Fitibt and Garmin have been doing battle in the smartwatch fitness-tracker arena for years. As a result, they have several devices that are direct competitors to each other.
Here’s how the two brands compare with their high- and lower-end models:
The Ionic is the most powerful device in Fitbit’s stable. Not only does it have the standard fitness tracking you would expect, but it also has built-in GPS. That means you don’t have to be tethered to your phone when you go out for a run. It’s also water-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about showering after a workout—or rain during one.
It’s also got a five-day battery, letting you hit the pavement all week without worrying if your watch will make it to the end of the road. It can also offer on-wrist coaching videos and track your sleep patterns (since there’s no need to charge every night).
The only real issue with the Ionic is the aesthetic. The large rectangular face and stiff rubber wristband are more reminiscent of an early Garmin Forerunner than they are a modern-day smartwatch.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
If there’s any doubt where Garmin’s focus lies, all you have to do is check out the 15-plus activity profiles that come preloaded on the device. From running to swimming to yoga, if you can do it with your body, then the Vivoactive 3 Music can track it.
In addition to leveraging years of activity experience, Garmin has become an excellent innovator in biometrics tracking. Not only does the Vivoactive keep an eye on your activity and steps, it will also measure how quickly you recover from workouts to determine if you’d benefit more from an extra day of training or a day off. It also has its own stress and body battery metrics to help you see how your activity (or lack thereof) is affecting your overall wellness. Garmin was also first to market with menstrual tracking (though Fitbit now offers that feature as well).
The Vivoactive 3 Music, as the name implies, lets you load all your workout tunes and connect Bluetooth headphones for playback. Like the Ionic, it has built-in GPS. Unlike the Ionic, it also comes in a cellular data version through Verizon (that adds a $5-per-month data plan). Its Gorilla glass touchscreen is easy to navigate and readable in full sun. It also lasts up to seven days on a single charge.
Fitbit Inspire HR
Water-resistant, with a five-day battery life, the Inspire HR packs 15 different types of exercise and fitness tracking, sleep and heart rate monitoring, smartphone notifications and more into a tiny package. The watch faces are customizable and there are some seriously premium band options available (like Horween Leather). The screen is also just big enough to support vertical messages (instead of horizontal scrolling). As a “next generation” fitness tracking band, the Inspire HR goes a long way to making a case for what the future of a tracker should be.
Garmin Vivosmart 4
The Vivosmart is a great little tracker from Garmin that can go for 7 days between charges, allowing for excellent features like REM sleep monitoring and blood oxygen assessment (which helps it gauge stress and determine Body Battery metrics). You can monitor exercises on the band and it will even auto track an activity if you forgot to start the timer. In addition to notifications (which are a little hard to read as they scroll by horizontally) you can use the Vivosmart to control media playback on your phone and send pregenerated text responses (on Android). All the data feeds into the excellent Garmin Connect app.
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between Fitbit and Garmin’s offerings. Ultimately, which device you go with will depend on which ecosystem you want to buy into.
However, I’ve been impressed again and again with how much Garmin can add value to the base metrics that every tracker gathers nowadays. Also, the two extra days of battery life in both the Vivoactive 3 Music and Vivosmart 4 is impressive. Given the choice between the two, I would go with Garmin.