(Credit: Fitbit, Inc.)

With the continual popularity of the Apple Watch, it's become increasingly difficult for other smart watches to grow their customer base or even maintain a foothold. Pebble shut down in December 2016 after several years of being unable to move beyond Kickstarter as its source of R&D funding, and Apple sells more of its watches than the rest of the market combined.

That said, rival Fitbit is not going down without a fight, having introduced its Versa line in spring 2018, where it included an edition that can do contactless payments via NFC. Today, the company updated the Fitbit OS to version 3.0, with an emphasis on health and fitness tracking, plus a batch of new third-party apps.

SEE: Apple Watch ECG heart monitor app: How to use it

The company is also trying to shift away from a reliance on the mobile app (download for Android or iOS), perhaps in response to the capabilities of the Apple Watch's LTE edition, which can handle calls and music streaming independently of your phone.

Toward that end, Fitbit OS 3.0 now lets users track several fitness data points on the watch itself, including sleep, body weight, hydration and diet. There's even a new app called FitBark that lets you track your pet's fitness, in case Fido needs to work off a few holiday pounds for that new year's resolution. Gold's Gym also has an app custom-designed for the Fitbit, and Couch to 5K can help motivate you with jogging distance goals.

Independently of third-party apps, you can now set exercise goals within Fitbit OS. The company advertises "15+ exercises" you can set goals for, such as swimming, biking and even yoga.

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An Apple Watch with LTE starts at $500 and will cost you another $15 to $20 a month in carrier fees and taxes, so it's not exactly a value proposition. Then again, there's nothing else quite like it on the market, at least for active people who want to keep their phones elsewhere while they go rock climbing, swimming, surfing, skiing and so forth.

Of course, LTE won't help you if you're not within range of a cell tower, so spelunking is probably off the menu. But generally speaking, the Apple Watch still retains an edge because of a higher ceiling on its potential capabilities. It can also connect directly to a pair of Airpods, Apple's wireless earbuds that go for $159. Fitbit watches can use AirPods if you pair them using the button on the AirPods case, but you may not be able to control the volume.

Takeaways

  • Fitbit OS 3.0 has just arrived for its namesake smart watches that put an emphasis on health and fitness tracking. You now have more options to track your stats on the watch itself, and there's also a FitBark app to track your pet's exercise as well.
  • Fitbit watches are less expensive than an Apple Watch, but you can't use them for phone calls or music streaming, as there is no edition with an LTE radio.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.