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Smartwatch or fitness tracker?

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A guide to helping you choose the right device for your fitness and health tracking.

They’re everywhere these days, smartwatches and fitness trackers. And they’re flying off the shelves like hotcakes. So should you buy a smartwatch or a fitness tracker and what’s the difference anyway? Here’s a quick guide to help you decide which one is best for you.

The difference between a smartwatch and fitness tracker

A smartwatch like Apple Watch or the Samsung Gear series are probably the best known brands out there. A smartwatch certainly tells the time, but does a lot more than just a fitness tracker. Along with monitoring heart rate, walking, running and stair climbing data, they also connect with your smartphone for productivity, such as meetings and emails. Most smartwatches enable you to answer and make phone calls and connect with your music app like Spotify or iTunes. So, they’re a fitness tracker and productivity tool as well.

Fitness trackers are just that, a device on your wrist focused on tracking your fitness activities from swimming to walking, running and cardio. The most popular ones are FitBit and Garmin. They’re a lot less expensive (for the most part) than a smartwatch but they’re not designed to do the extra things a smartwatch is.

So which device is right?

It all depends on what you want. A smartwatch is best for those who want to monitor their overall health in more depth and want the productivity advantages as well. Most people say the best part of a smartwatch is meeting and task reminders on top of the fitness tracking.

If you just want to focus on fitness tracking and don’t need or want all the other features of a smartwatch, then the fitness tracker like a FitBit is probably just fine for you. Fitness trackers are excellent at what they do and can provide just as meaningful data to help you track and up your game as you need.

Health monitoring

One thing to note about smartwatches is that they are better at helping you track and monitor your overall health. Both Apple and Android smartwatches  connect with the health app on your smartphone (iPhone or Android like Samsung or Blackberry.) They’re much more robust than a fitness tracker. So if you’re also using health related apps like sugar monitoring for diabetes or fertility cycles, then you may prefer a smartwatch.

It’s all about you

When it comes time to make that decision, think about your lifestyle and your current or planned fitness goals. Consider that you may not want to wear a watch every single day and the benefits of health tracking with smartwatches come from every-day wear. You don’t have to wear a fitness tracker every day, just for your activities. You’ll pay more for a smartwatch, but if it fits your lifestyle better, it’s a solid investment. Fitness trackers also work with the Apple iPhone apps and Google’s Android phones. So do smartwatches, but if you choose a smartwatch as the device you want, it’s best to match brands Apple to Apple and Android to Android. Both brands work well and will last several years.

More inspiration: Check out this article about technology and our health.

Author: Giles Crouch. He’s a digital anthropologist and part of the Optimyz team. Giles is regularly interviewed by news media on the intersection of people and technology.


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