You’ve decided you want to live a healthier life, and use the power of wearable technology to help go about it, but where do you start looking a fitness tracker? A host of different devices is available, each with their own specs and apps and specific features. We’re here to help you make sense of the fitness tracker maze and find the right device for you.
It helps if you know a little bit about what you want before you start—like the specific activities that you’re going to want to track—but if you’d rather see what devices are out there first, that’s fine too.
All of the fitness trackers on the market, and indeed your existing smartphone, will be able to track your steps and calorie burn for you, but after that don’t take anything for granted. You can find fitness trackers with a pile of differing features, all the way up to the smartwatches that are essentially mini computers on your wrist, which we’ll mention last.
Fitness tracker basics
Almost all fitness trackers will slip around your wrist to measure your activities and give you feedback. One of the exceptions is the Misfit Shine 2 ($49.99), a circular disc you can put just about anywhere (including on your wrist if you really want). If you want to keep your arms free from dangling attachments, it’s worth considering.
When you’ve decided where you want to wear your fitness tracker, think about the information you want it to show. The Fitbit Charge 2 ($148.95) displays you the time and some phone notifications, whereas the Misfit Ray ($49.99) just has a single LED light. The lack of information translates into a lighter weight, which can be important for some athletes or aspiring athletes.
The smartwatch options
Speaking of smartwatches, you can of course upgrade to a full smartwatch as your fitness tracker, and indeed the lines are blurring between the two device types anyway. You’ll usually get a lot more features, and have to pay significantly more money, but you might consider the trade-off worth it depending on what you actually want out of your wearable.
One of the biggest questions is the one we mentioned near the start: What are you actually going to be doing with your fitness tracker? If the answer’s running around a muddy sports field and getting barged from all sides by other players, then maybe you don’t want a $300 smartwatch strapped to your wrist. If your main pursuits are going to be running and cycling, however, then it’s a lot safer.
Those eight points to ponder—body placement, display, battery life, associated app, heart rate tracking capabilities, waterproofing, sleep tracking, and GPS—should be enough to get you pretty close to the fitness tracker (or smartwatch) that’s right for you, but you’ve got a few more ways of telling one wearable from another.
The overall design and look of your fitness tracker might be important to you, so try and see it from as many angles as possible before buying, if you can. Pay particularly attention to the bands that come with the trackers you’re considering, and whether or not they can be swapped—cheap plastic isn’t quite as good on the skin as quality leather or some synthetics.