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Which Fitness Tracker Should I buy?

hand with chakra bracelet and fitness tracker on wrist

Fitness tracker matchup: Fitbit vs. Apple Watch vs. Garmin and Others

By: Morgan Radlinger, CWP, wellness coordinator at Network Health
Originally published on 6/29/2021 at 11:00 a.m.

(Editor's note: Our comparison of fitness trackers has been updated for 2021/22. To view our top picks for this year and how they compare, please click here.)

Fitness trackers can help increase motivation and accountability, keep track of health behaviors and set goals focused on improvement.

Contrary to some rumors floating around the internet, they are quite safe to use. Purchasing the right tracker for you and your individual lifestyle, however, can be a bit overwhelming. There are, after all, no shortage of options in this blossoming market.

When you go shopping for a fitness tracker, you’ll find plenty of variance among factors like the quality of data you’ll receive, the type of exercise for which the device is best suited and price.

To simplify your decision, there are some questions you should ask yourself.

  • What style are you looking for?
  • What functions do you want to do?
  • Do you want a fitness tracker or smartwatch?
  • Do you need the latest-and-greatest model?
  • What price are you willing to pay?

Let’s break down some of these questions to help you decide what may be best.

What style fitness tracker are you looking for?

Are you looking for a bulky feel? A watch that you can wear every day? Something more stylish? A watch that tells the time and weather?  A tracker you can wear on your hip? With a ton of options on the market, you're sure to find one that you like. 

The first question you'll start with, however, is whether to buy a fitness tracker or a smartwatch.

What is the difference between fitness trackers and smartwatches?

If you’ve seen somebody scrolling through photos on their wristwatch or controlling their TV by tapping their wrist, you’re aware that smartwatches have become a near-ubiquitous part of our lives.

A smartwatch integrates fitness tracker features with added functionality that mirrors your smartphone, specifically for Apple iOS and Android devices.

While smartwatches started out being made almost exclusively by phone brands, fitness tracker manufacturers like Fitbit and Garmin have also gotten into the mix, blending their focus on activity and fitness monitoring with the apps and notifications of a smartphone.

For that reason, it's good to decide whether you're looking for a simple fitness tracker (like those made by Fitbit, Garmin or Moov) or a more advanced smartwatch.

Popular fitness tracker brands: Fitbit vs. Garmin vs. Moov

Studies suggest pedometers can help address the challenge of public health physical inactivity. In fact, fitness trackers can help you achieve the recommended 10,000 steps a day in total. Beyond simply counting steps, however, they help increase awareness of physical activity and sedentary behavior.

Most have a mobile app to track and log additional healthy activities and they can range in price depending on the quality and features you are looking for.


Nearly as synonymous with fitness trackers and Kleenex is with facial tissue, Fitbit set the pace for the now-crowded market with the introduction of a simple-to-use, online-connected pedometer back in 2009.

You may have guessed it from the name, but Fitbit focuses on fitness first, featuring many models that can track steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes.

Most Fitbit models also track heart rate, floors climbed and sleep. On the top of the Fitbit product range, you’ll find smartwatch functionality, allowing you to access features like GPS tracking for your runs, mobile notifications and even music/media capability, letting you change a track or tune into a podcast without pulling out your smartphone.

Finally, the Fitbit lineup features devices that are water-resistant or swim-proof, letting you to track laps in the pool and time spent chasing your kids around in the water.

Who is it for? Fitbit has great options if you need an everyday wearable as well as one to track your fitness. Fitbit devices can help keep you motivated by challenging others to step challenges who have a Fitbit device.


Known for GPS technology, Garmin has lasered in on the fitness tracker market by positioning itself as the best option for runners, bikers and swimmers who want GPS tracking. Like Fitbit, Garmin trackers also keep a record of steps, distance, floors climbed, calories burned and sleep.

With integrated GPS, devices from Garmin are frequently bulkier than Fitbit counterparts. Around the office, those who have chosen Garmin trackers love them for their reliability and long battery life, which is appealing to individuals in any fitness camp.

Who is it for? Garmin trackers are perfect for those who want to use GPS to create running/biking maps and have a more accurate distance record than other platforms allow. The integrated GPS also makes them great for off-trail hiking and mountaineering.

Moov Now

A simplified alternative to Fitbit and Garmin, Moov Now bills itself as a “Motion-Based Coach” and is great for multi-sport and activities. Its killer app is that Moov Now counts your reps in seven minute+ workouts and offers real-time coaching to help you level-up your fitness regimen.

This wearable can be nice because it has an app that will help guide you during your workout based on your movement or heart rate. Due to the lack of a screen on the outside, it is less distracting and it has a battery life rated at up to six months, making it the perfect option for those who don’t like downtime while their tracker is plugged into the bathroom power outlet. It’s also among the most affordable.

Who is it for? The Moov Now is a good starting point if you are not committed to a more expensive watch yet or are easily distracted by notifications that can flash up on the screen of a less-focused device.

Popular smartwatch brands: Apple Watch vs. Samsung Galaxy Active vs. Misfit

Apple Watch

Among the most common smartwatches on the market, the Apple Watch has many features like other popular fitness trackers such as step tracking, water resistance for swimming, calorie tracking, heart rate monitoring and distance, but it also puts more of a focus on activity minutes and movement throughout the day.

If you have an iPhone, you can receive and respond to texts and calls. The latest series can be operated without your Smartphone present, allowing you to work out without having to find a pocket or armband in which to stash your phone.

Who is it for? The Apple Watch is great for iPhone users who want a companion device that will mirror their apps while also letting them exercise smartphone-free. It’s worth noting that the Apple Watches is pricier than many competitors but makes up for its price with excellent functionality and reliability.

Samsung Galaxy Watch/Galaxy Watch Active

Like the Apple Watch, but geared for Android users, the Samsung Galaxy Watch series combines a fitness tracker with a mobile satellite device that gives you notifications and apps access on your wrist.,

Like the Apple Watch, also, the Samsung Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active do more than just track steps and calories. These watches use integrated computer processors to analyze your running style, for instance. As is the case with the Apple Watch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active are more expensive than a simple fitness tracker and frequently need to be charged more often.

Who is it for? For those seeking a great all-in-one smartwatch device that pairs with their Android smartphone, the Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active are stellar options from a brand that has carved its niche in user-focused mobile technology.


If you’re the kind of person who answers “yellow” when the question is “red or blue,” you may be the target market for the Misfit. Going up against Apple and Samsung isn’t easy, after all, but Misfit has crafted a brilliant range of wearable smartwatches and fitness trackers that don’t have the brand tax you’ll pay with the former options.

Like the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch/Active, you’ll have access to smartwatches that bring mobile functionality to your wrist while tracking fitness. Unlike these “technology-first” models, however, Misfit offers “hybrid” models with a classic analog watch face, making them a great accessory for a stylish business or formal occasion.

Don’t let their focus on style fool you, however, Misfit watches are durable and sweat-resistant, with many models letting you take advantage of standard smartwatch features and in-depth fitness tracking/analysis.

Do you need the newest fitness tracker model?

Like buying anything, the question of paying more for the latest-and-greatest versus saving a few bucks and going for something tested and true applies.

For fitness trackers and smartwatches, this question can be difficult because it all depends on what you would like it to do. Newer devices will often have more features and all the bells and whistles.

Having an older model, however, can often be a good starting point and it tends to be more budget-friendly.

Some features or specs which you may find important than an older model may concede to the newer include any or all the following.

  • Longer battery life
  • Water-resistance/swim-proofing
  • New front-face design
  • Better apps
  • Enhanced tracking
  • GPS
  • Cellular data for smartphone-free use

The difference in features as models change from generation-to-generation makes it important to do some research and find the model that ticks all your boxes at the best price. Make sure when you are deciding between models to compare what the newer one has compared to the older one. If it is just a new face design, your bank account will thank you for sticking to the outgoing model.

What is a good price for a fitness tracker or smartwatch?

Like most technology, price is always a consideration.

Wearable fitness trackers and smartwatches fall in a huge range that starts as low as $30 and can max out above $400.

When choosing a fitness tracker or smartwatch from a brand you like, it is crucial to find the model that makes the most sense for the type of activity you’ll be doing and the technology with which you plan to sync and connect your fitness tracker/smartwatch.

As a rule, the higher price you are willing the pay, the more your fitness tracker or smartwatch will be able to do.

If you are just looking for one that tracks your step, without all the bells and whistles, you’ll likely find you’re able to find what you want for right around $50 or even lower. Inexpensive models, after all, are not necessarily of lower quality than pricey ones. Often, they are simply less because of the disparity in features.

If you’re looking for a smartwatch that will be able to sync with a phone, send notifications your way, let you swim without taking it off, run without packing your smartphone and change the channel on your streaming device, it’s a good idea to start saving now.

Again, everybody has different goals and it’s important to find a tracker that is the best one for you.

Before starting any fitness regimen, talk to your personal doctor. Fitness trackers should act as a supplement to your annual wellness visit and regular wellness screenings and should never act as a replacement.

If you have any questions about fitness trackers or getting started on the path to wellness, contact us today.


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