Comparison: fitness bracelet or the Apple Watch - which is better?

Apple Watch face

Fitness bracelets seem to be a part of life today - you see people everywhere who are about to make a decision Sweets or fruit first look at your smartphone. Really now?!? No, seriously, that was from an advertisement - basically you usually go for the sweets anyway, right ?! However, a fitness bracelet can help to get rid of the calories that you couldn't resist. I have just tested an Up2 from Jawbone myself and can confirm that it is a small motivational factor if you have not yet completed your "daily steps" - even if 10.000 steps per day are a bit unrealistic for a person WITHOUT a dog. ;-)

Jawbone Up3 in silver

The Jawbone UP3 is the most advanced fitness tracker that Jawbone currently offers - with sensors for heart rate measurement, but not to be used by athletes for permanent measurement during training. (Photo: Jawbone).

Fitness bracelets show the (sometimes terrifying) status quo

To be honest, it was exactly the same for me: Usually with a fitness tracker you are shocked to discover that you are moving a lot less than you actually thought. From my point of view, such an activity tracker is especially helpful at the beginning to see how much you are actually moving. Your own feelings are often deceptive and you quickly get down to earth with the facts. An important finding if you want to improve your health or weight.

Motion detection using a gyroscope and inclination sensors

But how do the fitness trackers actually recognize whether I am hiking, cycling or jogging? The bracelets have three-axis accelerometers that detect every small movement. To do this, they measure the acceleration and its angle up to 1500 times per second. From the changes and recognizable patterns, they then draw conclusions about the current activity.

When jogging, the detection works quite reliably due to the clear movement pattern, but when cycling not all measurements or their interpretations are always precise - not even when it comes to recording every step on the pedals, because here they are mainly moving Legs, while the wrist remains relatively rigid with the fitness bracelet.

For precise route information, an Armand with GPS sensor is the better choice anyway - or the Apple Watch in combination with the iPhone, which receives the GPS signal for the watch. The smartwatches or fitness bracelets can then, due to the speed in combination with the above-mentioned movement patterns, determine differences between the individual sports and classify them correctly.

Combine physical activity with heart rate measurement

If you want to know what condition your body was in during a sporting activity, you should include a pulse measurement in the assessment, because a reasonably accurate calculation of the calories consumed only works with the associated heart rate. The heart rate is also important for athletes to train in certain stress areas. For example, when I jog to lose weight, I need to train in a different heart rate zone than someone preparing for a half marathon. Provides some information on this the side of polar.

There are different approaches to measuring the heart rate: some fitness bracelets have a heart rate monitor integrated on the wrist, while others allow coupling with a chest strap via Bluetooth. The Apple Watch works with a sensor on the bottom of the watch. In this way, it can continuously measure the heart rate and also make it available in sports apps such as Runtastic.

Fitbit Charge HR - fitness tracker with pulse measurement

The fitness tracker Fitbit Charge HR is one of the few bracelets that can come up with an integrated pulse measurement (Photo: Amazon).

All this data is then collected in the activity tracker and later transferred to the smartphone or computer. The associated apps are also an essential factor when evaluating the recorded data. And here we are already at the first hurdle, because the fitness armband from Samsung is not an option for Apple fans, for example, as it only runs on Android and there is no way to pair it with iOS.

Most fitness bracelets differ in detail

The differences between the individual fitness bracelets lie in the little things that can be a "must-have" for one or the other user, without which a use for the respective person does not fulfill its intended purpose. Some vibrate if you haven't moved for a while, some work as sleep phase alarm clocks (see also my contribution to the topic of sleep phase alarm clock), some have built-in heart rate measurement and others have a particularly large display. With others, you have to look at the smartphone if you want to find out the current level of performance. Most bracelets also analyze sleep, and some models have an app function that can also be used to enter nutritional data. Most are quite discreet to wear, which has proven itself in everyday life, while specialists like the Garmin Fenix ​​3 apply a little "thicker", but are waterproof and also suitable for tough outdoor use.

Throw-in: The right smartwatch for swimmers

For some sports, the requirements are so high that very few devices are suitable for tracking. Swimmers usually have the problem that they cannot take a smartphone into the water and that the measurement of the heart rate does not work reliably (if at all) due to the poor radio transmission in the water. With the Ambit3 and the Smart Senor, Suunto has brought a perfect team for swimming onto the market. Suunto solves the problem with radio transmission in a completely new way: the chest strap itself saves the heart rate data in an internal memory and then transfers it to the Ambit3 at the next opportunity. In this way, you get a reliable pulse measurement and apart from the smart sensor chest strap you don't have to have any other device on the man or woman. The positive customer reviews show that this is the right way to go.

Suunto Ambit3 Sport

The Suunto Ambit3 is related to the Suunto Smart Sensor (a waterproof chest strap) the perfect choice for swimmers (Photos: Amazon).


GPS, pulse measurement and sleep phase alarm clock - which fitness bracelet can do what?

There are so many functions that are helpful when you need the smartwatch or fitness tracker for certain areas of application that you can quickly lose track of which tracker can do what. For this reason, I have a brief overview of which device has which functions. Please forgive me for the confusion of the list ... ;-)

Garmin Fenix ​​3 Smartwatch with GPS

The Garmin Smartwatch Fenix ​​3 is the only fitness tracker I know that evaluates both GPS and Glonass and thus achieves a very high level of accuracy in determining the position, which is particularly helpful in the mountains with a high degree of "signal shielding". The target group here is more likely to be professional outdoor athletes (climbers, trail runners, mountaineers, expedition participants, etc.).

How much does a fitness bracelet cost compared to an Apple Watch?

How much do you have to invest to own a fitness bracelet? Entry-level models like the tried and tested Jawbone UP Move are already available for less than 40 euros, while some professional athletes, despite the price of just under 400 euros, certainly prefer the Garmin Fenix ​​3 Smartwatch will prefer. In comparison, the Apple Watch is also rather expensive at 400 euros (or more), but of course also offers impressive technology, because in principle with the Apple Watch you have a small computer with a slimmed-down iOS (Watch OS) on your wrist. I think everyone has to look at what functions they need and what budget they want to invest in them.

The Apple Watch as a fitness tracker - is it worth it?

In terms of functions, of course, the Apple Watch does not have to hide behind the other smartwatches and fitness bracelets. It has an optical heart rate sensor and of course various other sensors that determine acceleration, inclination, compass data and much more - only it does not have a GPS module. It has countless functions that one would want from a smart watch, and the fitness apps are also getting better and better. So far so good.

However, the Apple Watch also has some disadvantages that cannot be discussed away:

  • The Apple Watch cannot monitor the sleep rhythm because it has to be charged at night - the battery only lasts for one day due to the many functions
  • the Apple Watch is not waterproof (see here Apple Support), but only water-repellent and splash-proof - so you can wear them while showering, but not while swimming (although there are some reports that people had them on while swimming and it still wasn't broken)
  • Compared to the classic fitness bracelets like the Jawbone Up, it is slightly larger and less subtle, but offers a full-fledged display
  • the battery life is rather tight at less than 20 hours - all fitness bracelets and multisport watches offer a multiple runtime here
  • In contrast to some sports watches, the Apple Watch does not currently offer GPS tracking if you don't have your iPhone with you

And of course there are also advantages that only the Apple Watch offers:

  • the display is certainly one of the best on the market: retina, touch and colorful
  • the integration with other Apple devices is perfect: you cannot control the music playback of the iPhone with any other watch
  • Thanks to the integration with the iPhone, you can control very precisely which apps are allowed to send notifications to the Apple Watch and which are not
  • In contrast to the "smart bracelets", which according to the manufacturer often have the function of smartphone notification, you can also answer and delete emails and messages with the Apple Watch (when the iPhone is nearby)
  • With the Apple Watch you can also take calls and through the built-in loudspeaker and the microphone you can actually make calls without taking your iPhone out of your pocket - even if it takes some getting used to when you talk to your watch ;-)

My conclusion

Buying the Apple Watch only to use it primarily as a fitness bracelet is not worthwhile. The price is really too high for that, the battery too weak and the range of functions too large. The specialized fitness bracelets are clearly more suitable here or simply have a better price-performance ratio.

If you aim for functions such as GPS, water resistance or a smart sleep phase alarm clock, you will not be happy with the Apple Watch either. Here, too, there are other devices, which, however, do not combine all functions in one device.

Apple Watch face

The Apple Watch is certainly the best choice for iPhone users thanks to its extremely good integration with the iPhone - an additional fitness tracker can still be interesting in some cases (Photo: Apple).

The right choice for iPhone users: the Apple Watch as a fitness tracker

However, if you are an Apple fan anyway, play a lot on the iPhone every day (or work ???) and have already considered buying an Apple Watch in order to also connect the other functions (mail, Siri, music control, etc.) Being able to use it with the iPhone is certainly satisfied with its function as a fitness tracker.

The integration in connection with the iPhone is also unique, because while the fitness bracelets and watches can maximally show that an email or a call has been received from XY, you can actually interact with the Apple Watch: Accepting calls (you speak then into the watch) and answering or deleting emails, SMS and other messages is quite possible with the Apple Watch. Now one wonders how one can write texts with a clock? It's very simple: you use Siri and dictate what you want to have written.

And with the keyword "Siri" we are at another plus point of the Apple Watch: You can start Siri via the watch and then give commands to the iPhone as you are used to - only you no longer have to remove the iPhone Get your pocket. Once you get used to it, you certainly don't want to be without it anymore. My favorite command: "Set the timer for X minutes!" ... a practical thing for tea, pizza, washing machine and power napping! ;)

And if you just can't make up your mind, you can consider wearing the Apple Watch on your left arm and the fitness tracker of your choice on your right wrist. ;-)

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