Smartwatches vs Fitness Bands: There is a Difference

As the wearable tech market expands, we will start to see a lot of variation in the products that are offered. There are already tons of devices available in the wearable tech sphere. We have the Autographer that allows you to automatically snap photos from a necklace style device. Then there’s the infamous Google Glass which is essentially a pair of high-tech augmented reality glasses. Finally, we have a plethora of smartwatches floating around each with their own distinct purpose.

One problem that’s going to become increasingly more prevalent over the year is that the smartwatch as we know it will no longer exist. They will soon become meshed with other devices that exist on the market, like fitness bands, cameras and more. To be blunt, smartwatches already do have a lot of different features incorporated that allow them to be more than just a traditional watch. Even with fitness tracking apps, features or capabilities a smartwatch is not the same as a dedicated fitness device, however.

Believe it or not, a fitness tracker or fitness related band is not the same thing as a smartwatch. That may come as a shock to some, but it’s true. That being said, several manufacturers have blurred the lines between a smartwatch and dedicated fitness band. The upcoming Razer Nabu is a perfect example of that.

Razer Nabu proximity supportHow Is a Fitness Band Different?

A smartwatch, like a smartphone is designed to do a whole bunch of different things. A fitness band, on the other hand is usually dedicated to fitness tracking. Sure, some fitness bands will display the time and some will even pair with a phone to receive notifications but most of them only do one thing. Is there something wrong with that? No. Does that mean we’re going to stop covering fitness bands here at Smartwatches.org? No, absolutely not.

The point is just that fitness bands are different.

Now, there are always exceptions to the rule and that is definitely true in the world of smartwatches. Some devices like the Pebble, for example include some form of fitness tracking support, in addition to the traditional smartwatch features.

Do All Fitness Bands Lack Smartwatch Features?

No. Just like there are many different kinds of smartwatches, there are also many different kinds of fitness tracking devices. Razer’s Nabu, which was recently unveiled, is a fitness tracking band that includes a bevy of features standard to a smartwatch. Whereas some devices like the Fitbit are toned down and can only handle one thing, like tracking fitness related stats.

What Features are Missing?

Generally, smartwatches include a small touchscreen display similar to a smartphone. A lot of fitness bands do not include a touchscreen display, in fact most of the time they are controlled by a very small number of physical buttons. However, most fitness devices do include some type of display so that they can show the user tracked information like miles jogged or calories burned. That being said, there are some fitness bands that include a touchscreen display so you could track one down if you really want one.

Archos Smartwatch and fitness trackerMost fitness bands do not include the same internal hardware as a smartwatch. Since a lot of smartwatches are dumbed down versions of a smartphone they include an internal processor and memory for more advanced applications. Fitness bands just don’t have that kind of power. Piggybacking off of that, fitness bands don’t include a lot of internal storage space either if they do have any at all. Some devices that double as a portable media player will offer you a limited storage supply, but even that’s fairly uncommon.

Furthermore, most fitness related devices do not include native app support. To clarify further, they may pair with a smartphone and transfer data back and forth using a mobile app but you cannot install apps on the device directly. While not all smartwatches include native app capabilities, it is one of the biggest benefits to choosing a smartwatch over a dedicated fitness device. Something like the Pebble has hundreds, if not thousands of different applications and uses thanks to mobile app support.

Why are Dedicated Fitness Devices a Lot Cheaper?

Because most fitness bands don’t have the kind of features or functionality that smartwatches do, they are usually much cheaper. You’ll find a whole lot of plastic or rubber type fitness bands, which also add credence to the fact that fitness devices are produced with different materials. Of course, there are smartwatches out there produced with plastic cases and the like so please don’t think I’m advocating the idea that fitness devices are made with lesser materials all around. The real point is that fitness bands or dedicated fitness devices are created with very separate designs. For lack of a better comparison, fitness bands are… well, they’re generally bands whereas smartwatches include the watchface and the wristband. Currently, the Fitbit Flex sells for less than $100 on Amazon.

Additionally, not all dedicated fitness devices are of the wrist worn variety. Some are actually clipped to your belt or other parts of your body and include a totally different design altogether.

EmoPulse Smile standalone imageWhich Is Better, a Smartwatch or a Fitness Band?

As with most things you may be looking to purchase, the best option is going to depend on the model and features you want. For example, if you’re purchasing the device to exclusively track fitness stats and you don’t intend to use it for anything else than a fitness band would do just fine. On the other hand, if you want the option to run apps and do other things with the device, in addition to tracking fitness stats, you would be better suited with a smartwatch.

It really depends on your lifestyle too. If you’re not very active – and believe me there’s nothing wrong with that- then you won’t benefit much from a lot of the dedicated fitness devices on the market. That really means there’s no point investing in one, unless it includes the type of features you’re looking for. Now, if you are very active you might be better off going with a dedicated fitness device instead of a traditional smartwatch especially if you could care less about the real-time notification support.

Should You Avoid Fitness Bands Altogether?

No, definitely not. Fitness bands can be just as useful – if not more so – than smartwatches. Again, it depends entirely on the brand and model in question. It also depends on what you’re looking for in a wearable device. If the only thing you want the device to do is synchronize with a paired smartphone and deliver notifications in realtime, then a fitness band is probably not ideal for you. That is, of course unless you decide to purchase a fitness band that includes notification support as an additional feature- and some do.

There’s nothing wrong with checking out fitness devices if you’re in the market for a smartwatch, just be aware that in most cases they are very different.

What are Some Examples of Fitness Bands and Related Devices?

All this blabbing about fitness bands and smartwatches being different is going to do no good if you don’t know how to tell the difference. Here are some of the more popular fitness bands and fitness tracking devices out there.

  • Basis B1
  • Fitbit Force
  • Fitbit Flex
  • Withings Pulse
  • Fitbug orb
  • Jawbone Up
  • Nike Fuelband
  • Bowflex Boost
  • Garmin Vivofit
  • The Polar Loop
  • LG Lifeband Touch
  • Atlas Fitness Band
  • Razer Nabu

What Do You Think?

Do you own a dedicated fitness device or a smartwatch? Do you have something to add to the discussion? Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions down in the comments! It’s always great to hear first hand experiences from the community.

About The Author

Briley Kenney

Briley Kenney is a young technology journalist who enjoys all things electronic and gadget related. Currently Briley writes for a plethora of professional websites including Dottech, WebpageFX, and SmartWatches. Recently, he served as a valuable member of the Little Killerz dev team writing in-game content, and generating a web portal for the indie gem Tales of Illyria. The team is currently working on the sequel.

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