If you cant decide between Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 then you have come to the right place

It has been an amazing year for fitness wearables being launched and the final part of the year sees some of the newest and most sought-after fitness wearables being launched ready for the Christmas buying frenzy and the big question is which fitness wearable is right for me? In this article, I will hopefully help you decide between the Apple Watch vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs Fitbit Ionic smartwatch and help you answer that question, which is best for me?

Must read review: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 comparison

Which fitness wearable is right for me?

Firstly to answer the question which Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin vivoactive 3,  I will give you my view based on use and data how each fitness wearable performs in each key area below, which is pretty much what most comparisons should do so you can understand the features and how they compare.

  1. Design
  2. Screen
  3. Activity tracking
  4. Fitness tracking
  5. GPS performance
  6. Wrist heart rate
  7. Battery life
  8. Bluetooth & Sensor support
  9. Software, Smart features & companion app

The second view I will give is based on each fitness wearable capabilities, which is right for you based on the type of user the device is aimed at.

One thing to remember is that because a friend or a family member has a fitness watch and rates it, then it does not mean its right for you. Each person is different and has different needs and asks.

So if you want to understand a little more about my thoughts on fitness wearable user types then check out the article below

Read this article: Which fitness wearable is right for me?

So before we get into the Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 comparison article, I suggest you grab a seat and your favourite drink or snack as this is a long one

 Key features

SpecApple Watch 3Fitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
PriceFrom £329 / $329From £299 / $299From £279 / $299
ScreenIon-X GlassCorning Gorilla glass 3Corning Gorilla glass 3
Materialaluminium casealuminium caseFibre-reinforced polymer and stainless steel
Size42mm40mm42mm
Storage8GB8GBNone
StrapVariousVariousVarious
Battery18 hours4 days7 days
Mobile supportYesNoNo
ConnectivityBluetooth smartBluetooth smartBluetooth smart & ANT+
Smart featuresYesYesYes
Wrist HR sensorYesYesYes
Waterproof50m50m50m
Mobile paymentsYesYesYes

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Design

The design of a watch is important for lots of people and when it comes to the Apple Watch cs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 each other a different design and I think it all comes down to personal taste.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is a rectangle shape made of a brushed aluminium case weighing in at 32.3g  The Apple Watch features to physical buttons in the form of a “digital” crown that acts as a wheel to scroll through menus and a “home” button to call up the dock. The bands on the Apple Watch can be changed out and you have plenty of choice via the Apple store and third-party vendors on online marketplaces like Amazon The watch also features a Wrist based heart rate sensor on the back and I will take more about that later.

Overall I like the Apple Watch design and wearing the watch is comfortable with all day use as the bands have a soft feel to them and the Apple Watch is lightweight.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch

Fitbit Ionic 

Coming to the Fitbit Ionic the wearable is square design weighing in at 31g which is close to the Apple Watch. The Ionic has an aluminium case with 1 button on one side and 2 buttons on the other side. The single button is the home button and takes you back and the other 2 are to access the main menu and enter the activity tracking screens. The band on the Fitbit Ionic is bad of an Elastomer material and again you can buy additional bands which can be easily changed out via a quick release catch.

The Ionic looks similar to the Fitbit Blaze in terms of design. When I first saw the design only in pictures I was not impressed, but now I have had it in my hand and used it I am impressed with the design and build quality.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 data screens

Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is very much like a traditional watch with a circle watch face and design. The Vivoactive 3 weighs in at 43g and has a Fibre-reinforced polymer and stainless steel case with a stainless steel bezel. Like the other 2 wearables, the Vivoactive 3 has a touchscreen which is what you will use to do most of the navigation through the menu. Additional interaction is done via a technology called sideswipe. You use this to scroll through menus and the data screens when you are working out. You can also swap out the bands on the Vivoactive 3 and this is easily done via the quick release catch.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 screen

Design verdict

All 3 wearables offer something different in design and customisation with the option to swap out the bands. Whilst I do like the design of the Apple Watch 3, I have to say my personal preference for design goes to the Garmin Vivoactive 3 because I like a traditional looking watch. However, do not discount the Fitbit Ionic based on the pictures as I was surprised when I got hands on.

Design ranking

  1. Garmin Vivoactive 3
  2. Apple Watch
  3. Fitbit Ionic

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Screen

When it comes to a fitness watch the screen is important and with all 3, you are in luck that they all come with great screens. Each one is made of similar material and offer more or less the same level of protection, however, each screen resolution by pixels is different

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch features an OLED retina display which is 312×390 pixels which is a rectangle in shape The screen is protected with a Ion-X Glass and based on my use it’s pretty tough. You cannot get away from the fact the Apple Watch screen is fantastic and the colours just pop with great clarity. The Apple Watch feature’s a touch screen and whilst this is one of the best I have used, it’s still not great with gloves or when the screen is wet and this is evident when swimming and trying to stop the activity.

Fitbit Ionic 

Coming to the Fitbit Ionic the screen is a colour LCD which is 348×258 pixels with is again square in shape The protection used on the Ionic is Corning Gorilla glass 3 which offers scratch resistant protection. The Fitbit Ionic’s screen is also very clear and crisp with colours that really stand out. The Ionic wearable also as a touch screen and this works well, but do remember gloves and water will interfere with use. However when I was testing it swimming the Fitbit Ionic screen still performed pretty well.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Finally coming to the Garmin Vivoactive 3, the screen is an LCD panel with a 240×240 pixels which is a circle design like a traditional watch face. The screen is protected with a Corning Gorilla glass 3 like the Fitbit. The Vivoactive 3 also features a touchscreen and again I found it very reactive and in this case even when wet with only a few misses. The Screen on the Vivoactive 3 is very bright and the colours pop.

Must read review: Garmin Vivoactive 3 review

 Screen verdict

Whilst each screen has differences from pixel resolution I don’t personally think there is much difference between the Vivoactive 3 and the Ionic. However, I can say that the Apple Watch screen does is better when it comes to clarity and resolution.

Screen ranking

  1. Apple Watch
  2. Fitbit Ionic
  3. Garmin Vivoactive 3

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Activity tracking

When it comes to activity tracking these days you pretty much take it for granted that a fitness tracker/wearable will offer things like steps, floors climbed, distance travelled, calories and others. Something you should take into account when it comes to calories burned, this is only an estimation based on some fancy calculations and should be used as a guide.

 Apple Watch

The Apple Watch tracks all day activity, including;

  • Steps
  • Calories Burned
  • Time standing
  • Floors climbed
  • Distance travelled
  • Heart rate
  • Activity minutes

With the Apple Watch, you have targets to hit to close the rings in the activity app. The first 2 are set and these are time standing and the other is activity minutes, the final one is active calories burnt and this can be adjusted. The aim is then to close all 3 activity rings in order to hit your target and Apple say by doing so will help you in achieving a healthy life. You can view other recorded activity such as steps and heart rate in the activity app on the Apple Watch or on the iPhone app. The Apple Watch will also remind you to stand and move around every hour if you have not moved enough.

Apple Watch 3 HR tracking

Based on my usage of the Apple Watch, I have found things to be pretty much in line with my main daily wearable I use personally. When you are using the Apple Watch for the first few weeks it can become addictive to close all of the rings each day, but I found the novelty wore off.

Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit Ionic tracks all day activity including;

  • Steps
  • Calories Burned
  • Steps per hour
  • Floors climbed
  • Heart rate and resting heart rate
  • Activity minutes
  • Distanced travelled

The Fitbit Ionic is pretty good at tracking all day activities and again it has targets like the Apple Watch in terms of steps, distance and workouts. These can be customised in the app on a smartphone and then you can track progress both on the watch and the app. The Fitbit will also remind you to move every hour and during the final stage of the hour will give you a reminder how many steps you are away from hitting the goal, which is helpful.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 steps tracking

Testing out the Fitbit Ionic it does pretty well at tracking all-day activity, but I didn’t think it was as good as the Apple Watch 3. One big anomaly I found was when I was out cycling it would record steps!, yes steps and not just a few, I mean on one ride it recorded well over 5.5k over a 40k ride which is odd.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Vivoactive 3 tracks all day activity including

  • Steps
  • Calories Burned
  • Steps per hour
  • Floors climbed
  • Heart rate and resting heart rate
  • Activity minutes
  • Distanced travelled

Based on my testing I found the Vivoactive to be pretty accurate and inline with the Apple Watch in terms of accuracy. Like with the other wearables you can set goals for steps and activity minutes and both the watch and the app will give you a view on how well you are progressing. The Vivoactive 3 will also remind you to move if you have not within the hour, but unless the Fitbit it will not tell you how many steps you are away from the goal, but will alert you when you have hit your move goal.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 watch face

I found the Garmin Vivoactive 3 does a very good job at all day activity tracking with very little error when testing it.

All day activity tracking verdict

I have found there is little between the 3 wearables in terms of tracking capabilities and that all are pretty much as accurate as each other. The only real anomaly was the Fitbit Ionic that seemed to track steps when out cycling.

Screen ranking

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Apple Watch
  • Fitbit Ionic

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Fitness tracking

An important part of a fitness watch is fitness tracking and you need this to be accurate. You need to consider what you are going to use it for so for instance if you wanting to track things like swimming, you need it to be waterproof and to feature swim tracking.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch out of the box will track the following in the native fitness app

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Indoor cycling
  • HiT training
  • Treadmill
  • Walking
  • Elliptical
  • Rowing
  • Stair stepper
  • Open water swimming
  • Multisport

The Apple Watch native app does a good job at tracking activities, but you also can also download apps from the App Store from the likes of Runkeeper, Strava and mapmyrun but for the purpose of this, I am going to focus on the native apps that come with the Apple Watch.

Essential reading: Garmin Fenix 6 release date

When I do reviews I focus on the following workouts and did so for the Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive comparison

Running

The Apple Watch is good at tracking running and the distance. If you are running outdoors the watch will record the track for later viewing in the app on the iPhone. You will not get advance running data like cadence or any advance running data.

Cycling

The Apple Watch performed pretty well at cycling and gives you the basic information you need, but if you are a wanting more advanced data such as cadence or detailed cycling data you will not get this. If you are cycling outdoors it will record the map using GPS and allow you to view post workout, but the whilst the Apple Watch does a good job at tracking, it is pretty basic if you are wanting more advanced data.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 fitness apps

Swimming

Swim tracking was added to the Apple Watch series 2 back in 2016 and testing it back then I thought it just didn’t work right. In the series 3 Apple has added some improvements, but the biggest let down for me is the stopping the activity with a wet screen can be difficult and whilst you are messing around it could add 10 seconds or more to the time. The Apple Watch will identify stroke type, the number of lengths and distance. The Apple Watch does not capture SWOLF or any advanced swimming dynamics like you would on the Vivoactive 3. I also found on a number of occasions it would count the right number of lengths but the distance would be out.

Hiit workouts

Whilst the Apple Watch does not have any training programs built in on the native app you can take part in a Hiit class and track it. The information is fairly limited, but  it will give you calories burned and time taken

Strength training

Again the Apple Watch does not have strength training in terms of a programme to follow, you can track this in the native app. When tracking the activity you can track time and calories burnt along with heart rate readings

No Vo2 max

The Apple Watch does not estimate Vo2 max or any cardio fitness condition which is a real shame.

Essential reading: Fitbit Charge 3 release date

No Sleep tracking

The Apple Watch does not track sleep natively, you can, however, download third-party apps via the App Store, but due to the 18-hour battery life this is pointless as this is the point when you would be charging the device and if you are really active then you need to

Overall the Apple Watch does give you accurate, but basic tracking which will be enough for most people. You can customise the data you see on the screen during a workout. Exporting the data from the native apps is difficult which limits sharing with Strava and other platforms unless you use one of the Apps you can download such as Strava for Apple Watch

Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit Ionic out of the box will track the following in the native fitness app

  • Run
  • Cycling
  • Swim
  • Treadmill
  • Weights
  • Hike
  • Spinning
  • Cardio
  • Weights

The Fitbit Ionic has a good choice of activity profiles to track sports activities. But right now you cannot download third-party fitness apps. Fitbit does have a service called fitstar which is Fitbit’s premium coaching app which is included with the Ionic, but you only get 3 workouts and if you want more you need to pay for the Fitstar coaching app. You can customise the screens to show you the data you want in the fitness app settings which is useful if you want to see different data points such as pace and distance at the same time.

When I do reviews I focus on the following workouts and did so for the Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive comparison

Running

I found the Fitbit Ionic good at running outdoors and will capture the distance pretty well and pace. I found the wrist HR sensor also works well when you are using it for running activities both indoors and outdoors when tested against a chest strap. Like the Apple Watch, the Fitbit is pretty basic in terms of data it shows, You will also not get advance running data like running Cadence on the Fitbit Ionic

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 hiking

Cycling

As with the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Ionic performs well when you are cycling capturing pretty accurate GPS track. The wrist heart rate also performed pretty well when measuring it against a chest HR sensor. You will not get information like cadence or power readings as it cannot connect to those sensors. One of the things that I found odd is that when I did a 40k ride it registered 5.5k steps during that time and this is something I have found with a number of Fitbit wearables.

Swimming

Using the Fitbit for swimming I found it easy to start and stop the activity due to it being button focused for workouts. However using the touchscreen in the water worked better than the Apple Watch and Garmin Vivoactive 3. As with the Apple Watch, the Ionic would have a mismatch of distance and lengths. So, for instance, it would 16 lengths and only 350 meters recorded with the pool length set correctly.

HIIT workouts

The Fitbit Ionic has a programme for hiit and this is a series of exercises designed to increase cardio fitness, tone you up and burn fat. I tested a couple of these out and found them pretty good. I also used the Ionic in a Hiit class and it did the basic job of capturing heart rate and calorie data well when measuring against my daily wearable that I use all the time

Strength training

The Fitbit Ionic has a strength workout mode, but it does not track reps or sets like you can with the Vivoactive 3 but it will record all the usual workout data like time, calories and heart rate data. As I mentioned in the wrist HR section the HR sensor is not great with strength training and I would recommend using a chest HR strap if you want accurate HR readings.

Overall the Fitbit Ionic gives you accurate, but basic tracking which will be enough for most people. You can customise the data that you see during a workout and you can export the workouts via the Fitbit app to apps like Strava and you if you use the web version you can download a file to export to other online fitness services.

Other cool features

Cardio Age

There is also a cool feature which is called cardio fitness age. This is similar to Garmin’s Fitness age which based on your workout data and this calculates how fit you are against your actual age. Fitbit introduced this at the start of 2017 with the Fitbit Alta HR and I have found it fairly accurate when I compare it to other data sources regarding my fitness condition.

Sleep Tracking

The Fitbit Ionic also does sleep tracking and again I found this fairly accurate when it came to identifying when I went to sleep and when I woke. It will also track deep sleep and REM, this is when you are dreaming.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 out of the box will track the following

  • Run
  • Cycling
  • Swim
  • Treadmill
  • Weights/strength
  • walk
  • Indoor bike
  • Cardio
  • Yoga

Garmin also allow you to add your own workouts via the watch itself along with adding other workouts within the activity menu

The Vivoactive 3 is a GPS fitness watch first as you will see from this comparison and this is shown in the activity and fitness side of the watch. With the Vivoactive 3 you can customise the workouts and add others, but you can also customise the data screens so that you can see the data you need when you are working out which you cant with the Apple Watch and a lot more data is available than on the Fitbit Ionic

When I do reviews I focus on the following workouts and did so for the Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive comparison

Running

The Vivoactive 3 is very good at tracking running and I found the distance tracked was consistent with other the other devices. I also found the wrist-based HR sensor good for running when testing and gave good results. You cannot connect Garmin’s HR run or HR TRI but you do get a decent level of running data both during and post workout. You can also get Vo2 max for running activities and this is fairly useful metric if you are wanting to improve.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 running

Cycling

Using the Vivoactive 3 whilst cycling is pretty good with good GPS distance tracking that is pretty accurate. You can also add cadence and speed sensors which you cant do with the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic, but you cant connect power meters which is a shame. Using the Vivoactive 3 whilst cycling will give you some good data however

Swimming

The Vivoactive 3 is also good at swim tracking and accurate with both lengths and distance. It will also identify stroke type and give you a SWOLF score which is a key data metrics for swimming. Having the buttons to start and stop also helps when the screen is covered in water.

HIIT workouts

Hitt workouts on the Vivoactive can take 2 forms, the first being just doing a hiit class and recording it has cardio or creating your own in the workout planner in Garmin Connect Mobile which I use with my Fenix 5x and I love it for creating core workouts

Strength training

The Vivoactive 3 really excels at strength tracking, but it also tracks reps and sets which is useful. It was first launched with the Garmin Vivosmart 3 and it worked ok, however with the Vivoactive 3 it has been greatly improved and I use it on my personal Fenix 5x when I am in the gym.

Vo2 Max estimation, stress tracking, and fitness age

The Vivoactive 3 can estimate your Vo2 max for running activities and this is a good indicator of an overall condition which the other 2 fitness trackers don’t have. Additionally, the Garmin device also tracks all day stress and gives you nice information about your overall stress levels and resting periods. I found this insightful to give me a good picture of overall condition for training. Lastly, the Garmin Vivoactive measures your fitness age, this is the what Fitbit do and it gives you a fitness age vs your actual age and the aim is to be below your actual age or around that.

As I have already mentioned the Vivoactive 3 is a fitness watch first before a smartwatch and this shows with the fitness features that Garmin have implemented as part of the watch. The Vivoactive 3 has the ability to customise data screens, add various sensors for advanced data collection during a workout and post workout analysis in Garmin Connect is good. To add to the workout planning feature along with rep and set tracking puts the Vivoactive 3 ahead but a mile in this area comparing it to the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic. To further cement its place at the top of this category you can also link it to various third-party sites like Strava, training peaks and many others

Fitness tracking verdict

As I have already mentioned above the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is streets ahead of the Fitbit Ionic and Apple Watch for fitness tracking, data post workout, and integration with third-party fitness apps. Whilst the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is top in this category you cannot discount the Fitbit Ionic that performs really both in running and cycling for GPS accuracy.

Fitness tracking ranking

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Fitbit Ionic
  • Apple Watch

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – GPS performance

All 3 wearables feature onboard GPS and this means you can take your wearable with you to track an activity like outdoor cycling and running and then get a tracked route post workout. I used all 3 wearables alongside a well known accurate GPS device and a smartphone over a 5km route running.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review bike profile

Apple Watch

I found the Apple Watch to be within 50 meters over of the baseline device. Viewing the track after the workout in the App on the iPhone is pretty good and it shows you the map with colour coded indication where the watch thought you put more effort is based on speed and Heart rate readings. One thing to point out is that the Apple Watch only gives you average pace based on the run overall and not the pace at that moment in time.

Fitbit Ionic 

Moving onto the Ionic, I used the Ionic on the same test route with the same conditions and the Fitbit was behind by 250 meters on the same route. As with the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Ionic gives you a map of the route with details about pace and distance. This 250 meters difference is a big gap over only a 5k route and something you should take note of

Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Vivoactive 3 also went through the same tests as described above and the Vivoactive 3 was again 50 meters over the baseline distance readings. The Vivoactive 3 can show you current pace and average page if you set it up in the data screens and also shows you a map post workout in the Garmin Connect app.

GPS performance verdict

As you can all 3 have been tested and the results are surprising that the Apple Watch came in first with the Vivoactive 3 recording a distance at 5.15k. I just want to point out that I did use the Apple Watch and Vivoactive 3 whilst out cycling and I got very close results so I am not sure why on the test run it was so far apart.

GPS ranking

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Apple Watch
  • Fitbit Ionic

Essential reading: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Bit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Wrist heart rate and HR tracking

Fitness wearables have been evolving over the last few years and nearly every wearable I review these days have a wrist-based heart rate sensor and the Apple Watch, Fitbit Ionic and the Vivoactive 3 are no different. Whilst I was preparing the Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 guide I tested the wrist HR sensors across running, cycling, spinning, and strength and put it against a chest Heart rate strap.

One point to note, I would recommend using a chest HR strap if you need fairly accurate HR readings.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch has had a wrist-based HR sensor in the wearable since series 1 and from what I know the technology has not changed in terms of hardware. However, over time Apple has approved the data you can see. With the Apple Watch, it tracks all day heart rate and can give you a view of your heart rate variance over the day. You can also see heart rate tracking over a workout and it will show your recovery heart rate, which is good for gauging overall fitness. The apple watch also measures your resting heart rate which again is a good indication of overall fitness. Apple has made great strides in improving the heart rate tracking and features, but I still don’t think its there yet and for me, you still cannot analyze the data enough to get a good understanding.

When doing the testing on the Apple Watch wrist HR sensor the Apple wearable performed very well in all tests apart from strength, which in fact all of them failed on this one. The Apple Watch HR performed well when running and cycling which came as a big surprise.

Fitbit Ionic 

The Fitbit Inoic also tracks your all day heart rate and takes samples every 10 seconds and 1 second during exercise. The Ionic also tracks resting heart rate and when you are using the Fitbit companion app you can look at this data in more detail. The Fitbit goes one step further and also gives you Cardio fitness age which is a measure of how fit you against your age.

So down to the test for the Fitbit Ionic wrist heart rate sensor and with the exception of the running test the Fitbit didn’t track well when comparing it against the chest strap. The Ionic HR missed lots of the HR spikes and the drops and on a number of occasions, it recording a low of 85 reading when my HR was above 150.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

When it comes to the Vivoactive 3 for heart rate tracking I would say its far more advanced than the Ionic and the Apple Watch. It does tracking 24/7 throughout the day and it does 1 second HR sampling when you are working out. The Vivoactive 3 will also track heart rate whilst you are sleeping and uses the heart rate sensor to track stress levels. You also get information such as fitness age which gives you a fitness age vs real age like the Ionic does and this gives you an indication of overall fitness. You can also export the heart rate data and analyse it in other tools or use Garmin Connect to look the HR data in more detail.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 hands on review data screens

Whilst the Vivoactive 3 has better software to give you more data it was let down in the tests. For running and spinning it was fine, but for strength and cycling the heart rate readings was all over and on one occasion registered a very low reading of 75 for 5 mins when I was at over 160 whilst cycling and putting high watt power in.

Wrist heart rate verdict

Whilst the Vivoactive 3 gives you more data to look at when it comes to heart rate, it was the Apple Watch that performed better based on the tests and if I am being honest I was not expecting the Apple Watch to perform well in the heart rate testing base on my previous experience with the series 1 and 2. However, with all this being said I would always say wear a chest HR strap if you are series about heart rate data and heart rate training

Heart rate ranking

  • Apple Watch
  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Fitbit Ionic

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Bit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Battery life

Battery life is an important factor when it comes to a wearable and to be able to last during a day of exercising along with tracking other factors is important. You need to consider how long you want your fitness wearable to last and if you want to be charging it every night or not.

Apple Watch

Apple claims that you can get unto 18 hours of usage on one charge based on typical use. I have found that using it in real-world conditions when exercising and using it as a smartwatch I was getting on average 12 hours and this depends if I was cycling or running which used GPS or just fitness classes. This meant I was charging it overnight and limited any sleep tracking, which it only does with an App from the Apple Watch app store. When I used it on a test whilst hiking for 8 km using GPS over 6 hours the battery was down to 21% when I had finished.

Charging the Apple Watch is done via a proprietary cable which is a magnetic attachment and it takes about 1.5 hours to achieve a full charge from flat

Fitbit Ionic 

Fitbit claims with the Ionic that you get multi-day battery when using various features and I have found on average I am getting about 2 days before I am needing to charge. I also tested it on the same hike with the Apple Watch and it was down at 53% when I finished the 8km.

Charging the Fitbit Ionic is done via a proprietary cable which is a magnetic plug type and it takes about 1.5 hours to achieve a full charge from flat

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 screen

Garmin Vivoactive 3

With the Vivoactive 3, the battery life is stated at 7 days based on typical usage and up to 10 hours on GPS. I have found using it I am getting about 3-4 days depending on what I have been doing. I also used it on the hiking test and at the end of the hike, the Vivoactive 3 was on 66% battery. As you can see the Vivoactive 3 has a good battery, maybe not the best I have tested but you can use it all day and keep it on throughout the night to track sleep.

Charging the Vivoactive is done again via a proprietary cable which is a plug type which is exactly the same as the Fenix 5 series it takes about 1.5 hours to achieve a full charge from flat

Battery life verdict

The Vivoactive 3 is hands down the winner in the area of battery life with the Fitbit and Apple Watch a fair bit behind.

Battery life ranking

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Fitbit Ionic
  • Apple Watch

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Bit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Bluetooth & Sensor support

As I have already mentioned that connecting external sensors to fitness watches is important to some and you need to decide when buying a fitness watch what types of sensors you would like to connect now and in the future. The range of sensors is available is vast ranging from Heart rate, speed, cadence, foot pods, power meters and I could go on. Connecting these sensors can be done via Bluetooth which you maybe already familiar with and ANT+ that is pretty much limited to Garmin wearables.

Apple Watch

Well its a pretty small list for connecting sensors to the Apple Watch with the native workout apps, you can only connect chest heart rate sensors via Bluetooth. So if you thinking of getting an apple watch then make sure if you wanting to pair it with a chest HR strap then make sure its Bluetooth smart

Fitbit Ionic

With the Fitbit Ionic it’s pretty much a similar story, you can only connect chest heart rate sensors and this via Bluetooth Smart. As with the Apple Watch, you cannot connect anything else other than earphones and no support for ANT+

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 pixels

Garmin Vivoactive 3

When you look at the sensor support for the Vivoactive you have more options. You can connect both ANT+ and Bluetooth smart and have the option to connect chest Heart rate sensors along with Speed/Cadence sensors for cycling and footpods for running. The Vivoactive 3 gives you lots of options to connect to external sensors and if you are into collecting performance data then this is something to consider. As I have already mentioned in the fitness section the Garmin Vivoactive cannot connect the HR TRI or HR for advance running dynamics data nor can you connect a power meter such as the Garmin Vector 3 to get cycling dynamics data

Bluetooth & Sensor support verdict

So to summarise the Apple Watch and Fitbit Ionic offer pretty much the same options with them being chest heart rate and earphones, but the wearable from Garmin offers a good choice of external sensors.

Sensor ranking

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Fitbit Ionic
  • Apple Watch

Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Bit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 – Smartwatch features & companion app

Ok, this is going to be a long one… The Software, smart features along with the companion app are very important when it comes to a fitness watch and one thing I want to point out is that the Apple Watch is a true smartwatch out of the 3 wearables.

Just one thing I want to say before I go about the software and smart features, you need to have an iPhone to use the Apple Watch, so if you don’t have one then the Apple Watch will not work without it. However, the Fitbit Ionic and Garmin Vivoactive 3 is available to many smartphone platforms.

Apple Watch

As I have already said the Apple Watch is a true smartwatch and some would argue is the best smartwatch you can buy right now which I would agree with. The Apple Watch runs Watch OS 4 at present and has the ability to make and receive calls, reply to texts and messages. You can download apps from the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and many others. You can also download third-party fitness apps from the likes of Strava, which I have to admit is very good and better than the native apps for running and cycling, it’s just a shame it does not do swimming yet. So when it comes to smart features the Apple Watch is very hard to beat.

Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 apps

Now moving onto the companion apps with the first being the Watch app which is used to setup the apple watch along with changing the watch faces and download apps. The 2nd is the activity app where you can view progress to goals, activities completed and checkout the heart rate and GPS track created. The 3rd app is the health app and this is Apple’s central repository for all the health data collected and not just by the Apple Watch. This is the app I feel is unfinished and really just a data dump of health data with Apple not really knowing how to present it.

The Apple Watch has mobile payments via Apple Pay and this is now launched in many countries with a lot of success. Out of the 3 wearables, the Apple Watch has the most mature mobile payments platform that can be used in many countries worldwide.

Fitbit Ionic 

The Fitbit Ionic runs its own proprietary software which is a variation of Pebble after Fitbit acquired them. The Fitbit Ionic has various smart features, but I am convinced its a true smartwatch due to the fact it does not have many third-party apps and Fitbit has yet to open up the SDK to developers as promised. The Ionic has smart notifications which will alert you when you receive a call or text, but does not allow you to reply to messages or make calls on the watch like you can with the Apple Watch.

The companion app is a great app that comes with the Fitbit Ionic and I have rated it in all the reviews I have done on the Fitbit range. The app allows you to look at the post-workout information and gives you lots of information about the workout itself along with HR data and the map if it was an outdoor activity. You can also challenge friends within the app if they have a Fitbit and this can be great motivation for some people.

Fitbit offers Fitbit Pay of the Ionic and this is only available in selected countries at the time of writing this with more to follow soon.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Vivoactive 3 runs a proprietary software developed by Garmin that features across most of its mid-range to high-end wearables. Whilst Garmin are billing this is a smartwatch, again I don’t think its a smartwatch like the Apple Watch. Yes, Garmin has the IQ connect App Store that you can download watch faces and fitness apps with a small smart apps section, but in my view, it does not cut it for smart like the apps you can get for the Apple Watch. However, dont get me wrong the fitness apps for Garmin are pretty good from some of the developers. When it comes to smartphone integration, Just like the Ionic, you can also receive smart notifications on the watch from calls and texts, but unlike the Apple Watch, you cannot reply unless you are using Andriod.

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 companion app is called Garmin Connect and this in my view is an outstanding app. I use this on my daily watch the Fenix 5x and I am able to see lots of information from HR, distance travelled and if connected to sensors further data.

Garmin also offers Garmin Pay with the Vivoactive 3 and this is currently only available in the US at the time of writing this article. This works in the same way as any other contactless payment method just like Apple Pay

Software, smart and companion app verdict

This is a hard one to judge on as the Apple Watch is a true smartwatch with a great app store to back it up, but the companion apps in my view are not completed and fragmented when it comes to the user experience. The Fitbit Ionic is a good middle ground device with some fitness features and a good companion app that offers some good social aspects. Then you come to the Vivoactive 3 and it’s not a smartwatch, but an excellent fitness watch with a great companion app with a social aspect.

Smart ranking

  • Apple Watch (Just because it is a true smartwatch)
  • Garmin Vivoactive 3 (good companion app)
  • Fitbit Ionic (good companion app)

Essential reading: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review

Apple Watch vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 vs Fitbit Ionic comparison conclusion

Whilst each fitness wearable has performed differently in each area in this Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 buyers guide, you have to take into account that whilst one will better in one area than the other you need to look at the overall picture and decide which one is best for you based on your circumstances

Why buy the Apple Watch

If you want the king of Smartwatches then the Apple Watch series 3 is for you, or if you want to save a bit of cash then go with the Series 2 which as all the same features apart from wireless calling. The Apple Watch does smart better than any of its rivals and the boat load of apps will keep you entertained and busy. Whilst the Apple Watch is not the best fitness wearable I have tested, it does have good fitness tracking, GPS, wrist heart rate tracking and many other features. So my advice, buy the Apple Watch if you want a very capable smartwatch with good fitness tracking.

Why buy the Fitbit Ionic

THe Fitbit Ionic is a good hybrid between an Apple Watch and a Vivoactive 3, but I think it will only get there once Fitbit gets some developers onboard to start making the apps they have promised. The Fitbit Ionic has a good community behind it with a great app which gives you lots of detail and information to look at. One of the biggest likes on the Ionic and the Fitbit range, in general, is the ability to challenge friends and this is a great motivation for some using the companion app.

 Why buy the Garmin Vivoactive 3

I would recommend the Vivoactive 3 to someone that is into fitness first and wants a handful of smart features. The Vivoactive 3 is a great fitness watch that can be customised and you are able to analyse the workout data both in Garmin Connect and via third-party apps. The support you get from Garmin is great and it does have a great community forum that is very supportive. The other great features are Garmin Pay and the side swipe feature which I think works really well.

I hope you have enjoyed this Apple Watch vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive comparisons and if you have had a question please leave one below. Also if you are thinking of buying on of the wearables then support Active JR and use the Amazon links below

 

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7 Comments on "Apple Watch Vs Fitbit Ionic vs Garmin Vivoactive 3 –  Buyers guide"

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Jackson wright
Guest

Great comparison! What’s the best option for outdoor swimming?

Foreverunning
Guest

It’s good to see the accuracy of the Vivoactive 3 as the Fenix 5 was disappointing! What’s the pacing like?

Sam B
Guest

I noticed that in your video comparison you rated the Ionic ahead of the Vivoactive 3 in regard to Heart Rate Tracking, but over here in the written comparison you seem to rate the Vivoactive 3 higher with HR tracking. Which one is better? Since I rely on the vibration of a fitness watch for alarms, comparing theses two trackers, which one has the stronger vibrations for alarms?

Andrew
Guest

Thank you for the review. One piece of advice: have someone edit your reviews before you post them. The spelling and grammar mistakes were distracting and damage your credibility compared to other reviewers presenting a more professional persona.

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