Image source: Fitbit

Fitbit Sense vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: two health powerhouses compared

Fitbit Sense and Galaxy Watch 4 are two health powerhouses. In this article we pit them against each other.

The first was unveiled by Fitbit in September 2020. Despite being around for more than a year, this is still Fitbit’s most high-specs device. And it is likely to remain so in the months ahead.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and its Classic variant represent the company’s flagship smartwatch range. Classic can be considered an update to Galaxy Watch 3, while the regular variant is a refresh of Galaxy Watch Active 2. Samsung will most likely drop the Active range now. Along with some new tech, these watches introduce a major change that comes in the form of a new operating system.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

If you’re in two minds as to whether the Fitbit or one of the Samsungs is right for you, hopefully this article will help. We start off by comparing the design and move on to functionality.


Fitbit Sense vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Hardware and design

Samsung wearables look more like a traditional watch

Fitbit Sense is the start of a new range. You wouldn’t know this by looking at its design, though. Apart from some subtle differences, the device looks almost identical to Versa 3. Most of the differences lie below the surface.

Sense, therefore, adopts Fitbit’s squarish look with slightly curved edges. The build is aluminum and there are some metal parts in the chassis.

This is a fairly sporty looking, lightweight device. It won’t win any design awards adopting a functional, no-nonsense look. If you want to pretty it up, there is a selection of fancy bands you can purchase.

Most people would agree that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 range is the more stylish option. Both Classic and the regular iteration adopt a traditional circular look. Unlike the Fitbit which comes only in a 40mm size, you get to choose between a large and small variant for each of these. Something for everyone there.

Fitbit Sense vs Galaxy Watch 4: two health powerhouses compared
Galaxy Watch 4 Classic vs Watch 4 vs Fitbit Sense

Samsung watches have a smaller, but better quality display

Samsung watches also have the edge when it comes to display quality. Fitbit has a color touchscreen (up to 1000 nits), but Watch 4 and Classic outshine it with their more high-res AMOLED display. Having said that, because of its square design, the screen real-estate on the Fitbit is larger. So in that sense, it has an edge over the Samsung.

Another difference is to do with navigation. On the Fitbit you control and navigate the menus by combining the touch display with a single haptic button. The Samsung timepieces, on the other hand, give you more options. They come with two physical buttons in addition to the touchscreen, along with a physical rotating bezel for scrolling through menus and lists.

Under the hood

Some interesting differences can also be found under the hood. What’s common to all of these devices is that they manage to pack quite a lot of tech into a small space.

The long list of sensors that can be found in both the Fitbit and Samsungs includes a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, altimeter, optical heart rate monitor, PulseOx, ECG, EDA sensor, vibration motor and NFC chip for contactless payments. All of these are serious health devices.

Fitbit Sense vs Galaxy Watch 4: two health powerhouses compared
Image source: Fitbit

There are some nuances in how these sensors are used, though. But more about this later. Worth a mention is that the Fitbit also packs a skin temperature sensor.

For sports, there’s built-in GPS/Glonass for smartphone-less tracking of outdoor exercise. Samsung has gone a step further with this by including the option to latch onto Beidou and Galileo satellites.

Another extra that you get with the Galaxy Watches is cellular connectivity. This is optional so you can purchase the less expensive option, the one without LTE.

Fitbit has the edge as far as battery life

As you’d expect from Fitbit and Samsung, at 5 ATM, the trio of devices has excellent water-resistance. Samsung watches have snagged a MIL-STD-810G rating so they can take quite a beating. Fitbit doesn’t have the equivalent so its device is a bit less robust. Nevertheless, it should also have no problem lasting a few years.

As can be seen from the above, in terms of design and hardware Samsung has the edge in a lot of the categories. But one area where Fitbit puts it to shame is battery life. You can keep Sense going for nearly a week between charges. As far as Galaxy Watch 4 and Classic, charging on most days will be required. This is because these are fully fledged smartwatches, so power-hungry, whereas the Fitbit can be categorized more as a health and fitness watch.

Here are the most important technical specs.

Samsung
Galaxy Watch 4
Samsung
Galaxy Watch 4 Classic
Fitbit
Sense
Sizes
40mm and 44mm
42mm and 46mm
40.5mm
Material
Aluminium case
Stainless steel case.
Aluminium case.
Dimensions
44mm (44.4 × 43.3 × 9.8mm)
40mm (40.4 × 39.3 × 9.8mm)
46mm (45.5 × 45.5 × 11.0mm)
42mm (41.5 × 41.5 × 11.2mm)
40.48 x 40.48 x 12.5 mm
Display size
44mm (1.36 inch)
40mm (1.19 inch)
46mm (1.36 inch)
42mm (1.19 inch)
1.58 inch
Display resolution
44mm (450 x 450 pixels)
40mm (396 x 396 pixels)
46mm (450 x 450 pixels)
42mm (396 x 396 pixels) 
336 × 336 pixels
Display
Circular Super AMOLED
Full Color Always On Display
Corning Gorilla DX+
Circular Super AMOLED
Full Color Always On Display
Corning Gorilla DX+
Hi-res touchscreen (up to 1000 nits). Corning Glass 3 display.
Battery life
40 hours
40 hours
6+ days. Charge time (0-100%):2 hours. 12 minutes on charger tops it up for 24 hours.
Water resistance
up to 50 metres (5 ATM)
up to 50 metres (5 ATM) 
up to 50 metres (5 ATM)
Weight
44mm version (30.3 grams)
40mm version (25.9 grams)
46mm version (52 grams)
42mm version (46.5 grams)
46 grams
Sensors
Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro, Geomagnetic, Light, Samsung BioActive Sensor (PPG, ECG, BIA)
Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro, Geomagnetic, Light, Samsung BioActive Sensor (PPG, ECG, BIA)
Multipurpose electrical sensors, multi-path optical heart rate tracker, 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter, SpO2, vibration motor, ambient light sensor, temperature sensor
GPS
GPS,Glonass,Beidou,Galileo
GPS,Glonass,Beidou,Galileo
GPS,Glonass
Operating system
Android Wear 3.0; OneUI Watch 3.5 overlay
Android Wear 3.0; OneUI Watch 3.5 overlay
FitbitOS
Smartphone compatibility
Android
Android
Android, iPhone
Memory
16GB
16GB
4GB
Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0,
Wi-Fi b/g/n
Bluetooth 5.0,
Wi-Fi b/g/n
Bluetooth 5.0,
Wi-Fi b/g/n
Microphone & speaker
Yes
Yes
Yes
LTE
Optional
Optional
No
NFC
Yes
Yes
Yes
Color options
Silver, Black, Pink Gold
Black, Silver
Carbon/Graphite Stainless Steel, Lunar White/Soft Gold Stainless Steel
RRP
 $249 and up
$349 and up
$299


Fitbit Sense vs Galaxy Watch 4: Features

Fitness and health tracking

As mentioned, these watches are health and fitness powerhouses. They manage to pack most the best sensor tech that is currently out there. It really is remarkable how far smartwatches have come in the last few years. And it’s only going to get better from here.

The trio will have you covered as far as around the clock tracking of activity and sleep. All the standard goodies are there along with some more advanced health tech. And let’s not forget the built in GPS, something that will be very important to those who run or cycle often.

Lots of health tech on-board, with some differences

Health tools worthy of a special mention are ECG for taking electrocardiograms on demand and a stress-reading EDA sensor. These can be found on both Samsung and Fitbit timepieces.

But it’s worth mentioning that the ECG on Galaxy Watch 4 only works with Samsung’s phones. The same is the case with blood pressure and SpO2. And the watch will not work at all with iPhones. All of Fitbit tech works with any phone, which is a distinct advantage.

Fitbit comes with skin temperature, HRV, Daily Readiness Score

Along with Charge 5, Sense has the most health features of any Fitbit. Amongst these are some things that cannot be found on the Samsung watches.

This includes a skin temperature sensor. It works overnight to track the variation of this metric, comparing it to your baseline value. In the morning you will know whether your temperature was above or below your norm during the night. Respiratory rate can be found as well.

Unfortunately, Fitbit has some of this info sitting behind a paywall. You can access the last week’s data free of charge, but for longer trends and more insight you will need to opt for the $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year premium subscription. The same is the case for raw heart rate variability (HRV) data, another addition that you won’t find on the Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs Galaxy Watch 3: here’s how they compare

Samsung Galaxy Watch
Gadgets & Wearables may get a commission

Fitbit Ionic or Garmin Vivoactive 3: which to get?

Fitbit is also introducing something called the Daily Readiness Score. It taps into HRV, sleep and activity data to spit out a metric that fluctuates between zero and 100. The higher the number the more you are ready for exercise. A low number indicates that your body could do with some rest. But once again, this metric sits behind the paywall.

Samsung has blood pressure tracking and Bioelectrical impedance analysis

Samsung has a few tricks up its sleeve as well. The main one comes in the form of blood pressure tracking functionality. This has been available on Samsung watches for about a year now. It is not perfect as you need to calibrate the watch with a traditional blood pressure cuff on a regular basis. But Galaxy Watches are unique in the sense that they have the ability to take these types of readings.

Another novelty is to do with Samsung’s BioActive Sensor. It combines PPG, ECG and BIA into one device. The last on this list allows you to take quick measurements from the wrist that estimate body composition metrics. Things such as your body’s water retention, bone density, skeletal muscle and BMI. Once again, the accuracy of Bioelectrical impedance analysis will not be perfect but it is something interesting to have.


Smart functionality

Beyond health and fitness features, an important difference between Galaxy Watches and Fitbit Sense is that they are fully fledged smartwatches. They run on an operating system developed jointly between Samsung and Google. Previous editions of Samsung watches are powered by Tizen OS.

The new operating system has the advantage of being compatible with WearOS apps. Plus there are Google’s programs such as Maps and Play Music.

There’s clearly a much larger selection of apps that you can install on Galaxy Watch 4 than on Sense. Unlike the Fitbit, there’s also built-in storage for music so you have your tunes when you are offline.

Fitbit smartwatches run on a proprietary operating system. It is clean and efficient but the app ecosystem is not as rich. This might change down the line considering the Fitbit acquisition earlier this year by Google.

One app that is currently missing on Samsung’s smartwatch is Google Assistant voice control. You will have to make due with Bixby, instead. Fitbit does support Google Assistant in addition to Alexa.

Fitbit Versa or Ionic: What’s the difference?
Fitbit Sense
Gadgets & Wearables may get a commission
Fitbit Ionic or Charge 2: which to get?

Other smart functionality worth mentioning are notifications, the ability to accept or reject calls, and contactless payments via the NFC chip. The Samsungs also have an option of LTE support. Which means with a wireless provider subscription fee, you can use them totally independent of a phone.

Samsung
Galaxy Watch 4
Samsung
Galaxy Watch 4 Classic
Fitbit
Sense
Skin temperature
No
No
Yes
Respiration rate
No
No
Yes
ECG
Only with Samsung phones
Only with Samsung phones
Yes
Heart rate variability
No
No
Yes
Blood pressure reading
Yes
Yes
No
Bioelectrical impedance analysis
Yes
Yes
No
On-board music storage
Yes
Yes
No
LTE
Optional
Optional
No

Fitbit Sense vs Galaxy Watch 4: The bottom line

Which of these should you buy? Well, it depends on one major factor – which smartphone you own.

If you have an iPhone, it’s a no-brainer. The Galaxy 4 range will not work with your device so Sense is clearly the only option. For owners of Samsung phones we definitely recommend Galaxy Watch 4 or Watch 4 Classic. These are fully fledged smartwatches that come with compressive sensor tech on-board.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs Galaxy Watch 3: here’s how they compare

Samsung Galaxy Watch Classic
Gadgets & Wearables may get a commission

Fitbit Ionic or Garmin Vivoactive 3: which to get?

Those with Android phones will need to decide between two really great options. There are nuances in health tracking such as the addition of skin temperature, Daily Readiness Score and more on the Fitbit. And the addition of blood pressure tracking and Bioimpedence analysis on the Samsungs (Amazon link).

But Samsung has the edge due to the richer ecosystem of apps, along with on-board storage for music and optional cellular connectivity. We recommend Fitbit Sense (Amazon link) to those that are more interested in health and fitness tracking and don’t wish to reach for the charger very often.

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3 thoughts on “Fitbit Sense vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: two health powerhouses compared

  • Thank you for this information, particularly about how the Galaxy Watch 4 does not have true
    HRV information available. I purchased the Galaxy Watch 4 ASSUMING that it would have the full range of measurements commonly seen now in flagship health-oriented watches, and have been going crazy for the last week trying to figure out how to see the HRV data or at least get confirmation that it is NOT a available. I cannot imagine why they left this out, as it is such a common and highly valued item on pretty much every other even half-way decent fitness device. Honestly, shame on Samsung for this omission! I will give the Watch 4 another week, but if this is an indication of Samsung inconsistent approach to premier health tracking, it is going back!

    Reply
  • Another thing it looks like Samsung is misssing is smart wake alarms! 🙁

    Reply

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