Tracking Fitness – An Apple Watch Review

Overall Grade: A

Two months ago, I purchased an Apple watch because I was done with Fitbit products. I didn’t want to be, especially since I was so happy with them a year ago and had been a loyal customer since 2011. However, I needed to find a good quality fitness tracker – one that wouldn’t break after a few months. So I bought an Apple watch. (Read about my decision to leave Fitbit here.)

apple watch review
Some of the many Fitbits I have had over the years and the sleek, stylish look of the Apple watch.

apple watch review

Why I love it:

The Apple watch is much more than a fitness tracker. It’s an extension of the iPhone – giving you phone notifications, as well as the ability to see texts, take phone calls, track exercise and sleep, and so much more. Despite buying it mostly for its ability to track steps and activity, I’m impressed with its other many functions. For example, during one of my daughter’s band concerts, rather than pull out my phone out and look disinterested, I used my Apple watch to click on CNN and see the primary election results of the day.  I also am bad with leaving my phone lying around and missing texts and calls. Having the watch on me, I get vibrating and audio alerts as soon as my phone does. In addition, I can ask my phone to show me the weather, show me my calendar for the day, or start a phone call. All with this watch on my wrist!

In terms of its appearance, the Apple watch is sleek, lightweight, and well designed. I like having the woven nylon band (vs. the Sport/plastic band) as it keeps the watch close to my wrist with a secure fit. The Fitbit Charge band tended to be more bulky and sometimes got in the way.  I can easily change the band to my nicer band for dressier occasions.  Note that additional bands are sold separately (Amazon sells Apple watch bands much cheaper than the Apple Store).

apple watch review
The Apple watch band is easy to remove. Two small buttons on the back of the watch release the bands to put on different ones.


At first, using the Apple watch was very overwhelming, even though I consider myself technologically capable. I decided to start slow and simply learn a few tasks a day. If a manual was included with the watch, I would have read through it, but it wasn’t.  So I had to turn to the internet for help.

In terms of tracking fitness, the Apple watch does more than a Fitbit. A Fitbit (wrist worn Charge, Alta, Flex, etc) is essentially only a step tracker. It measures whenever you swing your arm, whether or not a step is actually taken. The Apple watch does more than track steps. It tracks the amount of time you exercise (you have to start the Exercise app on the watch), the calories you burn from movement, and how often you stand. It records this information and presents it (based on your preset goals) in colored circles in the Activity app.

Using the Activity App:  Within the Activity App, the Apple watch allows you to set your daily goals for standing, moving, and exercising. However, you can change them at any time by pushing on the watch screen when the Activity app is open. Once you reach your goals, the colored circles or rings become complete. Apple also provides you with motivational notifications from your watch throughout the day, which you can change within Settings in the Watch app on your iPhone.

apple watch review
Hit your goals for the day by completing the three colored circles. (Red: movement, Green: exercise, Blue: standing)
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This shows my activity circles for May displayed on my iPhone in the Activity app.
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This shows one day’s activity in the Activity app on my iPhone.


Using the Exercise app: When you want to exercise, the Exercise app will keep track of your workout information,  calories burned, your mileage, and the amount of time exercised.  The app is pretty basic, but it’s very accurate. It even tries to motivate you by showing you your previous goals when you start the app. When you are ready to start, simply select the activity you are doing, then choose your goal (whether it’s the amount of time you want to exercise, the amount of calories you want to burn, or the mileage you want to reach), then hit start.  (Note there is an “other” exercise available on the watch to use for activities like yoga, weight lifting, karate, etc.) After pressing start, there will be a “Ready” screen, followed by a three-second countdown before the app begins recording data. When you are done, simply press and hold your finger on the screen and there’s an option to end the exercise.


Integrating Exercise App Data into the Activity App and Apple Health App:  All of your workout data from the Exercise watch app is stored in the Activity App, on both your watch and phone. There is also an achievement page in the Activity app on the iPhone to encourage your fitness efforts.


The Apple Health app on your iPhone also integrates with the watch, keeping track of daily mileage, flights of stairs, number of steps, and calories burned. Just be sure to add your watch to the ‘devices’ screen in the Apple Health app. Here are a few screenshots:

apple watch review
Total exercise minutes for the month in the Health app on my iPhone.
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A breakdown of my activity in the iPhone Health app.
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My total steps listed for June, in the Health iPhone app.


I also enjoy getting the information on my heart rate, whether I’m exercising or not. I never used to be someone who needed a heart rate tracker, but now that I have one, I love seeing the data. During exercise, while the Exercise app is running, you can also see a readout on your heart rate. You can also get your heart rate anytime, while wearing the watch.

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One workout’s analysis, including heart rate information.


There are many other fitness apps in the App Store that can be used for fitness tracking. I tried a few free apps but I didn’t find any that I liked nor worked as well or better than Apple’s Exercise app.


The biggest complaint I’ve had with the watch as a fitness tracker is that you cannot edit your workout. There have been plenty of times I’ve forgotten to stop the Exercise app on the watch when I was done exercising. Since I couldn’t edit the session, my workout registered a ridiculous amount of time and therefore wasn’t accurate. If you don’t stop the app, your workout will go on forever. I have to be very diligent to remember to turn the Exercise app off when I’m done.

My Opinion:

Overall, I feel like I have a better sense of my health by using the Apple Watch, versus a Fitbit. Sure the Fitbit motivated me to get out and take more steps, but I don’t think it gave a thorough analysis of all activity. I think you can ‘cheat’ more with a Fitbit tracker, like getting credit for steps or stairs that you actually didn’t take. I believe the Apple watch to be more accurate, more comfortable, more useful, better looking, and more comprehensive in fitness tracking. I also love how the Apple Watch serves as an extension of my iPhone but more – it’s a time piece, a notifier, a fitness encourager and tracker, a timer, a map, a heart rate monitor, and so much more. I’m so pleased with my decision to switch from Fitbit to an Apple watch.

(Note, I purchased my iPhone watch at Target for $299.99. It’s a 38mm space grey aluminum case with a black/grey woven nylon band. Get free shipping on orders over $25 and save 5% when you use your Target Red Card.)

Any questions about the Apple watch or the apps? I’m happy to help!

Happy Travels!


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