Garmin versus Fitbit. We road-test fitness trackers.

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Garmin versus FitBit: Which of these basic fitness trackers is right for you or a Christmas gift?

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The Fit Bit is easy to wear and looks good.

Exercise trackers are the accessory of the day for both guys and girls. Whether you exercise regularly or not enough, everyone likes the idea of knowing how many steps they’ve taken and how many calories they’ve burned each day.

They are the ideal Christmas gift, as they’re a healthy present that keeps in giving – and a great way to make sure someone is reminded of you daily as they check their fitness levels.

Two Bondi Beauties Ally Bodnaruk and Alice Boyd  rate the two top selling every day trackers by Garmin and Fitbit and tell you which one they prefer and why.

Design

Garmin

Popular GPS manufacturer Garmin’s latest addition is the VivoFit II. The electronic wristband comes in a range of colours—enough to match easily to your clothes—and the colour range is always expanding.

The design is slick, and we preferred the way you can see the digital face without having to switch it on. This device really suits men as well as women who like strong fashion pieces.

If you wear fake tan while exercising some creams and gels will stick to the device, and it will require regular washes.  Make sure you exfoliate and reapply if want to avoid a wristwatch tan line.

*Overall we preferred the design of the Garmin VivoFit to the FitBit.

FitBit

The Flex is the simplest designed FitBit have on the market. It’s small and lightweight and the rubber wristband comes in a number of colours, including a couple of silver and gold fashion bracelet designs. It’s a very simple process to swap the FitBit tracker itself to a new wristband, and the design is unobtrusive and low key.

The FitBit is more feminine than the Garmin.

Longevity

Garmin

We were given two VivoFit’s to road test, but they both broke. Whether we were just unlucky, or if this is a common problem, we’re not sure. But if you’re using the wristbands for exercise, you want them to be durable, which these didn’t seem to be. The good news is Garmin happily replaced them.

FitBit

The tracker has a decent battery life, but it only lets you know it needs re-charging just before it shuts down – this was out biggest issue with this device. It should give the wearer more notice. It lasted about four days on average, depending on how often the step count was checked. It charged quickly, but needed to be plugged into a USB port to do so. This was annoying when not near a computer, as a large computer charger then needed to be plugged into the wall.

Features

Garmin

All of the data collected by the device is accessible through your phone. However, much of the data the device collects is already recorded by your smart phone if you keep it with you while you exercise. If your phone already joins you on your workout then the VivoFit is a little superfluous.

It is much less cumbersome than a phone however, and leaving your phone at home or in your bag will decrease your distractions.

Handy features that come with other electronic monitoring devices, such as a heart rate monitor and hydration calculator, are missing on this model.

FitBit

One of the main selling points of the Flex is its ability to track your energy input and output. It’s a great concept in theory but in practice the app is clunky and there’s no ‘grocery store’ option for Australia, meaning registering your food is hard work. One of the joys of these trackers should be to monitor your calories.

The nutritional component required me to input the information myself, so it was hard work. The lack of an Australian grocery option means  Australian brands aren’t in the database, and the lack of generic data (like the calorie and sugar content) of some fresh produce, such as mangoes, is frustrating.

Like the Garmin there is no heart rate monitor on this model, but there is a function in the app to track how much water you should be drinking. But the app was slow to load and slow to connect and upload data.

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The Garmin is hard to spot and fits in well amongst fashion bracelets.

Exercise

Garmin

Wearing an electronic fitness monitoring device can, merely by being on your wrist, remind you to exercise. In the same way that wearing joggers to work can also help you pick up your pace on the daily pedestrian commute.

It is very comfortable and sits nicely on the wrist where a traditional watch would be. It’s possible to forget you are wearing the technology throughout the day, with no nasty sweat residue lurking underneath. 

FitBit

The activity tracking functionality was incredibly motivating. It made for an easy comparison day-to-day of activity levels, without needing to carry a phone everywhere. The challenge of meeting the 10,000 steps-a-day goal set by the device wasn’t daunting, and it was a good way to measure whether or not extra exercise was needed on a day-to-day basis.

Conclusion:

If you’re looking for an easy to use pedometer that will help motivate you throughout the day then both exercise trackers are a great start, given their price. We found the FitBit to be more durable and less susceptible to wear and tear, but overall we preferred the look of the Garmin VivoFit II.

We would be happy with either in our Christmas stocking.

Overall though, it might be better to wait six months for the technology to improve as both trackers had issues that will hopefully be ironed out in the future.

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Ally Bodnaruk

CONTRIBUTOR

Ally enjoys long books and large coffees. She spends most of her time daydreaming about new places to travel instead of writing, and the rest of it daydreaming about all the things she’d like to write.

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