Apple Watch Series 4 vs. Fitbit Charge 3: Which should you buy?

How much do you want out of your fitness tracker? Do you just want fitness tracking, or do you want access to apps and other features that you'd get from a smartwatch? That's going to make the difference between if you decide to get the Fitbit Charge 3 or the Apple Watch Series 4.

Apples and oranges… Kinda

Fitbit Charge 3

Fitbit Charge 3 (Image credit: Fitbit)

When comparing both of these devices, it really isn't an even playing field. On the one hand, you have the Fitbit Charge 3, which is a fitness tracker first with some smartwatch-like features. On the other, you have the Apple Watch, which is a smartwatch first with fitness tracking built into it, along with thousands of other apps and services (if you want).

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Header Cell - Column 0 Fitbit Charge 3Apple Watch Series 4
Heart rate monitorYesYes
Step counterYesYes
Multi-sport trackingYesYes
DisplayMonochrome OLEDFull-color OLED
GPSConnected via phoneBuilt-in
Battery life7 days18 hours
Water resistance50 meters50 meters
Smart notificationsYes, with quick repliesFull-featured apps
Mobile paymentsFitbit Pay (special edition only)Apple Pay

First and foremost, let's talk about battery life. In the table above, you might look and see that the Charge 3 absolutely blows the Apple Watch Series 4 out of the water when it comes to battery life — 7 days compared to 18 hours is incredible. It's important to remember that the Apple Watch is a full-fledged smartwatch, which can connect to Wi-Fi (and LTE if you have that model), run full apps, let you talk to Siri, make and take phone calls, and tons more.

It only makes sense that something so small, with a battery that also needs to remain small, would only last 18 hours on a single charge — it's basically a smartphone on your wrist. Does your phone last a week on a single charge? Nope.

Which brings me to my next point: Your deciding factor when choosing between the Charge 3 and Apple Watch should be whether you want a fitness tracker or a smartwatch (also, if you use Android, then it's a no-brainer — go with Fitbit). That's really all you need in order to choose. Do you want something that you can text, play games, make calls, respond to texts, control music, track fitness, and access Siri? Or do you want a fitness tracker that can do some of those things in a limited capacity but is mostly there to help keep track of your fitness routine?

Do you want a fitness tracker or a smartwatch? That should be your deciding factor.

Another, perhaps more prominent, deciding factor is the price. Do you want to shell out $400 or more for something you really only want to track your exercise or do you want to spend $130? Then there's the apps: The Apple Watch is fully integrated with Apple Health, which then integrates with many other apps you might use. The Charge 3 connects to Fitbit's ecosystem, which consists of other trackers and smart scales. The scope is more limited for the Charge 3, but if you're already tied into the Fitbit ecosystem, then it's not a factor.

So to tie it all together, do you want a smartwatch with a wide range of apps and services, a deep tie to a full ecosystem, and a high price tag, or do you want a fitness tracker with some smart convenience features, that's focused solely on your fitness? If you're not sold on a computer on your wrist, then buy the Fitbit Charge 3. It's as great an entry-level fitness tracker as it is a top-of-the-line model. However, if you want more, then get the latest Apple Watch.

Mick Symons

Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.