Tracking your activity has become the “killer app” of wearable tech. Form devices that can track your heart rate, the number of steps you take and even things like blood pressure and ECG, we have entered an age when it’s possible to collect vast swathes of data about ourselves in order to help us make better decisions. So, which activity tracker should you buy?
How to choose an activity tracker
Unless you’re jumping straight to an Apple Watch, it shouldn’t matter what smartphone you have. Android Wear devices, Fitbit, Misfit and almost every other brand support both iOS and Android smartphones.
The second factor to consider is whether your activity tracker will be your watch or if you prefer a traditional watch and see the tracker as a second device you wear. That means you’ll be looking for something that looks decent.
Finally, what do you want the device to track. The most basic trackers can measure the number of steps you take, quantify the duration and quality of your sleep and, by doing some maths on the number of steps you take, estimate the distance you’ve travelled. More expensive devices include heart rate sensors, GPS trackers and can record exercise sessions including swimming, cycling, running, yoga and other types of activity.
Entry level activity trackers under $100
You can get started with an activity tracker for under $20 and there are plenty of options under $100.
Misfit Ray Activity Tracker ($28): Basic trackers don’t come any cheaper than this. You get activity and sleep monitoring, incoming call and text alerts and calorie tracking. It also comes in several different colours.
Fitbit Flex 2 Band ($67): The Flex 2 can be worn for swimming as well as other activities. It tracks your sleep and can even walk you up with a gentle alarm.
Fitbit Alta Activity Tracker ($97): If you’re looking for a great tracker, then the Alta is a great deal. It will track your steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes and it can automatically recognise and record exercises for you without ever pushing a button. It also receives notifications from your smartphone.
Stepping up with activity trackers under $200
At the next price bracket, you start to see integrated heart rate monitoring as well as other smart features such as better displays.
Fitbit Flex ($106.75): While a basic tracker, the Flex is popular and looks pretty decent. A set of LEDs let you know how you’re progressing on you daily activity target and it can measure your sleep and wake you up with a silent vibrating alarm.
Fitbit Charge 3 ($161): If you’re looking for something that sits between the basic tracker range and more expensive smartwatches, the Charge 3 could for the bill. It offers heart rate tracking with alarms in case it detects something outside your normal range, as well as activity tracking and your calorie burn. Use the discount code “AUNCURRQ8R7G5BM” to get that price at checkout.
Garmin Vivosmart 4 ($174.40): Garmin is well known amongst runners, cyclist and other athletes, professional and amateur. The Vivosmart 4 offers wrist-based heart rate monitoring as well as smart notifications and advanced sleep monitoring. It comes in a range of colours as well.
It’s worth noting that Fitbit has also released two new models. The Fitbit Inspire HR has a recommended price of $179.95 with all-day automatic activity, exercise and Sleep Stages tracking, 15+ goal-based exercise modes, connected GPS, and Relax guided breathing in a stylish, slim design.
The Fitbit Inspire is a little more affordable at $129.25 and includes automatic activity, exercise and sleep tracking, goal celebrations, Reminders to Move and timer and stopwatch apps.
Activity trackers over $200
Once you cross the $200 barrier you start moving in to the realm of smartwatches.
While iPhone users might think they are limited to the Apple Watch, that’s not the case. Many Android Wear devices work with iOS as do a number of customised operating systems like the one used by Huawei products such as the Watch GT.
At this price range, there are many sport-focused watches. I’ve chosen to focus on devices that look more like traditional watches. All of these work with both iOS and Android smartphone.
Fitbit Versa ($249): Fitbit has come along way with their smartwatches. The Versa is lightweight and swim-proof to reach health and fitness goals with actionable insights, personalised guidance, on-screen workouts and more.
Skagen SKT1103 Mens Hybrid Smartwatch ($269): The Hagen Connected hybrid smartwatch features automatic time and date adjustment, activity and goal tracking, sleep tracking, filtered email and text notifications, dual-time function, alarm and SKAGEN LINK technology, which allows the wearer to snap a photo, control their music and more—all with the push of a button. Use the discount code “AUNCURRQ8R7G5BM” to get that price at checkout.
Garmin Vivomove HR Hybrid ($265): Garmin has made a good fist at translating some of its sports watch know-how into a nice looking watch. The smart display only appears when you quickly turn your wrist to glance at your watch and the watch hands move out of the way when you interact with the touchscreen and move back to the correct time when you are done.
Fossil Q Explorist HR Smart Watch ($386): With NFC payments, integrated GPSm continuous heart rate monitoring and a slew of other smartwatch features, the Fossil Q Explorist looks great. Use the discount code “AUNCURRQ8R7G5BM” to get that price at checkout.
So, which should you buy? The Misfit Fray is tough to beat at just $28. And although you might end up wanting more from your tracker in a few months, you’re not spending too much to get started. If you get bored with tracking you’ve lost less than $30.
If your needs go a little further, then the Fitbit range offers something for everyone, from basic tracking through to advanced smartwatch features.
For the more fashion conscious, the Skagen Hagen Connected Hybrid and Fossil Q Explorist look great and will fulfil the needs of most users.
As Lifehacker editors we write about stuff we like and think you'll like too. Lifehacker often has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.