Cheap Smartwatches Vs. Expensive Smartwatches – Accuracy, Calorie Counting, and Activity tracking

You don’t necessarily need a smartwatch to get healthy. But getting better with your performance, a smartwatch will surely be a help to monitor and track how much effort you have done. Smartwatches and Fitness trackers are stylish nowadays to fit our day-to-day lifestyle and at the same time monitor our steps, heart rate, sleep, and our physical activities like running, walking, cycling and many more.  Smartwatches range from $30 up to $3000 dollars. And now you might be wondering, what is the difference between the affordable smartwatches or fitness trackers compared to the expensive ones. Here are some points.

Design and Materials

Materials used on cheap smartwatches usually are made of plastic and the display is made out of plastic and you may be able to navigate it through touch, but only at the bottom part. Although not all cheap smartwatches have a plastic screen, these days some $30 – $40 smartwatches are already made up of aluminum case and glass displays and some of them copied the design of the expensive smartwatch. The most expensive smartwatches that are copied are the Galaxy active smartwatch, apple watch, and Fitbit fitness tracker. Some midrange smartwatches that cost around $200 are also made of plastic but better-quality plastic and offer scratch resistance and water resistance build. While the high-end smartwatches are made of metal cases and strong display glass material like gorilla glass and sapphire glass material. This means it’s more durable against everyday use.

Software and Apps

What runs your smartwatch is run by software and it can be managed by an app. Some software on your watch is not friendly. Sometimes you have to scroll to the end to get back to the first option you want to select. The interface and graphics also may matter to you, how the icons look and animations if you like that.  Some software is buggy and crashes from time to time or on cheap smartwatches, it Is hard to connect to the app. Some cheap smartwatches sync time on your phone after pairing it with the app. In short, it can’t stand alone. Compatibility also matters like some smartwatches are not compatible with apple or android phones since there are no app is developed for one of the platforms.


Now, this is the biggest part that matters. When tracking your performance, you need to have the right numbers because it is all about math and calculations inside your watch.  Your smartwatch tracks steps and movements. All smartwatches track your steps with the swing of your arms. That is why it doesn’t track steps if you are carrying something with your hands and keeping it still.  So, the question is, which is more accurate? The cheap smartwatches or the expensive ones?

I tested 5 smartwatches that range from $30 $60  $200 and $700 and I wore them all in one hand. So, it will detect the same swing of the arm. I counted manually the steps to 500 and see which of the smartwatches gets the most accurate or at least closer to the actual manual count.

At the end of the test when I finally got to the 500 steps, and we have the results.

$500 – 533 steps

$200 – 539 steps

$40 – 548 steps

$30 – 522

I know you are surprised that the cheap smartwatch got the closest result to the manual counting.

So does this mean the cheap smartwatches are more accurate than the expensive ones?

Like I said that the steps are counted based on the arm swing, if you don’t swing your arms while walking it does not count your steps. But since we place them on one arm, they should be more like to detect the same equal amount of movement of my arm. We can say that the cheap smartwatch is more accurate in detecting steps, perhaps the expensive ones are more sensitive in detecting arm swings.

But when it comes to calorie counting, if that’s what your purpose getting a fitness tracker. Calorie counting requires the number of steps and the distance you were able to create and your heart rate. I will not complicate you with the math, but like math, your digits should be correct to get the correct answer.  Cheap smartwatches, measures distance by the number of steps, assuming a preset stride length. Your stride length is the measurement of your steps from one foot to the other. Multiply that with the number of steps, that will be your distance. But then, each person differs stride length and also, all in a day, you don’t do the same length of steps every time. So, what expensive smartwatches can do is, you can manually set your stride length. At the same time, expensive smartwatches have GPS, which can give you a more precise distance based on your location. This way, when you have the exact number of distances and the number of distances, it calculates your stride length. But I guess that wouldn’t be necessary because GPS already can provide you a more accurate distance number.  Most smartwatches nowadays can monitor heart rate so this wouldn’t be a problem. So, this is what separates the cheap and expensive ones. 

cheap smartwatches vs expensive smartwatches accuracy test

More on that, the expensive smartwatches have more features, but it will be subjective if you like having them or these features are useful to you. Some features include compass, barometer, altimeter, SP02 monitor, sleep tracking, widgets, alarm, notifications. so on and so forth.

So would you get the expensive ones or the cheap smartwatches?

If you just want to reach some daily step goals and not really particular in calorie counting. The cheap smartwatches can easily and accurately do their job. Some other features are just a bonus. Most fitness trackers are good at monitoring your heart rate so it wouldn’t be an issue.

If you are into serious fitness tracking and want more data like cadence, VO2 Max, aerobic and anaerobic assessment, then you will have to spend more on it. 

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