We put these wearable elites head to head
When it comes to the big hitters in the wearable game, there’s no doubt that Apple and Fitbit sit at the very top of the tree. But that doesn’t mean both compete in the exactly the same areas, with Apple looking to take over your wrist with its smartwatch and Fitbit instead dominating fitness trackers.
The latter is expected to drop its first truly dedicated smartwatch later this year, but for now Fitbit fans are forced to look into its existing stable and pick out the device that best mimics a connected timepiece.
And alongside the Fitbit Blaze, the Charge 2 is in this conversation. But how does it stack up against Apple’s second effort at the smartwatch? Well, we’ve spent time with both devices in order to give you a breakdown of how the two compare.
Apple Watch Series 2 v Fitbit Charge 2: Design
For our money, both of these devices do a good job of keeping your wrist looking tidy. But there are differences in how they achieve this, with the Apple Watch rocking the square face and Fitbit embedding the Charge 2’s smaller screen into a typical band.
Taking notes from its predecessor, as well as the Fitbit Alta and Surge, the Charge 2 features a black and white OLED display that’s four times bigger than what featured on previous Charge devices. You’ll still have to deal with the clasp system that exists on multiple other Fitbit devices, which can be a bit fiddly, but generally this is a device that sits well.
Getting around has its finicky moments, though, which is surprising considering its emphasis sits squarely on fitness. Metrics are viewed by tapping on the touchscreen, while you cycle through modes by pressing the side button, and then move through exercises by swiping down on the screen.
Firing up an exercise and navigating apps is a nicer experience on the Apple Watch, although the digital crown still isn’t the most intuitive way of getting around.
It is impressively light and comfortable, mind, meaning you won’t get arm ache if you’re wearing it throughout the day. In fact, it’s one of the only real smartwatch options for women who don’t want an oversized watch on their wrist.
But of course, the big difference in design is the waterproofing. Apple has locked the Series 2 up against 5ATM of water pressure, which works out at about 50 metres. The most impressive thing is achieving this without changing the design of the original, while also adding in a nifty setting to help clear out any water the watch picks up.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the Charge 2 – offering you only water resistance. This means it can handle sweat and a bit of rain, but you’ll still have to take it off before you get in the shower. Considering the array of tracking on offer, and the fact you can dip in the pool with the Fitbit Flex 2, it’s a frustrating omission.
Apple Watch Series 2 v Fitbit Charge 2: Notifications
With one of these devices being a smartwatch and the other, well, not, there’s a noticeable difference in how you’ll be experiencing your notifications.
The Charge 2 will still give you items you can view, which is more than can be said for many fitness trackers, but you can’t reply to them or review them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
It’s a much more in-depth deal on Apple’s offering, as you would expect from a smartwatch, in which dings can be read, dismissed or replied to with ease. There’s also no shortage of support, with the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter all on board to complement Apple’s own reminders to move and breathe and also provide you with updates on your activity.
The only real issue you’ll come across is if you receive a stream of notifications all in one go, but this is pretty unavoidable and doesn’t take away from the experience too heavily.
When it comes to what you get from the Charge 2, the glanceable notifications are still worthwhile. If you’re connected to your phone, call, text and calendar notifications can all be displayed, with WhatsApp buzzes working with Android phones. Unfortunately, other third-party notifications are still outbound for both iOS and Android.
The screen quality and size is obviously a big factor here, though, as the Charge 2 will snip the majority of your messages and nerf any emojis. This has changed slightly since a recent update, with a + sign now appearing when you have more than one notification and messages now showing ahead of the contact, but this still doesn’t rival the Apple Watch.
Apple Watch Series 2 v Fitbit Charge 2: Activity tracking and features
There’s a lot to unpack here, with Apple and Fitbit naturally zeroing in on the fitness scene. This pair both manage to do a solid job everyday tracking, but they do differ slightly in the package they offer.
Starting with the basics, Apple will display your fitness through its three Activity rings, which represent steps, active minutes and the amount of hours in the day where you got up and moved. This is a simple and glanceable way to view your progress, with the Charge also leaving you just a couple of taps away from an insight into your day.
Likewise, beginning workouts is a cinch on both devices. Long-pressing the side button on the Fitbit allows you to track a specific workout manually, while SmartTrack is also offered if you just want to begin the likes of running and cycling without interacting with the device.
Apple provides its own app for basic workouts, letting you track everything from an indoor run to an outdoor cycle, and you also have the added bonus of tapping into dedicated fitness apps, such as Strava and Runkeeper.
Just how this is tracked is a little different, though, with GPS housed inside the Series 2 but not the Charge 2. This inclusion allows you to leave the phone at home and still track activity, with lock-on coming in seconds and generally remaining steady throughout. Combining this with the internal music storage and some wireless headphones means you’re free to enjoy an entirely untethered roll.
You won’t have the same luxury on the Charge 2, meaning you’ll have to piggyback your phone using the ConnectedGPS to get pace and distance data. Needless to say, this isn’t ideal for fitness regulars.
But where the Fitbit falls down in GPS and swimming, it edges back slightly with VO2 Max. Wearing your Charge 2 to sleep ensures the tracker measures your resting heart rate, with it then taking your age, height, weight and fitness data to give you a score which is matched up against other people in your age group and gender. Data that details your fat burn, cardio and peak heart rate zones are also included to give you the most complete picture of your ticker’s data of any Fitbit to date.
It’s worth noting that this is a fairly advanced fitness metric that’s properly calculated in a lab, so things are slightly on the estimated scale, but its inclusion is still a huge tick in the Charge’s favour. As is sleep tracking, which, while not perfect, isn’t available on the Apple Watch unless you use one of the third-party apps.
With regard to heart rate tracking, the pair differ slightly, with Apple coming out slightly on top.
The Charge 2, while accurate enough during steady and prolonged periods, has a tendency to under-report current heart rate, with struggles continuing if you ramp up the intensity. The Series 2, meanwhile, is one of the few optical sensors to actually not perform terribly in heavy intervals, with its general performance one of the better we’ve tested – a surprise after the watch’s first iteration.
Apple Watch Series 2 v Fitbit Charge 2: Battery life
So you’ve got all these features to play with, but finding a device that can deliver for longer is often a sticking point for buyers.
With Apple providing a more substantial package with its smartwatch, this understandably provides a hit on battery life. The Series 2 gives you a stronger performance than its predecessor, but this still only hovers around the two day mark.
The positive note here is that this is heading in the right direction, but those planning to track exercises regularly and take advantage of the apps and notification support may find this restrictive. It also limits Apple’s ability to provide sleep features, since these hours are more often than not your opportunity to charge up the battery.
The Charge 2, on the other hand, dwarfs this by offering users a battery of around five days. Even with every notification it’s able to receive turned on, for fitness, continuous heart rate, sleep tracking and general daily usage, we managed to get about six days of life out of the Charge 2. Then after charging it up for 15-20 minutes, it lasted another six days.
When it comes to this department, there’s really no contest, it’s just a case of how you much you prioritise the features.
Apple Watch Series 2 v Fitbit Charge 2: Price
If you want the Watch Series 2, you’ll need to part with at least $369, with this figure quickly heading north if you begin getting involved with the stainless steel, ceramic or Hermès editions of the smartwatch.
In stark contrast, the Fitbit Charge 2 will only see you fork over $149.99, leaving you plenty of extra cash to customise the device bands – or spend on boring, non-wearable stuff like food and rent.
Apple Watch Series 2 v Fitbit Charge 2: Verdict
Fitbit’s Charge 2 is an immeasurable upgrade on its predecessors, and provides some strong features considering it’s not a fully-fledged smartwatch. Not only are fitness metrics as strong as Fitbit provides, but it’s also stylish and customisable enough to be worn every day.
With that said, few devices can compete with the overall package provided in the Apple Watch Series 2. There’s strong third-party app support, ample fitness tracking thanks to GPS, and notifications that can’t be beat.
This really comes down to what you need from your wearable. If you’re looking for a dedicated fitness tracker that won’t break the bank and also won’t need consistent charging, the Charge 2 is probably your preferred choice. But for those looking for a more complete wrist partner that helps you distance yourself from your smartphone, it’s difficult to look past the Apple Watch Series 2.