a Fitbit

If you're thinking about buying a Fitbit, certified fitness trainer Andrew White says to consider factors like budget, features, and design preferences. "For instance, someone who prioritizes heart rate monitoring and GPS tracking might opt for the Fitbit Charge 4, while someone who prefers a more fashion-forward design might choose the Fitbit Luxe," he says.

Also note what you're giving up compared to buying a full-featured smartwatch. Smartwatches have internal sensors and technology that allow them to track heath- and fitness-related data, often including sleep patterns and stress levels. They also offer more communications, productivity, and entertainment-related apps, are more customizable, and have an online store for installing additional apps.

By contrast, Fitbits and other fitness trackers focus more on health- and fitness-related tasks and rely heavily on a smartphone. They offer fewer if any communications, productivity, or entertainment-related apps. They’re also less expensive and often smaller than full-featured smartwatches.

Whether you're purchasing a smartwatch or a tracker, here are some key features to consider:

Smartphone Compatibility: Fitbit trackers work with virtually any smartphone, including iPhones, Apple tablets, and Android phones and tablets. However, the Google Pixel Watch is designed mainly to be used in conjunction with Android-based smartphones.

Display Size and Type: Every fitness tracker and smartwatch has a built-in display. The display type and size determine how easy it is to view and how much content can be shown on a single screen. The screen type also determines whether it can display color and how visible on-screen information is outside in direct sunlight. Some trackers and smartwatches have touch screens, which typically make it faster and easier to interact with the device.

Operating System and User Interface: All of the Fitbit trackers use the same FitbitOS operating system, while the Google Pixel Watch (which offers Fitbit functionality) relies on Google’s WearOS operating system. The user interface refers to how you interact with the device, such as via a touchscreen, side buttons, and dials, or a rotating bezel, for example.

Fitness Metrics Measured: Based on your lifestyle and health/fitness routines, make sure the fitness tracker or smartwatch you choose is capable of collecting and analyzing the data that will benefit you the most. The majority of fitness trackers and smartwatches also offer activity or exercise-specific apps or functions.

White adds, “Fitbit trackers are generally quite accurate and reliable for tracking steps, heart rate, and sleep patterns. However, like any technology, they have limitations and can sometimes provide slightly skewed results. It's important to consider factors such as proper device placement and user behavior for optimal accuracy.”

Battery Life: While a Fitbit's battery might last for days before needing to be recharged, a typical smartwatch has a battery life of between one and two days at the most. How you use the device will heavily impact battery life.

Customization Options: The majority of fitness trackers and smartwatches offer a variety of color choices and watchbands. Some devices allow you to fully customize the appearance of the display so it only shows the real-time data that you want to see most. More advanced trackers and all smartwatches offer access to an app store that allows you to find, download, and install additional apps to further expand the device’s capabilities.

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