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 help motivate you to be more active, 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 eight of the best fitness trackers and sports watches to help make the buying process a little easier.
Why you should buy this: It has great battery life, automatic workout tracking, and can store up to 300 songs.
Who’s it for: Dedicated athletes looking for all-day fitness tracking and some smartwatch features
How much will it cost: $299
Why we picked the Fitbit Ionic
Fitbit continues to innovate with its latest fitness tracker, the Ionic. This device takes a giant step towards becoming a full-fledged smartwatch, offering compatibility with a growing number of apps, customizable clock faces, and even the ability to pay for your post-workout smoothie. But, it never loses focus on its core functionality, which is to help track your workouts and lead a healthier lifestyle.
The Ionic has the ability to automatically detect when you’ve started exercising and offers precise measurements of those activities. It comes with built-in GPS tracking, sleep and heart rate monitoring, and is waterproof down to 50 meters. It also offers tips for improving your workout through Fitbit’s personal coach feature and can even store up to 300 songs for playback through Bluetooth wireless headphones.
Serving as a bridge device between basic fitness trackers and more full-featured smartwatches, the Ionic lands somewhere in-between. It lacks the ability to respond directly to text messages and emails for instance, although it does offer support for apps like Strava and Pandora. Users can receive notifications for sports scores, weather, and calendar updates right on their wrists and Fitbit also included an onboard NFC chip that allows the Ionic to make contactless purchases, too.
Perhaps the best feature of the Ionic is its long battery life. While other smartwatches struggle in this area, Fitbit nailed it with this wearable. The Ionic is capable of an astounding 10 hours of GPS tracking and can go up to four days without a recharge under normal use. That puts it head and shoulders above most of the competition, making it a great choice for very active people.
The best choice for Android users
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 of a fitness band and smartwatch
How much will it cost: $130
Why we picked the Samsung Gear Fit 2
Despite the release of Samsung’s Gear Fit2 Pro, the original Fit 2 remains one of the best fitness trackers 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 great 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, allowing you to leave your phone at home when you hit the gym.
The 1.5-inch curved AMOLED screen is absolutely stunning and lets anyone view their 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 offers downloads of a bunch of handy apps from the Gear app store, including Spotify, which streams music from the Gear Fit 2 during workouts. The Fit 2 recognizes and automatically tracks a number of activities, as well and everything syncs with the S Health app, which offers a detailed view of your progress on a smartphone.
Although its main purpose is fitness tracking, the Gear Fit 2 also performs many smartwatch functions, including notifications, the ability to reply to messages, and download apps. The extra smarts aren’t thrown in your face, either; they’re 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 certainly eats into that estimate.
Now priced at $130, it’s a great deal for Android users looking for a full-featured fitness tracker. The Gear Fit 2 is significantly cheaper than any smartwatch you can buy, and it’s even cheaper than many Fitbit devices, 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 best choice for iPhone users
Why you should buy this: You want the absolute best fitness tracker and smartwatch for use with iOS.
Who’s it for: Any iPhone user who is looking for a full-featured smartwatch that also tracks fitness activity too.
How much will it cost: $329-$429
Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 3
For iOS users who have the money to spend, there is no question the Apple Watch Series 3 is the best full-featured fitness tracker available. Like the iPhone itself, Apple’s wearable has a tremendous amount 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 3 over previous generation Apple Watches is the option to have built-in cellular networking. This completely eliminates the need to carry a phone with you during your workouts, allowing wearers to make and receive calls, respond to text messages, and even stream music. This feature adds $100 to the Apple Watch’s already substantial price tag but brings a level of freedom no other smartwatch offers at the moment.
We all know the Apple Watch offers 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.
Of course, all of this comes at a price. The Apple Watch Series 3 starts at $329 and goes up from there depending on size, the style of band, and the inclusion of LTE networking. 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.
The best choice for non-swimmers
Why you should buy this: It’s versatile and attractive, with an incredible mobile app and top-shelf motion detection
Who’s it for: Anyone and everyone, except swimmers
How much will it cost: $160
Why we picked the Fitbit Blaze
Aesthetics are important when it comes to wearable tech. So is battery life, and waterproofing, and a number of other factors. The most important thing, though — in our view, anyway — is convenience. Nobody wants to spend half their allotted workout time fiddling with their tracker’s settings or slogging through a cumbersome mobile app, and Fitbit has taken this into consideration.
As a result, the Blaze (and its companion app) works like a charm, offering accurate tracking of everything from hours slept to steps taken. The watch itself — a handsome square touchscreen designed to slot into bands of several materials and colors — displays a quick overview of your fitness statistics for the day and allows you to select different types of workouts to track. The companion app offers a wealth of useful information; the Blaze tracks your heart rate while resting and while exercising, and counts calories for you. Setting daily goals is extremely easy, and the app is a breeze to navigate. If you’d like to enter your food and water intake, you can do that too, to more accurately manage nutrition.
The Blaze can control your smartphone’s music, too, as long as you’ve got your phone on you, and you can quickly view text messages or phone calls directly from your wrist. The Blaze is lightweight and comfortable (as long as you wash the band regularly), and its battery lasts a few days with regular use. One drawback: It’s water resistant, not waterproof, so don’t take it in the pool. If you’re short on cash, the Fitbit Blaze may not be for you, but otherwise it’s tough to beat.
The best choice for dedicated runners
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 at a great price
How much will it cost: $130-180
Why we picked the Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Despite adding several new fitness trackers to its expanding line-up, Garmin’s Vivosmart HR+ remains an attractive option for athletes. It 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 metrics and is also water-resistant, making it fine for running in the rain but not so great in the pool.
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 certainly appeal to you. The wearable offers maps of running routes via the Garmin Connect app and also auto-detects 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 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.
It is not the most stylish band in town but Garmin does offer a few 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.
The best low-maintenance fitness band
Why you should buy this: The battery lasts forever and motion tracking is crazy accurate
Who’s it for: Anyone looking for a covert, versatile, affordable tracker
How much will it cost: $35-60
Why we picked the Moov Now
Who needs a touchscreen? Hell, who needs a screen, period? The Moov Now eschews onboard functionality in favor of excellent battery life, comfort, and understated beauty — and it works. The Moov is so light you won’t even notice its presence on your wrist but rest assured, it’s there and it’s collecting tons of data for your benefit.
The mobile app is absolutely loaded with different types of workouts, including training programs that’ll put you through several exercises in order. For many trackers, this type of programming is a reach but it works with the Moov largely because of its accurate tracking. For example, when you select a boxing workout, it’s able to differentiate between a jab and a cross or a hook and an uppercut. If you keep your phone on you during a workout or run (and if you’re using earphones), a helpful voice lets you know whether you’re properly carrying out the assigned regimen. The voice gives you helpful tips to correct your form, or it’ll play a sound when you get it right. Soon, this sound results in a Pavlovian release of endorphins.
The webby design is fun to use but not too flashy, and the included array of sensors is fairly standard for a low-price wearable (there’s no heart rate monitor, for example). If you truly want a workout companion, though, the Moov is nearly unbeatable; its feedback is timely and effective, its battery lasts for months, and the app is packed with different types of exercises to choose from. At $60 — even cheaper at some discount retailers — it’s a home run.
The best budget 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: $10
Why we picked the Misfit Flash
There may be better fitness trackers out there, but not at this price. The Misfit Flash is a decent, entry-level fitness tracker that tracks steps, sleep patterns, and even has a feature for swimming. Waterproof up to 90 feet, the Flash tracks 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 displays 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 lasts nearly six months. You can get packs of the batteries on Amazon for about $6.
Test fitness tracker for women
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’s 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’s waterproof and thus, more durable.
The Leaf Urban is a versatile little clip that you 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 of a composite of wood and eco-friendly degradable plastic that looks like stone. The Urban is more environmentally friendly and is also water resistant — you can even shower with it on without ruining it. The abstract leaf design on the front is aesthetically pleasing while the included bracelet or necklace are both of 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 its companion app. In the app, you can set goals for 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. We found the experience to be a delight, due mainly to the fact Bellabeat gave us encouragement and tried to help us meet our 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 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.
Should you buy one now?
Now is as good a time as any to buy a fitness band. Battery life is improving, GPS 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 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 Fitbit Blaze, Gear Fit 2, or Garmin Vivosmart HR+. Those three 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. Additionally, fitness bands are incredibly helpful when you want to get fit or lose weight, however, accountability does help — if you stick with it.