Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

Fitness products aren’t just fitness products any more — most of them also double as smartwatches. At the very least, they have a few smartwatch features that make our lives a bit easier.

Both Garmin and Fitbit devices support smartphone notifications on Android and iOS, but only Android users can reply to and delete messages from their wearables. The Fitbit Versa 2 even has a scaled-back version of Amazon Alexa baked in, which means the watch supports voice replies and has the ability to search things on the internet. Fitbit also might bring Google Assistant support to the watch in the future. Garmin devices don’t come with any form of voice assistant.

Most Garmin and Fitbit watches also support onboard music storage, but Fitbit has one glaring downside: no offline Spotify support. Garmin supports Spotify as well as Amazon Music, Deezer, and iHeartRadio, while Fitbit only supports local music, Pandora, or Deezer.

A variety of apps can also be downloaded to Garmin and Fitbit devices, including Uber, Strava, and more. Contactless payment support is available on most Garmin and Fitbit devices too, in the form of Garmin Pay and Fitbit Pay.

Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Your decision to choose Fitbit or Garmin will most likely depend on which fitness product you want, but it’s important to keep smartphone apps in mind, too. After all, this is where you’ll check up on performance stats, daily and weekly activity metrics, and more.

The Fitbit app is the most user friendly option of the two. Once you open it up, you’ll be presented with a home screen that’s easy on the eyes and simple to navigate. Your daily stats are shown at the top, and you can scroll down to see your recent exercise and sleep. If you want to check out performance or sleep metrics over time, just click on the category right from the main screen and you’ll see all your previous activity. This makes it easy to use for first-timers, as you don’t need to scroll through different tabs or menus to find what you want.

The Garmin Connect app has improved a lot over the past year, but it’s still a bit more complicated. The main screen on Garmin Connect will display your daily activity metrics, and clicking on each one gives you more information and your history. It’s way more information-dense than Fitbit’s app, which may be a good or bad thing depending on what type of user you are. I actually like how much info Garmin’s app displays on each screen, but I’ve also been using Garmin devices for years, so I’m used to it by now.

Fitbit’s app is one of the best fitness apps around. Garmin’s is good, but a little too information-dense for some.

On top of the already information-dense home screen, Garmin Connect also has a slide-out menu on the side that lets you see activity, health, and performance stats, as well as custom workouts, insights, and more. This is basically an overflow menu for things that Garmin couldn’t fit in the bottom tab.

Garmin’s app displays more post-workout information, while Fitbit’s seems like it’s geared more towards beginners or people who want a simple overview of their daily activity. If you want all the fitness metrics available, we’d suggest going with Garmin. However, both ecosystems also have websites that display even more of your activity metrics if you need more that what’s provided in either app.

Both apps feature menus at the bottom that allow you to quickly jump into your challenges, notifications, and more. Garmin Connect features a handy calendar that lets you jump back to any date you’d like to see your activity for that day. Fitbit’s app lets you look back at your activity history too, but you need to scroll back one day at a time. It’s just easier to jump around in Garmin’s app.

Related: The best smartwatch deals we could find

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Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Garmin Connect may have a leg up on the calendar, but Fitbit knocks it out of the park with social features. Fitbit’s community tab lets you connect with other Fitbit owners that have similar interests to you. You can comment on other users’ photos, join groups, and more. It’s basically an entire social network inside the Fitbit app, and it’s awesome.

Garmin’s app lets you join groups too, but it’s not nearly as social as Fitbit’s.

Fitbit also wins in terms of third-party app support. Dozens of third-party smartphone apps work with Fitbit’s app — like MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, Weight Watchers, and more — so all your Fitbit data will automatically sync with your favorite health and fitness applications. I’ve also noticed third-party fitness apps on Fitbit’s ecosystem are generally better quality. Fitbit is still relatively new to the smartwatch space, so there aren’t a ton of watch apps available for the Versa, Versa 2, or Ionic yet. The number has grown immensely since Fitbit first launched its app store, which is a great sign for the future of the ecosystem.

A fair amount of third-party apps are also available on Garmin’s watches and fitness trackers, which can be found in the Garmin Connect IQ app (yes, there’s a whole different smartphone app just for downloading third-party apps). 

Third-party watch faces are also available on Garmin and Fitbit devices. There are a ton to choose from, but both ecosystems provide a horrible searching experience. Fitbit doesn’t let you load up more than one watch face at a time, so you need to search for a new one every time you want to change it. It takes both ecosystems’ devices a long time to sync, too, so don’t expect to select a watch face and load it up right away.

Premium features

Fitbit has recently switched up its business model. It’s now offering a subscription service called Fitbit Premium, which, for $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, gets you access to guided workout programs, advanced health and fitness insights, advanced sleep tools, and dynamic workouts based on your performance. 

You can sign up for a free trial of Fitbit Premium at the link below, and check out our full review for more details.

Garmin offers a lot of these things for free. Garmin Coach training plans, which come free with the purchase of many Garmin watches, help you train for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon with the help of three professional runners. It actually helped me run my first half marathon!

Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

So, which ecosystem is better? Where should you spend your hard-earned cash? Unfortunately there’s no definitive answer to that. It all depends on what type of user you are and what you need out of a fitness device.

It’s hard not to steer more casual users — the folks who just want a better idea of their daily activity — towards Fitbit. The app is easier to understand, Fitbit devices are stellar fitness trackers, and for the most part they’re more stylish. But there are plenty of options in Fitbit’s lineup if you want to go more or less advanced with your fitness tracking. The Ionic is there for your high-end GPS smartwatch needs, while the Inspire HR is there if you just want a simple fitness tracker.

It’s hard not to steer more casual users towards Fitbit, while people interested in more advanced features will want to check out Garmin’s lineup.

That’s not to say Garmin should be counted out for more casual users either. The Vivosmart 4 is a decent entry-level tracker if you need a Fitbit alternative. Though, Garmin really shines with its GPS watches. Seriously, there’s something in Garmin’s lineup for all types of advanced users. Plus, Garmin’s app gives you as much information — graphs, charts, you name it — as it possibly can after each workout. If you want to go all-in on fitness tracking and need those minute details, we’d suggest Garmin.

However, whichever ecosystem you choose, we think you’ll be just fine — both Fitbit and Garmin offer a wide range of devices, services, and apps that should have no problem suiting most people’s needs.

Alright, now it’s your turn — which ecosystem is your favorite?

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Next: How to get in shape with your fitness tracker in just 7 minutes… a day

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