Smartwatch or fitness tracker?

Consumer Reports offers shopping guidance to help you choose

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Smartwatches and fitness trackers are expected to be hot high-tech gifts this year.  

Deciding which of the two types of wearable tech to choose can be a challenge. 

Consumer Reports tech editor Bree Fowler said the answer lies in thinking about what it will be used for.

"If you just want something that's going count steps, maybe track your heart rate, a fitness tracker probably covers what you need," Fowler said. "If you're going do more -- reading emails, if you want the latest sports scores, the weather -- you might want to look at a smartwatch."

Some fitness trackers may have text and call notifications as well. 

Fowler said the consumer should also think about how tech-savvy the person who will be using it is. Lots of bells and whistles won't mean much if you don't know how to use them. 

"The good thing about devices that don't do as much is they're oftentimes a lot easier to use. Fitness trackers are a good example of this. They're easy to pair. They can count steps. They can track your heart rate. They'll even track your sleep patterns. And you really don't have to do a whole lot," Fowler said.

Fitness trackers will hold a charge for days, while some smartwatches need to be charged each night. But during the day, smartwatches with cellular service let you leave your phone in your pocket or even at home.  That comes at a price, though.  Not only does the watch cost more, you're going to have to pay your carrier more for that privilege.

For a smartwatch, Consumer Reports recommends the Apple Watch Series 4, which costs about $400 and up. And for a fitness tracker, Consumer Reports likes the Fitbit Charge 3, which runs about $150.

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