Apple Watch 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4: Which fitness tracker is best?

Apple Watch 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The benefits of the Apple Watch 3 vs Fitbit Charge 4 aren't as obvious as you'd think. For one, the Apple Watch Series 3 is somewhat of a smartwatch anomaly: It’s still sold despite the release of newer generations, supported by regular watch OS upgrades (including the new watchOS 7) and can be purchased for under $200.

For iPhone users deterred by the Apple Watch Series 5’s incremental improvements or price tag, you’d think the Watch 3 is a clear choice for those who want one of the best smartwatches without breaking the bank.

But the recently released Fitbit Charge 4 is our top pick among the best fitness trackers, catering to those looking to measure exercise and other health metrics, rather than act as an extension of a smartphone. 

The Charge 4 also lasts up to 7 days on a charge, provides precise sleep data and works with handsets other than the iPhone for $50 less than the Apple Watch Series 3.

So which touchscreen fitness tracker with GPS is worth buying? Read on to see how this Apple Watch 3 vs Fitbit Charge 4 face-off unfolds.

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple Watch Series 3 Fitbit Charge 4
Starting Price $199.99 $149.95
Battery Life 18 hours 7 days
Size 1.73 x 1.5 x 0.42 inches 1.4 x 0.9 x 0.5 inches
Display size 272 x 340 (38mm), 312 x 390 (42mm) 160 x 100
Colors Silver, space-gray aluminum Black, rosewood
Water resistance Up to 50 meters (swim-proof) Up to 50 meters (swim-proof)
Music storage 8GB None
GPS Yes Yes
Heart rate monitor Yes Yes
Sleep tracking No Yes
Mobile payments Apple Pay Fitbit Pay

Apple Watch Series 3 vs Fitbit Charge 4: Price

The Apple Watch Series 3 GPS model started at $329 when it debuted in 2017, but upon releasing the Apple Watch Series 5, the price was reduced to a more affordable $199. 

Though only by a small margin, the Fitbit Charge 4 undercuts Apple with a $149 starting price. For $169, you can purchase a special edition model with a woven, granite reflective band.

You can often catch both fitness trackers on sale for less than their listing prices. In the widgets below, you can see how the Apple Watch Series 3 versus Fitbit Charge 4 sales look in your region right now.

Winner: Fitbit Charge 4

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4: Design and display

The Apple Watch and Fitbit Charge lines haven’t switched up their designs much over the years, opting for internal improvements over aesthetic ones. The lightweight Charge 4 could almost pass for a bracelet with a screen as slim as its bands, while the Apple Watch’s heftier, square-shaped housing protrudes like a traditional watch’s would. 

(Image credit: Future)

Not only is the Apple Watch 3’s modern design more eye-catching, its high-resolution display is colorful and bright. The spacious touchscreen is responsive and simple to navigate.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Though similarly responsive, the Fitbit Charge 4’s grayscale, LED screen looks boring compared to the Apple Watch’s OLED one. But if you prefer function over form, you might enjoy the Charge 4’s no-frills appearance.

Winner: Apple Watch 3

Apple Watch Series 3 vs Fitbit Charge 4: Health and fitness

As a dedicated fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge 4 has an irrefutable advantage when it comes to activity tracking. It has six exercise shortcuts pre-loaded, with an additional 16 activities available to choose from, ranging from kickboxing to biking. The added GPS comes in handy for running and other outdoor activities, too.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Charge 4 also introduced a metric called Active Zone minutes, which monitors the time you spend in target heart rate zones. And like the Fitbit Charge 3, when you’re resting up after a day meeting movement goals, the Charge 4 uses an SpO2 pulse oximeter sensor to clue you into your sleeping patterns.

Sleep tracking is coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 7, and we think it's going to be a game-changer, so might catch Fitbit when the new software releases in the fall with Apple Watch 6. 

(Image credit: Future)

Both fitness trackers are waterproof up to 50 meters, which means they can be worn while swimming. Nevertheless, that doesn’t prevent the Fitbit Charge 4 from edging out the Apple Watch 3 in the fitness category... for now.

Winner: Fitbit Charge 4

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4: Battery life

Most fitness trackers and smartwatches we’ve tested last several days — if not several weeks — on a single charge, meaning you don’t need to worry about plugging them in before bed. For ones with sleep tracking, you can even keep them on overnight.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Fitbit Charge 4 is no exception, and can go up to seven days before needing more juice. Using the GPS will cut into that time significantly. The same GPS drainage applies to the Apple Watch 3, which lasts a maximum of 18 hours. We’d like to see that stamina improve to at least 24 hours, although without sleep tracking there’s little reason to wear an Apple Watch overnight. 

Winner: Fitbit Charge 4

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4: Apps and storage

As much as fitness features are the Fitbit Charge’s advantage, apps are the Apple Watch Series 3’s edge over its competitor. It benefits from hundreds of compatible iOS App Store programs, from games and news, to books and productivity tools. There are even apps for activating your iPhone’s camera and controlling the best Homekit devices. It has a built-in microphone and speaker for communicating with Siri, too. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With no apps or smart features, the Fitbit Charge 4 is unimpressive by comparison in this category. Its best non-fitness feature is that it can control Spotify, but it has no onboard storage for saving music. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch 3 offers a generous 8GB.

Winner: Apple Watch 3

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4: Smartphone compatibility

The biggest caveat about the Apple Watch Series 3 (and all Apple Watch models) is that it requires a companion iPhone for setup and full functionality. iPhones are plenty popular, but there are many who use Android handsets from competing manufacturers. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Whether you own a phone from Samsung, OnePlus, Google, Motorola or any other Android-based brand, the Fitbit Charge 4 is compatible. Of course, there’s an iOS app for those iPhone owners interested in the Fitbit Charge 4, too. 

Winner: Fitbit Charge 4

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Fitbit Charge 4: Verdict

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple Watch Series 3 Fitbit Charge 4
Price (10)78
Design and display (20)1814
Health and fitness (25)1924
Battery life (20)1018
Apps (20)2011
Smartphone compatibility (5)15
Total (100)7580

Though a few years old, the Apple Watch Series 3 remains an excellent smartwatch and a great choice for iPhone users who want a versatile device that also has fitness tracking. The Fitbit Charge 4, on the other hand, prioritizes fitness tracking, and that’s why it’s the ultimate champion in this face-off. 

We’d recommend the Fitbit Charge 4 for people who are looking to get motivated, get active or get a break from their smartphone notifications. Android and iPhone owners alike with serious fitness goals will find it meets their needs better than the Apple Watch Series 3. 

But if you’re committed to the Apple ecosystem and want an extension of your phone on your wrist, you won’t be disappointed by the Apple Watch 3. However, we might suggest taking a look at our Apple Watch Series 5 vs Apple Series 3 and Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5 face-offs before making your final decision between one of Apple’s options.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.