Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on September 29th, 2015

Fitbit versus Apple Watch, read about our accuracy comparison.

Fitness wearables. There are many to choose from Garmin, Polar, Jawbone, Fitbit, Apple Watch to name a few. Like smartphones, they compete with one another, but they all offer different features and ultimately target different audiences. The key selling point could be based on a number of things ranging from features to price to availability.

If you recall, I have done a blog review on the Fitbit Charge HR as well as the Apple Watch. Prior to the Fitbit, I had a Polar FT4 that used for a few years and logged hundreds of thousands of workout minutes and calorie burns on. When I noticed my Polar starting to show signs of wear I decided to go with the Fitbit mainly because Apple Watch wasn't out yet, and quite honestly I didn't think I would want one. Well, all started off good with the Fitbit. I did notice the heart rate wasn't always as accurate as my Polar. But, the Polar did have a chest strap. With the heart rate being off, then in turn so was by calorie burn. But I was thrilled to get rid of the chest strap that I dealt with the minor discrepancy. Dave already had a Fitbit so it was fun to challenge each other to step goals. Heck, we even bought one for each of our employees and started having monthly step contests. To say we were enjoying the novelty was an understatement. Then enter Apple Watch.

Dave had been drooling over the Apple Watch from early rumblings. He couldn't say exactly why he wanted one, just that the developer in him wanted to build on it. So, he was an early adopter and I slowly was getting jealous of what he was getting out of it that I was slowly finding lacking on the Fitbit. One thing that I slowly noticed happening was that I was getting sucked into more and more steps a day versus my more intense cardio workouts. So much so that I one day logged 30k steps in a day to win the office challenge! Crazy, I know right? Well, guess what? I was sucked into what the Apple Watch had fitness/health wise than what Fitbit had. I liked that it reminded me to get up from my desk. I liked that it provided progress reports during the day on meeting my goals. I liked that at the end of the week it challenged me to do more if I hit my goals, or if I had not it brought me down a peg. I liked that it kept better and more detailed logs for things like heart rate. So, I caved and got one.

We wanted to keep in our office challenge so we were using both. We converted to the mobile Fitbit. That's when I noticed more of an issue with Fitbit. We noticed that steps were not being counted and sometimes steps were there one minute and gone the next. Heck one day it said I had 79 miles for the day and only 3,000 steps! Say what? So, Dave being a bit OCD, decided to do an experiment. He has a pitch counter (back from his Little League coaching days as well as being a pitcher's Dad). So he took to counting his steps with that and comparing it to both Apple Watch and Fitbit. What did he find? That none were 100% accurate. See his numbers below.

   Counter   Apple Health   Fitbit 
 Day 1  1189 1216 1120
 Day 2  1157 1168 1120
 Day 3  1161 1063 1147


Now while these numbers are somewhat close and the pitch counter was closer to Fitbit, I question how accurate Dave was as well (he thinks he is on the money, of course). He did this 3 times for 10 minutes each time. Oddly though what we notice for a day, almost every day is that Apple Watch ends up showing hundreds to thousands of more steps than Fitbit. On days that I run, the discrepancy is huge. Not just in steps but also in mileage. I also use Nike + running to log my runs. Apple Watch and Nike are almost exact, Fitbit is always at minimum a quarter mile behind, and in steps, forget it, it can be 2000 less. So, we were puzzled why Dave's experiment showed much less of a difference. Our thought is it has to do with speed. When Dave tracked with the pitch counter, he was walking far slower than he usually does.  In the beginning, I also used my Polar, Fitbit and Apple Watch to compare heart rate and Polar and Apple Watch were close to a mirror of each other and Fitbit was all over the place, with huge ranges as well as gaps when it didn't read it at all.

So, at the end of the experiment, what was our conclusion? None are perfect. I think what works for your depends on your needs. I have seen reports that Fitbit is more for people concerned with fitness, but I honestly don't get that. I think a big reason why Fitbit outsells Apple Watch is price, plain and simple. If you are one who is in the 10k steps a day group, great. Or if you use it just monitor calories when you run. But ultimately I think the currently available fitness goals and tracking on Apple Watch are more for the fitness enthusiast and there will only be more features to come now that developers have more access to the watch through OS2. I noticed a change in my fitness level (and not for the better) when I got sucked into a step goal challenge and finally had to say, enough. I am putting in more time in a day to hit my calorie goal and not getting anywhere near the cardio benefits. Heck as I write, Apple Watch tapped me and told me to get up out of my chair for a few minutes. As our office challenge is winding down I think I will drop Fitbit completely, although my overly active 14-year-old son does like doing daily challenges with us (probably cause he always wins!). So, we shall see. Do you use a fitness tracker? If so, did you move from a Fitbit to Apple Watch? I would be curious to hear your comparisons.



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