Apple Watch has tons of smartwatch and activity tracker competitors. Here are some I’ve tested.
Fitbit Surge ($250)
I’ve been a loyal Fitbit fan since November 2012 and was thrilled when the company released its ‘fitness super watch.’ It combines basic smartwatch capabilities with more fitness tracking features than any other Fitbit.
Love it: Choose different workouts to track. Bluetooth syncing rarely fails. Display is easily legible in bright sunlight and always on. Constant heart-rate monitoring. GPS tracking. Automatic sleep tracking. Silent alarms. Recent upgrade enables it to track bicycling. Can view a variety of real-time data on the watch, such as current pace, heart rate, miles run, steps, and more. Available in three colors and three sizes. Competing against friends on Fitbit leaderboard is enormously motivating.
Leave it: Watch is thick at one end. Strap gave me a mild rash after two months of mostly constant use (I could have followed the Surge care instructions more closely). Battery life, with regular GPS use (for up to 1 hour daily) and constant heart-rate monitoring, lasts only about 2 days for me. Can’t wear it in the pool.
Buy it: If you’re firmly in the Fitbit camp; aren’t interested in an Apple Watch; regularly do a variety of exercises; and want to up your fitness game. Amazon.com sells it, natch.
Readit: My CIO.com review of Fitbit Surge.
Garmin vivosmart ($150)
Garmin’s vivosmart is a fitness tracking wristband with some smartwatch elements. Works with Android (4.3 or higher) or iPhone 4S or newer smartphones.
Love it: The illuminated OLED display is easy to read in bright sunlight (if you increase the brightness setting). It’s easy to flick through icons to view the date and time, number of steps walked, and steps remaining toward your goal. Controls music playback. Comes in a variety of accent colors and in different sizes.
Leave it: Associated app is so-so. Can’t choose which smartphone notifications you receive; it’s all or nothing, at least on iOS. No GPS. Heart rate monitoring is only available via an optional chest strap. USB charger is big, cable is long.
Buy it: If you want smartwatch-style notifications on your wrist in an activity tracker that only costs $150 or less. At the moment, Amazon has the black, large model for $125.
Read it: My CIO.com review of Garmin vivosmart.
Microsoft Band ($200)
Microsoft’s entry in the wearables market works with Windows Phones (of course), Android and iOS.
Love it: You can customize the 1.4 color display. Heart-rate monitoring is fairly accurate, though not always consistent with more reliable monitors such as Polar’s H7 chest strap. You can pay for stuff at Starbucks. It has built-in GPS for mapping your outdoor runs and displays smartwatch-style notifications.
Leave it: The band itself feels heavy and is a bit clunky. The band supports Cortana voice input, though in my tests, it’s not as useful as Siri.
Buy it: If you’re firmly ensconced in the Microsoft ecosystem and don’t give a hoot about Apple Watch. It’s currently $200 on Amazon.com.
Read it: “Is Microsoft Band a better fitness tracker than Fitbit Surge?” on CIO.com.