Garmin vs Fitbit
Ask anyone about fitness trackers and they’ll say Garmin or Fitbit. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
These two are giants when it comes to fitness trackers. Most people have a favorite. The big question is; are the two brands all that different? Both Garmin and Fitbit have a solid range of devices at a range of prices that serve specific purposes.
Fitbit is the name most people use to refer to any of the models in the range, simply calling it ‘a Fitbit’. Garmin, however, is more commonly known for fitness smartwatches with advanced features. They tend to be referred to by the model name. Either way, the battle between these two big names has been going on for a while.
We’re going to look at some fitness trackers you can buy from both brands.
Garmin or Fitbit?
Who are these giants in the world of fitness trackers?
Garmin is an American company, founded in 1989. They specialize in GPS technology for a range of applications. In addition to smartwatches, they manufacture and sell GPS for diving and walking. One of their most popular ranges is the Vivo series which includes the Vivofit, Vivoactive, and Vivosmart. They also have just released the Fenix 7 a new popular contender.
Fitbit is also American, and since 2019, owned by Google. Fitbit produces trackers and devices that measure data such as heart rate and steps taken. They have won numerous industry awards. Counting the Fitbit Charge and the Fitbit Versa amongst some of their most popular models.
How to choose between Garmin and Fitbit – an overview
Before we look at models, let’s take a quick overview of both brands. Now, they are similar but there are significant differences.
If you’re someone who loves sport, Garmin might be your preferred choice. Conversely, if you’re a casual sportsperson or just looking to track your sleep or steps, Fitbit may be better. Compare the Fitbit models on our model comparison page.
If that was all there was to it, the choice would be simple. However, Garmin offers more features and devices with something to suit every price range. They are a great choice with someone new to trackers looking for something long-lasting. We’ve also compared all the current Garmin models.
With so many different considerations, we’ve broken down the main features of each brand’s most popular trackers. Hopefully, we’ll help you choose between Garmin or Fitbit.
Fitness tracking and display
When it comes to fitness tracking both Garmin and Fitbit have similar algorithms, both making adjustments as they go. They both offer the general tracking functionality that you would hope for. In this respect, there is little to choose between.
Let’s start with some of their newer collections. The Fitbit Sense offers incredible advanced metrics such as menstrual health tracking, heart rate variability, skin temperature, and more. And with 20-goal based fitness activities users are finding it easier than ever to stay at the top of their game.
The Fitbit Charge 5 offers the brand’s brightest-ever display, while the Fitbit Ace 3 is a much simpler display, intended to appeal to kids. The oldest model, Fitbit’s Inspire 2 offers a relatively basic display that acts as a simple tracker with an uncluttered screen.
Garmin also offers a clear display on their trackers which can be customised and which comes in a variety of screen sizes between the Garmin models. The Vivofit 4/4S focuses almost entirely on the standard features you would expect from a basic fitness tracker. If you want a little less, you can go for Garmin’s vivosmart or vivofit 4.
Garmin also just released the Fenix7 which offers slight upgrades from the Fenix6. For instance, skiers, golfers, swimmers, and more athletes can take advantage of their fitness tracking precision in things like open-water swimming or a terrain running coach that is keeping up with your oxygen levels to measure the effectiveness of your working out.
Incident Detection Features
Fall detection and incident detection are new features that are becoming more popular than ever. Though this software doesn’t help you get fit or lose weight, it does protect you if you have a fall by calling your emergency contacts. This is ideal for any active hikers or senior citizens too.
How Does This Software Work?
Incident and fall detection works by using the watches’ built-in motion sensors. These can determine whether you’ve fallen or not and they set off an alarm once you’ve had an incident. Users have one minute to disable this alarm, if they don’t and are unresponsive the watch will call their emergency contacts or the local authorities.
Often, some watches will get louder in the last 30 seconds of the alarm to try to wake up the unconscious wearer and alert anyone in the close area too. If the user does disable the alarm, they can continue with their day without worrying about emergency calls.
This detection software is different from the SOS call feature, as users can deliberately use the SOS call to contact the authorities. The fall detection feature calls them without your touch as it assumes you’re unresponsive or injured.
Which Brand Offers Better Incident Detection?
When it comes to incident detection, Garmin is the brand to go for. Fitbit hasn’t yet integrated this software into its watches, so if this is a top priority for you, a Garmin watch may be best. That being said, Fitbit’s next estimated release in Spring of 2022 might feature this software, but if you’re not ready to wait for a new launch this isn’t helpful.
The Garmin incident detection is supported on a range of their activity profiles, including run, trail run, track run, ultra run, bike, gravel bike, hike, walk, and more. This is great news for anyone that likes to get active, as you’ll always have the insurance to incident detection to help you if you have a fall. Before using incident detection you need to set the feature up and add emergency contacts too.
You must also be using a Garmin device with an LTE connection or the device needs to be connected to Bluetooth. If you’re using a non-LTE Garmin device, the smartphone it’s connected with must have a data plan and cellular signal too.
When it comes to the way in which the data from the heart rate monitor is displayed, Fitbit offers data that is simple to interpret, and the resting heart rate is easy to see. Of course, Garmin offers pretty much the same; however, it has an edge when it comes to heart rate via exercise. To put it simply, Garmin offers a greater emphasis on VO2 Max and heart rate zones, making it a highly effective training tool for an athlete.
- If you are looking for a lifestyle tracker then the Fitbit Charge 5 is a great choice. If you are looking for something that will help in your sports training, then the Garmin vivosmart 4 has everything you could be looking for.
Stress and recovery
When it comes to monitoring stress and recovery, Fitbit Charge 5 uses a system called Relax, which utilizes the onboard heart rate monitor in addition to HRV monitoring to detect changes in heart rate. Fitbit can then show you which heart rate zones are best for a resting rate, a cardio workout, or for peak athletic performance. This is not available on the Fitbit Inspire 2.
Stress tracking from Garmin is similar, and the data is relayed in much the same way. However, this is a feature of more of the wearables in their range including the Vivoactive 3, Vivoactive 4, Fenix 5 and 5 Plus range, Fenix 6 , Vivosmart 4, and the Forerunner 55.
- If you want to keep track of everything and looking at the higher range, for smaller wrists, then the Fenix7s from Garmin is the wearable for you.
GPS tracked workouts
If you’re looking for something that does GPS tracking, there’s a good chance you’ve already looked at Garmin. If you’re wondering how you would fare with a Fitbit, let’s take a look.
In essence, you will be relying on the accuracy of your phone in order to track GPS unless you have a Charge 5. That may not be a problem for some, in fact, carrying a phone may be a good safety option if you’re working out alone. Not everyone wants to take a smartphone on a run, though. Placement of the phone, for example, on a waist strap or in a bag can compromise the accuracy.
Garmin offers built-in GPS or UltraTrac in many of their models with the option to track a wider variety of sporting activities including trail running, skiing, rowing, triathlon training and more. Battery life is conserved and you can track your activity for longer distances as well.
Because the Fenix7 offers advanced multi-point GPS tracking you can get ski resort maps, golf courses, among other GPS tracking features right on your wrist. This makes it the ultimate watch for hikers as they can access terrains all over the world.
- For the best in GPS tracked workouts it really does have to be a Gamin, and the Garmin Fenix 7 is the multisport tracker that has it all.
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If you’re looking for a wearable that can be used for swimming then you will be pleased to know there are now at least 3 current suitable models from Fitbit: Charge 5, Inspire 2, and the Fitbit Sense.
The new Fitbit Sense has a few interesting things where it concerns being in the water. It’s loaded with health metrics which means tracking the workouts is more precise. It can track your laps in the pool just like some of the other options but most important with its ECG monitoring it can detect atrial fibrillation. Not a swimmer? That’s OK they also offer yoga paddleboarding among other water activities.
The Garmin range, on the other hand, is fully water-resistant. In fact, even the basic Garmins have a mode for pool swimming. They offer fantastic accuracy for longer swimming session and more focused features for the dedicated swimmer. If you want open water swim tracking, then Garmin offers this, but Fitbit does not.
- The Garmin Forerunner 55 is arguably the best multisport swimming watch in their lineup. However, if you are looking for something with more of a Triathlon slant to its data collection, then the Forerunner 945 may be a better choice.
Ultimately the decision between Garmin and Fitbit comes down to one main thing: whether you are looking for a lifestyle tracker, or an athletic smart tracker.
You might want something that looks at your general steps, heart rate and health and wellness, or you may prefer something that is predominately dedicated to tracking exercise and monitoring your heart rate both during and after exercise to offer you a real picture of where you can make improvements to your exercise schedule.
If it’s the former, then the Fitbit offers everything you could really need. However, if it is the latter, then you should really be looking at the diverse range of watches that are dedicated to exercise and available from Garmin. If you want to begin by tracking, with the option to move onto something more dedicated to sport later, then the Vivo range may suit your needs.
Last Updated on December 28, 2022
A highly motivated all-around writing professional with experience in writing about modern technology. Joanne writes for Superwatches for over 2 years now. Joanne specializes in product comparisons and reviews for us and we truly appreciate the quality of her work.
Lives in Congleton, UK.