The line between fitness trackers and smartwatches continues to blur, as more companies introduce full-featured wearables dedicated to both health and communications. That said, dedicated fitness bands aren’t going anywhere, because they’re often well-priced, lighter, more compact, and more focused.
If you’re looking for a wearable to motivate you to be more active, track your calories, or even log your sleep patterns, then you’ll be surprised by the amount of choice available. We’ve collected eight of the best fitness trackers and sports watches to help make the buying process a little easier.
|Fitbit Versa||Best fitness tracker overall||4 out of 5|
|Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro||Best for Android users||4 out of 5|
|Apple Watch Series 4||Best for iPhone owners||5 out of 5|
|Fitbit Flex 2||Best for swimmers||3.5 out of 5|
|Garmin Vivosport||Best for dedicated runners||4.5 out of 5|
|Fitbit Flex 2||Best budget fitness tracker||3.5 out of 5|
Why you should buy this: You want a superior fitness tracker capable of keeping up with your active lifestyle while remaining comfortable and stylish. Reliable smartwatch features are an added plus.
Who it’s for: Dedicated athletes looking for all-day fitness tracking and a solid selection of smartwatch features.
How much it will cost: $199 ($229 for the Special Edition with Fitbit Pay support)
Why we picked the Fitbit Versa:
There’s a reason the Fitbit name is synonymous with fitness trackers and its latest release, the Versa, appears poised to make it the king of its peers yet again. An upgrade in every sense of the term over last year’s Ionic, the Versa is a stylish and comfortable fitness tracker that doubles as a reliable smartwatch. On first glance, its aesthetic calls to mind the Apple Watch, but after spending some genuine time with the wearable, we found it to be much more than a simple lookalike.
Featuring a 1.34-inch LCD screen, the Versa looks rightfully at home on either a female or male wrist, which most fitness trackers fail to accomplish. With a case size capable of making it look slim at all angles, it’s also the lightest metal smartwatch in the United States, so no matter what activity you prefer — swimming, biking, running, etc. — it won’t ever feel bulky or cumbersome. Additionally, the fact you can adorn it in a number of different watch straps makes it as much at home in the gym, the office, or out on the town.
Like any Fitbit (or fitness tracker, for that matter), the Versa actively amasses daily activity data such as the number of steps taken, calories burned, and stairs climbed, while also actively monitoring heart rate — among many others. Since it released the Blaze, Fitbit not only excelled at offering solid performance metrics but it’s also provided a clean, easy-to-read way to digest that information. For the Versa, the brand unveiled Fitbit OS 2.0, an upgrade of its proprietary operating system which debuted alongside the Ionic. Aside from a smoother user experience, the new OS also comes standard with SmartTrack which automatically recognizes (and logs) any activity after 15 minutes.
Though it does need a little work in terms of third-party apps, the Versa’s most exciting feature is its female health tracking capabilities. With the wearable, women can track their periods and ovulation, while even being able to log patterns in their cycle. It allows them to input any symptoms they’re feeling while also predicting upcoming cycles. The entirety of the collected data is stored in the companion Fitbit app, which also offers educational information about fertility, ovulation, and common misunderstandings via the Fitbit blog.
In addition to its impressive fitness-tracking capabilities, the Versa is also a suitable smartwatch, offering wearers gentle text and app notifications right on their wrist. Though iPhone users can’t respond back to texts, it is a feature available for those who use Android. All told, the Versa is the most impressive fitness tracker available and the fact it doubles as a powerful smartwatch makes it that much better.
Why you should buy this: You want a stellar fitness band with GPS, a display, storage for music, and some smartwatch capability.
Who it’s for: Any Android user who’s teetering on choosing between a fitness band or a smartwatch.
How much it will cost: $200
Why we picked the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro:
Like the Fit 2 before it, Samsung’s Gear Fit2 Pro is a sleek and lightweight fitness tracker that stands as one of the best we’ve ever reviewed. Featuring a healthy dose of smartwatch capability, the option to store and stream music, built-in GPS, and water resistance, it’s a refreshing, cost-effective wearable. It does still feature the same, somewhat bulky design as its predecessor but that’s a minor nitpick on an otherwise powerhouse of a fitness tracker.
Featuring a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED screen with 320 x 320 resolution, wearers are treated to a stunning, crystal clear display. This is especially useful when scrolling through the wearable’s daily metrics of steps counted, calories burned, flights of stairs climbed, and the host of typical fitness data. It even offers up a Google Maps-type map after logging a run or bike ride via its built-in GPS, displaying the exact route taken. When listening to music either stored directly on the watch or via Spotify, the interface is easy to navigate, even while on the move. In addition to its subtle nudging feature, the Gear Fit2 Pro also offers accurate auto-tracking of a wide range of activities.
Fitness-tracking aside, Samsung’s inclusion of smartwatch functionality adds a welcome touch of versatility. Capable of sending notifications for Facebook and Twitter, phone calls, text messages, and phone calls, it even allows for quick response actions to be programmed directly on the wearable itself — though this is only compatible for calls and texts. Despite the fact it does offer some iOS support, only Android users have the option of sending responses.
Priced at $200, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is not only the best fitness wearable for Android users, it’s one of the best fitness wearables on the market in general. Its minimal design and comfortable fit perfectly compliment the suite of fitness tracking and smartwatch features, allowing it to easily stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: You want the absolute best fitness tracker and smartwatch for use with iOS.
Who it’s for: Any iPhone user who is looking for a full-featured smartwatch that also tracks fitness activity too.
How much it will cost: $399 to $799
Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 4
For iOS users who have the money to spend, there is no question the Apple Watch Series 4 is the best full-featured fitness tracker available. Like the iPhone itself, Apple’s wearable has a good deal of support from third-party developers, with every major fitness app offering compatibility. The Watch also found a way to deftly mix features and fashion into a single wearable device, offering all-day battery life and a host of features that are tough to find on any competing device.
The chief upgrade for the Series 4 over the previous-generation Apple Watches is the electrocardiogram (ECG) app, which has been certified by the Food & Drug Administration, making the Apple Watch Series 4 the first over-the-counter ECG alternative for consumers. The latest Apple Watch also offers a larger screen and two-times better performance over the Series 3.
We all know the Apple Watch delivers plenty of functionality, but its more fitness-oriented features include GPS tracking, an altimeter that records changes in altitude, and onboard heart rate monitoring. It’s also waterproof down to 50 meters, offers support for a broad number of workout types, and even reminds you to stand after periods of inactivity. Throw in Bluetooth connectivity with wireless headphones and greatly improved Siri support, and you have a smartwatch that’s head-and-shoulders above just about anything else on the market.
All of this comes at a price. The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at $399 and goes up from there depending on size, the style of the band, and the inclusion of cellular connectivity. For those who already live in Apple’s ecosystem, this is just another extension of that platform, offering versatility and convenience in a stylish package.
Why you should buy this: It’s affordable, offers basic tracking, and slips into a wide variety of fashionable and practical bands.
Who it’s for: Anyone and everyone, especially those who enjoy swimming.
How much it will cost: $60
Why we picked the Fitbit Flex 2
Though it has been around for a while, the Fitbit Flex 2 remains a cornerstone in Fitbit’s tracker lineup. The Flex 2 is the successor to the company’s incredibly popular Flex which took the fitness wearables market by storm in 2013. Similar to its predecessor, the Flex 2 is a small cylindrical tracker that fits into a variety of third-party bands. If there is a look that you want, someone somewhere is selling a band that’ll match it.
The Flex 2 was the first Fitbit you can wear in the shower and swimming, and still the best for watersports enthusiasts. It is waterproof down to 50 meters and is safe for pool, lake, and even ocean swimming. The tracker has a built-in swim function that will detect your swimming automatically and keep track of your laps. You’ll just have to enable the swim feature in the settings before you make a splash.
Why you should buy this: The Vivosport offers full-fledged fitness tracking and running-specific metrics in a small package.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a full-featured GPS smartwatch tucked into a fitness band.
How much it will cost: $170
Why we picked the Garmin Vivosport:
Garmin’s Vivosport is an attractive option for athletes who prefer a lightweight band over a larger smartwatch. It brings GPS, a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, automatic workout tracking, and more to the table. It has a color screen for reading metrics and is also water resistant to 5 ATMs making it perfect for running in the rain and swimming in the pool.
Runners will appreciate the built-in GPS and special running features — including personal records, a virtual pacer, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, and a walk/run mode. You can sync with the Garmin Connect app to view more detailed metrics and see an overview of your progress over time. The app also offers challenges in which you compete with fellow Garmin users if you need extra motivation to achieve your goals.
The Vivosport tracker is integrated into the band, so you can’t swap out bands like you can with the Fitbit Flex 2. Garmin does offer a few color and size options for the Vivosport including Fuchsia Focus in a small/medium band, Limelight in a large band and Slate in both small/medium and large.
Why you should buy this: The Fitbit Flex 2 is low-priced fitness tracker that’s high on features.
Who it’s for: Budget shoppers who want a simple fitness tracker.
How much it will cost: $60
Why we picked the Fitbit Flex 2:
We’ve already had the Flex 2 in a category above, but you really can’t go wrong with it if you’re just looking for a budget tracker. It’s a no-nonsense tracker that helps you improve your fitness while looking great on your wrist. The tracker is so compact and lightweight that you hardly feel it on your wrist.
The tracker has a minimal design with a five-light array instead of an LCD. The lights are your conduit with the tracker, relaying your progress during an activity, displaying the battery status and alerting you when it is time to get up and walk. Using the companion mobile app, these LEDs can be customized for different types of notifications. There’s a long list of supported alerts which include incoming calls and text messages, silent alarms and more.
The Flex 2 syncs with the Fitbit app which is the power behind the company’s trackers. The Fitbit app is known for its user-friendly interface and depth of metrics that provide insights into your health and well-being. You can combine the step and sleep data synced from the tracker with food and nutrition information that is entered manually or pulled from a third-party app like MyFitnessPal. With a price tag well under $100, there is little reason not to recommend a Flex 2 for someone looking to track their fitness with minimal investment.
We test fitness bands just like we test smartwatches. That means using them every day and testing out all the marquee features. We strap them to our wrists (no matter how silly they look) and walk around town with them, take them to bed with us, and hit the gym to test out the workout features. It’s also key to pair them with different phones and test the experience when the band is connected to phones different operating systems.
If a fitness band is water-resistant, we dunk it in water, and if it has GPS, we go on a hike. A fitness band’s companion app is also very important because it can mean the difference between getting fit or throwing your new band in the garbage.
Now is as good a time as any to buy a fitness band. Battery life is improving, built-in GPS tracking is far more common, and heart rate monitors are making their way onto more devices to ensure accurate measurements. The tech isn’t likely to advance too dramatically, for now, so you’d likely get several years out of the options listed — if you stick with them.
The biggest detraction to buying a fitness band is that you may not use it enough to justify spending the money on pricier options like the Fitbit Versa, Apple Watch, or Garmin Vivosport. Those are recommended for fitness buffs who are actually going to use them to track workouts and train for races like triathlons or 5Ks. The rest of the bands on the list are suited better for a more casual crowd looking to track their fitness levels and maybe lose a little weight.
Your choice largely comes down to style, function, and price. Basic trackers aren’t worth paying more than $50 for unless you want a piece of smart jewelry. Only fitness fanatics should splurge on the bands with price tags over $100. Additionally, fitness wearables are incredibly helpful when you want to get fit or lose weight, however, accountability always helps.