The Best Smartwatches: Fitbit vs. Apple Watch vs. Garmin

Smartwatches help users achieve their fitness goals while providing the functionality of a wristwatch. Use our shopping guide to determine which smartwatch is right for you: Fitbit, Apple, or Garmin.

Man adjusting his smartwatch
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Smartwatch Showdown: Fitbit Versa vs. Apple Watch Series 4 vs. Garmin Forerunner 35

When Apple first introduced the Apple Watch, it was a bit of a game-changer. Fitness trackers had existed for years, even with smartphone support, but by marrying the iPhone's apps and the convenience of wearable tech, the Apple Watch successfully brought smartwatches to the mainstream.

Today the companies that originally perfected wearable fitness trackers have caught up, and they now make smartwatches that combine their core expertise—helping users achieve their fitness goals—with the smartphone conveniences that the Apple Watch pioneered.

So who does it best? Well, as with all things tech, it depends on the user, but when it comes to the Fitbit Versa, the Garmin Forerunner 35, and the Apple Watch Series 4, the race is a lot closer than you might think.

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Our Top Three Smartwatches

Editor's Choice: Apple Watch Series 4

Bottom Line: Building on the massive success of prior generations, the Apple Watch Series 4 gets everything right. It's fast, easy to use, and good-looking. The new 40mm size is the perfect medium between the previous 38mm and 42mm versions.

Editor's Notes: The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch available, as long as you've got an iPhone to pair it with. It's good at everything, from smartphone notifications to health monitoring. The only trade-off is that you have to charge it at least every other day.

Best Value: Garmin Forerunner 35

Bottom Line: The Garmin Forerunner 35 is a great entry-level smartwatch. The black-and-white e-ink display definitely feels lo-fi, but it also means the battery can last up to nine days on a single charge.

Editor's Notes: The Forerunner 35 is perfect for athletes who just want the basics. If you need a watch just for workouts, it's a great option that won't break the bank.

Ladies' Choice: Fitbit Versa

Bottom Line: Finally, a fitness tracker built for women. The Fitbit Versa does all the things the competition does, and it also includes trackers for menstrual and ovulation cycles.

Editor's Notes: Although the Fitbit Versa is a little less polished than other smartwatches, it hits the sweet spot of functionality, simplicity, and price. Multiple days of battery life, along with support for both Android and iOS smartphones, make the Fitbit Versa an easy choice.

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What They Have in Common

All three smartwatches share a lot of the same functionality, so let's start with the basics you can expect no matter which one you buy. The Fitbit Versa, the Apple Watch Series 4, and the Garmin Forerunner 35 all feature step trackers, heart rate monitors, smartphone notifications, Bluetooth capability, and customization options.

Step Trackers
Getting a sense of your daily movement and understanding when and how to challenge yourself is the basis of fitness tracking. No matter which smartwatch you buy, you can count on basic metrics for your daily, weekly, or monthly steps.

Heart Rate Monitors
Another smartwatch fundamental is ongoing monitoring of your heart rate. This is useful for measuring your heart health over time. Some users have even found that heart rate monitoring can predict future health issues before they happen.

Smartphone Notifications
One of the biggest benefits of owning a smartwatch is that it can reduce the number of times you have to look at your phone. Once configured, any smartwatch will notify you of new text messages, new emails, and upcoming appointments, not to mention tell you the time.

Bluetooth
All smartwatches connect to smartphones using Bluetooth technology. The Apple Watch Series 4 and the Fitbit Versa also both have Wi-Fi onboard for even faster connectivity, but they still rely on Bluetooth for maintaining an ongoing connection with your smartphone, since it consumes much less power than Wi-Fi.

Customization
The Fitbit Versa, Apple Watch Series 4, and Garmin Forerunner 35 all support standard watch band sizes, so it's easy to change the look of your smartwatch without spending a lot. And while the watch face of the Garmin Forerunner 35 only comes in one color, you can buy an Apple Watch or a Fitbit Versa with different metal housings, including rose gold.

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Differences Between the Fitbit Versa, Apple Watch, and Garmin Forerunner

So what separates the Fitbit Versa, Apple Watch Series 4, and Garmin Forerunner 35?

Apple Watch Series 4
The Apple Watch Series 4 has several unique features. Most notably it can make phone calls. The LTE edition of the Apple Watch Series 4 can act as a cell phone when connected with your wireless provider. While this adds a new monthly expense, it means that you can make or take phone calls from anywhere, so long as you have your watch on—no smartphone needed.

The Apple Watch Series 4 also supports Apple Pay, Apple's electronic payment system. If you've set up Apple Pay on your iPhone, you can make retail purchases simply by using your Apple Watch.

Fitbit Versa
The Fitbit Versa has some unique features, too, like Android support. If you've got an Android phone, the Fitbit Versa is one of the best companion smartwatches you can buy. It pairs easily and works well with notifications, so all your calendar updates, important emails, and text messages will appear without a problem.

It's pretty rare for smartwatches to have onboard media storage, but the Fitbit Versa does, so you can take your music with you wherever you go—even if you don't have your phone. If you're a runner who needs a good soundtrack but you don't want to bother carrying your phone the whole time, the Fitbit Versa has your back.

Near-Field Communication, or NFC, is a wireless connectivity protocol commonly used for mobile payments. The Fitbit Versa has NFC, so you can use Fitbit Pay to pay for purchases. To see which banks Fitbit Pay works with, visit the Fitbit website.

Garmin Forerunner 35
The Garmin Forerunner 35 has a few tricks up its sleeve as well, including an e-ink display. E-ink displays, most commonly found on Amazon's Kindle e-reader devices, are black and white instead of color. This offers some major advantages over color displays. E-ink displays are easier to see in direct sunlight, keep costs down, and extend battery life. The Garmin Forerunner 35 can last up to nine days before needing to be recharged, whereas most smartwatches with color displays need to be recharged at least every 48 hours.

While it may not seem like much of a perk, having physical buttons on a smartwatch can make using it a lot easier—especially in the middle of a run or workout. The Garmin Forerunner 35 relies on buttons for all interactions, which may seem like a hassle, but it's a huge benefit compared to using a smartwatch touchscreen when your hands are sweaty.

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Which Smartwatch Is Right for You?

Picking the right smartwatch is largely a matter of finding the model that's best for your lifestyle. When deciding which watch is right for you, consider where you'll wear it most and how you'll use it.

If You're Serious About Getting in Shape
If you're looking for a watch that can be a fitness companion and you don't need any advanced functionality, you can save a bundle by getting one designed primarily for exercise.

The Garmin Forerunner 35 is the best smartwatch for athletes and aspiring athletes alike. Its no-frills approach to fitness tracking brings the best of both worlds. Garmin's fitness programs are the perfect match for their wearable tech that can last up to nine days on a single charge.

If You Own an iPhone
If you own an iPhone (or any Apple device, for that matter), it should come as no surprise that their complementary products add even more functionality. But the perks are especially good for iPhone owners who buy Apple Watches.

The Apple Watch Series 4 brings the most value to the iPhone. Together the two can work as seamless partners, in many cases offering the same apps on either device. That means you can control your phone's iTunes app with your Apple Watch or use apps like Apple Maps to get turn-by-turn directions delivered directly to your wrist.

If You Own an Android Smartphone
Thankfully, when it comes to smartwatches, iPhone users don't get to have all the fun. There are solid options for Android owners as well.

The Fitbit Versa is the best smartwatch you can buy if you already own an Android phone, and it's less than half the price of most Apple Watches. While Fitbit's app selection isn't as expansive as Apple's, it handles the basics just fine, and its built-in fitness routines and programs really show off its expertise in training and fitness.