I walked 8,000 steps with the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Fitbit Inspire 3 — and one was way more accurate

a photo of the Fitbit Inspire 3 and Apple Watch Series 9
(Image credit: Future)

Ever wondered whether Apple or Fitbit is more accurate when it comes to counting your steps? So did we. To find out more, I strapped one of the most popular Fitbits on the market — the Fitbit Inspire 3, and the brand new Apple Watch Series 9 to my wrist, and set out for a long-ish walk, manually counting my steps as I went. 8,000 steps later, one fitness tracker was more accurate than the other — read on to find out which tracker won. 

Before we get into the results, let’s start by taking a look at how the two fitness trackers record your steps taken. Both the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Fitbit Inspire 3 count your steps in a similar way — using an internal accelerometer, which measures the swing of your arm. Each swing counts for two steps. It doesn’t matter whether you wear your watch on your dominant or non-dominant hand, or whether you’re walking with your hands in your pockets, or holding something, the accelerometer should still measure your body’s movement. 

Fans of the Tom’s Guide fitness pages will know this isn’t my first step-counting experiment. You can read what happened when I walked 6,000 steps with the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Fitbit Inspire 3 here

I walked 8,000 steps with the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Fitbit Inspire 3 — here’s which was more accurate 

Of course, it’s important to point out here that there are some huge differences between the Fitbit Inspire 3 and the Apple Watch Series 9, and it’s unlikely you’d ever really be comparing the two. The Apple Watch Series 9 is one of the best smartwatches on the market, and is far more advanced than the $99/£84.99 Inspire 3. Unlike some of the other best Fitbits on the market, the Fitbit Inspire 3 doesn’t have built-in GPS, but it’s one of the best cheap fitness trackers for good reason — you’re getting an awful lot for your money, and it has a beautiful, bright screen. Check out our Fitbit Inspire 3 review to find out more. 

The Apple Watch Series 9, on the other hand, is the best smartwatch on the market, featuring Apple’s new S9 processor. The watch will set you back $399 / £419, and has a number of advanced smartwatch features you won’t find on the Fitbit, as well as built-in GPS, and advanced sports tracking profiles. Read our Apple Watch Series 9 review here to find out more. 

But putting this aside, in order to test the accuracy of both watches, I strapped them both to my wrist and manually counted 8,000 steps. To avoid losing count as I walked, I used a $6.99 tally counter tool from Amazon and clicked each time I took a step. When I got home, I compared the data from the two watches. 

My Apple Watch Series 9 recorded a walk of 3.79 miles in one hour and seven minutes. The Fitbit Inspire 3 recorded a walk of 3.26 miles in one hour and seven minutes — it’s worth noting the distance here, which is half a mile shorter. This is pretty significant, but is probably down to the fact the cheaper tracker does not have built-in GPS, so was relying on my phone signal, which definitely drops on parts of my daily walk. Both the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Fitbit Inspire 3 said I had an average heart rate of 97 beats per minute (bpm). 

In order to compare steps, I uploaded both walks onto my phone and used Fitbit’s app to look at my overall steps and Active Zone Minutes. I’ve learned in the past that Apple makes it nearly impossible to view your exact amount of steps per workout. Sure, you can see your daily total in the Fitness app, and you can find hourly step data in the Health app, but to make things a little less confusing, I downloaded the StepsApp Pedometer app on my Apple Watch. 

The results

  • Manual recording: 8,000 steps
  • Apple Watch Series 9: 7,730
  • Fitbit Inspire 3: 7,660

As you can see from the results, the Apple Watch Series 9 was closer to my manual recording, and therefore, more accurate than the Fitbit Inspire 3 in this test. It’s worth noting that no fitness tracker will be 100% accurate at counting every single step — I’m five foot two, and have quite a short stride. When I’m running, I often find I have a high cadence because of this. What’s more, fitness trackers do a lot more than just tracking your steps, and counting steps alone isn’t the best metric when it comes to getting fitter and losing weight. That said, it’s a good place to start. 

Although the 10,000 steps per day message started as a marketing campaign, a review of 32 studies, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that “10,000 steps/day is a reasonable target for healthy adults.”

10,000 steps is the equivalent of walking around 5 miles per day, which might sound like a lot, but might mean taking the stairs, not the elevator, getting off the subway a couple of stops early, or meeting a friend for a walk at lunch, not sitting in a coffee shop. There are a number of benefits of walking more, including losing weight, building muscle, and feeling less stressed. Here’s what 30-minutes of walking each day can do for your body

More from Tom's Guide

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy. 

  • Prevanti
    Hey, I've noticed you've used this sort of clickbait title frequently* and it's annoying enough that I'm tempted to block Tom's Guide from my Google Discover / Artifact feed. Please stop doing this. Thank you!

    * at least four articles this year: "I walked steps with the here's which is more accurate."

    Better: " shows significant more accuracy in measuring steps than competitor."
  • CODreamN79
    This isn't an accurate comparison between devices and technologies within devices. Of course the $400 apple device is going to have more capability than the less $100 Fitbit but then apple wouldn't dream of making a device in that price point. A more accurate and useful article would be to compare similar devices together with similar capabilities and technologies such as the apple watch and Fitbit Sense series.
  • Prevanti
    Also true!
  • TimothySF
    A rather pointless article, posing as a scientific analysis of the two devices. I realize articles that begin with words such as “I tested…” are very popular at the moment but I see them as lazy journalism. I don’t know the author of this article but my reaction to any article headline containing the word “I” is: why should I trust you or care about what you have to say?

    What happened to journalists doing actual research and providing an objective analysis based on that research?