Fitbit and Garmin boast of being two of the most renowned fitness tracker and smartwatch brands. Garmin has been around for some time, while Fitbit joined the scene no so long ago.
The two ecosystems might appear similar on the surface, but their products come with subtle differences. Nevertheless, the battle between the two seems heightened with individuals continuously trying to find out which is the best.
Although Fitbit is renowned for developing fitness trackers, it has continuously evolved and added smartwatches to its wearable portfolio. Garmin is famous for its fitness smartwatches geared towards workout enthusiasts and athletes.
Choosing between Garmin and Fitbit will primarily be based on the type of data you’re interested in. Fitbit may be moving beyond step tracking, but it delivers wearables that are inclined towards an individual’s overall health and well-being.
On the other hand, Garmin seems to be the obvious choice for athletes or workout enthusiasts who live and breathe sports.
Garmin vs. Fitbit – Which One Should You Choose
A Brief History
Garmin was established about three decades ago by Min Kao & Gary Leon Burrell. Named after its founders, the company has pioneered several groundbreaking GPS items, which have been utilized in various business sectors.
The firm is credited for multiple innovative products, including GPS software for PDAs and PCs, plane navigation gear, fish locators & trackers, and smart GPRS wearables.
Check our reviews on the Best Garmin GPS Watches.
Fitbit was launched as a startup about a decade ago by Eric & James. Although the company had issues with funding & sourcing for its initial innovative timepieces, it managed to wade through the problems when it introduced its first model to the market in 2009.
This allowed the founders to raise enough funds to propel their innovations. The company boasts a series of fitness trackers and various smartwatch wearables.
Check our reviews on the Best Fitbit Fitness Trackers.
Garmin and Fitbit Compared
We’ve broken down the different considerations to help you make your choice.
Since Garmin and Fitbit come with similar fitness tracking algorithms, they offer similar functionalities and offer pretty little to choose between.
Garmin’s fitness tracking is more advanced as it logs in sleep, steps, and activity minutes on its devices. It also comes with a stress score, a filtering body battery energy, and monitors that keep tabs on your heart 24/7.
Fitbit also features excellent fitness trackers that can do pretty much everything that Garmin can. Fitbit boasts devices, such as Fitbit Inspire that track simple steps and sleep, to more advanced devices, such as Fitbit Sense that tracks sleep stages, heart vitals, and even body temperature stress levels.
For heart rate tracking, the two ecosystems have powerful heart rate monitors. However, their main difference is the simplicity of the heart health data and how it’s presented.
Fitbit presents heart rate data is simplified, and the resting heart rate is easier to see. This ecosystem boasts outstanding features that make it valuable when it comes to lifestyle tracking.
On the other hand, Garmin offers pretty much the same kind of heart rate monitoring. However, its heart rate data is presented in more advanced data spins, and more emphasis is placed on how the heart responds to training, load, stress, and recovery. For this reason, Garmin has the upper hand when it comes to health monitoring during workouts and exercises.
Both Garmin and Fitbit also track VO2 max, which will feed into training effects and race prediction. This is a step above for those who are training for marathons trilithons. However, unlike Fitbit, Garmin watches allow you to hook up a chest strap for more reliable and accurate data. It can also adapt to heart rate zones, which is a level of detail that Fitbit can’t offer.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a lifestyle tracking tool, look no further than Fitbit Versa 3. However, for advanced heart rate monitoring when jogging or running, Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a great choice.
Garmin and Fitbit ecosystems are equipped with features to help track your sleep. Fitbit leverages your heart rate to work out when in REM sleep and detail the entire sleep stages.
Garmin factors the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen to determine whether you have light, deep, and REM sleep. Its newer smartwatches feature a new algorithm to determine your sleep quality.
While Garmin seems to integrate advanced metrics, a 2020 study found that Fitbit delivers more accurate sleep monitoring and meaningful insights.
Fitbit has been known to offer crystal clear displays on most of its wearables. For instance, despite having a relatively basic display, the Fitbit Inspire is a simple tracker with an uncluttered screen.
Additionally, advanced products such as the Versa and Fitbit Sense boast AMOLED displays, with crispier colors and brighter screens.
Unfortunately, the only Garmin that features the AMOLED display is Venu (original Venu and Venu 2). Most smartwatch wearables have shunned this kind of display since it is more battery intensive.
Stress and Recovery Monitoring
When it comes to stress and recovery monitoring, Fitbit and Garmin take unique approaches.
Fitbit uses Relax, which leverages the onboard heart rate monitor and HRV monitoring to detect changes and provide personalized breathing exercises to manage stress. Its recent introduction is the Stress Management score, which offers a single score based on resting heart rate, activity logged, and sleep.
Fitbit Sense integrates an EDA scan app that helps detect electrodermal activity, indicating your body’s response to stress.
Garmin’s wide range of wearables come with all-day stress tracking based on heart rate variability. They allow you to understand your stress and mood swings throughout the day.
Some of its devices offer guided breathing exercises but don’t use the heart rate monitor to help you follow through. Garmin wearables with stress monitoring include Vivoactive 3, 5 Plus Range, Vivoactive 4, Fenix 6, Vivosmart 4, and Fenix 5.
While both ecosystems have wearables that can be used when swimming, Fitbit only has four devices that can be set and calibrated for the pool. However, they somewhat offer basic data and lack open water options. These include Charge 4, Versa, Inspire 2, and Luxe.
Garmin is proud that all its devices are water-resistant, and even the most basic wearables come with a pool swimming mode.
Therefore, triathletes will want to stick with Garmin as it delivers more reliable metrics, excellent battery life, and accurate swimming-focused features.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is the ultimate multisport swimming watch, but if you’re looking for a device with more of a Triathlon edge, Forerunner 945 is an excellent choice.
GPS Tracked Workouts
Although GPS tracking has been Garmin’s bread and butter, the feature is no longer exclusive.
Today, GPS tracking can be found on various Fitbit devices, including Sense, Versa 3, and the Charge 4 fitness band. The company also integrates an array of tracked sports, including cycling and running. Its downside is that the feedback and data are basic.
For Garmin, all its devices boast GPS tracking except Garmin Lily, Vivomove 3, and Vivosmart 4. You’ll find GPS tracking in most sports profiles and options to track activities like trail running, hiking, triathlon, open water swimming, and ultrarunning.
More importantly, the more refined Garmin devices may allow users to adjust the accuracy and frequency of GPS activities up to 70 hours of tracking. So, when it comes to GPS tracking, Garmin is the real deal.
Overall, Fitbit claims to offer 6-7 days of battery life when on regular use and 5-12 hours in GPS mode.
While Garmin devices can last a week or so on regular use, they push the boundaries further by delivering up to 13-24 hours in GPS mode. In Garmin’s upper echelons, you may find expensive wearables that can even last longer!
The battery life makes a big difference, especially for runners who don’t want to keep charging their devices. Are you looking for a device that will give you more hours even when on GPS mode? Garmin has got you covered.
Fitbit App vs. Garmin Connector App
Your choice will also largely depend on the smartphone apps. The Fitbit app is considered more user-friendly and straightforward. Besides data being displayed in the simplest format and being easily navigable, the app allows you to check out various metrics by clicking on the respective category from the main screen.
The app also boasts commendable third-party support. It works well with smartphone apps such as MyFitnessPal, Weight Watchers, MapMyRun, and more. The Fitbit app is best suited for first-timers since it doesn’t require users to scour through different tabs to find what they want.
The Garmin app might have improved a lot in recent years, but it is still complicated. While the home screen simply displays all activity metrics, clicking on any category unlocks more information and history. It can be frustrating for newbies to know where to look for their sleep and heart rate metrics and the GPS tracking data.
Garmin app also features its fair share of third-party apps, but you’ll need to have the Garmin Connect IQ app to download any third-party app. Overall, Garmin is more information-dense than the Fitbit app. While this may be a bad thing for beginners, more experienced runners may find this pretty impressive.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to which ecosystem is better between Fitbit and Garmin. Casual users interested in understanding their general steps, health, heart rate, and wellness will most likely gravitate toward Fitbit.
However, for serious athletes and workout enthusiasts who want more advanced features to help track their exercise and monitor their hearts when running, Garmin is the most natural choice.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is through constantly challenging yourself.