24 October 2016
Apple Watch (left) features a colorful touchscreen and beautiful user interface. Fitbit is more functional with comprehensive fitness and sleep tracking. Photos: HKEJ
Apple Watch (left) features a colorful touchscreen and beautiful user interface. Fitbit is more functional with comprehensive fitness and sleep tracking. Photos: HKEJ

Apple Watch or Fitbit? It’s a choice betwen style and function

Nowadays, if you are not a dedicated runner or do not work out once in a while, you’re considered out of sync with the Hong Kong lifestyle.

That lifestyle is responsible for a growing number of health-conscious executives and professionals.

They’re pounding pavements, hitting the gym and doing all kinds of physical fitness stuff — and putting couch potatoes to shame.

You’re either one or the other, according to Human, a popular smartphone fitness app.

It ranks Hong Kong in the top 10 most active cities out of 900 urban centers worldwide.

The ranking is based on distance and exercise time users clock each day.

The market boasts numerous other apps that help exercise junkies track their progress with real-time data.

Fitbit, a San Francisco-based company which makes the eponymous fitness tracker, has landed in Hong Kong and giving incumbent players, including the Apple Watch, serious competition.

We have used both products for months.

Apple Watch

Many users are impressed with the Apple Watch as an exercise gadget but some say it feels more like a delicate iPhone accessory.

When it was launched in Hong Kong in April, it came with the usual buzz for an Apple event, making rival launches of Android devices look like child’s play.

The novelty quickly wore off, although the watch continues to attract new users, Apple being Apple.

There has been some buyer’s remorse due to some issues Apple has yet to address.

These include short battery life, no sleep tracking, no GPS and unstable heart rate monitoring — you won’t get any reading until you manually tap and turn on its sensors and wait for 20 seconds.

The AMOLED touchscreen, although sharp and bright, is a big drain on the battery, which users say is one of the reasons Apple sacrificed the sleep tracking function.

Still, the watch stands out in spit and polish and its powerful operating system shows in its smooth and fast interface and lively, seamless animations.

An update — the latest was released this week — has widened the choice of watch faces and added smart features such as time-lapse wallpapers.

You will be able to pay bills on the Apple Watch when Apple Pay is launched in Hong Kong next year.

Apple’s efforts to adopt some of the iPhone’s functionality such as Siri, maps and voice calls and messages in such a tiny device have made the Apple Watch more than a fitness tracker.

The fitness app that comes with the watch is less comprehensive than those of Apple’s competitors. And, of course, the watch works only with an iPhone.


The gray Fitbit Flex debuted in May 2013, sparking a lively online discussion about the fashion sense of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s health-conscious chief secretary.

It began when the 59-year-old Lam was shown wearing a wristband during an interview. The device happened to be Fitbit Flex.

Now Fitbit fans have more choices after the company widened its two flagship lines — Fitbit Surge and Fitbit Charge HR.

It has also introduced two new colors — blue and tangerine — to its line-up.

Where the Apple Watch is weak, Fitbit’s two new offerings are strong.

On top of sleep tracking already featured in previous generations, both Surge and Charge HR monitor heart rate in real time with two green and infrared LED sensors that flash continuously all day long.

Data comes back in the form of statistics on steps taken, calories burned and distance travelled.

Furthermore, its smartphone app shows EKG-like diagrams based on heartbeat data from the device.

The top-tier Surge model has a built-in GPS, a much anticipated solution for those tired of bringing along their phones while exercising.

Surge and Charge HR come with batteries that last up to a week of heavy use without charging.

In terms of accuracy, the Apple Watch and Fitbit are comparable.

In a test by the Consumer Council, the Apple Watch and Charge HR gave results that diverged less than 5 percent from readings in chest straps and other medical equipment.

Overall, Charge HR, Surge and a product from Sony received the highest scores. The council suggested users wear these wristbands in their non-dominant arm.

Bottomline: If you like style, notifications and a colorful display, the Apple Watch won’t let you down. The device, which retails for HK$3,088 to HK$92,800, provides a snapshot of your daily activities and workouts, albeit with some complications.

If you prefer a purer, value-for-money fitness tracker that can give you a full account of your days and nights, give the new Fitbit products serious thought.

Also, if you have a wristwatch you don’t want to take off or a HK$300 toy watch from your kid on your birthday, Fitbit might be for you.

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Apple custom-designed a unique operation system for its watches with some new ways to interact with the device. Photo: HKEJ

Recent software updates on the Apple Watch have added unique watch faces including 24-hour time lapse shots in choice locations including Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

Fitbit’s fitness app displays 24-hour heart rate data in EKG-like diagrams (left) as well as sleep quality stats. Photo: Fitbit

EJ Insight writer

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