- A wide variety of trackers are available, with prices ranging from $100 to $1000 USD (or more).
- There’s a subtle difference between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker. Some devices act as both.
- The right choice for you might depend on what smartphone you use or what your normal exercise routine is.
Wearable technology has become a huge industry. Sales rose by more than 30% in 2020, and are estimated to reach a total of $80 billion by the end of 2021. That’s a ton of money spent on fitness trackers, smart watches, and other types of devices to track your health.
With so many options to choose from, how do you pick which fitness tracker is right for you? Well, it depends on a few things. What are your exact needs or goals? What kind of smartphone do you use? What kind of workouts do you prefer? Let’s break down the best options for fitness trackers you can buy right now.
Fitbit Charge 5
We would have highlighted the Fitbit Charge 4 as one of the best all-around trackers. And it’s still a very good choice. However, Fitbit announced its successor – the Charge 5 – would be released in September 2021. It includes all the best things about the Charge 4 – sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, exercise tracking, stress management, built-in GPS, ECG scans, and 7-day battery life – with a gorgeous new color screen.
For a bit less money, the Charge 4 is still a great choice. Just keep in mind that the Charge models don’t act as full-fledged smartwatches. They will display your texts (and some other notifications), but if you’re looking for more functionality beyond fitness tracking, you might want to skip these ones.
Apple Watch Series 6
If you already use an iPhone, you should strongly consider springing for an Apple Watch. The two devices work seamlessly together. The Apple Watch is chocked full of great features – fast charging, blood-oxygen monitoring, GPS, calorie tracking, and heart rate monitoring. It also serves as a full fledged smart watch, with access to text and email – plus additional apps to control your music or plan your workouts. The only real downside is the battery, which needs to be charged once every 24, roughly. It’s fast, at least.
Apple’s Fitness+ (subscription required) program also adds to the Apple Watch’s appeal. If a brand new Apple Watch (Series 7 is coming out soon!) is not in your budget, consider the Apple Watch SE. It’s more like the Series 5, missing a few features compared to the flagship model, but it’s cheaper. The Fitbit Sense is also a decent choice for those wanting a full smart watch in their fitness tracker, but aren’t in love with the Apple brand.
Samsung Galaxy Watch4
For those who aren’t deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem, there’s the Samsung Galaxy Watch4. It’s a great choice for anyone who uses an Android smartphone. It has all the features you’d expect – heart rate monitoring, ECG reading, and body composition sensors. It tracks your workouts automatically and has full GPS tracking. It has slightly better battery life than the Apple Watch, but only just, at roughly 35 to 40 hours.
The Watch4 uses Google’s WearOD operating system, meaning it easily integrates with the rest of your Google accounts and services. Like the Apple Watch, you can download more apps to the Galaxy Watch4, such as Spotify to control your workout music or Maps to ensure you don’t get lost on those long trail runs.
Garmin Forerunner 245
Garmin has a whole lineup of smartwatches and fitness trackers to choose from. Some of them are designed specifically for serious long distance runners or triathletes. For example, the Forerunner 945 LTE, which is over $700, but marathon enthusiasts swear by. For something a little more budget friendly, consider the Forerunner 245.
It has a seven day battery life, heart rate tracker, VO2 Max oxygen sensor, daily suggested workouts, the Garmin Coach feature, built-in GPS, and even sensors that track your running form. It also has a live tracking feature that helps you keep you safe while running alone or at night. The Garmin lineup is great for anyone who runs multiple times per week.
Coros Pace 2
If you find the Garmin lineup too pricey, we suggest the Coros Pace 2. Although it’s a lesser-known brand in the fitness tracking market, it’s still an excellent choice at just $200 MSRP. This incredibly light and waterproof watch has all the normal features for tracking your runs, along with a battery that lasts for weeks. No other fitness tracker on this list compares when it comes to battery life.
The Pace 2 integrates with popular running app Strava. However, it doesn’t have quite all the same bells and whistles as the top-tier trackers. It keeps track of your heart rate while you’re running, swimming, or biking and has over 200 built-in exercises to work your entire body. The vibrant color LCD screen displays all your workout stats in real time.
Polar Grit X
If you find yourself in need of a more rugged fitness tracker, check out the Polar Grit X. Marketed as an “outdoor multisport” watch, it’s as great for workouts as it is for camping, hiking, and basically anything else you can throw at it.
The Grit X comes with built-in GPS, a compass, baromate, altimeter, and Polar’s unique Smart Coaching features. The battery lasts up to seven days and has multiple power-save options if you find yourself miles from an outlet to recharge it. It’s fully waterproof and was even tested at below zero temperatures. This watch is built to withstand whatever you can throw at it.
And now for something completely different. Amazon is getting into the wearables market with the Whoop, a screenless fitness band that looks more like a bracelet than a smartwatch. It has some basic fitness tracking, but the real gimmick is measuring your body fat percentage and listening to the tone of your voice to determine how stressed you are. It promises to alert you when it detects you’re becoming irritable, allowing you to take a pause in order to relax again.
Do you feel comfortable wearing an Amazon product that is always listening to you? Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. That’s for you to decide. The best thing about the Whoop was that Amazon was giving it away after it was first released, in order to build a user base (although you had to sign up for a monthly subscription service). That offer doesn’t seem to be on the table anymore (plus Amazon’s claims of detecting your overall mental health via the sound of your voice are dubious science, at best). The Whoop is a neat idea, but not executed with much elegance.
Don’t like watches or bracelets? There’s still a fitness tracker for you, in the form of the Ouro Ring. As you probably guessed, it’s a ring that slips around your finger and offers most of the usual fitness tracking data. It tracks your heart rate, activity minutes, and gives you a sleep score. It also presents your data (in an app) as a two-week baseline average, helping you better understand it.
The Ouro ring also detects your temperature. For users who menstruate, this can be extremely helpful in tracking your monthly cycle. The NBA even used Oura rings to track player temperature in their 2020 bubble, when Covid-19 concerns were at all-time highs. The rings are water resistant and the battery lasts up to seven days. At $300 though, you’re not exactly saving money by picking a ring instead of a wrist-based tracker. This tracker is really for those who hate the look or feel of a traditional tracker or smartwatch.