It’s been almost a week now that I’ve had my Apple Watch and since I’ve had a number of people ask about my opinion of the product (especially as someone that previously used a Fitbit), I figured I’d summarize my experience – so far, at least – in a review.
A Little Background
I purchased the Apple Watch Series 2. It’s the 38mm version with the “Space Gray” aluminum color watch and black band. My watch was purchased at Best Buy for $299 (a discounted price as the Series 3 had just been announced earlier). I utilized the store’s “Trade-In” program – something I totally recommend doing – with two old Apple products that I no longer used for in-store credit that covered about 80% of this purchase. I did not purchase Apple Care (yes, I know some people swear by it but I’ve just found it to be a waste of money).
Prior to last week, I was a loyal Fitbit user. While I’m not positive exactly how long I used Fitbit products, I would estimate roughly 3 1/2 years. After using the original Fitbit Flex for about a year and a half, I moved onto the Fitbit Charge HR – which I used until purchasing the Apple Watch.
The reason I began using “wearables” (as they’re more commonly known) was that I found they gave me the motivation to be more active throughout the day. When I got my first Fitbit, I was working at an office job and realized after a few weeks that I really needed to get moving more during the workday. I’m a major “data nerd” so having an app that syncs with my iPhone showing the exact number of steps I’ve taken is huge – along with the other bonuses that Fitbit introduced, like challenges and competitions amongst your friends. Despite loving how simple and discreet that the Flex was, I moved onto the Charge HR because I wanted the added features of heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking. For the most part, I was happy with the Fitbit line of products, but after
For the most part, I was happy with the Fitbit line of products, but after upgrading to the iPhone 7, I discovered that there were a lot of things that I could be doing with wearable technology. Truthfully, this was a bit of a dilemma – I loved wearing traditional watches and wasn’t sure that I was ready to switch to an Apple Watch. However, after the Series 3 was announced and I discovered retailers were beginning to discount the Series 2 version, I decided to take a chance and try it (being able to trade-in some old products that I wasn’t using to help pay for this definitely swayed me a bit too).
In comparison to the Charge HR, my Apple Watch is definitely bigger and somewhat bulkier, which is not something I was initially thrilled about. If you are considering purchasing one of these watches, I strongly recommend physically going to the Apple store to try on both sizes – even though the 38mm feels big on me (I have very small wrists), the 42mm version would have been massive.
Despite the size and structure, I will say that the Apple Watch feels a lot lighter than I expected. You can also tell immediately that it is built much stronger than the Fitbit – I did purchase a screen protector to be safe but honestly, I’m not overly worried because I can tell this is a really well-made product.
My Apple Watch came with a charger, instructions, earbuds and both small and large size bands. Setting the watch up was insanely easy and took maybe 10-15 minutes at most. It was much more user-friendly than the Fitbit, which was a bit clunky and didn’t always pair on the first try to my iPhone.
Even though I wasn’t sure if I would like the size of the Apple Watch in comparison to the Fitbit, one aspect that I was really pumped about was the ability to change the watch bands. Now, it is worth noting that some of the newer Fitbit models do also have this feature, but the options are extremely limited.
I had originally planned on ordering the gold Apple Watch with the pink band but ended up with the space gray/black combo due to store availability. I’m actually really glad I got this version instead – it is more neutral and looks better with a variety of bands.
It’s probably worth noting that with the exception of the band that came with my Apple Watch, all of the others are “third party” versions (aka not “official Apple Watch bands”) that I purchased on Amazon. My reasoning for this was partially due to Apple’s ridiculous prices on additional bands and partially because there were so many more options out there. So far, I have ordered three – a leopard print band, a navy blue and pink fitness band and a “Tiffany blue” sport band. I’m sure that I’ll be ordering more this weekend (in particular, I’m on the hunt for a croc-embossed leather band similar to my Tag Heuer watch, and also one in Wisconsin Badger colors) – which definitely gives the Apple Watch the advantage in the customization department.
I know that previously I mentioned that one of my initial arguments against the Apple Watch was that I loved traditional watches so much – after a lot of thought, I realized that there are plenty of situations where I don’t wear a watch because it’s just not appropriate (ie: you will not see me wearing my 40-year-old Cartier watch to the barn!) but an Apple Watch would work well in that scenario. Similarly, I’m sure I’ll forgo the Apple Watch at formal events like weddings for a nice traditional watch. But for everyday use, the ability to customize the options with this product is awesome.
So this is the main scenario where the Apple Watch goes head-to-head with the Fitbit. Between the two, I’m going to be honest: it is 100% a matter of personal preference. In a comparison of the two, I would say that Fitbit wins in terms of social competition. Unless your friend group exclusively uses Apple products and shuns anyone that wears a different activity tracker, you’re more likely to know Fitbit users than Apple Watch users. Over the years, I probably had close to 40 Fitbit friends and really thrived on the daily competition and challenges. So yes, I do miss that aspect – the Apple Watch still allows you to “compete” with friends but it’s not really the same after using the Fitbit.
I do think it’s worth noting that the Apple Watch seems to be more accurate with its activity tracking and the different sensors (sleep and heart rate). There would be times where I was driving my car while wearing my Fitbit and noticed that it somehow counted “steps” from the motion. While it’s only been a week, I have not encountered any quality-control type problems with the Apple Watch.
Another bonus is that the Activity portion of the Apple Watch doesn’t solely focus on physical movement – it also sends you notifications throughout the day to stand up and walk around (this is a freelance writer’s dream as I’ll sometimes get so focused that I’m sitting for hours straight).
Two apps that I did purchase for my watch were HeartWatch and AutoSleep. Both were recommended to me by a friend. I cannot remember exactly how much each one was but they were roughly $3-5 or so – they are made by the same company and the data generated by each compliments the other app’s accuracy. HeartWatch monitors your heart rate a bit more intensely than the watch’s basic tracking app and sends notifications if your heart rate seems abnormal (note: this was an important feature for me as I do have a heart condition and wanted to be able to document any strange changes). AutoSleep also tracks your sleep patterns and is awesome with detailing the quality of sleep you’re getting. I do realize these are paid apps but they completely surpass what my Fitbit was able to tell me about my heart rate and sleep activity – while they might be something everyone would want to use, I think the fact you’re able to add them in as a feature is important.
Since I’ve only had my watch a week now, I’m still figuring out what apps I love and what I don’t really need. Here is what I’ve discovered that I love so far:
Apple News – this is a new app that was released with the most recent iOS update. It allows you to focus on specific channels/publications + individual news topics to receive notifications on. My preferences are rather diverse: politics, sports, entertainment and celebrity gossip.
TrakCar – remembers where you parked your car and how long it has been parked there (great for metered parking).
Deliveries – notifies you of the status of upcoming packages headed your way – and when you can expect for them to be delivered, which is useful if you need to be home to sign for something.
Apple Pay – I did not think I would actually ever use this. But during a quick Starbucks run the other day, I used the function on my watch to pay for my drink… yeah, my life is now forever changed.
Obviously, the text messaging, email, calendar and navigation features are awesome as well. Ultimately having the option to constantly add new apps, as well as find ones that would work for different scenarios (like vacations, etc) is something that obviously beats the Fitbit.
While I had some initial hesitation, I can confidently say that after almost a week of using the Apple Watch, I have no idea how I lived before without one. Even without the Fitbit challenges device devices truly makes my life so much easier. I would recommend the Apple Watch 110% to anyone considering purchasing one, even in comparison to the Fitbit.
If you’re looking to save money, I would suggest keeping tabs on the prices of the Series 2 at retailers near you as this model is being discontinued (as it runs on the iOS platform it will still be supported and functional, don’t worry). You could also look into trading in any old electronics for store credit as a number of companies are offering this option now. But with the Series 3 cellular at a $400 price range (I’m not counting the Hermes bands or anything here), I would say it’s still worth the money for the features you get with it.
Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m happy to answer them! I’ll definitely post another review in a few months once I’ve worn the watch longer on my opinions as well.