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Tom’s Guide
Tom’s Guide
Jane McGuire

I walked 5,000 steps with the Apple Watch 9, Google Pixel Watch 2, Fitbit Inspire 3, and Garmin Forerunner 265 — here's the winner

A photo of the apple watch 9, google pixel watch 2, fitbit inspire 3 and garmin forerunner 265.

If you’re looking to invest in one of the best fitness trackers to reach your 2024 fitness goals, you might be wondering which one to choose. As a fitness editor, I’m lucky enough to test some of the best tech on the market, to help you work out which is best for you. 

But if you’ve been wondering which watch is most accurate, I’m here to help. I strapped four of the most popular trackers in 2023 to my wrist and manually counted my steps to see how each watch compared. I wore the Apple Watch Series 9 and Fitbit Inspire 3 on one wrist, and the Google Pixel Watch 2 and Garmin Forerunner 265 on the other. Read on to find out what happened. 

I walked 5,000 steps with the Apple Watch 9, Google Pixel 2, Fitbit Inspire 3, and Garmin Forerunner 265 — here’s what happened 

Fans of the Tom’s Guide fitness page will know this isn’t my first fitness challenge like this — I can often be found wearing two watches, and walking with my trusty $7.99 tally counter tool from Amazon. The tool is designed to remove the human error of manually counting my steps — I simply click each time I take a step, then when I get home, I download the data from all of the watches to compare. 

All of the watches on test count your steps using an internal accelerometer, which measures the swing of your arm. Each swing counts for two steps. It doesn’t matter whether you wear your watch on your dominant or non-dominant hand, or whether you’re walking with your hands in your pockets, or holding something, the accelerometer should still measure your body’s movement.

I’ll start by pointing out that each of these trackers is pretty different, and it’s unlikely you’d be deciding between all four. For example, the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Google Pixel Watch 2 made it onto our list of the best smartwatches. Which you pick largely depends on which smartphone you use — the Apple Watch won’t connect to Android phones, and the Pixel Watch 2 won’t work with your iPhone. The Apple Watch 9 costs $399 and has Apple’s new S9 Processor, allowing you to use the new double-tap gesture. The Google Pixel Watch 2 costs $349 for the Wi-Fi model and $399 for the LTE model. 

Both the Google Pixel Watch 2 and the Fitbit Inspire 3 use the Fitbit app to track your steps, calories and sleep. For both, you’ll need to pay for a Fitbit Premium membership. You get 6 months free when you register your new device, but after that, you’ll have to pay $9.99 per month, or $80 a year. That said, the Fitbit Inspire 3 is far more affordable, costing $99. It is one of the best Fitbits available and best cheap fitness trackers — you’re getting an awful lot for your money, and it has a beautiful, bright screen. Just don't expect built-in GPS at this price. 

Finally, the Garmin Forerunner 265 is one of the best running watches on the market, costing $449. It has a beautiful, bright AMOLED screen, and is packed with some of Garmin’s advanced training features. 

But which watch was most accurate? Here’s the difference in the data between all four watches: 

The first thing that stands out to me is the difference between the distance tracked between the four watches — while the Apple, Google, and Garmin devices are all similar, the Fitbit Inspire 3 was half a mile shorter, although this can probably be explained by the lack of built-in GPS. 

However, when it comes to accuracy, the Garmin Forerunner 265 and Google Pixel Watch 2 were pretty much spot on, only missing two steps on my walk. Next up was the Apple Watch Series 9, which only missed 86 steps, then the Fitbit Inspire 3, which missed 176 steps. 

Of course, no fitness tracker will be 100% accurate at counting every single step — I’m five foot two and have quite a short stride. When I’m running, I often find I have a high cadence because of this. What’s more, fitness trackers do a lot more than just tracking your steps, and counting steps alone isn’t the best metric when it comes to getting fitter and losing weight. That said, it’s a good place to start. 

10,000 steps is the equivalent of walking around 5 miles per day, which might sound like a lot, but might mean taking the stairs, not the elevator, getting off the subway a couple of stops early, or meeting a friend for a walk at lunch, not sitting in a coffee shop. There are several benefits of walking more, including losing weight, building muscle, and feeling less stressed. Here’s what 30-minutes of walking each day can do for your body

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