Apple Watch vs. Steel HR: Fitness Watch Review

Confession: I’m obsessed with something I spent years refusing to get. Ha. Anyone else ever been there?

I refused to get an Apple Watch for a long time. Because I thought it was ugly. Because I already felt too connected to my phone and didn’t need all that tech also on my wrist. So instead I got a Steel HR, which was beautiful and wonderful and gave me many of the features I wanted in a fitness watch at a fraction of the cost. 

So today I’m sharing with you my review of both products: the pros and cons of each and my recommendations on which one you should buy depending on your goals for the watch.  


It’s straight-up beautiful | Truly, I can’t tell you how often I get stopped when I wear this. And that’s just when they think it’s a normal watch. When I show them it’s an activity tracker they flip. It’s undeniably attractive. And it transitions really well from a sweaty workout to a cute outfit. 

The sleep tracking is crazy accurate | I swear it knows exactly when I fall asleep, even if I’m sitting in bed for 30 minutes reading before actually dozing off. And it really seems to know how well I sleep – light vs. deep. If you’re wanting to track your sleep, both duration and quality, this watch is very good at it. 

You can set a sleep-sensitive alarm | This is awesome. You can choose a window in which you want to wake up, and it will actually vibrate to wake you up in that time window in which you’re in the lightest sleep. For me, it’s 4:30 – 4:50. (Yes, I know, I’m a freak. If you want to know how I actually wake up this early, I spilled all my secrets in this blog post.) This means if I’m still in a super deep sleep at 4:30, it will wait until I start to naturally come out of it and wake me then. But if I’m still in deep sleep for that whole 20-minute window, it’ll just go off at 4:50. I swear this is magical. There’s nothing worse than being woken up when you’re deeeep in a REM cycle, and it’s so much easier to wake when you’re already stirring. I absolutely love this feature.

It has a killer battery life | I really only charge it about once a week, but I’ve even stretched it up to 13 days. (They market up to 25 days, but I’m sure that’s without using the workout mode. It’s never lasted me that long because I use the workout mode most days and of course that takes more battery.) It’s really convenient not having to pack a charger for a trip or even just not having to think about taking it off and charging it every day.   

It’s affordable | I get that $199 is still an investment, but I think it’s really a great bang for your buck, especially in comparison to all the other fitness trackers on the market (and the $400+ for the Apple Watch).


The step counts aren’t terribly accurate | I really wish they were, but they’re just not. Which I guess isn’t a huge issue if you use relativity measures. I found it quite hard to get 10,000 steps in a day, even on the days when I went on a walk and felt like I moved a good amount. (On my Apple Watch, there are rarely days I don’t get 10,000 steps.) So I just set my goal at 7,000 steps instead of 10,000. Which again, relativity. If the goal is to get you to walk more, it will do that, it just won’t accurately tell you exactly how many steps you’ve taken.  

You can only set a step goal | This is ultimately what led me to try out the Apple Watch. Because it only allows step goals, I found it warping my idea of what qualifies as good, fruitful, purposeful exercise. I’d get frustrated when I’d go to a really hard yoga class because it only got me a few hundred steps towards my big goal of the day. So I’d instead skip the yoga class and go for a run or get on the treadmill, even if that’s not what was best for my body. 

(I actually talked about this in my Why I Stopped Wearing My Fitbit post. I had the same problem then.)


It’s accurate | I mean, let’s be real, no tiny little device strapped to your wrist is going to know your steps, calorie burn, + heart rate exactly to perfection. But this one really is quite accurate. 

It nudges small mindful moments throughout the day | I love that it reminds me to stand if I’ve been sucked into the computer (or Netflix on the couch) for too long. I love that it reminds me to breathe when I’m overwhelmed and I can use the app to do a simple minute or two of deep breathing. 

It’s amazing for running | The GPS embedded in the watch allows me to run without my phone. The Nike+ Run Club app allows me to download amazing audio-guided runs directly onto the watch. And the music on my watch with my AirPods means nothing but a bud in my ear and a watch on my wrist. Long gone are the days I need an armband to hold my big phone. It’s amazing. It’s honestly gotten me back into running because it’s just so motivating and enjoyable. 

You can download lots of additional apps | I love that I can sync my Streaks app to remind me of the daily habits I’m trying to stick to. I also use an app to remind me to take my medication on time every day and it’s just so nice to have that gentle little buzz on my wrist. 

It has 3 different rings to close | So we all know I strongly believe in not counting calories and I definitely don’t need a watch to tell me exactly how many I burn in a day. But I really love the move goal. I think of them as points instead of calories. Just like I mentioned the downfall to the Steel HR being only counting steps, the multiple goals (move, exercise, and stand) on the Apple Watch really helps me aim for quality of movement. Now, that killer yoga class that only earned me a few hundred steps actually earns me 450 “points” toward my move goal. And I love that so so much. 


It’s ugly | Ok, maybe not ugly. But it definitely doesn’t fit my aesthetic. And it’s sure as heck not nearly as attractive as the Steel HR. This is no doubt the number one reason I stayed away from it for so long. I just think if I’m going to wear something on my wrist 24/7, all the time, with all different outfits, I should like the way it looks. And I can’t say I love the way this one looks. 

(To make it a little less unattractive, I’ve found a few replacement bands I like: this one is essentially the same as the one that comes with the watch, but skinnier, so I find it just a little more flattering on my small wrists. I also love this leather one and this lighter leather one for a more dressed up look.)

It’s got a bad battery life | You’ve definitely got to charge this sucker every day. And it takes a lot longer to charge than I expected. Which is definitely not convenient. 

It’s expensive | Holy smokes, so expensive. Especially if you’re going for the brand new ones. I trialed out the pretty rose gold Series 4, and of course now they make the new Series 5, but I just couldn’t justify spending that much on a watch, so I went with the Series 3 to lessen the burden. 

It’s fragile | The beauty and clarity of the glass screen are also what makes it so easily breakable. In fact, literally 20 hours into owning an Apple Watch, I took it on a run and went to adjust it on my wrist (seriously, just push it up on my wrist a little) and it popped off and hit the ground and totally shattered. Fortunately, I had it covered so I got to exchange it, but I’m forever terrified anytime I accidentally smack my watch on something. 

So here’s my quick rundown:

If you want a gorgeous watch on your wrist to help track your sleep and encourage more movement throughout the day, go with the Steel HR. 

If you want a full-fledged activity tracker with all the bells and whistles, and if you want more integration into the rest of your tech, and if you really want a running tool, go with the Apple Watch. 


So there you go, welcome into my mind of purchasing decisions. I hope this helps y’all find the watch that’s right for you. If you already love one, if you purchase one, let me know your thoughts! 

Cheers to the technology, big and small, that helps us live our brightest lives. xx, molls



Hey sister!

I'm Mollie Mason.

I'm a holistic nutritionist and wellness coach, and I help women just like you show up for their brightest lives.
If you've ever felt at war with your body...
If you want to feel light, free, empowered...
If you're ready to stop hiding and break down barriers to abundant living... you've found the right place! 

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