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Fitness trackers are one of the hottest holiday gifts — and for good reason! They motivate, inspire, and can help incite massive physical (and mental) changes. Whether you’re trying to encourage more movement or help someone learn about their heart rate during exercise, a tracker can help.
I got the chance to compare my Apple Watch Series 2 and my Fitbit Charge 2 side by side, worn simultaneously (yes, I looked like a tool in my SoulCycle classes and on my runs and in my kettlebell class). Since trackers have been helping me on my fitness journey, I wanted to see what the user experience was like for each and what kind of data I could access after my workout. Let’s take a look.
If you’re worried about the look of your tracker, you have two great options to choose from. You either lean more toward the aesthetic of a traditional tracker/fitness band with the Fitbit Charge 2, or the digital watch styling of the Apple Watch. With both, you can choose the metal accent color (gold, silver, etc.) and change out the bands if you’d like to wear them every day beyond your workouts. Fitbit has a blush pink leather that I’m particularly fond of, and I may switch up my Apple Watch with a new color of silicone band if I get tired of the light gray.
General Features (of Note)
HRM. Both trackers offer a heart rate monitor, which is ideal for data tracking and learning more about your body. It also provides a more accurate account of how many calories are burned per workout.
Waterproof (or not). The Apple Watch Series 2 is waterproof, the Fitbit Charge 2 is not. You will definitely have to take it off in your post-workout shower.
Music Storage. Additionally, the latest Apple Watch has music storage capabilities, meaning you don’t have to bring your phone, and you can listen to your workout playlist — provided you have Bluetooth headphones.
Tracking Your Workout
The first time I used my Fitbit Charge 2, I had no idea how to start tracking my workouts — I was simply wearing it for step tracking and my heart rate. But when I wore it to SoulCycle, it somehow miraculously knew that I was doing a cycling workout from the moment I started — from there, it logged my heart rate every second of the way, and provided me with an in-depth analysis of my workout. Once the Fitbit synced with my phone, the app showed a workout logged as “Bike.”
I wrongfully assumed my Apple Watch Series 2 would do the same, and went into another SoulCycle class with it, only to be disappointed not only at its lack of intuitive tracking, but zero data to be found anywhere. It didn’t log my heart rate more than once or twice throughout the 45-50 minutes of the workout, and I had no data to track, no exercise counted toward my day. I get it — first world problems. But as someone who loves tracking all of my exercise and activity, this was sorely disappointing.
If there’s enough movement, the Apple Watch will sense it. I went to a hip-hop workout class, and though the Watch knew I was exercising (it logged minutes toward my daily exercise goal), it did not log any particular exercise nor give me the option to.
With the Fitbit, you can retroactively track your workout. Because the tracker is more closely monitoring your heart rate, you can enter the data and say, “I worked out from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45,” and it will populate your workout with the data from that time. This is not an option on the Apple Watch Series 2, as far as I can tell.
Both trackers give you the option to log a workout if you hit a button and “start” your run, cycling class, general cardio, or weight lifting (Fitbit has a weight-specific workout you can select, Apple Watch you’ll have to select “other”). However, neither tracker gives you the option to edit your stop time of your workout — so if you forget to hit the “stop” button and hours have passed, you’re stuck with wonky data and skewed average heart rate information (and a several-hour-long “workout” on your records).
Data and Accuracy
Each tracker displays the average heart rate, total calories burned, and the length of the workout — I wore both of mine at once (in the same type of class, three times, just to be sure) to see how close they were in terms of data accuracy, and I still have no idea which one was correct. Take a look — these are three cycling classes, about 50 minutes long (with the cooldown), both logged at the same time, with the same height/weight/age data in the system.
As you can see, they never lined up 100 percent. Although similar in average heart rate and caloric burn, it’s impossible to tell which one is accurate, which can be frustrating.
In terms of getting a better insight as to what’s happening in your workout, the Fitbit wins by a mile. The heart rate data is so much more nuanced, and it can even show you how many calories you burned in each minute of your workout. I love that it shows you how long your heart rate was in different zones, and the graphs really animate the physiology of your workout, so you get more of an inside look into what’s happening in your body. It’s great. Unfortunately, with the Apple Watch, you’re stuck with average numbers and no fun graphs.
The Apple Watch Series 2 ranges from $369 to $399, and the Fitbit Charge 2 ranges from $150 to $180.
If you’re looking for data, the Fitbit really does win by a long shot. The data it provides is so much more detailed, and the intuitive exercise tracking makes for much more hassle-free workouts. This is a specialty piece of equipment specifically created and designed for exercise — whereas the Apple Watch was designed with a lot of other things in mind. I do wish they’d provide a feature that lets you cut off your workout time if you actually forget to stop your tracking, though.
While the Apple Watch Series 2 provides a lot more of the bells and whistles (It’s waterproof! You can text on it! It stores your playlists!), in terms of tracking, it’s just not as smart as the Fitbit when it comes to fitness, data, and overall wellness. However, if you’re looking to use it as a running tracker, I’d highly recommend it in that case.