A tale of two wearables: Fitness tracker vs. smartwatch

We put them through the classic “desert island” test to help you choose.


You’re stranded on a remote island. Which, inexplicably, has electricity and 4G service—but never mind that now. The point is you’ve got nothing but the clothes on your back and a brand-new wearable accessory on your wrist. Okay, fine, you also have a food-stuffed satchel and your smartphone. With rescue some days away, you’ve got to survive with the tools available. So, what do you see when you glance down at your wrist: connected smartwatch or fitness band?

Surely one key to castaway survival is staying in peak physical condition. And if you think you’ll be distracted by a big, colorful display or the extras that come with a smartwatch, a fitness band may be a better option. It keeps track of everything for you, and you can review the data on your smartphone later. How many steps does it take to circumnavigate your island? How much sleep are you getting in those afternoon naps on the beach? Best of all, fitness bands tend to have pretty decent battery lives, so you could go up to a week or so without recharging.

But let’s face it: You’ll want to keep your mind engaged, too. You don’t want to end up talking to strange volleyballs washed in by the tide, right? Enter the connected smartwatch. These wearables track your activity while some also monitor your heart rate like some fitness bands, but they also have touchscreen displays and full access to the Verizon 3G network. Think how convenient it’d be to leave your phone back at the hut, freeing up your hands to scrounge for coconuts while sending a quick text to your mom to let her know you’re okay. Your smartwatch can also receive notifications and calendar alerts from your phone—nifty for dodging incoming monsoons and remembering to cancel next week’s dentist appointment.

Bottom line?

Ultimately, your preference for a smartwatch or a fitness band comes down to personal use, and what’s most important to you. A smartwatch is an all-purpose kind of accessory that can help you stay even more connected to your life back home, but if your main preoccupation is keeping fit on your, er, unplanned vacation, a fitness band can help keep your eyes fixed firmly on the prize. They also have a longer battery life.

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