The time is right to shop for wearable fitness trackers, with a variety of forms and features now available at every price point.
That time of year is upon us – a four-week window of opportunity to shop for gifts that will wow and instill a sense of yuletide cheer, followed by a single day that sees many, if not most, Americans promising to eat better, exercise more, and stay up later less.
Yes, the holidays have snuck up on us again. Instead of scouring Amazon wish lists, or deciphering handwritten notes to determine what your nearest and dearest desire, give them a fitness tracker – the gift that satisfies both their need to accumulate used giftwrap and exercise their way to wellness.
Don’t Let Price Fool You
From high to low, clip-on to wrist-worn, there are almost too many fitness trackers to choose from, which is why we’ve chosen to review over a dozen of the most widely known by price. Available features increase with cash layout, but don’t be fooled into thinking you have to spend a ton to get the best bang for your buck (or needs). Read on for a budgetary breakdown of wearable fitness trackers.
Hey Big Spender ($300 and Up)
The Withings Activité, Apple Watch, and super-luxe Helvetic No1 Smart from Mondaine certainly win style points. Mondaine’s first connected time piece has been called “easily the best looking piece of wrist-based wearable tech” out there. Aside from its sleek design, the watch, which retails in the $850 range, counts steps, tracks sleep, and features a long battery life. Its durable yet fashion-conscious Swiss design seems to be its most winning feature.
The Apple Watch, which starts at $350, wins style and construction points, but hasn’t quite picked up the traction Apple hoped it would amongst non-fanboys, thanks to its price point and a less-than-stellar battery life. The Apple Watch’s three models feature the typical fitness tracker must-haves, including an accelerometer and an optical heart rate monitor, which together gather a variety of data throughout a wearer’s day – from routine activities to rigorous workouts – that can then be filtered and dissected via corresponding apps. There have been hints that future generations of the watch will be able to “learn” a wearer’s activity patterns and send prompts to get its fitness-tracking features moving. The wearable seems best suited for those early tech adopters who are already ensconced in Apple’s ecosystem of devices.
The Withings Activité, another Swiss-made analog watch, seems to be the most consumer-friendly wearable in its $350-$450 price range, wrapping basic step and calorie counting, sleep tracking, and distance checking into a fashion-conscious package. The Activité also offers automatic swim detection and tracking, and includes an accompanying sports strap for the pool.
For the Slightly Less Fashion-Conscious ($200 and Up)
What the Swarovski Shine, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band 2, and Garmin Forerunner 225 lack in haute couture, they certainly make up for in fitness-conscious features. Swarovski’s Shine, undoubtedly the prettiest of the bunch, tracks steps, sleep, and calories via technology hidden behind the bling. Bracelet and necklace accessories are available now; the company plans to soon launch a solar-powered version, giving wearers extended battery life.
Beloved by runners, the Fitbit Surge offers run and sleep tracking, GPS sports tracking, step counting and heart-rate monitoring, plus notifications thanks to a full OLED screen. The second-generation of the Microsoft Band offers Cortana voice-control integration and the company’s proprietary fitness platform in a package trimmer than that of its predecessor. The Band, hailed by some as the best fitness tracker out there for coaching, offers guided workouts and short video tutorials for over 130 activities. It also features a GPS, heart-rate monitor and barometer for altitude measurement, plus notifications.
The Garmin Forerunner 225 has almost 10 hours of active GPS time – perfect for those in training to run their next marathon. The runner-friendly device also offers a heart-rate monitor, tracks sleep, and counts steps and calories.
The Most Bang for Your Buck ($100 and Up)
From Jawbone to Garmin to Fitbit, this category – by far the most consumer friendly – combines affordability with a range of options to satisfy nearly every quantified selfer’s needs. At the top of the price range, the Garmin Vivoactive is an all-purpose, water-resistant fitness monitor that offers typical tracker features plus exceptional battery life. At a slightly lower price point, the Withings Activité Pop has won accolades for being the best fitness tracker watch for those on a budget. Available in three colors, it tracks a variety of activities plus sleep, and offers an almost unbelievable standard battery life of up to eight months. The Garmin Forerunner 15 comes in at the lower end of the pricing spectrum with a corresponding standard battery life that extends to only five weeks. It has won rave reviews from runners for its step-, distance-, and sleep-tracking abilities. It even offers an inactivity alert to let a user know when they need to get going again.
The options keep coming, with the Jawbone Up 3, Fitbit Charge, and additional models from Garmin bringing up the rear. Most devices in this price range offer the features listed above; it’s the form and battery life that will differ according to brand and price.
Glowing reviews across a growing number of tech websites put the Fitbit Charge HR at the top of this category on both affordability and features. Available in three sizes, its continuous heart-rate tracking (thus the HR moniker) enables the device to offer more accurate feedback on activity tracking and calories burned. It also offers smartphone caller ID, plus step and sleep tracking, and has won points for its secure strap design. The Charge HR’s accompanying software has also won accolades for its motivating (and competitive) challenges. The device’s only noted drawbacks seem to be that it’s not 100-percent waterproof and that battery life suffers when the optical heart rate sensor is used during rigorous workouts.
Just the Basics, Please ($50 and Under)
Perfect for those just dipping their toes into the wearables water, this category offers basic clip-on or wrist-worn devices that give users a taste of the increasingly feature-rich fitness tracker market. Rated by some as the best clip-on activity tracker, the Jawbone UP Move fits in at the top of this price category, offering step, sleep, and activity tracking. The slightly less expensive Misfit Flash features the same technology as the more glamorous Swarovski Shine, but brings extreme affordability to the table via its simple plastic band available in a variety of colors. The dirt-cheap Xiaomi Mi Band make its traditional fitness-tracking capabilities seem almost too good to be true, but the 1 million-plus units shipped worldwide attest to otherwise.
Now Get Moving (and Shopping)
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the wearable fitness trackers available this shopping season. Hopefully, our brief breakdowns of brands by price will leave you feeling better prepared to make the best choice for your tracking needs and budget.
December 03, 2015