Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

When the Apple Watch debuted in 2015, it was expensive, limited, and marketed primarily as a luxury item. If you wanted a fitness tracker, Fitbit was on people’s wrists back then, along with several other devices that focused on counting steps, measuring heart rate, and the like.

What a difference seven years make. Today, the Apple Watch 7 and the Fitbit Sense are the flagship products of both companies, and now seemed like the perfect time to pit them against each other. So, which premium fitness tracker/smartwatch rules them all? The answer is, unsurprisingly, mixed.

Which one to buy partly depends on what phone you have, what you want from a smartwatch or fitness tracker, and whether you want to replace your smartphone or expand its capabilities. It comes down to? Buy the Apple Watch 7 if you already have an iPhone and want to combine productivity and general fitness. The Fitbit Sense is for those who want in-depth health and fitness data and aren’t inexorably tied to the Apple ecosystem.

Compatibility iOS iOS, Android
Display 41mm, 45mm 40.5mm
Weight (aluminium model) 32.0g, 38.8g 45.9 grams
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou and LTE and UMTS on mobile models Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and GLONASS
Water resistant Up to 50m Up to 50m
Voice assistant Siri Alexa or Google Assistant
battery life 18 hours Up to 6 days
Mobile payment Apple Pay Fitbit Pay
Color options Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue, Red Sage Grey, Silver Stainless Steel
Sensors ECG, SpO2, heart rate alerts, fall detection, compass, always-on altimeter ECG, Heart Rate Alerts, EDA, Skin Temperature Sensor, Heart Rate Alerts, SpO2
Price

$399

$219

Design and comfort

Christopher Allbritton/CNN

Both the Fitbit and the Apple Watch are beautiful devices. They all looked great on my wrist, and while I consider myself a hardcore Apple follower, I’ll admit I liked the sleek lines and lack of a side button on the Fitbit. It was a tad heavier, though, at 45.9 grams compared to the 38.8 grams for the 45mm aluminum Apple Watch 7. But neither felt bulky or clunky. The Sense’s silicone band wasn’t as smooth or comfortable as the standard Apple Watch loop band, but you can swap the bands for either device if you’re not happy with what’s included.

I tended to wear both at once, one on each wrist, and while my partner teased me about it, either one would look great in a more dressy or formal setting. I would be comfortable with either at the gym or the Met Gala.

However, where the Apple Watch really excels is the display. Both have super-sharp and bright AMOLED screens, but the Apple Watch’s screen is about 20% larger than the Fitbit Sense’s screen.

TL;DR: Slight edge to the Sense, despite the larger screen of the Apple Watch.

Health Registry and Sensors

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Here’s the meat of the problem, right? Both devices pack a lot of sensors into a small space. They both measure an electrocardiogram (ECG), blood oxygen, and heart rate, and both contain an altimeter, gyroscope, and accelerometer. The Apple Watch has a compass, but the Sense has an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor and skin temperature monitoring. EDA is used to measure changes in the electrical conductivity of the skin, and it is related to the amount of stress I am feeling – which is always a lot, thanks to the deadlines my editor has for me.

The Sense’s EDA scan involves sitting still and still for two minutes while covering the screen. I’ve been wearing this thing for a week, and it just doesn’t give me a stress score, so I don’t know how helpful the EDA scan is. Apple also has something to calm you down called Mindfulness, but it doesn’t bother with measurements. It’s just a Watch app that encourages you to slow down and take deep breaths every now and then. I honestly found that more helpful than stressing about my stress levels.

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Jacob Krol/CNN

I also found that the two devices did not match well even when used for the same activity. Last week I went for a leisurely walk and the readings on the two devices were very different. The Sense said I ran 1.44 miles in an hour and 19 minutes, with an average heart rate of 122 BPM and burned 620 calories. However, the Apple Watch counted an hour and 18 minutes of exercise time and a distance of 1.32 miles. I also burned just 361 calories with an average heart rate of 132 BPM. Those differing results are problematic because I don’t know who to believe.

When it comes to tracking your goals, both devices offer ways to do that. The Apple Watch has its famous rings that fill up when you get up and move, meaning you can live another day if you close them. (Just kidding! Apple isn’t that powerful yet…) The Sense tracks what it calls Activity Zone Minutes, which track how much time you spend in the fat-burning, cardio, or peak heart zone when you’re working out each week.

TL;DR: While they both track the same data, I’d give more or less a slight edge to the Fitbit as the health data is top notch. However, many of the flaws in the Apple Watch can be remedied by third-party apps.

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Jacob Krol/CNN

The Apple Watch made its bones as a smartwatch before Apple decided to focus on its health features. So it’s not surprising that the Apple Watch has superior smartwatch features.

Part of that is because it only works with an iPhone, so the features between the two are very complementary. You can do almost everything you can do on an iPhone on your Apple Watch. Make and receive calls? To check. Send and receive messages? To check. Download a lot of apps? Want to see maps and photos on your wrist? Is your home under control? Check, check, check check.

The Sense, on the other hand, just can’t offer that level of integration with an iPhone. It does work with Android devices though, so that’s a big plus for those not in the Apple ecosystem. It can make and receive calls through your Android phone, but the messaging is rudimentary and mostly consists of canned responses. It can’t message via iPhone at all, as Apple wants you to buy an Apple Watch and blocks such third-party integration with its wildly popular messaging service.

The app store for Fitbit is also a bit flimsy, with a fraction of the apps available. It also requires a more hands-off approach to gatekeeping, which is a problem for almost every app store other than Apple’s. It’s no surprise that Apple’s offerings are so much more robust; the Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac all share some code in their operating system, and one company to rule them all. Fitbit’s Sense just doesn’t have the processing power to run complex apps, and it doesn’t have the integration that Apple can provide.

TL;DR: Apple Watch, hands down.

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Jason Cipriani/CNN

This is a good idea. The Apple Watch lasts about 18 hours on a single charge and the Fitbit Sense six days. Done. Both devices use wireless charging and are fully charged in about an hour.

TL;DR: Fitbit, no match.

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Fitbit

A nice perk that the Sense offers is the Daily Readiness Score, which tracks your body’s need to recover after workouts and exercise. The Apple Watch doesn’t have this feature yet, despite fans on Reddit begging for rest days as they close their rings. (I don’t think anyone slacks in Cupertino.)

But the Daily Readiness Score is only available to Fitbit Premium members and costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. In addition to the Readiness Score, you also get sleep tracking, stress and mindfulness management, deeper analyzes of your data, and guided workouts.

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Apple

Apple also offers a health service with the same pricing structure as Fitbit ($9.99 per month or $79.99 per year), which it calls Fitness+. It includes plenty of fitness classes that you can watch on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, but it’s requires an Apple Watch to use. It also offers guided ‘Time to Walk’ and ‘Time to Run’ activities on the watch. The walking guides usually include interviews with guests such as comedian Hasan Minhaj and the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Bernice A. King. Each running guide focuses on a city and includes music and coaching tips from Fitness+ trainers.

I admit, it’s no fun paying a company more money every month after you’ve spent a few hundred dollars on its product, but that’s the world we live in today.

TL;DR: Hard to say as both premium services are very different. Go with the Fitbit if you want in-depth data analysis. Apple’s classes are better and more fun.

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Jason Cipriani/CNN

Apple always costs more. It’s like a law of nature or something, and in this case you’re paying $100 more for the base model of the Apple Watch 7 ($399 for the 41mm model and $429 for the 45mm model) over the Sense ($299). , although it’s currently on sale for just $219.) You’ll pay even more for the Apple Watch if you choose the cellular version, which adds another $100. While you may forego those extra charges, it’s wonderful to be able to leave the house without your phone, knowing you can still make and receive calls, handle messages and the like.

TL;DR: Fitbit, but the watch’s extra mobile features are certainly nice to have.

Apple Watch 7 vs Fitbit Sense: Which is Best for You?

Christopher Allbritton/CNN

If we compare two health trackers, it’s a win for the Fitbit. But we are not. We compare the Sense, a very capable health and fitness tracker with some smartwatch functionality, and the Apple Watch, a gold standard smartwatch that also does very good health and fitness tracking. It is not a simple comparison because which one you should buy depends on what you want to do with the device.

If you are not an iPhone user, you must purchase the Sense. It’s an easy choice. It’s cheaper, it looks great and it does great health and fitness tracking. You won’t regret it.

If you’ve invested heavily in the Apple ecosystem — as in, you have an iPhone, a Mac, and an iPad, and you’re subscribed to all of Apple’s services — then it’s the Apple Watch. Again, it’s an easy choice. Get an Apple Watch 7 and don’t look back.

If you’re not that deeply rooted in Cupertino’s offerings and just have an iPhone, but maybe mainly use Google or Amazon’s online services, it’s a bit more complicated. The Apple Watch is a good match for your phone, but if all you need is health and fitness, the Sense is a better value. But if you want a full-fledged smartwatch that replaces your iPhone in many cases, the Apple Watch is probably a better fit, despite the higher price.

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