Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review: Great hardware let down by erratic tracking

Samsung makes some of the best smartwatches around, but they tend to be big, bulky and aggressively styled. The Galaxy Watch Active is just as well equipped as other Samsung wearables but trades the rugged aesthetic for a more demure style. It also comes at a noticeably smaller price. The Galaxy Watch Active delivers almost everything you’d get in a bigger, more expensive watch at a price most of us can actually justify.

There are, however, a couple of things you need to know before you decide to buy one – like the fact its activity tracking is trash right now. Let’s dive right into our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review.

About this Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review: I’ve been using the Galaxy Watch Active for two weeks. It’s running One UI version 1.0 on Tizen OS version 4.0.0.3 and software version R500XXU1BSB7, paired to a Pixel 3 over Bluetooth.

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The big picture

The Galaxy Watch Active is not Samsung’s first foray into the fitness smartwatch category: the original Gear Sport arrived almost a year and a half ago. While the Galaxy Watch Active could easily be considered a Gear Sport 2, Samsung is instead positioning it as the sporty version of its recent Galaxy Watch range.

Given its $199 price point, the Galaxy Watch Active is positioned alongside a number of excellent fitness trackers. Samsung’s goal is clearly to snag part of that target market with a comparably-priced smartwatch that does a bit more than your average fitness tracker. It’s also a competitively priced option for regular smartwatch buyers that don’t like the usual bulky designs or that have slimmer wrists. Unfortunately for Samsung, while its watch might do more than your average fitness tracker, it certainly doesn’t track activity better.

Design and display

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active default watch face

  • 40mm watch case (one size only)
  • 1.1-inch AMOLED display (360 x 360 pixels)
  • 20mm silicone watch strap (two sizes included)
  • Black, silver, rose gold, green

Even though the Galaxy Watch Active’s 40mm housing is only marginally smaller than the 42mm version of the Galaxy Watch, the difference in bulk is noticeable. Besides the difference in style, the Watch Active is also far lighter at just 25 grams compared to the smaller Galaxy Watch’s 49 grams. If you’ve ever tried exercising with a normal-sized smartwatch you’ll know this is a big plus.

The lightness and smallness of the Galaxy Watch Active mean it’s far less likely to get in the way of your workout. Its near-flush buttons also mean they won’t get caught on things while you work out or dig into the back of your wrist when doing shoulder presses or loaded squats.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active thickness on wrist and button detail

Despite its diminutive size, the Galaxy Watch Active is plenty rugged enough to survive an active lifestyle. The small circular display is coated with a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 (but no Corning DX+). It’s water-resistant up to 5ATM and certified MIL-STD-810G compliant. I dropped it on day one and couldn’t see where it hit the ground, nor did it pick up any scratches during a couple weeks of use. Activities during this time included swimming, cycling, running, gym workouts and yoga on top of daily wear and tear and several keyboard commando skirmishes.

The screen is great: vibrant and crisp, a necessity on a display this size. I found the auto-brightness to be quite responsive outdoors but unless you’re looking directly at the Watch Active, the glare tends to obfuscate the display. Keep this in mind if you tend to glance at notifications or activity tracking while cycling, for example. It’s fine for running, when you can lift your arm right up to your face, but this is not always possible during activities you may want to track.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active size comparison with Gear S3 Frontier and Huawei Watch GT

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active watch strap buckle
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active boot screen

If you’re coming from a larger-screened wearable, be aware that its 1.1-inch display might feel a little pokey. For reference, the Galaxy Watch Active’s 28mm screen is a half-centimeter smaller in diameter than the the larger Galaxy Watch and offers just 72 percent of the display area. The lack of a rotating bezel here is noticeable, because it means you’ll have to swipe and tap your way around the tiny UI elements.

There is a microphone on the Watch Active, but no speaker, so while you can answer or initiate calls with it, you’ll need a paired phone to actually hear your interlocutor. Likewise, you can initiate Bixby queries via the watch but only get text responses on it unless you have a pair of wireless headphones paired (I’d suggest maxing out the volume on the watch and just controlling it on your headphones). Bixby is perfectly fine for general voice searches like the weather but is only going to be really useful if you also have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone (as that’s where Bixby’s strengths lie).

The silicon watch strap the Galaxy Watch Active comes with is perfectly serviceable and closes with a traditional watch buckle. The excess strap tucks underneath the strap to keep it out of the way. I like this clasping mechanism and tidy approach to the leftover strap. There’s a whole host of optional bands you can swap out thanks to the standard 20mm strap sizing. There’s also a longer strap (the bit with the holes in it) in the box if you have larger wrists.

Smartwatch features

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active quick settings

  • Music playback
  • Samsung Pay via NFC
  • Smartphone notifications

In typical Samsung fashion, the Watch Active has plenty to offer in terms of feature set and customization. It comes with a decent selection of watch faces to choose from, and more can be downloaded from the Galaxy Store (note: it runs Tizen 4.0, not Wear OS, which is just fine by me). All watch faces can be customized to your liking, so you can change colors, backgrounds and UI elements as you see fit.

The two buttons on the side of the Watch Active are straightforward: the top one takes you back a step and the bottom summons the app carousel. By default, a double press of the bottom button fires up Bixby, but as with most other things on this watch, it can be customized. I set it to display the world clock but you can change it to a shortcut for pretty much anything on the Galaxy Watch Active.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active app picker

Swiping right on the UI accesses your notifications, which can be expanded beyond the summary view by tapping them. Doing so also allows you to respond, either using emoji, a tiny T-9 keyboard, voice dictation, or short canned answers like “on my way” and “talk to you later.” I found notifications on the Watch Active to be super reliable and prompt and responding to them even from such a small wearable was as good an experience as can be expected.

Swiping to the left cycles through fairly standard customizable screens including an activity dashboard, recent apps, heart rate monitor, calendar, contacts, weather, and music controls. There’s also a bunch of Samsung Health screens you can add here, including shortcuts to your favorite activity tracking, fitness challenges, leaderboards, sleep data, weight management, and monitoring of your caffeine and water intake.

Swiping down from anywhere in the UI reveals the quick settings, which include:

  • Goodnight mode
  • Bluetooth shortcut
  • Silent/vibrate toggle
  • Do not disturb mode
  • Always-on display
  • Screen brightness
  • Theater mode
  • Settings
  • Power saving mode
  • Airplane mode
  • Water lock mode
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • Battery shortcut
  • Find my phone

I won’t go into all these options as you can tell what they all do by their names. Suffice it to say the Galaxy Watch Active certainly doesn’t feel like it lacks in features, other than perhaps an LTE variant or a larger version. Everything on the watch feels fully baked too, with none of the glitchy or half-assed experiences you might be used to on Wear OS. Navigating long lists certainly isn’t as easy as it is with a rotating bezel, but the basic software and smartwatch features on the Watch Active are pretty solid.

The Watch Active has NFC so you can use Samsung Pay at newer contactless terminals, but Samsung removed the MST chip you’ll find in something bulkier like the Gear S3 Frontier, so you can’t use the Galaxy Watch Active at older magnetic stripe terminals. This may not matter too much depending on where you live, but be advised that Samsung Pay on the Watch Active doesn’t have the same widespread support as it does on your Samsung phone.

Fitness and health tracking

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active watchface 1

  • Blood pressure monitoring
  • Auto-detect fitness tracking (seven activities)
  • User-initiated fitness tracking (39 activities)
  • Sleep tracking
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Stress monitoring
  • Built-in GPS

The one area in which the Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t score top marks is, ironically enough, health and fitness tracking. The arrival of blood pressure monitoring to a mainstream and affordable smartwatch was big news, especially given that the only other option right now is the $499 Omron HeartGuide. The problem is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t really deliver on the promise (at least, yet). It’s important to note it’s not FDA-approved like the Omron HeartGuide either.

Blood pressure monitoring on the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active works via a companion app you’ll have to install separately called My BP Lab, developed in conjunction with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The app is not great. It’s unstable, frequently crashes and, if the reviews on the Play Store are to be believed, doesn’t even take accurate blood pressure readings (I unfortunately didn’t have access to a sphygmomanometer to compare). The My BP Lab app only works with the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9 Plus, S10 and S10 Plus, and the Note 9, and is currently available in beta form once you sign up in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and Singapore. It’s also worth noting there’s a good chance the app will never be pre-installed on all Watch Active models going forward.

Reconsider buying the Galaxy Watch Active if blood pressure monitoring is what you’re after.

If blood pressure monitoring is the reason you want the Galaxy Watch Active, I’d advise you reconsider. I’ve reached out to Samsung to ask if it has plans for a Samsung Health-based solution rather than My BP Lab, but am yet to receive a response. In time, blood pressure monitoring may become an integral part of the Galaxy Watch’s otherwise impressive fitness arsenal, but for now it’s a hard pass.

The rest of the health tracking on the Galaxy Watch Active is… up for debate. I found its step count usually matched other wearables I have fairly closely, but it didn’t always agree with what Samsung Health said (even after freshly syncing) or what my phone’s step counter was reporting via Google Fit. Admittedly, when all your gadgets are reporting different results it’s not easy to pin the blame on any of them, so I can’t say this is definitely Samsung doing something wrong — at least regarding step count.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active sensors

Heart-rate monitoring was another issue, with the Watch Active occasionally producing significantly different results to other wearables I own. Comparing it to the Huawei Watch GT, it was frequently off by a wide margin. While typing this with both watches on either wrist, I get a 60bpm reading on the Watch Active and 77bpm on the Huawei Watch GT – that’s a huge discrepancy of more than 25 percent.

Also read

While it’s possible the Watch GT is over-reporting, its reading stays relatively stable and fluctuates in a manner you’d expect. The Galaxy Watch Active, on the other hand, fluctuates constantly, with a resting rate that can rapidly change by 15-20bpm all while doing the same thing. These erratic changes make me confident that it’s the culprit here. Under- or over-reporting heart rate is a real cause for concern, especially on a fitness tracker where accurate heart-rate monitoring is essential for activity target zones.

Floor tracking on the Watch Active is atrocious. I live in a two-story home and as I write this I know I’ve been up and down the stairs at least a dozen times and yet the Galaxy Watch Active says I’ve only done one floor all day. The activity auto-tracking does kick in pretty reliably when walking or running, but the results it records aren’t there yet. The Watch Active can auto-detect seven exercises with a further 39 able to tracked by manually initiating them.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active stress monitoring

Sleep tracking is equally problematic. The Watch Active doesn’t always seem to know the difference between chilling on the couch and actually being asleep. So you’ll occasionally get sleep tracking that reports a two-hour sleep followed by a couple hours awake and then a longer sleep, when really you were just watching a movie before getting up and doing other stuff before bed. Once your sleep has been logged to Samsung Health you can’t edit it either.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 4: Which is right for you?

I could go on with multiple other health tracking quibbles but I’m sure the point is clear. As it stands right now, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is an excellent piece of hardware let down by bad tracking calibration. The good news about this is that this can likely be fixed with a software update, but I’d recommend you wait for that to arrive before investing in this watch. We’ll update this review if and when these issues are addressed.

Samsung Health app

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active pairing screen

The Samsung Health app is a huge, sprawling app with more nooks and crannies for the data-obsessed than you can poke a stick at. I won’t go into it in too much detail here as it is simply too massive to do justice, but rest assured you can while away many hours delving into all the data it stores. As mentioned above though, a lot of that data is of dubious accuracy so don’t invest too much in what it’s telling you.

If you’re already familiar with Samsung Health you’ll be well versed in where to go, how to get the most out of it, and the best way to set the various options up. If you’re new to Samsung’s fitness app, however, expect a bit of a learning curve as you find your way around its many menus, options, and settings.

Samsung Health Samsung Wearanle app watchfaces
Samsung Health sleep tracking
Samsung Health sleep reward
Samsung Health recent workouts
Samsung Health heart rate monitoring
Samsung Health dashboard
Samsung Health app customization
Samsung Health activity milestone

You’ll need to install a dizzying array of apps at startup: the Galaxy Wearable app, the Galaxy Watch Active Plugin, Samsung Accessory Service, and then Samsung Health and Samsung Pay if you don’t already have them.

The Wearable app lets you control everything on the watch with your phone and also lets you transfer content like music and images to it. The app can also be used to set up an SOS transmission to share your location with selected contacts in an emergency by quickly pressing the bottom button three times.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: Specs

  Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
Display 1.1-inch full-color always-on display
360 x 360 resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Memory 768MB RAM
4GB storage
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi b/g/n
NFC
A-GPS/Glonass
Sensors Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Barometer
Heart rate
Ambient light
Processor Dual-core Samsung Exynos 9110
1.15GHz
Battery 230mAh
WPC-based wireless charging
Durability 5ATM + IP68
MIL-STD-810G
Compatibility Samsung Galaxy, Android 5.0 or above with more than 1.5GB RAM

iPhone: iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above

Software Tizen-based Wearable OS 4.0
Dimensions and weight Case: 40mm
39.5 x 39.5 x 10.5mm
25g

Strap: 20mm

Colors silver, black, rose gold, sea green

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: Performance and battery life

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active glare

  • Samsung Exynos 9100
  • 4GB internal storage
  • 0.75GB of RAM
  • 230mAh battery

The Watch Active performs well and I had no noticeable issues with lag, stuttering or crashes, barring the Plugin crashing when I tried to sync music (that was likely due to the Android Q developer preview, not the watch). Speaking of music, if you want to load your own tunes onto the Watch Active’s internal storage, just be aware about half of it will already be used out of the box.

The Galaxy Watch’s battery is admittedly small, but is only a little smaller than the small Galaxy Watch. Samsung promises 45 hours of battery life which is probably true if you disable pretty much everything. If you’re regularly tracking activities (as I would assume you would), you’ll be able to get through a day. If you’re streaming music that’ll drop to less than a day, use GPS and it’s half a day – you get the idea.

I found a day’s usage was pretty standard with an average mix of notifications, music, activity tracking, and interactions with notifications. This is neither better nor worse than most other smartwatches, but for a watch designed specifically for an active lifestyle, better battery life would have been appreciated.

What’s perhaps worse is the extremely slow charging via the included wireless puck. Instead of using pogo pins, Samsung opted for wireless charging here. It’s painfully slow. The 230mAh battery takes almost two hours to charge, which is a horrendously long time for a watch you might just want to juice up quickly before you duck out for a run. You can wirelessly charge it on the go with the new S10 family, but it’ll take even longer to charge that way.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: Pricing and final thoughts

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active outdoor visibility 2

At $199, the Galaxy Watch Active is priced very competitively. As far as hardware performance goes it’s up there, barring the battery and charging issues just mentioned. Where the Galaxy Watch Active falls down though, putting it squarely in do-not-buy territory — is fitness tracking. Fortunately, this is something Samsung can absolutely fix, and will hopefully do so soon. I’ve had a great experience with other Samsung wearables in the past, so I know Samsung can make amends.

Despite the ‘Active’ name, you shouldn’t buy the Galaxy Watch Active if you need accurate fitness or health tracking.

If the actual data recorded by the Watch Active is not the reason you’re buying it, then go ahead — it’s likely a sound investment (especially seeing there are so many open box discounts already due to the number of returns retailers are seeing).

If you want a wearable for notifications, music, something to prompt you to move or relax, and tell you the time, then yeah, the Galaxy Watch Active is great. But add blood pressure monitoring, sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring, step or floor count to that list of needs and the Watch Active is simply not a good buy right now.

Looking for an alternative? The Fitbit Ionic has a similar feature set, price point, and isn’t bad at fitness tracking. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is also a great GPS running smartwatch.

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

We asked, you told us: Most don’t see the benefit of a smartwatch or fitness tracker

fossil sport neon yellow oled display on wrist

Several years ago, it looked like wearables might be the next big thing in the technology world. As you can probably assume, they haven’t taken off in the way many hoped they would.

Despite this, over the last several years, we’ve seen a growing number of companies try their hand at making smartwatches, fitness trackers and other wearables. So we decided to ask you, do you own and use a smart wearable? Here is what you had to say.

Do you own a smartwatch, fitness tracker, or other wearable?

Results

When we average out the roughly 50,000 votes between the poll on the website and YouTube, we’re left with the above results. Surprisingly, despite a seemingly large adoption rate of various smart devices, most of you don’t wear or even own a smartwatch, fitness tracker, or other wearables.

It is interesting to learn that more of you have smartwatches than fitness trackers. Looking through the comments, it’s pretty clear that most wear smartwatches so that they can look at notifications in addition to tracking their fitness. Personally, this is why I wear a smartwatch over something like a Fitbit.

Editor’s Pick

Going forward, I can see the adoption rate of smartwatches continue to grow. While Wear OS has been stumbling, Samsung’s Tizen-powered smartwatches and the Apple Watch continue to be more popular. As companies bake in reliable fitness tech, sales of dedicated health trackers might drop.

Noteworthy comments

Here are some of the best comments from last week’s poll explaining why they voted the way that they did:

  • I wear a regular watch, it tells the time.
  • Galaxy Watch(Midnight Black), every day and night. I charge it in the mornings and evenings when I have little use for it so that I have it throughout the day to help manage notifications, communication & small tasks and then can also track my sleep at night with Samsung Health.
  • I own a Swiss watch which increases (or at least holds) value over time, best decision over any of these options
  • I use a Mobvoi ticwatch E. I got it and Mobvoi’s ticpods free on indigogo last year and both have been really great!
  • Apple Watch Series 4. The best of the best.
  • I own a bunch of them. The only one I use, though, is my Gear S3. It’s reliable and useable. It has MST too.
  • Well for rough step tracking the pedometer inside my smartphone is more than enough and is very consistent so no need for me.
  • It got damaged. So now I used my regular watch

That’s it for this week, everyone. As always, thanks for voting, thanks for the comments, and don’t forget to let us know what you thought of the results below.

Best Fitbit trackers and smartwatches (March 2019)

Fitbit, currently one of the most well-known names in the fitness tracking world, has seven different trackers on sale right now. Which of them is the best Fitbit device for you? Should you pick up one of the fashion-forward devices like the Inspire HR or Charge 3, or should you consider a smartwatch device like the Versa or Ionic?

Related: 

With devices ranging anywhere from $70-$270, there’s certainly a wide range of options from which to choose. So with that said, read on to find out which one is right for you.

UpdatesMarch 2019

This month we removed the Fitbit Alta HR, Flex 2, and Ace from our list to make room for the Fitbit Versa Lite, Inspire, Inspire HR, and Ace 2.


The best Fitbit smartwatch

Fitbit Versa

fitbit versa on hand

If you were underwhelmed by Fitbit’s first smartwatch offering, the Versa might be just the thing for you.

The Fitbit Versa is much better looking and more compact than the Ionic, and it doesn’t cost as much money. Now, that lower price tag will get you fewer features (no GPS, for instance), but that’s the whole point of this smartwatch — the Versa is a smartwatch for everyone.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Versa review | Fitbit Versa vs Ionic

With the addition of quick replies, you can now reply to just about every app notification you receive on your wrist. The Versa also recently received Fitbit’s female health tracking suite, making this a much more powerful health tracker for women.

The Versa also brings Fitbit OS 3.0, 24/7 heart rate tracking, on-screen workouts with Fitbit Coach, over 15 exercise modes, Connected GPS, and swim tracking thanks to its 5ATM rating. There’s also room to store your music, and if you spring for the Special Edition model you’ll have access to Fitbit Pay. It’s not as powerful than the Ionic due to the lack of a built-in GPS, but we think the design of the watch puts it ahead of the pack.

If the Versa is a bit out of your budget, we’d recommend checking out the Fitbit Versa Lite. It’s just about the same thing with no music storage and no altimeter, and with a lower $160 price tag.

Fitbit Ionic

best gps running watches

This is the best Fitbit you can buy if you need something with a GPS. It’s an incredible fitness and sleep tracker, comes with a built-in GPS, allows you to pay for things from your wrist, and it’s water resistant. If you don’t care about smartwatch features and are looking for a high-end Fitbit device, buy the Ionic.

More: Fitbit Ionic review | Best GPS running watches

Just like the Fitbit Versa, the Ionic now has support for quick replies for notifications and female health tracking features.

Software issues aside, the Ionic is one heck of a fitness watch. It’s available now on Amazon and Fitbit.com for $269.95, and comes in three different color options.


Best Fitbit fitness trackers

Fitbit Charge 3

Fitbit’s Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker you can buy for under $150. Its classy, versatile design means it’ll look good in the office and at the gym. It’s also water resistant this time around, and has one of the more accurate wrist-based heart rate sensors we’ve tried on a wearable.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Charge 3 review | Where to buy the Fitbit Charge 3

Elsewhere, the Fitbit Charge 3 offers a great software experience, plenty of smartwatch features, and a battery that can last almost a week on a single charge.

If you don’t need GPS, the Fitbit Charge 3 is a great option.

Fitbit Inspire HR

fitbit inspire hr display brown leather strap on wrist

The Fitbit Inspire HR is a great fitness tracker, health tracker, and sleep tracker. It’s just $100, too!

It’s small and lightweight, supports interchangeable straps, and offers smartphone notifications on your wrist. It might be small, but it doesn’t skimp on the features. The Fitbit Inspire HR offers Connected GPS, a heart rate sensor, as well as five-day battery life.

Also read: Fitbit Inspire HR review: A good fitness tracker at a great price

Think of the Inspire HR as the “Fitbit Charge 3 Lite.” It removes a few notable features like notification history, an altimeter, and a bigger display in order to reach that $100 price point. If you don’t need those things though, the Inspire HR is a fantastic option.


Best budget Fitbit tracker

Fitbit Inspire

black fitbit inspire fitness tracker on wrist Fitbit

At $70, the Fitbit Inspire (non-HR variant) undercuts the Garmin Vivofit 4 by about $10. Aside from lacking a heart rate sensor and goal-based exercises, the Fitbit Inspire isn’t all that much different from the Inspire HR.

That means you get the same great fitness/sleep/health tracking as the pricier model, albeit with a slightly smaller feature set. Full disclosure, we have not reviewed the Fitbit Inspire, though it’s close enough to the Inspire HR that we just had to include it on our list.

What’s more, you can buy a clip accessory for the Inspire, which essentially turns it into a Fitbit Zip-type device. Nice!


Best Fitbit for kids

Fitbit Ace 2

fitbit ace 2 colors

Alongside the Versa Lite and Inspire line, Fitbit also announced the Fitbit Ace 2 — a kid-friendly version of the Inspire fitness trackers made for kids ages 6-14. While the original Fitbit Ace was more of a repackaged Alta HR, the Ace 2 sports a similar design to the Inspire but adds a durable silicone case for protection.

Read more: Best fitness trackers for kids

It has a monochrome display and clock faces with cute animations that help kids see their progress throughout the day. Specifically, it can keep track of steps taken, number of active minutes, sleep quality and duration, and periodic reminders that let kids know when to get up and get moving. It also has handy software features like bedtime reminders and alarms.

It’s swimproof, so kids don’t have to take it off before jumping in the pool, and will last approximately five days on a single charge.

Of course, all Fitbit Ace 2 devices can be managed by parents in the family account settings of the Fitbit app. Parents can also urge kids to participate in family challenges and goal-based achievements.


So there you have it — our guide to the best Fitbit devices! Are we missing something? Have you tried a Fitbit device in the past? If so, what are your experiences? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Next: The most common Fitbit problems and how to fix them

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Hands-on: The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and Galaxy Fit are here! (Video)

Samsung didn’t just announce four new smartphones (and the Galaxy Fold) at its Unpacked event — it also took the wraps off three new wearables: the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, Samsung Galaxy Fit, and Samsung Galaxy Fit E. Here’s what you need to know about these new Samsung fitness devices.

Don’t miss: Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e hands-on

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: A sportier Galaxy Watch

2018’s Samsung Galaxy Watch is a decent fitness device, but it isn’t exactly the easiest smartwatch to take with you during a workout. It resembles more of a bulky hiking watch than a sleek fitness companion.

Enter: the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. This new Samsung smartwatch is sleeker and will likely appeal to more users due to its simpler design. It’s about the same size as the last-generation Gear Sport, with its 1.1-inch AMOLED display. That display also has a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels.

Samsung removed the rotating bezel in favor of a sleeker design.

While it sports an overall sleeker design, that comes at a cost — the Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t come with a rotating dial like other Samsung watches. Users will unfortunately have to rely on touching and swiping the display to navigate around the software interface. It’s also worth pointing out the Watch Active also omits a rotating side button like we’ve seen on Wear OS devices. It’s an odd move, for sure, since many fitness-focused wearables prioritize non-touch navigation as some people find touchscreens difficult to use during workouts.



New to the Galaxy wearable lineup is blood pressure monitoring. Starting March 15, Watch Active users can download the My BP Lab app, developed with the University of California, to help keep track of their blood pressure levels throughout the day.

Elsewhere, the Galaxy Watch Active has quite the impressive specs sheet. It comes with an optical heart rate sensor, a built-in GPS, an NFC chip for Samsung Pay, a 5ATM water resistance rating, as well as a MIL-STD-810G rating. It also supports Bluetooth 4.2 and Wi-Fi, though there is no LTE option.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active will be available in the U.S. starting March 8, 2019 for $199.99 at Samsung.com and other retailers. If you pre-order the Watch Active from February 21-March 7, you’ll receive a free Wireless Charging Pad.

Check out the full list of Samsung Galaxy Watch Active specs below:

  Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
Display 1.1-inch full-color always-on display
360 x 360 resolution
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Memory 768MB RAM
4GB storage
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi b/g/n
NFC
A-GPS/Glonass
Sensors Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Barometer
Heart rate
Ambient light
Processor Dual-core Samsung Exynos 9110
1.15GHz
Battery 230mAh
WPC-based wireless charging
Durability 5ATM + IP68
MIL-STD-810G
Compatibility Samsung Galaxy, Android 5.0 or above with more than 1.5GB RAM

iPhone: iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above

Software Tizen-based Wearable OS 4.0
Dimensions and weight Case: 40mm
39.5 x 39.5 x 10.5mm
25g

Strap: 20mm

Colors silver, black, rose gold, sea green

Samsung Galaxy Fit and Galaxy Fit e

Left to right: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, Samsung Galaxy Fit, Samsung Galaxy Fit e, Samsung Galaxy Buds

Samsung also announced two new fitness trackers: the Samsung Galaxy Fit and Samsung Galaxy Fit e.

This will presumably be a more affordable option for those who want to keep an eye on their activity. The standard Galaxy Fit features a built-in heart rate sensor, a .95-inch full-color AMOLED display, a gyroscope, and an accelerometer onboard, though there’s no built-in GPS. The Galaxy Fit e makes some sacrifices, presumably to reach a lower price point. The Galaxy Fit e features a smaller PMOLED black and white display, drops the gyroscope, comes with a smaller battery, and charges via pogo pins.

Both devices will automatically track walking, running, biking, rowing, and elliptical workouts, or you can track up to 90 different activities from the Samsung Health app on your phone.

Interestingly, the Galaxy Fit and Galaxy Fit e run on software Samsung is calling Realtime OS. The company says this will provide an easy-to-use software experience, with support for smartphone notifications, alarms, calendar alerts, and weather.

The full list of Samsung Galaxy Fit specs are below:

  Samsung Galaxy Fit Samsung Galaxy Fit e
Display .95-inch full-color AMOLED
120 x 240 resolution
282ppi
0.74-inch PMOLED
64 x 128 resolution
193ppi
Memory 512KB internal RAM, 2048KB external RAM
32MB external ROM
128KB internal RAM
4MB external ROM
Connectivity Bluetooth Low-Energy Bluetooth Low-Energy
Sensors Heart rate
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Heart rate
Accelerometer
Processor MCU Cortex M33F 96MHz + M0 16MHz MCU Cortex M0 96MHz
Battery 120mAh
NFC wireless
70mAh
Pogo charging
Durability 5ATM water resistance
MIL-STD-810G
5ATM water resistance
MIL-STD-810G
Compatibility Samsung Galaxy, Android 5.0 or above with more than 1.5GB RAM

iPhone: iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above

Samsung Galaxy, Android 5.0 or above with more than 1.5GB RAM

iPhone: iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above

Software Realtime OS Realtime OS
Dimensions and weight 18.3 x 44.6 x 11.2mm
24g (with strap)
16 x 40.2 x 10.9mm
15g (with strap)
Colors black, silver black, white, yellow

The Galaxy Fit will be available in Q2 2019, though no pricing details were announced.

Thoughts on the new Samsung wearables? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out our related Galaxy S10 launch day coverage below:

Fitbit Charge 3 review: Fitbit is getting really good at this (Update: On sale!)

Update, February 5, 2019 at 4:39 p.m. ET: The Fitbit Charge 3 is on sale through Valentine’s Day 2019! Right now you can buy the standard Fitbit Charge 3 for just $129.95, while the special edition Charge 3 with Fitbit Pay support costs just $149.95 ($20 off). Just use the offer code CUPID at checkout.


Fitbit is synonymous with the term “fitness tracker,” and the Charge line has a lot to do with that. Fitbit Charge devices are some of the most popular fitness trackers in the world, likely because they strike a good balance between features and price.

Let’s find out if this new entry keeps that up in our Fitbit Charge 3 review.

Fitbit Charge 3 review notes: This review was originally published October 17, 2018.

I’ve used the Fitbit Charge 3 as my main fitness tracker for two weeks. The Google Pixel 2 XL was my smartphone companion of choice for the duration of this review.

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Design

fitbit charge 3 review design display

My favorite part of the Charge 3’s design is its versatility. It doesn’t look too sporty or classy, and the standard silicone band strikes a good balance between the two.

It also feels much nicer than any other Fitbit I’ve used. It almost seems cliche to describe a device as “premium” anymore, but that’s really how the Charge 3 feels. All the bands are really nice, the quick release latches are much less finicky than the Fitbit Versa’s, and the tracker itself is like a hybrid of the Fitbit Ionic and Charge 2. It takes the Ionic’s build quality and mashes it up with the Charge 2’s aesthetic.

Nothing about the Fitbit Charge 3 feels cheap.

The Charge 3 looks and feels much nicer for two reasons: the new display and the lack of a physical button.

Gone is the tap-based navigation from the Charge 2. The Fitbit Charge 3 now has a full touchscreen OLED display, so it feels more like a smartwatch than any other Charge device. It’s still a monochrome display, but the resolution has been improved so text and animations look crisp and readable. I’ve had no issues with outdoor visibility either. In fact, keeping it on auto-brightness is a one-way ticket to getting blinded if you move your arm in the middle of the night. This screen can get bright.

fitbit charge 3 review design watch straps

fitbit charge 3 review button
fitbit charge 3 review strap band
fitbit charge 3 review bands

In place of a physical button, there’s a new inductive button on the left side of the case. It’s a pressure-sensitive area on the case that reminds me a lot of the “buttons” on the HTC U12 Plus, but way less horrible. This acts as the back button, and how you turn off the display. Most of the time, I press it too hard and the screen just comes right back on. I still haven’t really gotten the hang of it, even after a few weeks of using it.

If we’ve learned one thing from HTC, it’s that button substitutes don’t make for a good user experience.

On a positive note, the lack of a physical button means it was easier for Fitbit to make the device water resistant. The Charge 3 is resistant to depths of 50 meters (5ATM), which is on par with fitness trackers from Garmin, Misfit, and others. This is a big step up from the Charge 2’s “splash resistance.”

Fitness and health tracking

fitbit charge 3 review exercise relax apps oled display

Just like we have mid-range smartphones, we also have mid-range fitness trackers. Fitbit’s Charge 3 falls right in between cheap, bare bones trackers and high-end, expensive wearables. It may not have things like built-in GPS (more on this later), but you still get things like 24/7 heart rate monitoring.

Also read: Fitbit Ionic review | Fitbit Versa review

The Charge 3 can track 20 different exercise modes, such as running, biking, pool swimming, weight lifting, interval workouts, hiking, and more. The full list can be found here. If you find yourself taking part in an impromptu workout, Fitbit’s SmartTrack will kick in and start recording the exercise after about 10 minutes. The feature works just fine for me, but it’s worth mentioning Valentina Palladino of Ars Technica had some issues with SmartTrack not kicking in.

It’ll also keep track of your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, heart rate, and sleep — par for the course with most fitness trackers these days. Most of these tracked metrics — including steps, calories, and active minutes — are very much on par with other competing fitness trackers like the Garmin vivosmart 4 and vivosport. However, distance tracking won’t be all that accurate since there’s no built-in GPS module.

fitbit charge 3 review run tracking excercises

You can connect the Charge 3 to your smartphone’s GPS — via Fitbit’s Connected GPS feature — if you don’t mind taking your phone with you on a run. If you want to run phone-less, you won’t get detailed or accurate distance or pace metrics

I can’t help but think including GPS wouldn’t be a big deal for Fitbit. It’s not like it would make the Charge 3 overly bulky (Garmin’s vivosport has a GPS and it’s even thinner!), and, come on — this is Fitbit. It’s going to sell a ton of Charge 3s. I really don’t think a slight price increase would stop people from buying it.

With all that said, saying your product costs less than $150 is much nicer than saying it costs less than $200. You have to exclude GPS to hit that price. I guess I’m just the type of person that would pay more for it.

fitbit charge 3 review heart rate monitor sensor purepulse

Fitbit claimed the PurePulse heart rate sensor on the Charge 3 has been “enhanced” for better accuracy when measuring things like calorie burn and resting heart rate. I originally thought this was sort of a throwaway line during the Charge 3 announcement, but I think the heart rate sensor has actually been improved this time around.

Take a look at my recent treadmill run. I wore my trusty Polar H10 heart rate strap, Garmin Fenix 5, and the Fitbit Charge 3.


Fitbit Charge 3

Surprisingly, all three devices reported the same max heart rate, ~162bpm, at about the same time in the workout. All three devices also caught most every major dip or rise in the workout. Wrist-based heart rate sensors are often slow to catch up to chest straps, but the Charge 3 performed wonderfully. Of course, you’ll want to buy a heart rate chest strap if you want the most accurate readings.

I also compared calorie details for a few workouts with all three of these devices, and I have no problem saying the Charge 3 is a good calorie counter, too. It’s consistently within 10 calories burned of the Fenix 5 and H10. Not bad.

If you ask me to recommend a good sleep tracker, I’ll pretty much recommend a Fitbit every time. Fitbit’s app is just so good at clearly laying out your total time awake and time in REM, light, and deep sleep. It also gives you a 30-day sleep average and a benchmark to compare against other people your age and gender. As for the accuracy of the Charge 3’s sleep tracking, I’m pretty sure it’s accurate (I am asleep during this time, after all), and haven’t noticed any big outliers.

fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages
fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages
fitbit charge 3 review sleep tracking sleep stages

A Sleep Score feature is coming soon to the Fitbit Charge 3. I haven’t had the chance to try it out (the beta launched in November), but the idea sounds pretty cool. Basically, your Fitbit will give you a nightly score based on your sleep quality and how much sleep you’re getting. It’s a small feature, but it could make understanding your sleep habits over time easier.

With the launch of the Sleep Score beta, Fitbit will also activate the Charge 3, Versa, and Ionic’s relative SpO2 sensors. When activated, these sensors will monitor for disruptions in your breathing and include that information in your Sleep Score. They also have the long-term potential to help discover early signs of sleep apnea, but that won’t happen for a while.

Editor’s Pick

This contrasts with Garmin’s vivosmart 4, which uses its pulse ox sensor to give users real-time estimates of blood oxygen levels, as well as tracking it during sleep.

Female Fitbit users will be happy to hear, just like on the Versa and Ionic, female health tracking is available on the Charge 3. This lets you track your menstrual cycles and understand how it affects your health. I haven’t been able to test this out on the Charge 3, but you can read all about it right here.

With the announcement of the Charge 3, Fitbit also said it would introduce new dynamic health insights to the Fitbit app “soon.” That feature still isn’t available, but when it rolls out, the app will give you personalized tips and tricks to improve your activity, heart rate, and sleep.

fitbit charge 3 review charger battery life

Fitbit claims the Charge 3 can last up to seven days on a single charge. In my experience, it’s only lasted six days, but that’s with it monitoring heart rate 24/7, wearing it every night to sleep, and tracking four to five exercises a week.

Fitbit Charge 3 specs

  Fitbit Charge 3
Display Touchscreen OLED
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Battery 7 days
Lithium-polymer
Memory Saves seven days of motion data, daily totals for past 30 days, heart rate data at one-second intervals during exercise tracking and at five-second intervals all other times
Sensors 3-axis accelerometer
Optical heart rate monitor
Altimeter
Vibration motor
Relative SpO2 sensor
NFC for Fitbit Pay (special edition only)
IP rating 5ATM
Smart features Call, text, calendar, email, music control, and much more
Quick replies (Android only)
Compatibility Android, iOS, Windows
Dimensions Small: 139.7 – 180.3mm
Large: 180.3 – 220.99mm
Colors Black / graphite aluminum, blue gray / rose gold aluminum, lavender woven / rose gold aluminum, frost white sport / graphite aluminum

Smartwatch features

fitbit charge 3 review notifications smart features

With the arrival of the Ionic and Versa, it’s clear Fitbit is now focused on competing in the smartwatch game. Luckily for us, the focus on smartwatches is bleeding over to its other fitness trackers.

The Fitbit Charge 3 is like a fitness tracker-smartwatch hybrid. It can receive all your smartphone notifications, and the company has now rolled out its quick reply feature to the tracker. Do note that this is only available on Android smartphones though.

Fitbit’s focus on smartwatches is great news for people who are only interested in fitness trackers.

Also, notifications are much easier to read on the Charge 3 than devices with narrower screens like the vivosmart 4.

fitbit charge 3 review notifications smart features
garmin vivosmart 4 review app notifications

The software on the Fitbit Charge 3 is wonderful. It’s not the same version of Fitbit OS as the Versa or Ionic, but it’s similar. You still swipe down to get notifications, swipe up to access the Dashboard, and swipe left to select the Exercise, Relax (on-device breathing guidance), Timer, Alarm, Weather or Settings apps. In a future update, Fitbit will bring Calendar and Leaderboard apps to the tracker as well.

It feels weird to geek out about fitness tracker software, but I don’t care. The Charge 2’s UI was a huge headache, and the Charge 3 is much more intuitive. The new touchscreen display makes it much easier to sort through menus and select different options, too.

fitbit charge 3 review timers alarms apps

Fitbit is also working with a handful of companies to bring third-party apps to the Charge 3, similar to the apps available for the Versa and Ionic. Don’t expect a full-fledged app store on the Charge 3, but a few of Fitbit’s major app partners will likely release Charge 3 apps sometime soon.

You can even pay for things with the Charge 3. That’s right, Fitbit Pay support is here. Unfortunately, it’s not available on every model.

This is something I just don’t understand. Fitbit is trying to get people to use its contactless payment service, so only including it in the special edition model and charging $20 more for it is strange.

The Fitbit app

fitbit charge 3 review fitbit app google pixel 2 xl

The Fitbit app is fantastic. It’s designed intuitively, looks great, and it’s super easy to find what you’re looking for.

The app’s home screen, or Dashboard, consists of a snapshot of the current day’s activity, complete with shortcuts to see things like steps taken, calories burned, and intensity minutes. Below that, you’ll see a shortcut to view any activity recorded that day, as well as the previous night’s sleep, your current heart rate,  and weight, water, and food logs.

fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots
fitbit charge 3 review app screenshots

My biggest gripe with the Fitbit app is the lack of a proper calendar view. In Garmin’s app, you can easily see all your activities/health stats in a month-view calendar, so it’s easy to see how many days you’ve exercised in a certain week and so on. With Fitbit’s app, you can only scroll through your history day by day. It’s not very helpful. Now, you can see a month view calendar from the Exercises screen, but you can’t actually click on any of those days to get more information.

If anything, the Fitbit app emphasizes simplicity and social features at the expense of hardcore fitness data.

One other complaint — pretty much my only other complaint — is that the data screens for each of your tracked metrics (heart rate and calorie burn data) are very hard to read in the app. You can’t click to expand any of your stats, and the Fitbit app doesn’t use landscape mode. You have to go to the Fitbit Dashboard website to get in-depth details.

Fitbit’s app is one of the more social fitness apps out there. The Challenges section lets you compete with friends at certain locations, or participate in challenges alone. There’s also a Community tab in the app that’s basically a mini social network. You can join groups, share photos, comment of people’s posts, and more. It’s also a great way to stay motivated if you’re struggling to get up and go to the gym.

Related: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

The Fitbit app also plays nicely with dozens of third-party fitness apps. That means if you’d like to keep using your favorite workout app — like MyFitnessPal or MapMyRun — all your fitness data recorded with your Fitbit will automatically sync with your health and fitness app.

Gallery

Price and availability

The Fitbit Charge 3 is available now from Fitbit.com, Amazon, and many other retailers for $149.95. The model with Fitbit Pay is $20 more at $169.95.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely.

Fitbit knocked it out of the park with the Charge 3. At under $150, you’re getting an attractive, accurate, and feature-packed fitness tracker. The display is awesome too, and it’s water resistant. This is also one of the more accurate fitness trackers I’ve used in recent months.

This is one of the most polished devices Fitbit has ever made.

There are only a few things missing.

A lot of people (including myself) aren’t thrilled with the lack of GPS, but it helps bring down the cost at least. If you absolutely need GPS, you should check out the Garmin vivosport — it’s just $20 more and sports a thinner profile. Additionally, with all the features that still haven’t launched yet (third-party applications, Sleep Score, and dynamic health insights), the Charge 3 almost feels like a beta product. Don’t get me wrong, the features that are here are great, but this is one of those “fine wine” devices. It’ll get better with age.

If you’re looking for one of the best activity trackers in this price range, look no further than the Fitbit Charge 3.

Next: Best Fitbit alternatives: Garmin, Misfit, Samsung and more

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 4: Which smartwatch is right for you?

Two of the most popular smartwatches on the market are the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa. While Apple has been making smartwatches for years, Fitbit is still relatively new to the space. Even so, the Fitbit Versa was one of the sleeper hits of 2018.

Can Fitbit really compete with the new Series 4 Apple Watch? Which is best for you? Find out in our Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch comparison.

About this comparison: I’ve been using the Fitbit Versa on and off since it launched in 2018, and it’s recently been paired with my Google Pixel 3. It’s also running the latest Fitbit OS 3.0 (version 32.33.1.30) software. I’ve been using the Apple Watch Series 4, paired with an iPhone X, for roughly two weeks. My Apple Watch has been running watchOS version 5.1.3 (16S535).

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Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Design and hardware

Both the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa have very approachable designs that will appeal to a lot of people. 

The Apple Watch features a more rectangular case with rounded corners, with a digital crown and a single physical button on the right side. The Versa has more of a squircle-shaped case, with a square display and three physical buttons.

They don’t exactly look like each other, but it’s hard not to notice a few Apple Watch-esque design cues in the Versa. It wouldn’t be too farfetched to call the Versa sort of an Apple Watch Lite.

The Apple Watch comes in two sizes — 40 and 44mm — and comes with the appropriate sized strap to fit your wrist. The Versa has one sizing option, but ships with both small and large bands in the box. The Versa is a bit thinner than the latest Apple Watch, though — it’s just 11.2mm. Apple claims the Series 4’s thickness is 10.7mm, but I don’t think it includes the heart rate sensor in that measurement. My Versa is overall thinner than my Apple Watch, despite Apple claiming otherwise.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch

As mentioned, both support interchangeable straps, though both implementations are proprietary. Apple has a slew of different styles of watch bands, including silicone, nylon, stainless steel, and more. Fitbit has many of these options too, but not nearly as many color or material choices as Apple.

Also, it’s a small thing, but changing Apple Watch straps is a breeze — the company’s proprietary locking mechanism is really well thought out. Changing straps on the Versa is actually really frustrating. Have fun getting the leather straps attached without throwing it across the room.

Fitbit Versa step counter

Now is as good a time as ever to mention overall build quality. While both watches have their similarities, the Apple Watch feels extremely well built compared to the Versa. It might cost a few hundred dollars ($400 to be exact), but Apple clearly does something with that money. Literally every part of the watch — the aluminum case, the OLED display, the rotating crown, and especially the haptics — feels great.

The Fitbit Versa feels great, as long as you don’t compare it side by side, which is understandable. This is about half the price as the Apple Watch after all. One can’t expect the same build quality. It’s not bad, just not in the same league.

Apple Watch notifications

Don’t miss

That level of quality extends to the displays as well. The OLED Retina screen on the Apple Watch is fantastic. You’ll get deep blacks and vibrant colors, and the panel also supports Force Touch. The large and small screens also have a higher resolution — 368 x 448 or 324 x 394 — than the Fitbit’s 300 x 300 screen. Again, the 1.34-inch LCD screen on the Versa isn’t bad, but you’ll notice a big difference between the two if you put them side by side.

Despite the battery-saving properties OLED has over LCD, battery life is where things take a turn. The Apple Watch lasts around a day on a single charge, maybe a day and a half. You might even have to top it up sometime during the day if you want it for sleep tracking. That’s probably why Apple doesn’t even bother with developing sleep tracking tech — the Apple Watch won’t track sleep out of the box, but some third-party apps will do the trick.

The Versa lasts a bit over four days on a single charge, and that’s with activity tracking, sleep tracking, and the heart rate sensor activated at all times. I can’t wait until all smartwatches last this long.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Smartwatch features

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch

Apple’s and Fitbit’s approaches to software are entirely different. Again, that has a lot to do with how much experience company has in the smartwatch space.

The Apple Watch’s software is clean and fast, though it’s nearly too complex (more on that later). One press on the digital crown will bring you to the honeycomb (all apps) screen, while a long press will activate Siri. For as much as people like to hate on Siri, it’s way faster than Google Assistant on any Wear OS watch I’ve tried.

Apple Watch siri

Apple’s voice assistant has come a long way over the years. It’s definitely good enough to answer questions and perform simple requests with smart home devices, though its ecosystem notably lacks the breadth of smart home device support of Google and Amazon. It’s more than what the Versa offers, though. There’s no voice assistant baked into the Fitbit smartwatch, so you’ll have to do everything the old-fashioned way: by swiping and tapping.

To a point, that’s to be expected. Fitbit OS is only a few years old. While it has vastly improved from the version that launched on the Ionic in 2017, it’s not perfect. Even the latest Fitbit OS 3 lags while swiping through menus and pulling down the notification shade. It is an overall simpler OS though, so if you don’t need everything available to you right on your wrist, the Versa should fulfill your smartwatch needs just fine.

One good example of Apple going a bit overboard with this is the much-criticized honeycomb screen, its confusing version of an all-apps page. It displays all your apps in a honeycomb-style grid. You’re supposed to scroll around and tap the app icon you’d like. It’s not nearly as fast at finding apps in a list view, but luckily you can switch to list view pretty easily.

If your smartwatch use revolves around third-party applications and services, the Apple Watch is by far your best option. Popular apps like Audible and Runkeeper, as well as third-party weather apps like Dark Sky are all available on watchOS, but not on Fitbit OS. Fitbit’s app ecosystem is growing, but it’s still far behind what Apple offers now. Hopefully that will change soon — Fitbit recently gave developers access to two new APIs, which should allow them to more easily create higher quality applications.

Also read: Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: What’s the best Fitbit smartwatch?

Both smartwatches have music storage built in, as well as support for a handful of music streaming apps. The Apple Watch has about 2GB of space for local music storage, and you can also listen to Apple Music and Apple Podcasts from the watch.

The Versa has about 2.5GB of local music storage, as well as support for Pandora and Deezer playlists. There’s no streaming option though — you’ll have to download the playlists before you go out for your workout. That’s about it for music options, but Fitbit of course says more music partners will be added in the future.

fitbit versa quick replies

Google Allo Smart Replies on the Versa

Both smartwatches allow you to receive and respond to messages from your smartphone, but there are some limitations. While the Fitbit Versa is compatible with both iOS and Android, you can only respond to messages when paired with an Android phone. The Apple Watch has the advantage of a built-in microphone, so you can respond to messages with your voice, which is handy sometimes.

Read more: How to use quick replies on the Fitbit Versa and Ionic

Both smartwatches connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and both support Wi-Fi. The Apple Watch is also available in a cellular variant, which is great news for those who want to leave their phone at home and still receive calls and messages.

Finally, we have mobile payments. Each company has its own contactless payment service. Apple Pay is obviously available on the Apple Watch, while Fitbit Pay is, you know, on the Fitbit. Apple Pay has been around for a long time now, and it shows — a ton of banks and card companies support it. Fitbit Pay’s list of supported banks and card companies is growing by the week, but as I mentioned previously, it’s a work in progress.

Fitbit Pay is only available on the special edition model here in the U.S., which costs $30 more than the standard model. I’m really hoping there’s just one all-encompassing model with the Versa 2, because it sort of feels like a cash grab to make people spend extra for this feature. The special edition Versa is still $170 less than the cheapest Series 4 Apple Watch, so I suppose that’s a win for Fitbit!

Fitbit Versa

It shouldn’t be surprising Apple still doesn’t allow third-party watch faces, so you get what Apple gives you. That’s not horrible though — especially with the Series 4, Apple includes plenty of great, customizable watch faces. My favorites are the Infograph Modular and Fire/Water faces. It’s also super easy to switch between watch faces. Just swipe left or right to select your favorites, or you can customize your own on the watch or in the Apple Watch app.

Fitbit offers a small set of its own watch faces, which are okay. They’re certainly not as well thought out or frankly as cool as anything on the Apple Watch. However, Fitbit lets third-party developers make their own watch faces, so the options are seemingly endless.

The only downside here is the Versa can’t load more than one watch face at a time, so you have to select a new one in the app and wait for it to transfer to your watch (which can take a long time). Even worse, you can’t choose from a “favorites” or “recents” section, so you actually have to go hunting for a watch face and customize it all over again if you want to go back to a previous watch face. As someone who changes watch faces all the time, this is a big headache.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Fitness tracking

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch - displays

Fitbit is one of the biggest names in fitness tracking devices, so it’s no surprise the Versa is a perfectly capable fitness tracker. Apple has also made strides in fitness and health tracking over the last few years, and it shows with the Series 4 Apple Watch.

Both devices will track your steps, calories burned, heart rate, and active minutes. Both can also track your sleep, but you’ll have to download a third-party app for the Apple Watch for sleep tracking.. Alternatively, the Versa is one of the best sleep trackers out there. Feel free to read about the specifics in our full review.

Both watches will also track a wide variety of different sport profiles. There are some differences, but both at least track basics like running, biking, treadmill, yoga, elliptical, and walking. They both track pool swimming too (thanks to their 5ATM water resistance ratings), but the Apple Watch can also track open-water swims. There are far too many sport profiles to list here, so you can check out the full list of Versa sport profiles here and Apple Watch sport profiles here.

I tested both smartwatches during a 48-minute cardio exercise (an Insanity video that was way too difficult), which you can see below. I also tested the watches against my Polar H10 heart rate strap as a control for the heart rate readings.

fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots
fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots
fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots
fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots

Overall, the Versa and Apple Watch’s heart rate sensors picked up on most of the big trends throughout the workout. A few minutes in, my heart rate shot up quite a bit — the H10 reported this spike at a max of 160bpm. The Apple Watch recorded it to be ~175bpm, while the Versa recorded it as a high 189bpm (my max is 193). Later on, the watches showed another heart rate peak topping out at around 170bpm, even though the H10 recorded it at 163bpm. The smartwatches were much more accurate when my heart rate wasn’t nearing peak. The H10 reported my average heart rate to be 133bpm, while the Apple Watch’s was 137 and the Versa’s was 136.

As we’ve reported previously, wrist-based heart rate sensors aren’t going to be as accurate as chest heart rate sensors. Too many factors can throw the numbers off, whether that be skin tone, body hair, or how tight the device is around your wrist. The important thing is they both picked up on the major trends.

For those wondering, calorie burn was also in the same ballpark for each device. I burned 549 calories according to the Apple Watch, 534 according to the Versa, and 571 according to the Polar H10.

If you’re unsatisfied with those heart rate numbers, you can pair a third-party heart rate sensor with the Apple Watch to get more accurate readings. The Fitbit unfortunately doesn’t have this feature.

Related

The Apple Watch is probably the better option for runners, as all models (after Series 1) come with a built-in GPS. The Fitbit Versa only has Connected GPS, so you’ll have to bring your phone on a run if you want accurate distance and pace metrics.

If you need to keep an eye on your heart health, the Apple Watch is, again, probably your best option. It has an FDA-approved electrocardiogram, and it’s one of the few consumer devices to have one built-in. ECGs can help users detect serious heart problems like atrial fibrillation (AFib), and warn you when you’re experiencing heart palpitations. Traditionally, ECGs are quite expensive at the doctor’s office, which of course makes it harder for people without insurance to get. By no means should this be a replacement for attending regular doctor visits if you do have heart problems, but it is still a nice feature to help keep an eye on things.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Which is the better buy?

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch side by side

Buying one smartwatch over the other, at least for this comparison, depends on one major factor: what smartphone you own. If you have an Android phone and aren’t keen on buying anything powered by Wear OS or the latest Samsung watch, buy the Fitbit Versa, or the Fitbit Ionic if you need something more powerful. The Apple Watch won’t work with your phone, so you’ll have to look elsewhere.

There’s no question: The Apple Watch is the clear winner. But at what cost?

Things become more difficult if you own an iPhone. Buy the Apple Watch if you want the best of the best. If your budget is $200 and not a penny more, the Versa is an incredible option. Just remember iOS users can’t respond to notifications from the Versa.

I can’t say which is the better smartwatch. Both are really great in their respective areas. The Fitbit Versa is a fantastic value for around $200, and the Apple Watch Series 4 is a fantastic all-around smartwatch if you don’t mind the cost. For you phone nerds, this is like comparing the Pocophone F1 against the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 — you can do it, but there are a lot of things you need to consider before claiming one is better than the other.

That’s it for our Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch comparison. Do you own either of these smartwatches? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Smartwatch roundup: All the best wearables we could find at CES 2019

Smartphones may have been almost a no-show at CES 2019, but that wasn’t the case for smartwatches. From fitness companies to fashion brands, we’ve seen plenty of companies launch new wearables at this year’s trade show.

Here’s our list of the best smartwatches we could find at CES 2019.

Kate Spade Scallop Smartwatch 2

Don’t miss

Fossil launched quite a few new smartwatches at CES 2019, and the most impressive on is the Kate Spade Scallop Smartwatch 2.

This is one of our favorite watches because, unlike last year, the Scallop Smartwatch 2 doesn’t sacrifice function over form. It’s still as pretty as ever, and this time around comes with a GPS, heart rate sensorGoogle Pay support, and a 3ATM water resistance rating.

Overall, it’s a pretty smartwatch with all the features you could want.

Withings Move and Withings Move ECG

The Withings Move and Withings Move ECG are hybrid smartwatches, so they look like analog watches more than anything. Don’t let the design fool you though — they can both track your steps, calories burned, distance traveled, and sleep.

The Withings Move ECG, which won our Best Fitness Product Award at CES, comes with a built-in electrocardiogram. If you or anyone you know frequents the doctor for ECG tests, Withings’ new watch might be a great way for you to keep your eye on your heart health.

These watches are also customizable, so you’ll be able to mix and match different colors to match your style.

Matrix PowerWatch 2

Matrix may not be a well known company, but it’s actually doing some fantastic things in the smartwatch space. The company’s new watch, the Matrix PowerWatch 2, runs on your body heat and solar energy, so you should never have to charge it.

As far as I’m concerned, every smartwatch should work like this.

It’s a little chunky and the design won’t be for everyone, but the forward-thinking technology crammed into this device certainly makes for a compelling product. Plus, it has an on-board GPS, heart rate sensor, and it’s compatible with Google Fit.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music on Verizon

Garmin has been making smartwatches for a long time, so it’s a little surprising to hear it’s just now releasing its first 4G-connected smartwatch. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is launching on Verizon sometime in 2019 with support for the carrier’s 4G LTE network. That means you can receive and respond to messages from your watch, even when your phone isn’t around.

The biggest news with this watch are the built-in safety features. If at any time you feel unsafe in your current situation, you can press and hold the side button to send a discrete message and current location to your emergency contacts. The same message/location feature will also be activated if the watch senses you’ve experienced an impact while walking, running, or cycling.

If you’d like more nitty-gritty details about the Vivoactive 3 Music, check out our first look article here.

Michael Kors Access Sofie

Michael Kors’ new Access Sofie smartwatch is the first from the brand in a few years. It comes with an updated design and new hardware features to bring it to 2019 standards.

See also

Under the hood, the new Access Sofie features a GPS, heart rate sensor, NFC, and a 300mAh battery. It also has three physical buttons on the side — two of which are remappable.

If you’re looking for a classy Wear OS watch, this might be a great option.

Fossil Carlie and Fossil Neutra hybrids


Fossil has launched two refreshed versions of its popular hybrid smartwatches.

The new Fossil Carlie hybrid (above, right) will appeal to people with smaller wrists. It’s offered in a rose gold case with a pink leather strap, or a black stainless steel case and black leather strap for $155. It’s also available in rose gold stainless steel with a rose gold stainless steel strap, and a silver stainless steel case and stainless steel strap for $175.

The new Fossil Neutra hybrid smartwatch (above, left) features a smaller dial on the watch face that will give you an overview of your daily activity. It’s available with a brown leather strap ($155) or a stainless steel silver strap for $175.

Both watches measure 37mm wide and feature 16mm interchangeable straps. Since they’re powered by a coin-cell battery, Fossil expects the battery to last up to six full months without a replacement. And just like other hybrid watches from the company, all of these watches will track your fitness, give you smartphone notifications, and also feature customizable buttons on the side.

New colors for Skagen Falster 2 and Skagen Holst hybrids

Skagen Falster 2 ‘glitz’



The Skagen Falster 2 is getting a new ‘glitz’ finish, featuring black hematite stones around the bezel of the watch case. These are still quite understated designs despite their flashier materials.

Skagen is also launching a new reflective silver strap for the Falster 2. Again, this new strap isn’t overly eye-catching — it’s a subtle reflective strap and doesn’t look overly flashy.

Skagen is also launching two new finishes for its Holst hybrid smartwatches.

Mobvoi TicWatch E2 and TicWatch S2

Mobvoi launched two new Wear OS smartwatches at CES 2019: the TicWatch S2 and TicWatch E2.

Both new watches are for a sportier, younger crowd. They both had GPS and heart rate sensors on board, along with 5ATM water resistance ratings. Mobvoi also says it worked hard to bring two-day battery life to both smartwatches, too.

What’s more, Mobvoi says they’ll receive new fitness and health features in a future update, including fall detection, on-device workout guidance, and more.

Coolpad Dyno smartwatch

Last but certainly not least, the Coolpad Dyno kids smartwatch will help parents keep track of their children. The Dyno’s fun, inviting design will help make sure kids keep the watch on at all times, while the 4G connectivity will ensure parents can find their kids at all times.

Parents can call or message their children through the Dyno watch, and even set up safe zones to make sure their children won’t wander off. The Coolpad Dyno is launching at the end of January 2019 for just $149.

Next: Weird CES: The bizarre things we didn’t expect to see

Oura Ring 2 review: The early adopter catches the worm

The Oura Ring 2 is an exciting ring-shaped health tracking device that measures something a little different from all the other calorie-focused trackers out there. In theory it can help you to feel better, perform better, and make smarter decisions regarding health and training.

This is the second iteration of a relatively-underground product that launched on Kickstarter a couple of years ago. The company is still small, but it has begun generating quite a buzz in the biohacking community.

In this Oura Ring 2 review, let’s see if this really is the game changing piece of kit that the health tracking industry sorely needs.

The concept

To my mind, fitness trackers have huge untapped potential to help us measure our daily activities, mental performance, and physiology in actionable ways. Unfortunately, most trackers amount to little more than fancy pedometers with not-so-accurate heart rate monitors.

For all I love the idea of tracking my fitness, I go through long stretches of not wearing these devices because, quite simply, the data they provide is not quite worth the inconvenience of wearing them.

fitbit charge 3 black band display

If you’re want to lose weight, a Fitbit or similar alternative can be a useful tool for tracking calories, but as I’ve explained on the site before, those measurements are imperfect and the entire strategy has its issues.

The Oura Ring 2 places its focus elsewhere: on providing deeper, more actionable data around sleep, stress, and recovery. This isn’t just about losing weight; it’s about performing your best and feeling better. That the video on the original Kickstarter campaign featured people playing the piano and conducting business is telling. This isn’t just for running and weightlifting. Oura calls it “living ready.”

Oura calls it ‘living ready.’

Can a ring really help you to overcome the chronic fatigue and stress endemic to the 21st century?

Hardware: Put a ring on it

The ring is packed with the usual sensors: an infrared heart rate monitor measuring slight changes in the color of your skin, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and three temperature sensors. Using that, it can autodetect when you fall asleep, identify how long you spent in each sleep stage, count how many times you wake up in the night, and measure your heart rate. Likewise, it counts steps during the day and lets you manually add activities. All this information is then visible through the app, divided into days.

Oura Ring 2 Heart Rate Monitor

I have no complaints with the design and comfort of the ring. The original Oura was rather large and ostentatious looking, and drew a lot of attention to itself. The new ring is much subtler and can easily pass for a regular piece of jewelry. It comes in matte black, glossy black, rose gold, or chrome, and looks like a perfectly round wedding band apart from a slight point indicating which way is supposed to face up.

The device has no blinking lights or other readouts (even the IR sensor remains dark), and a welcome feature for many is the option to put it into airplane mode. That’s handy for airplanes (this could be a useful tool for combating jet lag), but also for people who are funny about wearing technologies that emit any kind of signal.

It’s very easy to forget it’s there. If you’re used to wearing any other kind of ring, this is no different.

Most importantly, I found wearing the device during my Oura Ring 2 review very comfortable. It’s very easy to forget it’s there. In fact if you’re used to wearing any other kind of ring, then this is no different. Because it’s so subtle, you can easily wear this along with a watch and not look ridiculous — which is another benefit of a finger-bound device.

Oura Ring 2 Jewellery

The Oura Ring 2 is not that different from a wedding band

There are practical advantages to wearing a fitness tracker on your finger too. It’s much easier to obtain a heart rate from the thin flesh here, and your extremities are the first to show a change in body temperature. More on this later.

Related

When I reviewed the Motiv Ring a few months back, one complaint I had was that it got scratched very easily during training and wasn’t comfortable when weight lifting or boxing. While this is still true to a degree with the Oura Ring 2, the titanium with scratch-resistant DLC construction is certainly superior to the ceramic Motiv ring. I’ve only picked up a few light scratches on the underside so far. However, seeing as this is more of a health tracker than a fitness tracker, it actually matters a whole lot less.

Motiv Ring vs Oura Ring

The slightly less durable Motiv Ring

The ring can store six weeks of data without syncing, and you’ll be able to get six days of use between charges. It charges pretty quickly, so you can just place it on the stand during your morning shower when prompted (though it is water resistant if you wish to keep it on).

Overall, the design and attention to detail is excellent here.

Overall, the design and attention to detail is excellent here — especially for a small startup. The entirely white, cube-shaped box makes a strong first impression, and the charging stand looks good and is easy to use as well (which bucks the trend for fitness trackers that normally come with fiddly and unusual charging methods). The app does need some work in a few key areas, but we’ll discuss that more in a moment.

Oura Ring 2 review: The best sleep tracking in town

Don’t miss

The Oura Ring 2 is probably the best sleep tracker I have ever used. On the face of it, like the best Fitbit devices, it will give you a detailed breakdown of your time in light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. This tells you not only how long you have slept, but how restorative that sleep was likely to have been. Sleep detection is also incredibly accurate, with the reports being spot on 99 percent of the time. I had one night that didn’t seem to correlate with what I’d experienced, but it wasn’t major difference and it was a one off — something any device on the market will occasionally experience.

The Oura Ring 2 is probably the best sleep tracker I have ever used.

The only big omission I noticed, is that it doesn’t seem able to detect day-time naps. I know that’s something Bailey will be disappointed to hear. Similarly, while my wife was in labor the other week (woop!) I actually went one entire night without sleeping and rather than registering that for what it was, the ring acted as though I had not been wearing it (even though it would have been able to detect waking movement the entire time). Rather than saying “oh no, you haven’t slept like… at all,” it instead treated the data as missing.

Oura Ring Sleep Tracking

This is what sleep looks like when you’re a new dad

So, there are a couple of drawbacks, but what’s impressive is all the additional data the Oura Ring 2 tracks during sleep.

Resting heart rate is an excellent indicator of recovery, and of overall physical fitness, for example. A post on the Oura blog explains how a U-shaped curve demonstrates your body has fully recovered from the day before, whereas as a downward slope might indicate you could have benefited from a little extra nap time — explaining why you perhaps wake up feeling groggy and what to do about it next time.

Resting heart rate is an excellent indicator of recovery, and of overall physical fitness.

You’ll also be able to see how long it took you to fall asleep (sleep latency), how optimal your sleep timing was with regards to external cues, how efficient your sleep was, how many times you woke up, and more. Tapping on any of these points will then provide more detail — often a graph or chart accompanied by some explanation by Oura and perhaps a link to an external blog post. All this is great and it is by far the most detailed sleep tracking I’ve ever encountered.

Oura Ring 2 side view

A Biohacker’s dream: Readiness and heart rate variability

But wait, there’s more.

Digging deeper, there’s a whole lot more data you don’t typically see in these kinds of apps. To name a few: body temperature, a recovery index, and heart rate variability.

Oura ring body temperature

Body temperature of course tells you just how hot or cold you were during the night. This very useful inclusion could bring to light some interesting patterns and trends. For instance: does being cooler at night help you sleep better?

It can also indicate that something might be wrong, like if you have the start of a fever. Not many other trackers provide users with this data and the Oura has an edge here, seeing as it’s easier to measure temperature changes from the fingers and toes.

Oura Ring 2 on Hand

Resting heart rate data is meanwhile taken and used to generate a “recovery index.” This shows you how long it takes for your resting heart rate to stabilize once you hit the sack. Tapping that item in the app tells us this should happen in the first half hour after you hit the hay. There’s so much to dig into here and explore, you can spend a long time each morning reading your stats.

Heart rate variability is an even more interesting stat a lot of people won’t be familiar with. This basically tells you about your sympathetic tone, and whether you are sympathetic or parasympathetic dominant (fight or flight, or rest and digest).

There’s a lot of fascinating heart rate variability research being conducted at the moment, and it could also be linked to optimal mental states for performance and other cool stuff.

While many of us assume our heart rate takes on a steady rhythm, the truth is it changes as you breathe in and out. When you breathe in, your heart rate should increase slightly, and when you breathe out, it should decrease. If you are highly stressed, your heart rate will be constantly elevated and your breathing will have less of an impact on it. This essentially suggests you are either chronically stressed or overtraining and need more time to recover.

There’s a lot of fascinating heart rate variability research being conducted at the moment. It could be linked to optimal mental states for performance and other cool stuff. Other fitness trackers simply aren’t accurate enough to provide this data, but the 250Hz infrared lights here are more than capable (the pulse strength in the finger is also greater than on the wrist — 50-100 times greater in fact!).

Oura then takes all of this data and uses it to provide a “readiness score.” This intended to advise your training schedule. If your readiness is low, then you should avoid intensive training that day, maybe reschedule a hectic meeting, and perhaps reflect a little on what you could change about your current lifestyle. In short, it aggregates all that complex data and turns it into a single number you can act on.

Oura Ring 2 Readiness Score

I will never be ‘ready’ again

A couple of miss-steps

I’m singing the Oura Ring 2’s praises a lot here because it is the device I’ve been waiting for a long time. This fitness tracker doesn’t just measure the same old tired data, and it provides some actually useful and actionable advice. It’s a glimpse at how technology can help us perform better.

That’s not to say it’s perfect.

Oura Ring 2 Design

One area of concern for me was with the step counting. I noticed the app often reported I had completed thousands more steps than my other tracking methods. I spoke to a rep from Oura about this and they explained that the “steps” counted are actually a measure of overall movement and energy expenditure, translated to steps (the metabolic equivalent to steps). This is actually a more useful method on the whole than strictly tracking steps, though it is a little confusing given the app reports the score simply as “steps.”

It’s a shame there isn’t also a simple step count shown. It would be useful if this was a pedometer, too. I’m also not 100 percent convinced — how can the motion sensors pick up enough movement from a single finger to recognize such a broad scope of movement?

The app was often reporting that I had completed thousands more steps than my other tracking methods

Activity tracking could also use a little smoothing out. It detects activities like walks and runs automatically, but it won’t recognize every type of training. That included my own workouts, which was probably fair enough. I was mainly doing a lot of pull ups and push ups, which don’t provide much movement in the hands.

It is reasonable to expect it might at least notice the elevated heart rate and register that as a period of heightened activity. No such luck.

Training wearing the Oura Ring 2

This triceps workout will need to be added manually to the app

Another shortcoming is with compatibility. Apple users can connect the app to Apple’s Health Kit without an issue, but Android users have no such option. There’s no support for Google Fit for instance, so you can’t register workouts with a second tracker and have the data sync up automatically. There’s no way to connect to MyFitnessPal either, which means you can’t really use this as a tool for losing weight, as you might a Fitbit.

This is coming to the product very soon (sometime in 2019) so it’s not totally fair to mark it down on that basis. However, as it stands, don’t expect the kind of deep integration with third party offerings that you’ve maybe come to expect.

There’s no way to retroactively add a workout for a previous day

For now, any workouts you do will need to be added manually. Unfortunately, if you should forget to do this one day, you’ll miss the opportunity. There’s no way to retroactively add a workout for a previous day. That’s down to the complexity of the algorithms used and understandable, but it’s still a shame that my data will be incomplete (and corresponding advice wrong) if I forget to log my training — something I often do. I wouldn’t mind seeing my readiness score change when I update my data — in fact it would be encouraging.

The app’s UI also needs work. It’s quite fiddly to find what you’re looking for and syncing with Bluetooth occasionally takes a little longer than it should. Still, the app is being actively updated all the time and I’ve already seen improvements. In fact, they just recently added an on-boarding process to the iOS version for orienting new users. Presumably the Android version will get the same treatment soon.

Oura Ring App

Some of those might sound like big problems, but Oura assures us more updates are coming. This is still a product in its infancy (despite this being the second hardware iteration) and apparently a lot of cool stuff is planned.

In future, I’d really like to see some graphs and charts showing relationships between the data. For instance, I’d love to see how my body temperature correlates with how soundly I slept. As it is, it’s great to be able to see trends over time and a baseline though.

Oura Ring Review

Perhaps the best way to think of this is as a health tracker first and a fitness tracker second. It’s actually ideal for wearing in conjunction with a traditional wrist-worn tracker, and once integration with other apps is introduced, it will become even more potent in that regard. Although the data it offers is slightly imperfect due to the shortcomings I’ve identified, it’s still more than enough to be actionable and it’s the only device doing anything like this right now. I’m really excited to see where this goes in future.

What to do with all this data?

Ultimately, the amount and quality of the data here is better than any device I’ve used before. It truly makes it possible to make positive lifestyle changes and see them reflected in my sleep and the way I feel. This is the promise of every sleep tracker, but very few provide enough detail or explanation to be practical in that regard. None of them offer insights like body temperature and heart rate variance.

For instance, I was feeling a little rough a few weeks ago and when I looked at the app, I could see my “recovery index” was low. Tapping the icon explained this could be a result of a late-night workout — which I did that night — and my resting heart rate was exactly what you might expect it to be as a result of this.

I read a user review stating they used the Oura Ring to predict the onset of a cold before it hit. Personally, I’ve been using it to track how well I’m coping with the extreme sleep deprivation that comes from fatherhood. Suffice it to say, not well! However, at least I now know how bad the damage is and whether or not to consider training as a result.

One user used the Oura ring in order to predict the onset of a cold before it hit

In some ways the Oura Ring 2 still finding its footing, but it is pretty awesome already and there’s a lot more awesome coming. For the price (around $350), it might be worth hanging on a little while longer if you’re a casual user (perhaps until the Google Fit integration next year). If you love this stuff as much as I do and consider yourself an enthusiast, you’ll have no regrets becoming an early adopter. Whoever you are, the ring can certainly help you understand more about yourself and why you feel rough some days and great on others.

This is an excellent device for any biohacker and has the potential to become essential for a much larger audience soon.

Best fitness trackers (December 2018)

Fitness trackers have come an extremely long way over the years. No longer are they glorified pedometers; they’re much more than that. Most standard fitness trackers nowadays can track your steps taken, distance traveled, how many calories you’ve burned for the day, and even your sleeping patterns. They’re handy little devices if you want a better look at how active you are throughout the day, and there are plenty to choose from.

Related: Best Fitbit fitness trackers | Best Garmin watches

We understand it can be a little daunting trying to choose which fitness tracker best suits your needs, so we’ve compiled a list of the best fitness trackers on the market. We’ve divided our list up into separate categories to help you narrow down your options. As always, if you feel like we missed something on our best fitness trackers list, be sure to tell us in the comment section below.

Without any further delay, here are the best fitness trackers you can buy right now.

Best fitness trackers update:December

This month we removed the Fitbit Charge 2 and Withings Steel HR to make room for the Fitbit Charge 3.


The best fitness tracker overall

Fitbit Charge 3

Fitbit’s Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker you can buy for most people. Its classy, versatile design means it’ll look good in the office and at the gym. It’s also water resistant this time around, and has one of the more accurate wrist-based heart rate sensors we’ve tried on a wearable.

Elsewhere, the Fitbit Charge 3 offers a great software experience, plenty of smartwatch features, and a battery that can last almost a week on a single charge. Unless you’re a runner, you probably don’t need GPS. For those folks, the Charge 3 is a great option. If you need a GPS, move on to our #2 pick.

Read more: The best Fitbit alternativesThe most common Fitbit problems and how to fix them

Garmin vivosport

garmin vivo sport

The Garmin vivosport is the best fitness tracker with GPS.

Editor’s Pick

It also packs in a heart rate monitor, which is pretty incredible considering its slim and lightweight design. It’s also waterproof up to 50 meters, will last up to seven days on a single charge, and comes with a Chroma touchscreen display that’s miles better than the display on the vivosmart 3. The display is a little small for my liking, however.

The vivosport is available now for around $149.99. That’s an absolute steal for the best fitness tracker with GPS.

Also read: Best GPS running watches

Garmin vivosmart 4

garmin vivosmart 4 review screen

Garmin’s vivosmart 4 might not have a built-in GPS, but it has almost everything else you could want in a basic fitness tracker.

Don’t miss: Garmin vivosmart 4 review

It’s thin and lightweight, has a much better screen than its predecessor, and it’s proven itself to be a reliable fitness tracker at its core. It also comes with advanced sleep metrics that are right up there with Fitbit’s, as well as a pulse ox sensor for keeping tabs on blood-oxygen saturation levels.

The big downside here is the lack of GPS and GPS phone tethering option, so this is purely a health and activity tracker, not so much for high-intensity workouts. If that doesn’t turn you away, the vivosmart 4 is a great option.


Best multisport fitness tracker: Garmin vivoactive 3 Music

Garmin vivoactive 3 Music

The standard Garmin vivoactive 3 is one of our favorite multisport fitness watches. Naturally, the vivoactive 3 Music made its way to our list right when it was announced.

Everything you loved about the vivoactive 3 is here, along with support for music storage of up to 500 songs. You can load up your favorite songs, or download playlists from iHeartRadio. Deezer support will be added in the future, too.

Don’t miss: Garmin vivoactive 3 review | Hands-on with the Garmin vivoactive 3 Music

Aside from a slightly redesigned bezel on the new watch (and music support, of course), the vivoactive 3 and Music version are basically the same. That means you get a fantastic running watch with a built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, 5ATM water resistance rating, Garmin Pay support, and seven-day battery life. You can check out our full vivoactive 3 review right here to learn more.

Also read: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?


Best fitness smartwatch

Fitbit Versa

Fitbit Versa

If you were underwhelmed by Fitbit’s first smartwatch offering, the Versa might be just the thing for you.

The Fitbit Versa is much better looking and more compact than the Ionic, and it doesn’t cost as much money. Now, that lower price tag will get you fewer features (no GPS, for instance), but that’s the whole point of this smartwatch — the Versa is a smartwatch for everyone.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Versa review | Fitbit Versa vs Ionic

With the recent addition of quick replies, you can now reply to just about every app notification you receive on your wrist. The Versa also recently received Fitbit’s female health tracking suite, making this a much more powerful health tracker for women.

The Versa also brings Fitbit OS 2.0, 24/7 heart rate tracking, on-screen workouts with Fitbit Coach, over 15 exercise modes, Connected GPS, and swim tracking thanks to its 5ATM rating. There’s also room to store your music, and if you spring for the Special Edition model you’ll have access to Fitbit Pay.

Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit Ionic is a great fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrid if you need something a little more powerful than the Versa. It’s an incredible fitness and sleep tracker, comes with a built-in GPS, allows you to pay for things from your wrist, and it’s water resistant.

More: Fitbit Ionic review | Fitbit Flyer review

Just like the Fitbit Versa, the Ionic now has support for quick replies for notifications and female health tracking features.

The Ionic is one heck of a fitness smartwatch. It’s available now on Amazon and Fitbit.com for $269.95, and comes in three different color options.


Best budget fitness tracker

Xiaomi Mi Band 3

If you need a basic fitness tracker and you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, buy the Xiaomi Mi Band 3. At only $25, it’s hard not to recommend this device.

Not only has the design been improved from the Mi Band 2, it’s also received a few nice upgrades under the hood. The heart rate monitor is fairly accurate for a budget device, and it can still track all the basics — steps taken, calories burned, and sleep.

More: Xiaomi Mi Band 3 review

To get down to this price point, Xiaomi had to make some compromises. It doesn’t support many activity profiles, and the software is a little wonky at times. If that doesn’t bother you, the Xiaomi Mi Band is probably the best bang-for-your-buck activity tracker on the market.

Garmin vivofit 4

Garmin vivofit 4

Garmin’s vivofit 3 was one of our favorite inexpensive fitness trackers of 2017. Is the vivofit 4 a worthy successor? That depends.

Related: Garmin vivofit 4 review | Best fitness trackers for kids

In many ways, the vivofit 4 is an improvement over its predecessor. It’s more comfortable, has a new color display, and plenty of useful extras. But the lack of heart rate monitor connectivity is unfortunate, and we hope it returns with the next model.

Throughout our two weeks of testing, the vivofit 4 was so close to delivering accurate results but ultimately fell short more often than we’d like. To its credit, it does offer users a general idea of their performance levels, which is why most people will buy the vivofit 4. It’s an inexpensive fitness tracker that you basically never have to take off, and it keeps track of the basics. If you need a device you basically never have to take off, the vivofit 4 is for you. If you own a vivofit 3, it might not be worth it to upgrade.


So there you have it, the best fitness trackers on the market right now! How did you like our list? Did we leave anything out? If so, let us know in the comments!