How to choose between a smartwatch or an activity tracker as a holiday gift

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Whether you are racking up steps at the mall or giving your fingers a workout by shopping online, the holiday shopping season is here.

Maybe you're thinking about giving one of those smartwatches or activity trackers as a gift, but are not sure which one is best for your fitness fanatic. Consumer Reports is here with some easy shopping tips to help you make the right choice.

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE 2018: Everything you need to find the perfect gift

Wearable tech gadgets like fitness trackers and smartwatches are getting cheaper while allowing consumers to do even more right on their wrist. "It gives me text messages, alerts, things like that. It give me an alarm, too. I don't have to have my phone on me all the time. So it just makes it a little bit more convenient," said one holiday shopper.

You might be thinking about giving -- or getting -- one as a gift this holiday season. When it's time to shop, Consumer Reports says think about what you are going to use it for.

"If you just want something that's going count steps, maybe track your heart rate, a fitness tracker probably covers what you need. 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," said Bree Fowler, Consumer Reports Tech Editor.

Some trackers may have text and call notifications as well. Consumer Reports says you 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 are often times a lot easier to use. Fitness trackers are a good example of this. They are easy to pair, they can count steps, they can track your heart rate, they will even track your sleep patterns," said Fowler. "And you really don't have to do a whole lot."

When it comes to charging, fitness trackers will last 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. "Now that comes at a price. Not only does the watch cost more, you're gonna have to pay your carrier more for that privilege," said Fowler.

For a smartwatch, Consumer Reports recommends the Apple Watch Series 4. And for a fitness tracker, Consumer Reports likes the Fitbit Charge 3.

If you are shopping for a fashionista, Consumer Reports says you may want to give a smartwatch, where there are a number of stylish interchangeable bands. Fitness tracker bands made of synthetic materials have been a problem for some consumers - causing rashes or even deteriorating quickly.

Take a look at all of 7 On Your Side's stories with Consumer Reports here.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit
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