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Fitbit buyer's guide: Everything you need to know
This article is all about Fitbit. It’s designed to inform you about all aspects of the brand, including its main products and services, its biggest rivals, and much more. It should answer all the major questions you have about the company and its devices and help you decide which of its smartwatches or fitness trackers (if any) you should get. Let’s dive in.
What is Fitbit and what does a Fitbit do?
Fitbit is currently one of the most well-known names in the wearables market. The company has many products in its lineup that are suitable for different budgets and fitness levels. Whether you want a simple fitness tracker, a high-end smartwatch, or even a smart scale, Fitbit has you covered.
San Francisco-based Fitbit was founded back in 2007. According to Canalys, it was the second-largest wearables maker in North America in 2020, right behind Apple. The company was purchased by Google in January 2021 — more on this later.
If you’re new to the fitness-tracking world, you might be wondering, “What does a Fitbit do?” Fitbit wearables track your daily activity stats — steps, calorie burn, and a whole lot more — as well as your exercises and sleep. Fitbit wants your wearable to help tell you what’s going on inside and outside of your body at all times throughout the day. Most Fitbits also provide basic smartwatch features, such as mirroring notifications from your smartphone.
If you just purchased a Fitbit for the very first time, we have a complete user’s guide on how to set up and use a Fitbit.
Why buy from Fitbit?
There’s a reason Fitbit is one of the most popular wearables companies in the world. Its products are user-friendly, oftentimes affordable, and (most of the time) work seamlessly. Setting up new Fitbit devices is also a simple process compared to setting up wearables from other companies.
The Fitbit app is also straightforward to use. Everything in the app is intentional and easy to find. Chances are, you won’t need to spend any time hunting down a settings page or a certain metric in the Fitbit app. It’s all pretty clearly laid out.
Fitbit’s product portfolio is one of the most extensive in the fitness world. There really is a Fitbit device out there for everyone. Are you looking for a cheap, basic activity tracker? There’s a Fitbit for that. What about an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink GPS smartwatch? There’s a Fitbit for that, too. The company offers fitness wearables for most use cases, from high-end smartwatches to kid-friendly fitness bands.
We like to describe Fitbit as — ironically enough – the Apple of the fitness world (just forget the Apple Watch exists for a second). Okay, maybe the iPhone of the fitness world. Fitbit devices are made for everyone. They might not be the best at certain things, but they were made to be on everyone’s wrists.
What experts think of Fitbit products
We have several reviews for Fitbit products on our website. This section contains our reviewers’ thoughts on a couple of popular Fitbit products so that you can get a general overview of how good or bad they are in real life.
In his Fitbit Sense review, Jimmy Westenberg said the device nails the basics. It has a great design and build quality, an accurate GPS, and great battery life. It also offers detailed sleep tracking and has an improved quick-release strap. However, the EDA and SpO2 sensors could use refining, and the software suffers from a few bugs. Regardless of its issues, the Sense is all-around better than the Fitbit smartwatches that came before it.
Speaking of which, our own C. Scott Brown reviewed the Fitbit Versa 3 and noted that this is the best Fitbit smartwatch most people should buy. Seeing as how it’s nearly identical to the Sense but without some of the more experimental features, it’s easy for us to recommend the Versa 3 for anyone looking for a nice smartwatch or a daily activity tracker.
C. Scott also took the Fitbit Charge 5 for a spin. Unsurprisingly, the Charge 5 excels in all the areas its predecessor did. It’s a fantastic fitness tracker at its core, and the color touchscreen display is a nice touch, too. However, the Charge 5 is more expensive than the Charge 4, and its battery life leaves much to be desired. It’s an overall solid fitness tracker, but just know that there are lots of worthwhile competitors at this price point.
The Fitbit Luxe is a good, basic fitness tracker, but that’s not its biggest selling point. We think the Luxe is the most attractive Fitbit to date, helped of course by the plethora of strap options and solid case design. It’s not the most functional Fitbit, but it should suit your needs as an attractive fashion piece.
Buying the right Fitbit for your needs
When buying a fitness tracker, it’s important to know what you want and need. Spending extra money on features you don’t need doesn’t make sense, but you also don’t want to buy something that doesn’t have the features you need. For example, if you’re a runner, you should buy a device with built-in GPS and long battery life. If you just want something to track your activity and don’t care about all the extra bells and whistles, a simple fitness tracker will be more up your alley.
We have a dedicated article about the best Fitbit devices to get, which you can check out here. But if you’re in a hurry, you can get a general overview of Fitbit’s lineup below.
- The Fitbit Versa 3 is the best Fitbit smartwatch. The Versa 3 is nearly identical to the pricier Fitbit Sense, only without a few extra sensors that you may not use anyway. It’s a great option for runners, too.
- The Fitbit Sense is the best Fitbit for health tracking, thanks to its ECG, EDA, and skin temperature sensors.
- The Fitbit Charge 5 is the best fitness tracker from Fitbit. While it makes some sacrifices compared to the Charge 4, we think the color display and useful health features make for an overall great experience.
- The Fitbit Charge 4 is a solid, cheap fitness tracker. If you don’t need the color display of the Charge 5, try looking around for a discounted Fitbit Charge 4.
- The Fitbit Luxe is the best-looking Fitbit fitness tracker. With an emphasis on aesthetics, the Luxe might be your go-to fashion wearable.
- The Fitbit Versa 2 is the best cheap Fitbit smartwatch. It’s a little old at this point but still holds up well in 2022.
- The Fitbit Inspire 2 is the best bare-bones Fitbit fitness tracker. Plus, it comes with a full year of Fitbit Premium for new users.
- The Fitbit Ace 3 is the only Fitbit tracker you should consider for your kids.
What do Fitbit devices track?
Tracking features differ from device to device. You can check out the main activity metrics below. Just make sure the model you’re looking for supports the activity metrics you need.
- Steps: Every single Fitbit tracker will show you how many steps you’ve taken in a given time. You can also set a daily goal of how many steps you want to take, and your device will notify you once you reach it.
- Distance: If you want to know the exact distance you walked, ran, or swam, getting a Fitbit with GPS is the way to go. Only a few Fitbits have built-in GPS for accurately tracking distance, pace, and cadence. Other models have connected GPS capabilities, which means they use your phone’s GPS for a signal (and also means you need to keep your phone nearby while you’re exercising).
- Floors climbed: Fitbit devices track your floors climbed using a built-in barometric altimeter. Combined with your steps taken, the altimeter registers a single floor climbed after it senses you’ve climbed roughly 10 feet.
- Heart rate: All recent Fitbit devices track your heart rate via an optical heart rate sensor. They track your resting heart rate throughout the day and active heart rate while you’re exercising. Newer Fitbits (Charge 4 and later) will also show you which heart rate zone you’re in while you’re exercising.
- Active Zone Minutes: Fitbit devices also track a metric called Active Zone Minutes. Similar to Google Fit’s Move Minutes and Heart Points, you are awarded Active Zone Minute points based on how many minutes of moderate to vigorous activity you achieve during your workouts. It’s a more intentional metric to track than, say, your step count, which can be quite erratic and doesn’t often show your actual activity levels.
- Calories: Based on your distance, activity, and many other factors, your Fitbit device will show you an estimated amount of calories you have burned while walking or exercising. This is a great feature for those trying to lose weight.
- Sleep: Fitbit devices can track your sleep, so you can better understand your sleep patterns and quality. The feature turns on automatically, so you don’t have to do anything to use it. It shows you your time spent asleep and awake, as well as your sleep stages (light, deep, and REM). When you wake up, you’ll be given a Sleep Score based on how well you slept.
- Blood oxygen saturation: Certain Fitbit devices have pulse oximeters for tracking your blood oxygen (aka SpO2) levels. Your device will track your levels overnight and show you an oxygen variation graph in the morning, which can potentially warn you of more serious health conditions.
- Daily Readiness Score: Recent Fitbit devices will give you a Daily Readiness Score (DRS) based on your recent activity, sleep, and heart rate variability. Similar to Garmin’s Body Battery feature, DRS will attempt to “score” how ready you are for the day on a scale from 1-100. Unfortunately, this metric is locked behind Fitbit Premium.
- Menstrual cycles: Just about every Fitbit can keep track of your menstrual cycle. You can record your period length and log symptoms. The Fitbit app will also give you estimated fertility windows, ovulation, and your next period date based on your data.
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib): The Fitbit Sense and Charge 5 come equipped with an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor for detecting potential heart issues like atrial fibrillation, which is a type of irregular heart rhythm. Passive AFib monitoring was cleared by the FDA in April 2022.
- Stress: The Fitbit Sense tracks your body’s stress levels with its electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. The EDA sensor applies small, unnoticeable electrical charges to your skin to measure how they interact with your body’s sweat levels. This is supposed to give you an understanding of how stressed you are throughout the day. This is opposed to other devices that track stress via heart rate variability. If you need help taking a breather throughout the day, Fitbit devices (not just the Sense) also offer on-device guided breathing exercises.
- Skin temperature: The Fitbit Sense also has a skin temperature sensor — no fancy name here. The sensor automatically records your body’s skin temperature at night in hopes of warning you of early signs of illness. It does so by comparing your body’s overnight temperature versus your personal baseline to show you trends over time.
What smartwatch features do Fitbit devices offer?
Fitbit devices offer a variety of smartwatch features. Some Fitbits offer all of these functions, while others only offer a few. Here’s an overview of all the smart features Fitbit wearables provide.
- Smartphone notifications: Most Fitbit devices mirror your smartphone notifications, allowing you to see messages, emails, and app notifications directly on your wrist. If you’re an Android user, you can even reply to messages with preset message responses.
- On-wrist phone calls: The Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 both have a microphone and speaker. As long as your wearable is connected to your phone, you can receive phone calls right from your watch.
- Voice assistants: Some Fitbit smartwatches offer two voice assistants: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Both work well, though they are limited in functionality compared to the version you’d find on a smart speaker.
- Offline music playback: You can store music on some Fitbit smartwatches for offline playback. If you don’t like taking your phone along with you on a run or bike ride, this feature is for you. Fitbit watches are compatible with Deezer, Pandora, and local music files. Unfortunately, Spotify is not available for offline playback.
- Smartphone music controls: Not every Fitbit can store your music for offline listening, but most of them can control the music playing on your smartphone. This means you can leave your phone in a backpack and skip tracks from your wrist.
- Third-party watch faces: Fitbit offers various customizable first- and third-party watch faces in the Fitbit App Gallery. Some options are paid, but many are free.
- Third-party apps: Fitbit smartwatches support first- and third-party apps that can be installed directly onto the wearable. Strava, Uber, Starbucks, and plenty of others are supported, though quite a few big names are missing, too.
- Fitbit Pay: Fitbit has its own contactless payment service called Fitbit Pay. We’ll explain more about it later.
The Fitbit app
The Fitbit app is one of Fitbit’s best products. It’s available for Android, iOS, and desktop. You need the Fitbit app installed on your mobile device to pair your Fitbit tracker. You’ll also use the Fitbit app to view your health and fitness stats tracked by your wearable.
The app is split up into four tabs: Today, Discover, Community, and Premium. During the height of the pandemic, a fifth tab that included COVID-19-related information also featured. This section housed tips on how to stay healthy indoors, book a virtual doctor’s visit via PlushCare, join research surveys, and even get the latest updates from the WHO.
The Today tab houses all of your stats and information for the current day. You’ll see your steps taken, floors climbed, calories burned, distance traveled, Active Zone Minutes, stress, sleep, exercises, heart rate, and everything else your Fitbit tracks daily. Simply tap on any of the metrics to bring up more detailed graphs and weekly summaries on that particular metric. You can edit what metrics show up in your Today view, too.
This is a small gripe, but I’d like to see Fitbit add a month view to its app. Right now, if you need to see a previous day’s stats, you’re required to tap through each day one by one. Some other popular fitness apps have month-view calendars, which let you jump to a previous day with just a few taps.
The Discover tab is a catch-all section containing suggestions for guided programs and workouts, challenges, watch faces and apps, mindfulness sessions, and various wellness reports.
The Community tab is essentially a mini social network. You can join groups with like-minded people based on certain sports or activities. I’m a member of the running, yoga, vegetarian, hiking, and healthy eating groups. You can also connect with friends who own Fitbit devices.
Fitbit users can post photos or updates, which show up in the feed view. You can comment on posts and cheer people on. Just be careful of your privacy. You don’t need to be someone’s friend to comment on a post, and you should be careful about posting sensitive information or photos on your feed.
If you’re a Fitbit Premium subscriber, you’ll find all of your benefits in the Premium tab. More on this below.
Overall, we’re big fans of the Fitbit app. It’s straightforward to use. Fitbit doesn’t let you dig into the data as much as some other fitness apps, so you may need to visit the Fitbit web interface to see things like more detailed heart rate information. Even so, the app should be good enough for most Fitbit users.
Fitbit Premium: What is it, and do you need it?
Fitbit Premium launched in 2019. It’s a premium membership service that offers Fitbit diehards detailed insights into their fitness and health metrics. The membership includes daily reminders, tips, advanced sleep stats, training plans, workout videos, and more. It will set you back $10 per month, but you can try it out for free for 90 days. You can also save a bit of money by opting for a yearly subscription that goes for $79.99. At one point, Fitbit offered a $54.99 a month plan that added one-on-one health coaching with a professional, but the company is no longer taking sign-ups for that tier.
The service is available more or less globally, but only in English for now. Fitbit is working on adding new languages, including German, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Dutch. We’ll be sure to update this article when that happens.
Fitbit Premium is device agnostic. It connects to the Fitbit smartphone app — not your wearable — so it works with all Fitbit devices. That includes smartwatches such as the Fitbit Versa 3 and fitness trackers, including the Fitbit Inspire 2 and Charge 5.
Also read: Fitbit Premium review
In his review, which is linked above, our very own Jimmy Westenberg said that Fitbit Premium feels like a young product. There aren’t many guided programs available, and there’s not much on offer for intermediate and advanced users. What’s more, much of the content available (health tips, workout videos, etc.) can be found online for free. With that in mind, Fitbit Premium doesn’t seem like the best deal at $10 per month.
However, the service has potential, and some people will definitely find it useful. The best thing to do is to take advantage of the free trial it offers to see whether or not it’s up your alley.
What is Fitbit Pay?
Fitbit Pay is the company’s own contactless payment service. It allows you to make payments at payment terminals around the world with supported Fitbit products. The full list of supported devices is below:
The Fitbit Ionic also supports Fitbit Pay, however, the device was recently recalled by the company for battery issues. You can read more about that a little later in this article.
The payment service can be used in loads of countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and the UAE, just to name a few. For the full list of supported banks and cards, head here.
Using Fitbit Pay is a breeze. Once you set up the service via the smartphone app, all you have to do is press and hold the left button on your smartwatch for a few seconds, then hold the watch face towards the payment terminal. The service can be used at any location or payment terminal that can handle contactless payments.
For more detailed info on the payment service, check out our dedicated guide about Fitbit Pay.
What Fitbit accessories are available?
Smartwatches are essentially fashion pieces, so it’s no surprise that Fitbit offers various replacement straps for its entire wearable line.
Fitbit offers additional straps for all its recent devices on its website. Currently, there are first-party straps available for the Fitbit Luxe, Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Versa Lite, Versa, Charge 5, Charge 4, Charge 3, Inspire 2, Inspire HR, Inspire, and Ace 3. You can also buy replacement charging cables for these devices on the website.
Fitbit partnered with several different fashion brands to create unique straps for its devices for its recent launches. You can purchase Victor Glemaud or Pendleton straps for the Sense and Versa 3, Recco straps for the Versa 2, as well as Horween leather straps for almost all devices.
Not liking what you see on Fitbit.com? Or do you own an older Fitbit device like the Blaze or Charge 2? Check out Amazon’s selection of third-party straps for these devices. Oftentimes, third-party sellers offer more varieties of straps for much less. It’s a good way to get the style you want out of your wearable while also saving some money.
- Fitbit Charge 5 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Luxe replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Sense replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Versa 3 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Charge 4 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Inspire 2 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Inspire HR replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Inspire replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Versa 2 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Versa Lite replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Charge 3 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Versa replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Ionic replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Ace 2 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Ace replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Alta HR replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Charge 2 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Flex 2 replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Alta replacement bands on Amazon
- Fitbit Blaze replacement bands on Amazon
Fitbit and Google: What’s the deal?
Fitbit is now officially owned by Google. Let’s talk about that.
Google first announced it was buying Fitbit on November 1, 2019. Then, months went by without any notable updates from either company. However, the US, EU, and Australia’s regulatory bodies announced separate antitrust probes into the major acquisition in the following months.
Fast forward to January 14, 2021, when Google announced it had officially acquired Fitbit. In its announcement, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh clarified that the deal was about “devices, not data.” This harkens back to a constraint Google agreed to for the deal to receive EU approval in December 2020. Specifically, Google agreed not to use health and wellness data collected from Fitbit devices for its own ad business for at least 10 years.
Google buying Fitbit is beneficial for both companies, but Google's history of canceled products has us worried.
Google buying Fitbit is beneficial for both companies. Fitbit has experienced financial troubles in recent years and has struggled to stay on top of sales forecasts. Joining one of the biggest companies in the world is a great way for Fitbit to reroute its trajectory.
We’d be remiss not to talk about our concerns. Google has an unfortunate reputation for killing products (the Google Graveyard speaks for itself), and that issue extends to acquisitions. Google actually purchased Motorola in 2011, only to strip it of its IP and sell it off to Lenovo just a few years later. We’re sure hoping that doesn’t happen with Fitbit, but we can’t really be certain.
Google, of course, has its own Wear OS operating system that runs on third-party smartwatches from various brands. Google actually tapped Samsung for assistance with the next major version of the platform, although Google plans to integrate certain Fitbit metrics into its smartwatch platform. But what does that mean for Fitbit? After all, Fitbit has its own smartwatch OS, too.
Fitbit CEO James Park confirmed at Google I/O 2021 that Fitbit would launch a Wear OS-powered smartwatch in the future. We do not have any other details on that watch, but we’ll certainly hear more as development of the watch proceeds. We’re also unsure what this means for Fitbit OS, the software that powers the Sense and Versa smartwatch lines.
More recently, details of the Pixel Watch have slowly but steadily seeped through the cracks. The device was purportedly left in a Chicago restaurant, packing a circular display. Additional rumors points to possible Fitbit integration alongside Samsung’s sensors. It’s a rapidly developing story, so keep abreast of all the Google Pixel Watch rumors at the link.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the future of Fitbit and Google’s wearable ecosystems, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated as we learn more.
Problems, solutions, and how to guides
Fitbit devices are great, but they have their share of problems. Not every user will encounter them, but at least it’s a good idea to be aware of the most common ones.
The first one worth mentioning relates to syncing. Some users have reported having trouble syncing data from their Fitbit to their Android devices. There are many potential solutions available that can get rid of the problem quite quickly, so you shouldn’t worry about this too much, although it is annoying when experienced.
Users also frequently report issues about their Fitbit not receiving notifications from their Android device, not charging properly, and not updating properly. We won’t list all of the issues here since we have a dedicated article on this topic that also contains potential solutions for each problem. What’s important to know is that there aren’t any major issues with Fitbit devices that should stop you from buying one.
More Fitbit how-to guides
Fitbit Ionic recall
In March 2022, Fitbit announced a “voluntary recall” of its Ionic smartwatch after the company received more than 150 reports of overheating. More than 70 of those reports resulted in burn injuries.
“We received a very limited number of injury reports — the totals in the CPSC announcement represent less than 0.01% of units sold — of the battery in Fitbit Ionic smartwatches overheating, posing a burn hazard,” Fitbit said in a statement. “These incidents are very rare and this voluntary recall does not impact other Fitbit smartwatches or trackers.”
The recall affects Fitbit Ionic devices sold between September 2017 and December 2021. In total, that’s more than 1.6 million units sold within the US and beyond.
If you own an Ionic, we recommend that you stop wearing it and consider purchasing a newer alternative. The company has set up a web page for Ionic owners to clarify issues surrounding the recall and to help send back the smartwatch. According to Fitbit, Ionic owners will get a $299 refund. They will also get a 40% discount code they can use to purchase another Fitbit device.
Fitbit and the competition
Fitbit has a lot of rivals that make comparable or even better devices for the money. Its main competitors include Garmin, Apple, Polar, Xiaomi, and Samsung, just to name a few. If you’re looking for alternatives to Fitbit devices, there are plenty of them to choose from. We won’t list them all in this article, but you can check out the best ones for specific Fitbit products below. In case you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out our dedicated Fitbit alternatives article at the link.
- The Garmin Venu 2 Plus is the best Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 alternative you can buy, thanks to its upgraded smartwatch features and robust fitness tracking suite.
- The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 alternative for iPhone users, thanks to its unparalleled smartwatch features.
- The Garmin Venu Sq is the best Fitbit Charge 5 alternative you can buy. While it has a smartwatch form factor, its feature set is similar to that of the Charge 5’s.
- The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is the best Fitbit Inspire 2 alternative you can buy, thanks to its cheap price point and solid fitness tracking.
- The Huawei Band 6 is the best Fitbit Luxe alternative. It boasts a roomy form factor, lots of sport modes, and superb battery life.
- The Coros Pace 2 is the best Fitbit Ionic alternative. It’s available at a good price and is one of the best midrange running watches you can find.
Also read: The best Garmin watches you can buy
Older Fitbit smartwatches and fitness trackers
We’ve covered all the current-gen Fitbit devices in this article, but what about older trackers that are no longer available? Check out the list below to learn more about Fitbit’s older devices.
Top Fitbit-related questions and answers
Q: How does Fitbit calculate calories?
A: Fitbit devices combine your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and activity data to estimate your calories. They also take into account your heart-rate data if it’s provided. The BMR is based on the data you enter into your Fitbit account, including height, weight, sex, and age. Learn more here.
Q: Which Fitbit devices are waterproof?
A: All of Fitbit’s recent devices are water-resistant to 50 meters (5ATM), so you can take yours with you in the shower and the pool.
Q: Can Fitbit measure blood pressure?
A: No, Fitbit devices can’t measure your blood pressure.
Q: Which Fitbits have built-in GPS?
A: The Charge 5, Charge 4, Versa 3, Sense, and Ionic all have a built-in GPS for tracking your distance.
Q: How does my Fitbit device count the floors I have climbed?
A: Only devices with an altimeter sensor can do that. They detect you’re going up and register one floor when you climb about 10 feet (three meters).
Q: What accessories does Fitbit offer?
A: Fitbit offers first-party straps for all its devices, as well as replacement charging cables.
Q: Does Fitbit make any other products than smartwatches and fitness trackers?
A: The company also sells a smart scale called the Fitbit Aria Air.