It’s a connected world out there with each sphere of our life overlapping, jockeying for space and attention. With everything going on, from hectic work schedules to family issues, trying to stay in shape falls extremely low on the priority list; somewhere between starting that book you always wanted to write and finding time to go to that new gyro restaurant. The truth is that there’s many things that beat working out, so you have to find a fitness tracker that will help keep you on point and on schedule, or your fitness will get forgotten.
When you get a fitness tracker, you want one that looks good, not something that has tons of features but resembles a Casio calculator watch from the 80’s. It is imperative that it also be effective, tracking all the salient data you need with options to personalize it for different workouts on different days. Whether cycling or lifting, it should know how many calories you burned. That makes it usable. To be great, it should also work with your other devices, so information is pushed out to the places you’ll actually see it. All that considered, here’s the 7 best fitness trackers for 2016.
Pro: One-button operation
Con: Easy to lose
Older Model: The One was an idea before its time. When it came out, it was only compatible with a few smartphones. Technology has since caught up to the One, making it de rigueur for fitness trackers to handle intuitive sleep tracking, be highly portable, and have keen processors that keep track of your movement in a way that feels natural. Using the One, accurate information is sent to your phone where every piece of information comes to you with just a glance. The biggest drawback is that it will need to clip to your pocket, and the display is tiny compared to wrist models. It’s a very sophisticated pedometer with better-than-average tracking, but in not riding on your wrist it can be inconvenient.
UP3 by Jawbone
Pro: Excels at helping with basic fitness goals
Con: No waterproofing
Brain Child: For the price, the app is amazing. Up3’s lightweight body is barely noticeable, and after a week or two, won’t even register. This is an attempt by Jawbone to improve on their Up2 by adding heart-rate monitoring at the wrist and the result is a mixed bag that can be easily hidden for those who are fashion conscious. It looks passable, but the screenless, alien appearance will draw a few looks. Rather than just being a general fitness tracker, it works in conjunction with your phone to give you a whole lifestyle coach that aids you with eating habits, movement, and general well-being. The result is great for casual wearers looking to get healthy, but for harder exercise, it doesn’t track closely enough, and the band is a mess.
Fitbit Charge HR
Pro: Wrist heartbeat tracking
Con: Heartrate is difficult to read on the move
Most For The Money: The new Charge HR (naturally standing for Heart Rate) is not an impressive showing from the minimalist brand Fitbit, and it won’t stand up against the top competitors, but it also costs about half the price of the trackers it’s trying to emulate. It’s ability to talk to nearly any phone, Windows computer, and seamlessly move from Apple to Android is worth it if you hop devices. Since almost any fitness nutbar out there can afford a Fitbit, the dispersal of the product is huge, meaning if you’re the competitive type, or a social media maven, you’ll be able to find a group to keep you motivated, brag with, and shame horribly as you conquer them.
Garmin Vivosmart HR
Pro: Quality waterproofing
Con: Clunky app
Dark Horse: Garmin knows that there’s professionals out there who care about their fitness level, even as they’re on their hustle. With a completely goes-with-everything black body and a screen that’s understated but informative, Garmin polished the Vivosmart HR up, so it looks incredible. When it comes to tracking, this lands in the same arena as its peers with a wrist-based HR monitor that will only be off by about 5 beats per minute, and it pushes alerts out to your smartphone, which isn’t always a given (The Fitbit Charge HR doesn’t). The Vivosmart is compact, stays in place thanks to a secure band, and looks good. Issues arise when you start trying to do social sharing or long-term tracking, since the app is tough to use and unhelpful.
Pro: Works with all kinds of activity
Con: Unstable software often requires rebooting
What A Body: At its debut, the Vivoactive was another disappointing fitness tracker that claimed to do a whole cornucopia of attributes, but it did many of them badly and was difficult for people to navigate. Now, here’s the good news: Garmin’s flaws with the Vivoactive were software-based, meaning as updates are released, it has become ever more friendly, enjoyable, and simple to use. It’s still a bit on the buggy side, and you’ll find yourself resetting it more than other smartwatches, but it has a lot going for it. Battery life is up to two weeks so long as you leave the GPS off. It will go for a full ten hours on a single charge even when being drained, and that GPS is spot-on, as we expected from Garmin. The body is slim, low-profile, and has the looks of a quality smartwatch, so it’s easy to wear around for just about anyone. Solid enough for EDC, too.
Microsoft Band 2
Pro: Curved, ergonomic fit
Con: Coaching is impossible to comprehend
Ambition Given Form: Microsoft has become the elder statesmen who’s being undercut by a bunch of younger, cheaper, less frustrating upstarts. With their sequel to the Microsoft Band, they’ve shown that they’re learning from the marketplace and managing to stay at the front of the pack, if only just. Like a lot of MS products, the Band 2 has an easier time getting along with all mobile operating systems than the average fitness tracker. Apple and Android users alike (as well as the last Windows phone user out there) will not have a problem with syncing or notifications. It’s ability to keep track of steps, stairs, and your heart rate are all worth noting, if not exactly worth singing about.
Apple Watch Sport
Pro: It’s an Apple Watch
Con: Short battery life
The Right Might: The Apple Watch began its life as a storm of interest and prediction. Then it passed through a phase where it was almost universally despised. It’s understandable if you still have reservations about the most updated version of the Apple Watch, but be comforted that you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Naturally, it’s an ambitious product backed by a company that desperately needed it to work, so it’s not a shock that it does. What is surprising is how well it handles tracking and monitoring your data. 8 Gigs of storage, the Apple S1 chip running behind the glass, full interface capability with your iPhone (5 or later), and the ability to choose from any fitness app in the Apple Store, if you have the money, it’s your constant companion.