Smart watch vs. fitness tracker

First published: 19-06-2017

Smart watch vs. fitness tracker: Which is right for my lifestyle?


Modern smart watches and fitness trackers can do far more than tell the time. They're feature- packed gadgets that can give health and lifestyle information at a glance. But even if you're sure you want a timepiece that does more than display the time of day, there's still a decision to be made beyond that: smart watch or fitness tracker? There are differences in price and functionality, and we'll help you make that final decision.

How do you intend to use it?

The first port of call is to decide what you want to do with your watch. If tracking your health and fitness is number one, then a fitness tracker is ideal; that's what they were created to do.

  • Fitness tracker features

Some fitness trackers will call it a day after counting your steps and telling you how many calories have been burned. Others will go much further, with features including a heart rate monitor, activity tracking, and sleep monitoring. Many will sync up to a dedicated app, giving you even more features and feedback from your phone or desktop.

  • Smart watch features

Owning a smart watch gives you access to more features than those directed at keeping you healthy. Think of it a little like a more streamlined smartphone. It may be able to help with things like emails, phone call notifications, and calendar appointments, for example. It'll likely have activity tracking capabilities too, but as not all smart watches are equal in this area, it's always best to double check what you're thinking of buying has the features most important to you.

How often will you use it?

This is another key question to ask. Fitness trackers and smart watches can vary noticeably in price, but if you're going to be getting more use out of your timepiece you can probably justify devoting more funds to it.

Budget fitness trackers are available, but don't have all the functions of a high-end model. And it's much the same story with smart watches too, but on average, smart watches are a more expensive option than those solely devoted to fitness.

Fitness trackers: Our top picks

From the economical to the sublime, we've chosen two fitness tracker watches that are suitable for budgets small, medium, and generous.

Adidas Performance watch: A sign of quality

When buying a budget fitness tracker watch, wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to sacrifice quality for the price? Well, there are few brands that carry the same mark of sporting quality as Adidas.

This Adidas Performance model is a pristine white, and comes with several easy-to-manage features, all labelled on the casing for easy access. It'll count your steps, track your pace, and also inform you of the distances you've travelled.


All in all, it's an ideal jogging buddy, which is comfy to wear while you're out in the elements thanks to its light resin casing. And coming in at less than '100, it's as budget friendly as it is feature- packed.

Polar Altitude watch: A face with features

One of the key draws of a fitness tracker watch is a large screen, so it's easy to keep track of your progress while you're scaling a tough incline or battling off rain and snow. And the Polar Altitude watch ticks that exact box better than almost any other.


Much like the Adidas model, it has features useful for monitoring your progress when out for a jog, a run, or similar. The difference here, however, is that all are more easily in view thanks to its large screen.

To aid visibility, the watch has a backlight feature, while its resin strap makes for comfortable jogging. When it comes to the actual time telling, the Polar Altitude is powered by a quartz chronograph movement, and protected by water resistant material. It's pricier than the Adidas Performance watch, but comes with the features to justify the added cost.

Smart watches: Our choices

Stepping it up in terms of feature-packed timepieces, smart watches offer a broader range of handy aspects, becoming more of a general gadget than solely a fitness friend.

Garmin Vivosmart Activity Tracker: Bridging the gap

There are smart watches on the market, that manage to have a medley of features, containing both fitness tracker and smart watch elements.


Costing less than '150, the Garmin Vivosmart Activity Tracker is perfectly adapted to its fitness environment, being very slender in appearance and light on the wrist. It offers you a heart rate monitor, as well as thoroughly measuring your activities - intensity, floors climbed, steps trodden, and calories destroyed!

And when you're done in the gym, you can cool down and use the very same watch to check your social media alerts, texts, and emails.

Suunto Spartan Chronograph: The budget breaker

If you're serious about your fitness, you need a watch that can keep pace. Enter: the Suunto Spartan Chronograph.

At a cost of several hundred pounds, it's a piece to buy if you think you'll really benefit from all of its many features, which are geared towards a lifestyle containing a real variety of sports.


Running, walking, swimming, cycling, and more: all your data is accessible through a beautifully- designed, colour LCD touchscreen, which is protected against the rigours of your routine by being water resistant by up to 100 metres.

Tested thoroughly in Finland, if it can handle the Scandinavian snow, it can certainly handle a cold, rainy night in Stoke.

Fitness trackers and smart watches come in many shapes and sizes, and very much differ in their appearance and price. To find out which one is for you, be sure to consider your lifestyle and budget, and go for the piece that does everything you need it to, for the price you're happy to spend.


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