Exercise has always been an essential part of anyone’s routine to lead a healthier life. Working out, running, going to the gym, and so on all have their beneficial effects on the body and are we are all highly encouraged to be physically engaged on a weekly basis. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep track of when to exercise, or how long you’ve exercised, finding the motivation to exercise, and what have you.
This is where a fitness tracker watch can really come in handy. Fitness trackers look like fashionable watches but functions to aid as your very own personal fitness assistant. Depending on your budget and which features you opt for, most fitness trackers utilize various sensors to track your daily activities.
Fitness trackers are essential for anyone looking to exercise more often. Most of these trackers are linked to their own mobile app, which allows you to see your fitness progress and your goals. Utilizing a fitness tracker is a great way to give a boost to your motivation and encourage you to aspire towards your goals.
If you are asking yourself “what is a fitness tracker?”, be sure to learn more by reading my article here.
How To Choose The Right Fitness Tracker
Set Your Spending Limit
In general, most fitness trackers you see on the market will cost you anywhere $50 to $250. You have to be sure to keep in mind how much money you are willing to spend on your fitness tracker. While most fitness tracker watches of all prices are excellent, just keep in mind that if you pay less, you will probably get a subpar product with poorer accuracy and data readings.
Just know that there is a reason for a higher price tag which may include better sensors, more features such as being waterproof, better data collection, reliability, and much more! In addition, less expensive trackers usually don’t have a display, so you can’t see how many steps you’ve taken unless you look at your smartphone. The products I review all have a display, so most will cost you about $100 or more.
Be sure to look at the features of the particular fitness tracker you are interested in and see if it suits your lifestyle. More expensive trackers usually include built-in optical heart rate monitors and GPS, which you can opt out of and purchase a simpler version of the fitness tracker of your choice. Don’t get suckered into buying a tracker with features that you don’t need or will not use; it’s an unnecessary expense.
Which features fit your lifestyle?
Everyone lives a different kind of lifestyle and we all engage in physical activity at our own pace. Some of the key features in fitness trackers are great but are not essential if it does not benefit us. For example, there are a lot of fitness trackers out there that are waterproof and geared towards swimmers. However, if you hardly swim, why would you pay extra for something that you will never use!
Swimmers will want a waterproof tracker, but keep in mind that not all water-safe trackers actually track swimming. Runners will probably want a watch that shows time, distance, pace, and lap time, at the very least. If you want good accuracy for those metrics without having to carry a smartphone, you need a runner’s watch with built-in GPS.
Cyclists have even more considerations. There’s a difference between tracking how many miles you pedal and calories you burn versus monitoring your power and cadence. If all you want is the former, you can find a few fitness trackers that support bicycling as an activity. More serious cyclists will want a device that can pair with additional bike equipment, like a cadence sensor, and should look at devices from sport-specific companies.
One of the most prominent features in fitness tracker watches these days is the ability to monitor your heart rate. It’s become rather widespread for fitness trackers to have this feature. Yet some manufacturers will give you the option to opt for another version that will fit your budget better. built-in heart rate monitor drives up the price and some people might not need it at all. It’s a great feature to have though!
Another popular feature these days is the ability to track your sleep. Many fitness trackers record your sleep. When they do, they generally watch for movement using a three-axis accelerometer to a more sensitive degree than they do during the day. Some devices report graphs showing the times when you were in light sleep and deep sleep based on motion.
Also, consider the display. A lot of fitness tracker watches have screens that turn off after a few seconds. If you want to see your stats at all times, or simply use your tracker as a wristwatch, look for one with an always-on display. How you control the tracker is also important. If you like to run in the cold while wearing gloves, you may want to steer clear of devices that only have touch-enabled displays.
Choose Your Style: Bracelet, Clip, Watch
A very important factor to take into consideration for yourself before choosing a fitness tracker is how it will compliment your unique style. Fitness trackers come in all shapes and sizes such as bracelets, watches, or clip-on. Most clip-on devices also have the capability to be worn as a bracelet as well.
Bracelets and watches are hard to lose. Clip-on can fall off or accidentally get thrown into the wash. On the other hand, bracelets and watches are bulkier and can get in your way when you have to type, do dishes, or attend to your daily errands. Clip-on is smaller and will not impede your movements in any way.
Additionally, wrist-worn devices are not always eye-catching accessories to your outfit. Clip-on devices are smaller and more discreet when worn on a waistband, shirt, or other hard-to-see areas. These clip-on don’t have a display, meaning you have to rely on a smartphone to see your tracked activity. The products I will be reviewing are all bracelets or watches, so be sure to do some research if you are interested in clip-on fitness trackers.
Best Fitness Tracker Watches Of 2019
Apple Watch Series 3
At this time, the Apple Watch Series 3 is one of the best of line smartwatches you can purchase at this time. This baby literally can do anything and is geared to be your ultimate personal assistant.
The big feature Apple is introducing is the idea of freedom! You can make phone calls, ask Siri to send a text or email, stream your favorite songs, and more! You are able to do it all while leaving your phone behind.
Let’s start with the Good things about the Apple Watch Series 3. Cellular connection works well for phone calls, email, Siri, and messages. Music now syncs more easily.
Apple also added watch faces, a barometer to GPS and, and made it waterproof. There have also been many improvements in fitness tracking.
Accurate built-in GPS and an equally accurate heart rate sensor, this is one very reliable piece of equipment. Apple’s watchOS 4 upgrade put more fitness-tracking features on all of its smartwatches, such as alerts when your heart rate is elevated and support for high-intensity, interval-training workouts.
Now for some of The Bad aspects of this fitness tracker watch. The battery lie is terrible. Battery life takes a major hit when making calls or during GPS workouts. Since this is still relatively new technology, the batteries will need a significant upgrade before it can handle these energy-using features. The Apple Watch Series 3 is not only expensive, but it also incurs a monthly wireless service and Apple Music fees. Still requires an iPhone to set up and pair with.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is the best overall smartwatch you can buy and has the best features, sensors, and what have you. However, the battery limitations and add-on fees keep it from being a must-have upgrade if you already have an excellent fitness tracker or you are just looking to dip your toes into the fitness tracker world.
The Fitbit Ionic has been receiving a lot of attention lately and for good reason! The Fitbit Ionic is Fitbit’s take on smartwatches with a heavy emphasis on fitness.
The Ionic has extensive abilities to work as an exercise companion and wellness monitor. The Fitbit Ionic includes dynamic personalized workouts with step-by-step coaching that you can view from your wrist.
Some of the great features of this watch include a vibrant screen that is even completely visible in direct sunlight.
This fitness tracker is also able to automatically detect when you stop for traffic or crosswalks and pick things up when you start moving again, which makes it an ideal choice for city dwellers.
The Ionic also includes changeable straps to suit your remarkable style. It also has excellent battery life and runs well with the built-in GPS system. It has various apps that you can customize it with, including Pandora to help motivate you through hard workout sessions. This fitness tracker watch is also safe for swimming. It is also able to pick up your heart rate during the pool workout, which is great for swimmers.
As for accuracy, the Ionic delivered excellent performance. No tracker is perfect when it comes to counting your steps, but overall the Ionic performed consistently across controlled and all-day testing, which is important. The Ionic is able to detect when you fell asleep and wake up in the morning. It is also fairly accurate in recording instances where you might get up in the middle of the night.
The Fitbit Ionic is an ambitious and promising smartwatch with a focus on fitness and accurate tracking and is an excellent choice for you if you’re looking into for a smartwatch with a big focus on fitness. Just know that it is one of the pricier fitness trackers on the list, but it is well worth the investment if you find the features attractive.
Garmin Forerunner 35
The Garmin Forerunner 35 is another great choice for a fitness tracker. This fitness tracker includes a built-in GPS system and heart rate monitoring, which sensors are on par with some of the other fitness tracker choices you currently have available.
This fitness tracker watch is one of the best values you’ll find. It allows you to track bike rides, walks, and runs, and view your resting and continuous heart rate, as well as your heart rate zones. It’s all wrapped up in a waterproof design that has long battery life, push notifications, and the ability to control music playback on your phone.
Equipped with an accelerometer, GPS, and heart rate monitor, you can track calories, distance, duration, and steps with the Forerunner 35. Activities include Bike, Cardio, Run Indoor, Run Outdoor, and Walk. During activities, it offers distance, pace, and time data on one screen, as well as real-time heart rate, heart rate zone, and calories on another. This device can’t track swimming, unfortunately.
You can also set up interval training, which lets you set a length of time you want to be active, as well as a rest time after, and the number of intervals you want to do. When each time is up, the watch vibrates to alert you to move to the next phase of the workout.
The Forerunner 35 records sleep, but it records the time it spends off your wrist as time slept peacefully. Honestly, there are other fitness trackers that have better capabilities at tracking the quality of your sleep. The Garmin Forerunner 35 is an excellent fitness tracker for your daily physical activities.
Samsung Gear Fit 2
Samsung’s first effort with the original Gear Fit was an attractive and functional fitness tracker but had some minor limitations. One of the biggest complaints, the fitness tracker requiring you to have a Samsung Galaxy phone. Samsung has since addressed that issue and has made many improvements with their new Gear Fit 2.
The company’s latest fitness tracker pairs with any smartphone running Android 4.4 or higher, or can work without a phone. It also adds some handy new features, like built-in GPS and a music player, so you don’t need your phone to listen to tunes or track your path on a run.
You can also customize this excellent fitness tracker with downloadable apps and watch faces, though it doesn’t offer as much functionality as a dedicated smartwatch. Overall, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 is a solid high-end fitness tracker with plenty to offer.
The Gear Fit 2 is also loaded with sensors such as the pedometer, GPS, and a heart rate monitor. Most of these sensors function automatically depending on the active watch face or fitness pane open. They also work automatically to detect when you’re exercising and exactly what you’re doing.
The Gear Fit 2 is able to clearly track your activities such as walking, jogging, and running on an elliptical. It also notices when you are idle for too long and will give you some encouragement to get moving for a bit (these notifications, as well as exercise detection, can be disabled if you wish).
The heart rate monitor requires a few seconds of not moving to measure your heart rate, and isn’t ongoing, like the Fitbit Charge HR’s monitor. The Fit2 will automatically record and track your heart rate when you’re still, but when you’re active you’ll need to stop for a moment to check your pulse.
The Gear Fit 2 also comes with a sharp, colorful display and along with its additional functionality and fairly reasonable pricing, this is a very attractive option for anyone who wants a fitness tracker that can do much more than just tell you the time and track your workout.
Just know that this fitness tracker has no iOS support and the narrow screen could result in cramped, awkward layouts. Also, the heart rate monitoring isn’t continuous.
Fitbit Alta HR
The Fitbit Alta HR is a smooth and elengant fitness tracker that comes with many features. The Alta HR has a continuous heart rate monitor and also comes with an smart sleep tracking system.
It gives accurate heart rate readings, consistent step count tracking, and boasts a long battery life. It lacks some of the features of Fitbit’s own Charge 2, but of all of Fitbit’s trackers, it comes closest to hitting the sweet spot between form and function.
At a glance, the Fitbit Alta HR Fitbit is nearly identical in design to its predecessor—after all, why fix something that isn’t broken? The bottom of the OLED screen features a small, largely unnoticeable Fitbit logo and the strap has a slightly different textured pattern.
Fitbit has done away with prong closure on the original for a more traditional buckle. That’s a plus for exercising, as prongs tend to become less secure over time. However, you must also consider how the buckle has a thin design and may feel like it’s one strong tug away from breaking. However, this Fitbit is built to last.
Because the Alta HR hews closely to its predecessor, it also retains many of the same quirks. The touchscreen is finicky, for instance. You have to double tap directly in the center and with a bit more force than you might expect. Light taps and anything on the edges is unlikely to register. This isn’t unique to the Alta HR, as Fitbit’s other products also perform in a similar fashion. I’ve had the same problem with the Charge HR and Charge 2. Eventually, you grow used to it, but it can be an adjustment period at first.
Also, note that this fitness tracker does not have an altimeter and lacks GPS. With the Alta HR, Fitbit updates its most stylish tracker with continuous heart rate monitoring, better battery life, and smarter sleep tracking. Fashion-conscious self-quantifiers: This may be the device you’ve been waiting for.
We’ve finally come to this beautiful piece of human engineering, the Fitbit Surge. Of all the brands of fitness trackers on the market, Fitbit easily takes the cake for being the most well known and most reliable makers of fitness trackers.
An advanced fitness tracker, the Fitbit Surge is a rather sophisticated piece of machinery in the form of a touch-screen wristwatch. It not only tracks your steps and sleep, but also alerts you to incoming phone calls and text messages, keeps tabs on your heart rate with a built-in optical heart rate monitor, uses GPS to track outdoor activity, and has much more functionality especially for runners.
The Surge isn’t a perfect activity tracker, runner’s watch, or smartwatch, but nothing is. What the Surge gets right is the blend of those three categories, rather beautifully at that.
You can run and have it track your pace, route, and heart rate. Or you can take several modest walks a day and trust that it’s keeping tabs on whether you walked more or less than on other days.
More importantly, it’s reliable and easy to use. When compared with other trackers on the market, it clearly rises to the top and sits alongside an elite few.
One of the drawbacks of this device is how limited it is to push notifications. The model is moderately large and it is not waterproof for swimming. With the use of the GPS, the battery life is below average and more to be desired. When the GPS is not in use, however, the battery life of this fitness tracker is incredible.
However, with continuous heart rate monitoring, GPS, and broad appeal, the Fitbit Surge is definitely an excellent choice to help you engage in a more physically active lifestyle.
Fitbit Charge 2
The Fitbit Charge 2 is another great fitness tracker developed by Fitbit. It automatically tracks your calories burned, distance traveled, heart rate, steps, and sleep, and has a new mode that helps you return your breathing to normal after a workout.
There’s no built-in GPS, but you can connect your phone to help capture running routes and calculate lap splits. The display is modular, so you can pop it out and place it in a variety of different bands. I must also add that this device has a large display for those who enjoy the bigger screens.
Basically, it does everything the Fitbit Charge HR could do, with more features and an improved design. It offers the best balance of comfort and functionality you’ll find in this price range.
While the Fitbit Charge 2 has many attractive features such as a larger display, guided breathing exercises, idle alerts, interval training, and interchangeable bands, it lacks certain things that other fitness trackers have built-in.
You don’t get built-in GPS like you do with most other fitness trackers but you can always connect it to your phone. This Fitbit Charge 2 is not waterproof and not meant for swimming.
All in all, the Fitbit Charge 2 is another great entry model for anyone who is looking to dabble with fitness trackers. Simply put, you won’t find this combination of features and performance at this price in any other device on the market. So if you’re looking for a reasonably affordable, full-featured fitness tracker, the Charge 2 is an excellent option.
TomTom Spark 3
The TomTom Spark 3 one of the best fitness trackers for runners. Lightweight and waterproof, the Spark 3 automatically tracks loads of activities and has 3GB of onboard storage for the ability to listen to music without your phone nearby.
It also adds Route Exploration, which lets you create and upload running routes directly to the tracker. You need a PC to upload routes and music, and the Spark 3 doesn’t deliver notifications from your phone like many trackers do. If you can live with these issues, however, the Spark 3 is a great choice for music-minded athletes.
Once all the setup is out of the way, actually using the Spark 3 is a cinch. Equipped with a three-axis accelerometer, GPS, heart rate sensor, and compass, the Spark 3 tracks active minutes, calories, distance, splits, and steps.
All supported activities, including cycling, gym workouts, indoor and outdoor runs, and swimming, have their own menus where you can customize goals and settings. For example, you can adjust your bike’s wheel size or the size of a swimming pool. You can also use the watch as a stopwatch, set up and view heart rate zones to stay in, and race against previous times. Unfortunately, you still have to start a new session and then press the up button to view your stats on the watch.
As for the heart rate monitor, accuracy is comparable to the Forerunner 35, as well as good old-fashioned pulse checks. The Spark 3 also has a heart rate recovery test you can do after each workout, and you can view your heart rate zone on the watch, letting you stay within Easy, Endure, Fat Burn, Speed, Sprint, or Custom zones.
As touched on earlier, Route Exploration is the main addition here. Basically, you can go out on a run and view a map of your route, indicated on the screen as a thin line. The line grows thicker the farther along you progress, and you can always see where your starting and end points are located. You do have to calibrate the compass before using this feature, but it only takes a few seconds of spinning the display module around. I ran through a suburban neighborhood and found my way back to my starting point easily using this feature.
The TomTom Spark 3 is an excellent runner’s watch. It has built-in GPS and heart rate monitoring, a compass, the ability to stream music, outstanding battery life, and a waterproof design. The new Route Exploration feature is a fun, worthwhile addition for runners who want to explore new areas. If you have the patience to deal with some of the clunky software, the Spark 3 could be the fitness tracker for you. But if you want features like notifications, caller ID, and idle alerts, you should stick with our Editors’ Choice, the Fitbit Surge.
The Polar M430 is a fitness tracker with runners in mind. For starters, it has an exceptional heart rate monitor with its six proprietary optical heart rate sensors. It also features improved indoor tracking capabilities, so treadmill runners can record stats without worry. The M430 is a great tool for serious runners, but a bit pricey for everyone else.
It’s a tracker geared toward runners, and stats like distance, pace, splits, and time spent in heart rate zones are heavily emphasized. Fittingly, the M430 puts these metrics front and center during a workout, and recording splits are easy. All you have to do is press the center button on the right side.
But non-runners should be aware that steps come secondary in the M430’s interface. On a Fitbit, you just lift your wrist to see where you’re at. It’s more cumbersome on the M430. Two of the watch faces will give you a visual representation of your daily activity in the form of a moving bar, but neither will tell you how many steps you’ve taken. To find that information, you have to scroll through to either the My Day or Diary menus. It’s easier to view steps from the Polar Flow app, but that requires you to pull out your phone and sync. And the M430 can be quite slow to do so.
That said, the M430 is a great companion for outdoor running. Another plus is that the screen is easy to read in bright sunlight, as you can see in the accompanying photo.
As for measuring heart rate, the M430 is on par with other trackers with optical LEDs.
You can also use the M430 to track metrics like sleep and overall activity, though you may find that the Polar Flow app suffers from an unintuitive design and a steep learning curve. That said, it offers a wealth of useful information when you get the hang of it.
If you’re a regular runner or training for a marathon, the Polar M430 is a solid tracker. It has a comfortable, breathable band, its screen is easy to read outdoors, and Polar emphasizes helpful stats for runners like heart rate, distance, and splits. The Polar Flow app itself isn’t the most elegant we’ve used, but it offers a good amount of customization and insight. If you’re looking to increase your general daily activity, there are better, less expensive options out there, like the Fitbit Charge 2.
The Fitbit Blaze is a fitness tracker that looks like a smartwatch. In addition to tracking activities, exercises, and heart rate, it has a color touchscreen that displays workout guidance and notifications from your smartphone.
With up to five days of battery life, it certainly lasts longer than smartwatches like the Apple Watch. But if you’re looking for genuine smartwatch functionality you’ll be disappointed, as there are no apps or other smart features to speak of. And if you already own a capable fitness tracker there is little reason to upgrade. That said, self-quantification newbies will find a lot to like here.
The Blaze tracks calories, distance, floors, steps, sleep, and various exercise stats. You can view all of this data in detail in the Fitbit app. The Blaze also makes it easy to view basic data on its display by scrolling through its various screens: Today, Exercise, and FitStar.
Today is where you’ll find your daily stats, including calories, continuous heart rate, floors, mileage, and steps. The Exercise screen lets you manually begin exercises, including bicycling, elliptical training, running, treadmill, and weights. You can also select other exercises, like hiking, soccer, and tennis to appear as options using the Fitbit app. Each workout is accompanied by specific real-time performance stats on the display, followed by a summary of your workout at the end. You can’t open and view past workouts on the Blaze itself. To do that, you need to refer to the app.
Under the FitStar screen, the Blaze turns into a personal coach where the workouts appear right on your wrist without the need for a smartphone. Each workout (Warm It Up, 7-Minute Workout, and 10-Minute Abs) comes with a series of animated demonstrations. Sometimes the little cartoons hit the mark, like when the little figure does a push-up or crunch, but some maneuvers, like the open hip squat, take some time to get used to. The FitStar feature is a fun, worthwhile addition since many people can be clueless when it comes to actual workout regimens.
As usual, Fitbit’s various exercise and heart rate measurements appear to be very accurate when compared with our own manual observations. And automatic sleep tracking also appears to be quite accurate, as the Blaze was able to detect a rather rough night of sleep to a tee, with different levels of sleep that you can view on the app. You can set silent alarms right on the Blaze, which you can dismiss or snooze by tapping the screen.
While tracking is solid, I’m disappointed by the lack of built-in GPS. Runners will need their phones on hand if they want to track stats like pace, distance, and mile splits (not to mention a map of your route). The Surge is Fitbit’s only device with built-in GPS.
That said, if you’re new to the world of fitness trackers, or you’re upgrading from a first-generation device, the Blaze is a solid choice. It’s an accurate and reliable tracker, and the color screen is great for displaying the useful new FitStar workouts.