The fitness wrist band remains very popular, despite the growing attraction of smartwatches, which can perform many of the same functions, with added convenience and notifications. The reason fitness bands aren’t going anywhere is they’re often well-priced, lighter, more compact, and more focused as a product than even the most basic smartwatch.
If you’re looking for a wrist band to help motivated you get more exercise, track your calories, or even keep a log of your sleep patterns, then you’ll probably be surprised by the amount of choice out there. We’ve collected seven of our favorite fitness tracking wearables, to help make the buying process a little easier.
Our pick for Android users
Samsung Gear Fit 2
Why you should buy this: You want a stellar fitness band with GPS, a display, storage for music, and some smartwatch features
Who’s it for: Any Android user who’s teetering on the edge between a fitness band and smartwatch
How much will it cost: $180
Why we picked the Samsung Gear Fit 2
Samsung’s Gear Fit 2 is the best fitness tracker we’ve used. Its subtle design, smartwatch-like features, and ability to stream music during your workouts make it stand out from the ever-increasing mob of cheap, crappy, ugly fitness trackers. The auto-workout tracking is awesome and it really works, so you can exercise naturally without having to press a button every time you go out for a run. It offers built-in GPS and 4GB of music storage, so you can leave your phone at home when you hit the gym.
The 1.5-inch curved AMOLED screen is absolutely stunning and you can view all your metrics on it in full color at any time. You can even view a map of your route, thanks to its built-in GPS. It’s customizable with fun watch faces and you can download a bunch of handy apps from the Gear app store, including Spotify, which allows you to stream music from the Gear Fit 2 during workouts. The Fit 2 recognizes and automatically tracks a number of activities and everything syncs with the S Health app, which gives you a super detailed view of your progress on your phone.
Although its main purpose is fitness tracking, the Gear Fit 2 can also perform many smartwatch functions, including notifications, the ability to reply to messages, and download apps. The extra smarts aren’t thrown in your face; they are subtle and helpful. This is the device for anyone who wants a fitness tracker, but is smartwatch-curious. The battery lasts about 3 days, though GPS will eat into that estimate.
For $180 it is a great deal. The Gear Fit 2 is significantly cheaper than any smartwatch you can buy, and it’s even cheaper than some Fitbits, despite having more features. If you’re looking for a smart fitness tracker with heart rate, GPS, and notifications, the Gear Fit 2 is for you. The only bad news? You have to have an Android phone; it doesn’t work with iOS.
Our pick for iPhone users
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Why you should buy this: You want a subtle fitness tracker you’ll never have to charge
Who’s it for: Any iPhone or Android user who wants a full-featured fitness tracker
How much will it cost: $220
Why we picked the Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Garmin’s Vivosmart HR+ brings GPS, a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, automatic workout tracking, and more to the table. It’s a typical looking fitness tracker with a black and white screen for reading your metrics. It’s also water-resistant for your runs in the rain.
If you’re a runner, the built-in GPS and special running features — including personal records, a virtual pacer, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, and a walk/run mode — will appeal to you. You can also see a map of your route in the app. It auto-detects your workouts, so you don’t have to start and stop them. When you turn on GPS, the battery takes a hit down to 8 hours, but the Vivosmart HR+ usually gets 5 days of battery life before it conks out.
You can sync with the Garmin Connect app to view more detailed metrics and get an overview of your progress over time. The app offers challenges in which you compete with fellow Garmin users if you need extra motivation to achieve your goals.
It is not the most stylish band in town, but you do have color and size options. The Vivosmart HR+ comes in black/shark fin gray, imperial purple/kona purple, and midnight blue/bolt blue in the regular size. If you have a larger wrist, you can opt for the extra-large size in only the black/shark fin gray color.
Best battery life on a fitness band
Why you should buy this: You want a subtle fitness tracker you’ll never have to charge
Who’s it for: Someone who wants to track their fitness on the down low
How much will it cost: $100
Why we picked the Misfit Ray
Misfit is known for its sleek and minimalist fitness trackers, but the Ray takes fitness tracker style to a whole new level. The device comes in the form of a cylinder, which marks a considerable change for a company that built its reputation on a bevy of disc-shaped trackers. It can be worn as a bracelet or a necklace and Misfit offers a wide number of bands and necklaces you can buy to take your Ray from sporty to chic. Misfit offers a lot of color options for the tubular Ray, so you can match it to your jewelry.
Ray tracks things such as sleep, steps, cycling, calories, and other fitness metrics. One of the great things about it, apart from how stylish it is, is that it’s always on. It’s fully swimproof, too, so you can take it to the pool or out for a run in the rain.
Although the Ray is a fitness tracker first, you can use the Ray to control Misfit’s smart light bulb and some other smart home devices. It works with IFTTT, RunKeeper, LoseIt!, MapMyFitness, and MyFitness Pal. It’ll also vibrate for calls, texts, and alerts. The Ray will also give you a buzz to make you get up and move after a time of inactivity.
Best of all? There’s no need to charge it — simply replace the small, circular batteries every six months.
Best $50 fitness tracker
Xiaomi Mi Band 2
Why you should buy this: You want a subtle fitness tracker for less
Who’s it for: Someone who wants a slim, affordable, fitness band with a tiny display
How much will it cost: $45+
Why we picked the Xiaomi Mi Band 2
Xiaomi’s Mi band 2 isn’t as fancy as Samsung’s Gear S2, but it’s just as functional. It has a heart rate monitor and a small OLED screen that shows you the time and your metrics at a glance. The display pops out from the silicon band just like some Fitbits do. The Mi Band 2 comes in a few colors, including black, orange, green, and blue.
It charges with a tiny Xiaomi charger, but the battery lasts a whopping 20 days or more depending on how much you use it. It’s also water-resistant, so it can get wet during a run in the rain, but not submerged for a swim.
The Mi Band 2 tracks all your typical metrics: steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep with more accuracy than a Fitbit. The app is very simple, though, and it doesn’t track specific workouts — just your general activity. You can get notifications on it though and set vibrating alarms. The raw data in the app is easy to read and you can set your goals there.
The Mi Band 2 is pretty basic at first glance, but if long battery life, a slim and light design, and simplicity are what you want, then it’s a perfect buy at less than $50.
Best $25 fitness tracker
Why you should buy this: You want a cheap fitness tracker you’ll never have to charge
Who’s it for: Budget shoppers who want a simple fitness tracker
How much will it cost: $20 – $30
Why we picked the Misfit Flash
There may be better fitness trackers out there, but not at this price. The Misfit Flash for is a decent, entry-level fitness tracker that can track steps, sleep, and even has a feature for swimming. Waterproof up to 90 feet, the Flash can track your laps in the pool in addition to your dry-land workouts.
The subtle, round, plastic tracker pairs with the Misfit App that’ll allow you to set goals for daily steps and will display your progress on the minimal LED interface. It syncs automatically, so you don’t have to worry about losing your data, either.
Just like the Ray, you can program the Flash to control light bulbs and other smart home devices. It works with IFTTT, RunKeeper, LoseIt!, MapMyFitness, and MyFitness Pal. These features give the Flash an extra boost in terms of functionality.
The Flash comes in fun bright colors, and best of all, the replaceable LED battery will last nearly six months. You can get packs of the batteries on Amazon for about $6.
Best analog watch that tracks fitness
Withings Activité Steel HR
Why you should buy this: It may look like an analog watch, but it can track your fitness like a pro
Who’s it for: An analog watch fan who wants to keep tabs on their fitness
How much will it cost: $180+ (releases end of Oct.)
Why we picked the Withings Activité Steel HR
Withings makes lovely analog watches with smarts. Its latest watch, the Activité Steel HR comes out at the end of October and looks like an analog watch with its 36mm and 40mm steel casings and sleek watch bands, but it also has smarts. On the underside, it has a heart rate sensor, so it can track your fitness metrics better. The watch face even has a tiny circular display that digitally shows the time, date, and your metrics. It’ll also show you some notifications, and you can cycle through the different screens using the buttons.
The Steel HR tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep. A little dial in the center shows you how close you are to achieving your daily goals. It’s nice to have all the data there on your wrist, but in a subtle way. When you want to do a deep dive into your data, you just sync up to the HealthMate app for iOS or Android.
The watch blends right in and you’d never guess it was super high tech when you see it. Withings also offers a number of leather and silicon straps for the watch, though you can use your own 18mm or 20mm watch straps on the 36mm and 40mm watch sizes, respectively.
It’ll last 25 days on a charge, but if you turn on active heart rate monitoring a lot, it’ll last about 5 days. That’s pretty amazing for a wearable with a heart rate monitor. When you run out of juice. you can charge it with Withings’ charger. It’s the best analog watch with smarts we’ve seen yet.
Best fitness tracker for women
Bellabeat Leaf Urban
Why you should buy this: You’re a woman who wants a stylish piece of smart jewelry for fitness tracking
Who’s it for: Stylish women who hate ugly sporty wearables
How much will it cost: $140
Why we picked the Bellabeat Leaf Urban
Bellabeat makes our absolute favorite pieces of smart jewelry that are both subtle and smart. The original Leaf and the new Leaf Urban are both great options for women who want subtle fitness trackers that look like jewelry, but do everything a Fitbit does. Both Leafs are wonderful, but we recommend the new Leaf Urban because it is waterproof, and thus more durable.
The Leaf Urban is a versatile little clip that you can wear on a chain as a necklace, as a bracelet with Bellabeat’s leather strap, or as a brooch clipped onto your clothing. Its versatility is refreshing and ideal for women because it accommodates a variety of styles and looks like a real piece of jewelry.
Instead of wood, the Urban is made out of a composite of wood and eco-friendly degradable plastic that looks like stone. The Urban is more environmentally friendly and it is water resistant. You can even shower with it on without ruining it. The pretty abstract leaf design on the front looks lovely and the included bracelet or necklace are both high quality. The metal clip comes in two finishes, including rose gold and silver.
To see your data, you have to sync the Leaf to the companion app. In the app, you can set goals for your active minutes, calories burned, distance traveled, sleep, and mindfulness meditation sessions. You can also set up silent alarms to wake you up peacefully and track your period or fertility in the app. It’s a wonderful experience, because Bellabeat gives you encouragement and tries to help you meet your goals. Read our review of the original Leaf and find out more about the Leaf Urban.
How we test
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 OSes.
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.
Should you buy one now?
Now is as good a time as any to buy a fitness band. Battery life is good, GPS is 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 could get several years out of these devices (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 a pricier one like the Gear Fit 2 or Garmin Vivosmart HR+. Those two are recommended for fitness freaks who are actually going to use them to track workouts and train for fun triathlons or 5Ks. The rest of the bands on this list are for the casual person who wants to track their fitness level and maybe lose a little weight.
Your choice will largely come 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 freaks should splash out for the $100+ bands.
Most people don’t really need a fitness band, but they can be helpful when you want to get fit or lose weight. Accountability does help — if you stick with it. Still, it’s smarter to buy a fitness band than a smartwatch right now.