Apple Watch is the biggest name in wearables for a reason, and the latest Apple Watch 7 doesn't disappoint, but it's not the right solution for everyone, and the Fitbit Sense is one of the most compelling challengers we've seen in years.
Apple Watch 7 got a couple of notable design improvements, but it remained pretty complacent with its features. Fitbit Sense might be able to capitalize on this as it offers a similarly robust collection of health and fitness tracking sensors and comes in at a more affordable price point.
The Fitbit Sense and Apple Watch 7 earned 4.5 stars and an Editor's Choice award from us this year, these are both excellent smartwatches, but our guide will help you find not just which one is the best, but which is the best for you.
Apple Watch 7 vs. Fitbit Sense : price and value
The Apple Watch 7 starts at a daunting $399 for the 41mm GPS-only model. Upgrading to the larger 45mm model takes it to $429, and adding cellular connectivity to either is an extra $100. Those prices are for the aluminum model with one of the standard watch bands; upgrading bands or moving to the stainless steel Apple Watch can take it as high as $799.
The Fitbit Sense only comes in one configuration for $299 with three different color options. The one-size-fits-all solution makes it simpler as long as you are ok with the size, and it includes two bands to accommodate different wrist sizes.
The Fitbit Sense has a clear advantage and is also more frequently discounted than Apple Watch 7. The value proposition is a little harder to measure as you can certainly do more with the Apple Watch, as we'll cover later, but the Fitbit Sense is the winner here for most users.
Winner: Fitbit Sense
Apple Watch 7 vs. Fitbit Sense: design
The rumored major redesign of the Apple Watch 7 didn't happen, but the move to a slightly larger display is significant. Apple accentuates that change with more rounded edges creating a seamless blending of screen and watch. The size of the watch also increased subtly to accommodate the larger display.
It's a small change but far from imperceptible and yields what I imagine to be the final form of this particular design. Things are otherwise the same with the digital crown for navigation and a single button on the watch's right side to assist with navigation. The band mechanism also remains the same, so you can still use your old Apple Watch bands and swap them easily.
The Apple Watch 7 aluminum case is available in five colors: Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue and (Product) Red. While the last three are self-explanatory, Midnight is a blue-ish black and Starlight is a creamy silver shade. The Stainless Steel models drop to four colors: Silver, Gold, Graphite and Space Black.
Durability improved again for Apple Watch 7. It still offers a swim-proof rating of up to 50 meters but adds IP6X dust resistance. Apple claims the front crystal is stronger and more crack-resistant. I still wince anytime the Apple Watch comes in contact with anything, but I have yet to see a mark on it.
The Fitbit Sense reflects an evolution of the rounded square design that the Fitbit Versa introduced in 2018. It inevitably draws comparisons to the Apple Watch, which is a compliment as it matches the fit and finish of Apple's popular wearable but with enough unique details to stand out on its own.
The Soft Gold model has a highly reflective gold band framing the display. This gives way to a matte gold finish on the bottom of the watch. A thin gold antenna strip divides the two for improved connectivity that the stainless steel body of the watch might otherwise obstruct. It's a more subtle effect if you opt for the Silver or Graphite model.
The Fitbit Sense appears buttonless, but it has a slight indentation on the left side: a capacitive button that can turn the display on or off. A long press can trigger a custom action like pulling up Google Assistant or Alexa. I prefer an actual button as it can be tricky to trigger this, but it's easiest to rely on the touchscreen.
Fitbit Sense is water-resistant up to 50 meters (164 feet) and naturally supports swimming. Like the Apple Watch, I feel as though I'm going to damage the Fitbit Sense when it clangs off the occasional desk edge or car door, but I've yet to see a scratch on it.
You can easily swap the bands on the Fitbit Sense. It comes with a large and small Infinity Band, a comfortable soft-touch rubber. It's a nice general-purpose option, but hundreds of designs are available if you want a different look.
While the aesthetics between the two are a wash, the digital crown and the physical button on the Apple Watch tip the scales for me for their utility.
Winner: Apple Watch 7
Apple Watch 7 vs. Fitbit Sense: display
This is the big update for Apple Watch 7, and while the initial reaction may be to dismiss it, the 40% bezel reduction and 20% increase in display size from the Apple Watch 6 are transformative updates. The new 1.9-inch display on the 45mm model significantly impacts usability, making it easier to navigate the watch and consume glanceable content on it.
While third-party keyboards existed previously for Apple Watch, it seemed like a ridiculous notion to me. Still, I can now comfortably swipe out a message on the Apple Watch when it is impractical to use Siri. The quality of the display is better than ever, with Apple claiming a max of 1,000 nits of brightness. It is certainly easy to read in any lighting conditions, whether that's true or not.
The Fitbit Sense matches that 1,000 nits of brightness claim, and again I'm inclined to believe them as I've never run into any issues reading the display. However, it's considerably smaller at 1.58-inches, closer to the Apple Watch 3 display in size. However, it runs edge-to-edge, like the Apple Watch 7, making it easy to navigate despite the smaller size.
While I prefer the larger Apple Watch display, I think Fitbit has hit the right mark with the Sense for a one-size-fits-all solution, so I'm calling this category a draw.
Apple Watch 7 vs. Fitbit Sense: health tracking
The Apple Watch 7 and Fitbit Sense feature a nearly identical set of sensors for health tracking. They are also among the most robust health tracking smartwatches on the market, so this is a strength to strength comparison.
Both watches feature an ECG sensor that has FDA approval to monitor your heart for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a heart rhythm irregularity that can be a sign of a serious health condition. Both also support basic heart rate tracking, which is helpful for health tracking and fitness tracking if you are looking to stay in a specific heart rate zone.
Another notable sensor for both watches is SpO2 monitoring, which measures your blood oxygen levels. Unlike ECG, this is not FDA approved on either watch as the reflective sensor each uses isn't as reliable as the transmissive sensors used by medical professionals. This could still be a live-saving sensor if it detects a significant drop in your SpO2 levels accompanied by other symptoms.
The Fitbit Sense does bring a couple of unique sensors into play with a skin temperature sensor and an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. The first tries to contribute to an overall health picture, while the latter tries to detect your stress levels.
While the extra sensors on the Fitbit Sense are interesting, the core health features of each are too close, and Apple has some advantages with its app integrations delivering your information easily to your healthcare provider, so I'm calling this a draw.
Apple Watch 7 vs. Fitbit Sense: fitness tracking
We've come a long way since simple step tracking, and while both Apple Watch 7 and Fitbit Sense, of course, cover step tracking, there's considerably more data available.
The Apple Watch 7 supports up to 17 distinct workout categories to deliver data more accurately tailored to your specific activity, while the Fitbit Sense boasts a total of 20 workout categories. These allow the watches to more accurately measure calorie burn along with activity-specific metrics like pace, distance, or laps.
Both Apple Watch 7 and Fitbit Sense rely on built-in GPS along with accelerometers and gyroscopes to detect what you are doing and how far and fast you are traveling. Each one can automatically detect if you are working out and begin recording it, but you get the best result if you trigger the workout recording yourself.
Apple Watch 7 vs. Fitbit Sense: smartwatch features
While the core fitness and health monitoring are nearly identical between these two, I don't think I'm spoiling things for anyone by saying that Apple Watch is the superior smartwatch. Apple Watch focused on health and fitness over the years, but it started with a much broader range of features and still offers a breadth of apps and integrations that Fitbit doesn't begin to touch.
This includes powerful home automation tools allowing you to manage your home from your wrist. A robust new Photos app for viewing and sharing your favorite photos and memories. A variety of text entry options for messaging with dictation, Scribble, Siri, or the keyboard.
The Fitbit Sense has some of these features; it supports calls directly from the watch over Bluetooth and includes Google Assistant or Alexa support. Fitbit Pay delivers much of the same payment and membership card management as Apple Pay and Apple Wallet.
Both are also adept at handling notifications so you can triage what's happening on your phone without having to pick it up.
If you are sticking to the basics like notifications and some light messaging, then either of the smartwatches will serve you well, but Apple Watch 7 is capable of so much more.
Winner: Apple Watch 7
Apple Watch 7 vs. Fitbit Sense: battery life and charging
Fitbit runs away with this category with up to six days of battery life on a single charge depending on your settings and usage. It's difficult to kill the Apple Watch in a single day, but it can be done, and making it through a full second day even with light usage is almost impossible.
In my time with the Fitbit Sense, the fastest I was able to kill it was three days and that was with hours of continuous GPS usage for outdoor runs and enabling the always-on display. I was able to
Both watches support magnetic wireless charging, with a full charge requiring about an hour on both of them. This is a dramatic improvement for Apple, roughly 33% faster than the Apple Watch 6, making a meaningful difference. I typically charged the Apple Watch 7 while I got ready in the morning, and that was enough to make it through an entire day. This is less critical if you don't care about sleep tracking and can remember to put it on the charger each night.
This category is an easy one; if you hate the idea of another device to charge every day, then go with the Fitbit Sense, you'll only need to worry about it once or twice a week.
Winner: Fitbit Sense
Overall winner: Apple Watch 7
This may be the closest finish I've ever had in a device face-off. Ultimately the Apple Watch 7 is the superior device, but that is certainly not true for every user.
If you aren't already an iPhone user, then the Apple Watch 7 will require that you switch, which is an expensive proposition. The daily charging is another tall order and can be very frustrating if you forget and end up with a dead watch on your wrist.
With that said, the Apple Watch offers ease of use and a level of hardware refinement that Fitbit Sense doesn't match, despite its excellent fit and finish. The software support and Apple's continued improvements of the watchOS platform also shouldn't be undersold. Fitbit Sense is in a more precarious situation there as the Google-owned company may need to adopt Wear OS in the future, and it's unclear what will happen with existing hardware.
If you are a happy Android user or want a straightforward device for health and fitness tracking, the Fitbit Sense is the best choice for you today. It covers all of the bases in those areas that the Apple Watch 7 does at a more affordable price point, particularly if you wait for one of the many sales.
If you already own an iPhone and want a device that ties flawlessly into that ecosystem while also delivering top-of-the-line health and fitness tracking, the Apple Watch 7 is worth its admittedly high price.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.