A lot of smartwatches right now rely on Google’s Android Wear. While that may not necessarily be a bad thing, it does limit the smartwatch features that we can expect from these devices. This might be the reason why some of the top smartwatches available now use their own operating systems. For instance, Apple Watch uses WatchOS, Samsung smartwatch uses TizenOS, while Fitbit and Garmin use their own proprietary operating systems.
Two of the smartwatches that do not rely on Google’s Android Wear OS and that came out at roughly the same time are Samsung Gear Sport and Fitbit Ionic. Both also have similar price tags. But which one is better for you?
Samsung Gear Sport
The Samsung Gear Sport helps you stay motivated, reminds you to move more and eat better food, and keeps you on track with your fitness goals. It is also very eye-catching and beautiful.
It looks better than the Samsung Gear S3, which came out earlier, but has a sleeker body. It also supports offline Spotify music and you can wear it while swimming.
The Samsung Gear Sport weighs 67 grams and measures 1.7 x 1.8 x 0.5 inches. It also features a super AMOLED screen that measures 1.2 inches and boasts a resolution of 360 pixels by 360 pixels. It has the same size as other watches, yet it has that rugged look. The Gear Sport uses high-quality materials, with a metal body and bezel, and rubber straps.
As a fitness tracker, Samsung Gear Sport can be a little bit blah. Sure, it has a long list of things that it can track and monitor, such as a number of steps taken, calories burned, and flights of stairs climbed. It can help you set daily goals, too, and it can monitor your calorie intake.
In fact, one of the most talked-about features of the Gear Sport is the calorie intake counting. However, it does not really have a database of calories for the food that you eat. You need to manually enter the calories and if you don’t know what that number is, you need to check the smartphone app.
Most of the Gear Sport’s fitness tracking is rather ho-hum. It’s nice to have a tracker that tracks everything, but it is not that smart. And it does not offer too much insight into the numbers it logs. When it comes to sleep tracking, you might consider that the Gear Sport needs to be charged, so you might miss some nights’ sleep monitoring information when you are charging it overnight.
The Samsung Gear Sport continues to make good use of the bezel and the two physical buttons you can find on the side. These buttons serve as your control and they allow you to scroll through different screens easily. The smartwatch will work with Samsung SmartThings, allowing you to control your home from your wrist.
Samsung Gear Sport’s battery lasts for two to three days on a single charge. Its predecessor, the Gear S3, gave users up to four days without recharging.
While Samsung Gear has a circular shape, Fitbit Ionic has a squarish watch face, making it look like those old geeky wristwatches from the 1980s. That is not to say that it looks dorky; it actually looks cool, but in a different way. While some people may prefer a circular watch, you should not dismiss the Ionic right away.
For one, Fitbit has added quite a number of watch faces to its store, and these watch faces are designed by the same team that brought you Pebble Smartwatches, which Fitbit acquired.
What you get is a range of cool, crazy or cute watch faces. Going back to the square shape of the Fitbit Ionic and its retro looks, it seems that many have embraced these. In fact, one of the watch faces is designed to make your Fitbit Ionic look like an old Casio calculator watch.
More than looking good, Fitbit is also steadily adding to the number of apps available for download. The Fitbit Ionic is very comfortable to wear and is quite light – in fact, lighter than most of its competitors.
Fitbit Ionic has all the fitness tracking features that you have come to love about Fitbit products, such as the heart rate tracker, which now uses new algorithms that make it more accurate or more precise than its competitors. The Fitbit Ionic is perfect for cycling, swimming, weightlifting, running, and other exercises.
The Fitbit Ionic also features workouts via the Fitbit Coach. These workouts are similar to the Fitstar app, but you can access the workouts on the watch itself. The workouts feature a step-by-step guide.
Which is the better smartwatch?
With the new Samsung Gear Sport’s focus on sports, it can go against Fitbit Ionic.
The two smartwatches have very different designs. The squarish Fitbit Ionic has a bigger display size. The LCD display of the Ionic has a lower resolution than the Gear Sport’s circular, which boasts of a super AMOLED display that you could see even under direct sunlight.
The Fitbit Ionic is quite small compared to the Gear Sport, but the latter is a bit slimmer. The Ionic is also very light, almost half the weight of the Gear Sport. This is because the Ionic uses aluminum and stainless steel, compared to the Gear Sport’s stainless steel and a fiber-reinforced polymer material.
When it comes to looks, your choice would depend on your personal taste. However, there are features where one would clearly win over the other. But first, what similarities do these smartwatches share?
One of the things that you would miss from both is the LTE connectivity that you see on the Apple Watch 3. Conversely, both smartwatches all have similar features such as the heart rate sensor, ambient light sensor, Wi-Fi connectivity, GPS, vibration alerts, and NFC.
How does one differ from the other?
|Samsung Gear Sport
|Display size inches
|348 x 250
|360 x 360
|Pixels per inch
|1.15 x 0.8 x 0.48
|1.76 x 1.69 x 0.46
|Gorilla Glass 3 Protection
|Aluminum, stainless steel
|Stainless steel, fiber-reinforced polymer
|Ambient light sensor
Where the Fitbit Ionic wins
Third-party apps. FitbitOS was made from Pebble’s operating system, which was known for customization and integration across different platforms.
The new operating system used by Fitbit Ionic as well as the Tizen OS used by Samsung Gear Sport are more geared towards fitness compared to other operating systems such as Apple Watch and Android Wear. In fact, when the Ionic launched, it had its own app store and it offered a way for people to create their own apps.
Fitbit has made it possible for people to create apps for their platform, and with at least 67 million Fitbits sold as of the third quarter of 2017, they sure have a lot of potential developers creating for them. More than that, established app makers would really want their apps available to Fitbit’s growing user base.
While Apple Watch and Android Wear still hold the title of having the most apps already in place, you should not be surprised if Fitbit OS catches up and soon.
On the other hand, Tizen OS has a good number of apps available from the biggest fitness and health companies or app developers.
But even Samsung’s own apps are quite difficult to use and rely too much on your smartphone. For instance, when you use MyFitnessPal to track your calorie intake, you would need to have the mobile app open to help you know how much calories are present in a certain dish. The smartwatch does not have access to that database.
Furthermore, one of the Ionic’s biggest advantages is its long battery life. You can get at least four days of operation on a single charge, compared to around 3 to 5 that the Gear Sport promises.
The Ionic allows you to use its speakers to listen to music, while you would need a Bluetooth headset for the Gear Sport.
Where the Samsung Gear Sport wins
Samsung Gear Sport wins in the small details, such as the more responsive touchscreen. Fitbit Ionic’s touchscreen is notoriously slow and can take quite a while before it responds to your touch.
You would also love that the Gear Sport gives you control of the user interface through the touchscreen, the bezel, and the buttons. The Fitbit Ionic does not have a bezel.
The super AMOLED screen also guarantees that the display of the Gear Sport is much crisper and clearer than the Fitbit Ionic. It is also more visible even under direct sunlight. You can also find a microphone on the Gear Sport, which is used for voice control.
The Samsung Gear Sport also has better-connected features. It allows you to interact with the notifications you receive, such as answering your phone or replying to text messages. Note, however, that even when you can answer calls using your smartwatch, you would still need to take out your phone because the Gear Sport does not have an onboard speaker.
The Gear Sport also has a bigger storage for your files and music, giving you 4 GB of space compared to only 2.5 GB you find on the Ionic.
Fitbit is a known leader when it comes to fitness tracking devices and it would take a lot for a competitor to take it on. The Ionic has everything that users love about the Fitbit brand, and, sadly, the Samsung Gear Sport does not really compare.
The problem is not for the lack of trying. The Gear Sport tracks everything that Fitbit does. But when it comes to crunching the numbers and making them not only understandable and palatable but also valuable in that they offer insights, Fitbit really shines.
And while Samsung Gear Sport does have some things going for it, such as being better at notifications, better display, and bigger storage, Fitbit Ionic trumps it when it comes to fitness- and health-related apps. At the same price, we’d bet our money on Fitbit Ionic.
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