided breathing sessions.
  • Track your menstrual health.
  • Track your sleep and set bedtime alerts.
  • 5ATM water resistance for swimming lengths.

What are the main differences between a smart watch and a fitness tracker?

Although you can see there is some overlap between the two wearable technologies, there are a few significant differences to consider when looking at smart watches versus fitness trackers:

  • Smart watches tend to have bigger screens to accommodate their wide variety of functions.
  • Fitness trackers tend to have a longer battery life.
  • Fitness trackers sometimes have better app support for their health monitoring.
  • You can download new apps onto a smart watch.
  • Smart watches have more powerful processors, so their apps are more responsive.
  • Smart watches offer features that extend from a smartphone, such as independent messaging notifications, call answering and card payments.
  • Fitness trackers are less expensive than smart watches with similar functionality.

The bottom line is that smart watches offer more features, better software and larger, superior screens. The best smart watches tend to have the same health monitoring features as fitness trackers, but they're more expensive.

Can you buy smart watches or fitness trackers for kids?

Yes, you can buy both fitness trackers and smart watches aimed at children. For instance, there is a line of Fitbit smart trackers designed for kids with a chunkier design and different snazzy colour schemes.

There's a greater range of kids smart watches, mostly because the more powerful software allows for special features like SOS alerts. For more information on this, read our blog on choosing a smart watch for any age.

To summarise, smart watches and fitness trackers are both brilliant for monitoring your health and measuring your exercises. If you're on a budget, or only interested in wellness stats, a fitness tracker is the ideal choice. But smart watches offer better functionality and customisation choices - making them more versatile. For more reasons to buy smart watches, read our smart watches buyer's guide.

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