Fitbit vs Garmin: Which should you pick?

When it comes to sports watches and fitness trackers, there are two undisputed leading brands – Fitbit and Garmin.

Garmin was founded in 1989 and has been around the longest. But it hasn’t always produced fitness wearables – it originally specialized in in-car navigational products. In the early 2000s, the company began applying its advanced GPS technology to personal fitness – and the rest is history!

Fitbit was founded in 2007, with a focus on fitness tracking from day one. The company expanded rapidly, and its devices are now sold in retail outlets all over the world.

In 2021 Fitbit was acquired by Google. Google’s smartwatch tech combined with Fitbit’s expertise in the health field will undoubtedly lead to new and exciting products in the future.

Both Garmin and Fitbit offer a range of high-quality products with a multitude of tracking options. But with so many features and capabilities available, it can be difficult to determine which model best fits your needs.

To make things easier, we’ve put together this guide looking at the main differences between the two brands. Comparing everything from the software they use to the features available, it will help you decide whether a Fitbit or Garmin device will be the best tool for giving you the data you need.

Fitbit Or garmin – how do they compare?

FitbitGarmin
Fitbit vs Garmin: Which should you pick? 1Fitbit vs Garmin: Which should you pick? 2
Best for beginners and casual users.Best for serious athletes and tracking specific sports.
Simple To UseOffers Specific Data in Performance Stats
Includes Health MetricsAll Devices Have Built-In GPS Tracking
Third-party App IntegrationMetrics For Specific Sports
Allows Social InteractionImpressive Battery Life
Fitbit vs Garmin: The Overview

Fitbit Vs Garmin – Software

The companion apps and ecosystem play a big part when comparing Fitbit versus Garmin. After all, the main purpose of your device is to obtain the data you need and deliver it in a way that is easy to understand.

Fitbit’s app is – by far – the simplest to use. Ideal for beginners, it makes it easy to see trends in health and performance.

Features like Sleep Score are useful, giving you an overview of the quality of your sleep, whilst the Health Metrics give you data about your heart rate variability, temperature, blood oxygen, and more.

Third-party app integration allows you to use your Fitbit in conjunction with fitness apps like Strava, so that your runs appear in your daily Fitbit stats.

If you want even more from your device, you can subscribe to Fitbit Premium. It takes a deeper look at your stats and offers extended fitness guidance.

There is also the potential for social interaction, with the ability to link with friends and participate in challenges.

Garmin Connect – the Garmin app – is more complicated to use. That’s because it delivers way more information, going far beyond Fitbit’s simple workout overview and drilling down into specific data.

Garmin is hands-down the better choice if you are a serious athlete, whether you need to plan goals in preparation for a marathon or want to beat the times of other runners in your area.

Compatible with all Garmin devices and available on desktop, it provides a detailed look at your activity in the Performance Stats and delivers a post-workout analysis unmatched by Fitbit. Note that you’ll also need Connect IQ, which is a store for downloading third-party apps and adding new data fields for sports tracking.

man checking his garmin watch outdoors

Fitbit Vs Garmin – Health and Fitness Tracking

Both Fitbit and Garmin offer devices in their ranges that provide heart rate tracking (at rest and during exercise), activity tracking, pulse oximetry to monitor oxygen saturation, and built-in GPS.

The latter ensures that you can receive accurate device metrics without having to bring your phone along with you. This is an area where Garmin excels, with all the brand’s running watches featuring built-in GPS as standard.

Both brands also offer sleep tracking, stress monitoring, menstrual tracking, breathing exercises, and more. They then provide guided, personalized workouts based on the information gathered.

If your goal is basic health and fitness tracking, then a Fitbit will more than meet your needs. After all, this was the brand’s original purpose and how it made its name.

But when it comes to tracking specific sports, Garmin offers features that Fitbit just can’t match.

fitbit on a wrist with a blue background

Metrics for running, cycling, and swimming (both pool and open water) are particularly detailed, and available to you whilst you train or post-workout.

These make it easy to monitor your training, effort levels, and recovery, so you can work on improving your performance overall.

If you want to spend a bit more on models like the Forerunner 955, you’ll find profiles included for a wider range of sports, including skiing, climbing, hiking, and more.

Additional features like mapping and navigation also give Garmin the edge, particularly if you enjoy outdoor pursuits like trail running.

man writing while wearing a garmin

Fitbit Vs Garmin – Smartwatch Capabilities

Demand has grown recently for devices that can provide fitness data along with features like notifications and music. Both Garmin and Fitbit have risen to the challenge, producing models that behave as smartwatches.

Fitbit now has models like the Sense and Versa. These go beyond the brand’s basic fitness trackers and work with Androids and iPhones, providing music, push notifications, and contactless payments (handy for grabbing a coffee while you’re out on a run). Some newer Fitbits also feature a scaled-down version of Google Assistant and Alexa.

Many Garmin watches, too, will allow you to do things like view your notifications and check the weather.

Again, spending a little more will give you access to Garmin Pay and built-in music. The difference here is that Garmin watches allow you to store your music offline – so you won’t need to be connected to your phone in order to listen to it. This isn’t the case with Fitbit devices, which only give you control of the streaming service.

Fitbit Vs Garmin – Battery Life

When choosing between a Garmin watch vs Fitbit, decent battery life is a big consideration. Although the difference between the two isn’t huge, Garmin is definitely the better choice in this respect.

Even the most affordable models in its line generally promise up to a week of battery life, with many pricier models offering even more. Fitbit tends to offer less, with most models in the range expected to only last for up to 6 days on a single charge.

Of course, battery life is influenced by the type of monitoring or tracking you are doing.

Using GPS while out on a run, for example, will shorten battery life considerably. But here, too, Garmin has you covered, with many models providing power-saving features. These allow you to turn off power-hungry functions, conserving your battery life for the features you really need.

garmin forerunner side on view

Fitbit Vs Garmin – Durability and Build

Based on many user reviews over the years, Garmins have the edge in terms of durability, longevity, and reliability.

Whereas Fitbits are sleek and perhaps more aesthetically pleasing to some, Garmin watches tend to be more ruggedly built. This is particularly true of models like the Garmin Instinct, which is designed for outdoor use in tough environments.

This is another distinction that tends to make Garmin watches more suitable than Fitbit devices for serious sports training.

Something else to consider when considering a Garmin watch vs Fitbit is the band. Fitbit’s bands have always been easy to replace and are often interchangeable between devices. Until recently, this wasn’t the case with Garmin. This might not sound so bad until you consider the frustration caused by the band breaking when the watch itself is perfectly fine.

Fortunately, the bands on almost all of Garmin’s watches can now be replaced, too. As with Fitbit, this not only extends the life of the watch but also makes it easy to customize the look. Both brands offer plenty of official bands, with multiple colors to choose from.

fitbit resting on an iphone

Fitbit Vs Garmin – Safety Features

The final consideration in the Fitbit versus Garmin debate is the availability of safety features.

When it comes to basic health and fitness monitoring, these may not be too important. But if you like to train outdoors – sometimes off the beaten path – safety features are essential.

At the time of writing, none of Fitbit’s range of fitness trackers or smartwatches has emergency features like fall detection or SOS. Garmin, however, offers two – LiveTrack and Incident Detection and Assistance.

LiveTrack allows you to share a real-time view of your location with friends or family while out on a run or doing any timed activity. It’s quick and easy to set up via the Garmin Connect app and provides real peace of mind for everyone throughout your training session.

To use the Incident Detection and Assistance feature, you’ll need to be connected to your phone and have set up an emergency contact list.

If there is a dramatic change in movement (like a fall or accident) during a timed GPS activity, the feature will detect it and automatically let your contacts know, providing your name and GPS location.

These features can give you greater freedom on your runs and the confidence to explore a little further afield.

gear for going running including a gps watch

fitbit vs garmin: Key Takeaways

Both Fitbits and Garmins are excellent fitness tools, providing accurate stats and giving you useful insights into your health and training performance.

But while they share many similar features, each brand is geared towards a slightly different audience.

When Should You Choose a Fitbit?

If monitoring your health and wellness on a daily basis is your priority, then a Fitbit will suit you perfectly. This is especially true if you are just getting started with wearable devices and want to keep things simple.

But that’s not to say you won’t enjoy a Fitbit as a more advanced user. The Sense, for example, is an excellent tracking tool with built-in GPS and many models offer useful metrics like VO2 max.

Fitbit’s sleep tracking is second to none and features like the ECG and skin temperature sensors on its newer devices give you an in-depth look at your overall state of health.

The app is very user-friendly and easy to understand without overloading you with data. And if you struggle with motivation, Fitbit offers some great tools to inspire you to get moving and increase your daily activity.

Top 3 Recommended Fitbits

#1: Fitbit Sense Advanced Smartwatch

the fitbit sense

With the ability to monitor everything from your workouts to your emotional health, the Sense is one of the most popular Fitbits on the market.

The display is vivid and responsive and the soft silicone strap is comfortable to wear, even overnight.

Pros:

  • Alexa voice controls
  • Wide range of workout options
  • Ideal for heart rate zone training

Cons:

  • Some tools for monitoring stress levels are only available with a Fitbit Premium subscription
  • The charger is vulnerable to damage and can be tricky to use

#2: Fitbit Versa 4 Health & Fitness Smartwatch

fitbit versa

The Versa may not have all the advanced features of the Sense, but this is reflected in the more affordable price.

Built-in GPS allows you to track the pace and distance of your runs, hikes, or bike rides without your phone. All the basic fitness tracking you need is provided, including step counts, calorie burn, and zone minutes.

Pros:

  • Large, high-resolution screen, easy to see from any angle
  • Enhanced heart rate tracking
  • Sleep tracking and Sleep Score

Cons:

  • The side button can be difficult to use
  • The charging cable is exceptionally short

#3: Fitbit Inspire 3 Health & Fitness Tracker

fitbit inspire 3

The Inspire 3 is a great fitness tracker if you’re on a budget. It doesn’t have the features of a smartwatch but still provides guided breathing functions, 24/7 heart rate tracking, and basic sleep tracking.

Ideal for motivation, it will reward you when you meet your daily goals and encourage you to move around when you’ve been sitting for too long.

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life of up to 10 days
  • Water resistant to 50 meters
  • Unobtrusive, slim design

Cons:

  • The screen is very small (although you can view stats on the app)
  • Basic functions and no GPS

When Should You Choose a Garmin?

Garmin devices are geared more toward the dedicated athlete than the fitness enthusiast.

If your aim is to analyze your effort levels, improve your personal bests and dig deep into your performance to identify areas for improvement, a Garmin will deliver the data you need.

Of course, this level of information has its drawbacks, and there’s a learning curve involved in getting to grips with the app. The home screen provides a ton of metrics at a glance – great once you’re used to it, but a little overwhelming at first.

But Garmins cannot be beaten regarding state-of-the-art tracking, the ability to add external sensors, and superior battery life. If you’re serious about your sport – and particularly if you train outdoors, Garmin is definitely the better choice.

Top 3 Recommended Garmins

#1: Garmin Forerunner 55 GPS Running Smartwatch

garmin forerunner 55

This is Garmin’s entry-level watch but packs plenty of advanced features, including post-workout guidance detailing the rest you’ll need, predicted race times, and more.

You also get the tools you need to monitor your overall wellness, including all-day respiration and fitness age.

Pros:

  • Personalized workout suggestions
  • Multiple built-in activity profiles
  • Lightweight and comfortable

Cons:

  • Relatively low-resolution display
  • No touchscreen

#2: Garmin Forerunner 955 GPS Running Smartwatch

garmin forerunner 955

The best choice for triathletes, this model has built-in profiles for triathlons, duathlons, brick workouts, and swim-runs.

Advanced features to improve your performance include suggestions for training intensity based on data gathered that day, plus a real-time stamina gauge to indicate the amount of effort you’re using.

Pros:

  • Full-color built-in maps
  • Touchscreen
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Some running power features need extra accessories

#3: Garmin Venu 2 Plus GPS Smartwatch

garmin venu 2

The Venu 2 is the perfect combination of style and function. It is sleek enough for any occasion but with the sophisticated features you need for advanced fitness tracking.

Your sleep quality and stress levels are monitored, whilst the health snapshot generates a report that makes it easy to see your key stats.

Pros:

  • Large, crisp AMOLED display
  • On-screen muscle maps
  • Microphone and speaker to make and receive calls

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Speaker volume is quiet

struggling to meet your training goals?

Using a fitness tracker or sports watch is great for motivation as it helps monitor your progress over time. But there are other simple techniques you can use to help you stick with your training if your enthusiasm starts to wane.

Check out our 12 Pro Tips for Running Motivation

Photo of author
Christine Albury is a dedicated runner and fitness nerd: when she's not working out she is studying the latest fitness science publications, and testing out the latest running gear!

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