Though the world’s very first pedometer was invented back in 1780, the wearable fitness tracker industry wouldn’t begin to take shape until much more recently. Significant strides were made over the years, such as Dr. Yoshiro Hatano’s release of the Manpo-Kei (pedometer) in 1965, and Polar Electro’s unveiling of the first wearable heart rate monitor in 1978, however, in September of 2009, the modern fitness tracker segment was born, ushered in by the game-changing release of the first-generation Fitbit.
In the decade that followed, fitness trackers have gone from an emerging product space to a recognized tech staple, now raking in tens of billions of dollars annually. The immense popularity in this sector’s also resulted in fitness trackers growing increasingly and accurate, durable, and compact, all while offering an ever-growing host of supplementary features and functionality in increasingly accessibly-priced packages. Because of the rapid rate at which this industry evolves, it can be difficult to distinguish the latest and greatest gadgets from yesterday’s wearables, so with this in mind, we’re unpacking the best fitness trackers currently on the market.
A Wearable Training Coach
What Aspects Should You Consider When Buying A New Fitness Tracker?
More so than most other industries or product spaces, the fitness tracker realm massively varies from offering to offerings in terms of performance, features, functionality, user-interface, and construction. To help simplify your search, we’ll be reviewing the most crucial aspects and areas to consider when shopping for a fitness tracker.
Onboard Sensors: Separating your average smartwatch from a bonafide fitness tracker is the latter’s bevy of onboard sensors. Built-in componentry allows these devices to measure areas such as heart rate and the number of steps taken. In addition to gyroscopes, magnetometers, and accelerometers, the use of onboard GPS and barometer units also enables these fitness-focused gadgets to track speed, elevation, and distance, relative to your workout. Some of the more high-end fitness trackers come equipped with the hardware and sensors needed to detect skin temperature, and heart rate variability (or HRV).
Display: Because modern fitness trackers are able to connect to smartphones and tablets through the use of Bluetooth and mobile apps, a screen or display is less a necessity and more a luxury. Plenty of thoroughly top-shelf fitness trackers are designed to be as minimalistic as possible, forgoing designs with screens in favor of more streamlined and stripped back offerings.
Connectivity & Software: While pretty much every fitness tracker will relay physical activity metrics to a mobile device, the apps this info is fed into can enormously differ in functionality and user interface. On top of simple tracking of metrics like steps taken or heart rate, the more premium trackers come with apps that are designed for long-term viewing of dating in order to better gleam meaningful trends.
Construction & Durability: With fitness trackers being designed for athletic applications, they’re expected to face the abuses and rigors that come with working out. As such, it’s common to see manufacturers utilize polymers, composites, and lightweight metals to produce extremely hardwearing yet lightweight devices. Additionally, robust waterproofing has also become fairly standard fare on today’s fitness trackers.
Health Tracking: Features like pedometers and heart rate trackers obviously provide meaningful data relative to your workout, though there are plenty of devices that also allow for the tracking of more health-focused metrics. Using photoplethysmography sensors, these health and fitness trackers can measure elements such as respiration tracking, oxygen levels, heart rate variability (or HRV), and even blood pressure and blood sugar.
Price: Fitness trackers were once seen as high-end novelties, reserved for the most affluent, or hardcore of workout enthusiasts, though the sector’s increased popularity has resulted in an insanely-competitive field, with some genuinely-capable fitness trackers carrying MSRPs of under $50 (including tax and shipping). Forking over a bigger chunk of cash will obviously buy you more features and functionality, though simple sub-$50 fitness trackers shouldn’t be overlooked simply due to their low prices.
Battery Life: Just like with smartphones and laptops, today’s fitness tracker segment has hugely benefitted from the rapid advancements being made in battery technology. Despite the diminutive size of these devices, it’s not uncommon to see fitness trackers with a battery that can operate for a full week without needing a recharge. Some of the more top-shelf items even boast two-week cells, plus, just like with watches, there are fitness trackers that harness the power of the sun for solar charging.
Supplementary Features: First and foremost, a fitness tracker is designed to help bolster and inform your workouts and routines, though, alongside onboard sensors and the like, fitness trackers have also increasingly been bestowed with additional features like touches payment systems, navigation and directions, and music streaming, just to name a few.
Style: Just like with watches, today’s fitness trackers can hugely differ in appearance. From the shape of the case, to the materials used for its construction, to its color, to the band or strap it’s paired with, there’s no shortage of different stylistic options currently available. And, while utility should take precedent over this aspect, style is still well worth taking into account before making your purchase.
Not unlike Wyze’s smart home security cameras, the company’s Wyze Band Activity Tracker offers a ridiculous amount of functionality at a wildly accessible price point. Built around a 0.95” AMOLED full-color touchscreen display, this tracker sports built-in dual microphones that allow for the hands-free summoning of Alexa, and a 120mAh that affords the gadget 24/7 tracking abilities for a full 10 days before needing its battery replenished. Using Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, the Wyze Band can link to smartphones in order to relay text messages, weather reports, or fitness tracking data. Tipping the scales at only 2.6oz, this device also packs a dual Core MCU processor and 8MB of RAM, and is water-resistant down to 5ATM (or 170’.
Fitbit Charge 4
Freshly released earlier this year in 2020, the Fitbit Charge 4 is the latest and greatest personal health and fitness tracker from the brand that’s widely recognized as responsible for kicking off the modern fitness tracker segment. Sold in four colors with woven and composite band options, the Charge 4 gets its usual seven-day battery life, onboard GPS, Fitbit Pay (touches payment system), a color touchscreen with a customizable display, Spotify music control, and is completely submersible and 100% waterproof. In addition to tracking steps taken and the number of floors climbed, this tracker also boasts features such as SmartTrack Automatic Exercise Recognition, calorie burn metrics, and workout intensity maps that are targeted at those looking to seriously extract better performance from their day to day workouts.
Galaxy Watch Active2 Under Armour Edition
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Under Armour Edition watch is a reasonably-priced and immensely capable fitness tracker that’s primarily targeted at hardcore runners. The tracker is able to monitor elements such as running cadence, and then, using predetermined fitness goals will guide you using feedback with haptic or auditory cues to help improve the user’s stride and.or form through the device’s built-in smart coach. This is achieved by pairing with Under Armour’s UA HOVR connected running shoes to record and track data that a regular wrist-worn device wouldn’t be able to capture. The industrial design on this collaborative tracker is also a major highlight, with an aluminum housing paired with a 40 or 44mm synthetic rubber strap.
Timex Metropolitan S Smartwatch
It really is hard to go wrong with animist anything made by Timex, and though it’s admittedly a bit of a departure from the American watchmaker’s standard horological fare, Timex’s Metropolitan S Smartwatch is backed by the same level of quality and affordability as the rest of its wares. Powered by a battery with up to 14 days of life on a single charge, this Timex tracker features a 36mm bead-blasted aluminum alloy housing with a touchscreen AMOLED display under an ultra-rugged Gorilla Glass lens, and is mated to a 20mm silicone rubber strap with a stainless steel buckle. Water-resistant to 30-meters (or 98.5’, the tracker also displays calls, texts, and other push notifications from your smartphone, a myriad of different preset workout modes, onboard GPS tracking, and an optical heart rate monitor.
WHOOP Strap 3.0
The WHOOP Strap 3.0 is an incredibly unique fitness tracker that’s built for hardcore workout enthusiasts seeking to optimize and improve performance. By establishing a baseline and recording five metrics—including recovery analysis, workout strain, and recovery—the system is able to provide a more tangle and meaningful understanding of the collected data. Rather than using a regular one-time purchase business model, the WHOOP Strap 3.0 is offered through a monthly subscription model that starts at $30 per month with a minimum commitment of six months. This display-free band is also waterproof, features a five-day battery life, and is offered in a variety of colors, including custom band options.
The Oura Ring is a tiny fitness tracker worn on your finger that’s capable of tracking just about every metric that a normal wrist-worn unit can, without compromising on performance or amenities due to its ultra-compact size. A bevy of infrared LEDs, NTC temperature sensors, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope are all sandwiched into the ring, along with a battery that allows for seven days of operation before needing a recharge. In addition to tracking heart rate, steps taken, heart rate variability, and REM cycles, the Oura Ring also provides daily morning reports with sleep health and “readiness” scores. Available in multiple shapes and color finish options, the Oura Ring weighs in at less than 0.25oz thanks to the housing’s full titanium construction, too.
Garmin vívoactive 4
Though Garmin’s vívoactive 4 is technically a leading smartwatch, the wrist-worn device’s wealth of sensors, software, and amenities allow it to double as an industry-leading health and fitness tracker. This includes stress tracking, a Pulse Ox sensor, hydration onboard GPS tracking, and respiration tracking, a breathing sensor, a heart-rate sensor, and Garmin’s “Body Battery Energy Monitoring,” among several other onboard sensors. Other highlights include Garmin’s touchless payment system, a week-long battery life, and Spotify music streaming and onboard music storage. Fortified beneath a Gorilla Glass 3 lens is Garmin’s Chroma Display which can easily and readily be viewed in direct sunlight, plus this offering is available in a host of case and band material and color choices.
Casio G-SHOCK GBDH1000-1A7
G-SHOCK is an immensely popular brand in today’s horological circle, touted for its ample utility and ultra-rugged, shockproof construction. Keeping in line with the Japanese brand’s regular qualities and characteristics, G-SHOCK has delivered the GBDH1000-1A7 by bestowing one its hardwearing timepieces with GPS and Bluetooth connectivity, a heart rate monitor, and a and pedometer that allow it to double as a personal fitness tracker. Even with these new additions, the watch only weighs 101 grams (or 0.22lbs), plus it maintains its typical resin and stainless steel case, bezel, and band configuration, as well as its LED Super Illuminator, and a water resistance rating of 200-meters (or 656’).
Apple Watch Nike
Apple’s latest Series 6 smartwatch is already, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most capable gadgets on the market, though the special edition Nike version takes its fitness prowess to new heights thanks to a few subtle yet clever additions. This means blood oxygen sensors, high and low heart-rate detection, the ability to check heart rhythm through an ECG app, and numerous preset workout modes ranging from walking to running to yoga to swimming to dancing. The watch can even sense if you’ve taken a hard or nasty fall, and can automatically summon emergency medical services. You also get Apple’s Always-On Retina display, the U1 Ultra Wideband chip, connectivity to Apple Pay, and built-in compass and GPS, among dozens of other amenities. The Nike version also comes in a slew of unique case, Nike Sport Band, and Sport Loop options.
Garmin fēnix 6 Pro Solar TAD Edition
As Garmin’s flagship multipart watch, you can already expect pretty great things from the Fenix 6 Pro Solar, though the EDC and tactical gear experts over at Triple Aught Design have turned the Garmin gadget into an even more attractive offering with its own special edition version. This special edition version maintains all of the regular Fenix 6 Pro Solar features, with a Power Glass lens, 10 ATM (or 339’) water resistance, and a battery that offers around 16 days of life thanks to the watch’s solar charging capabilities. The watch sports a fiber-reinforced polymer case with a metal case back and the option of either a stainless steel or DLC-coated titanium bezel, and TAD also offers a number of unique silicone bands that sports its signature topographical map pattern.
The 20 Best Running Gadgets To Fine-Tune Your Technique
Interested in checking out some additional devices to further improve your workout game? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best running gadgets to fine-tune your technique for a look at a myriad of other cutting edge offers to improve your exercise routine.
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