Fitness trackers are underappreciated but awe-inspiring. These gadgets can count steps and calories, help users keep track of sleep patterns and stress levels, and even guide them with breathing techniques to reduce anxiety. For a while, I thought that fitness trackers couldn't possibly deliver on their promises, and dismissed them as consumption-inducing trickery until I actually gave wearable tech a try.
Like many others, I don't always wake up feeling refreshed and in the best of moods. Still, sometimes the opposite happens, and the number of hours I have slept for doesn't seem to explain this incongruity. Someone close to me had been wearing this "thing" around their left wrist for long, and I thought they had fallen for some nonsense until they suggested I gave it a try.
Despite my initial bias, it was a tempting offer: apparently, the smart alarm feature could monitor my sleep cycle and wake me up at the most appropriate time (a light sleeping stage) within a wake-up window. And it worked. Waking up no longer felt like being abruptly pulled from a deep, comforting place, heart racing thanks to alarm tunes – and yes, I've tried them all, but even my favorite songs sound like a doomsday warning when waking me up. Thanks to the silent alarm feature, the wristband woke me up within the chosen timeframe with a light vibration and no anxiety-inducing tunes. On top of that, not being woken up by sounds is something for which anyone one shares a room with can be thankful.
Decision-making isn't easy these days, but our goal at Versus is precisely to make this process easier for you. Our team assembled a list of the 5 best fitness trackers for training and health monitoring, which we'll keep updated as new products are released with even more novelties.
But first, let's go through some of our users' most wanted features.
The first one goes without saying, but it may be worth remembering some of the reasons that make battery life a crucial element to evaluate. First of all, charging is always an inconvenience. On top of that, imagine achieving a personal record at running or swimming and not having it recorded, or missing an appointment because your fitness tracker is, well, dead. Tough luck, life goes on, but I'd suggest being on the safe side.
Moving on, many, but not all fitness trackers, detect workouts automatically – and no, moving from the couch to the kitchen doesn't qualify as a workout, though your tracker should still count those steps. In most cases, users must select their current activity from a list that may include swimming, cycling, yoga, golf, and weightlifting (to name a few possibilities). Fitness trackers with an activity detection feature make things more convenient, as they identify which exercise someone is doing and the user must take no further action.
A fundamental feature for most, activity reports are generated based on data collected by the device. You can check results on an app or website, which helps you see the larger picture and find areas for improvement – you might be sleeping too little, or your workout performance may have decreased. Activity reports may provide both insight and motivation.
Heart rate monitoring is another essential feature for many of our users. A fitness tracker can't and shouldn't replace medical advice, but it can help you keep your heart rate average in check, and show if you're taking your workouts a little too far.
I'm obviously biased toward the next feature: the smart alarm. It may not be a necessity for everyone, but I've made my case with that personal story.
Wrist notifications are a must for many people, as this feature allows you to pair your fitness tracker with your smartphone and receive alerts for calls and messages.
Finally, if you're a swimmer or can't let go of your wearable even when showering, make sure to pick a water-resistant product.
We've taken into account our users' favorite fitness trackers, as well as other models that cater to needs that you may want to be met by wearable tech.
A recap of the key specs:
Now you're ready to explore our selection of the 5 best fitness trackers for training and health monitoring.
1. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
One of the priciest options, Samsung's Gear Fit2 Pro packs most fitness tracking features one could expect. The model is water-resistant and offers integration with the Speedo On app, being a very suitable choice for swimmers. Besides swimming, the tracker automatically detects and logs activities such as playing tennis and dancing, and there are plenty of apps available to track your progress (MapMyRun, UA Record, Endomondo, and many others*).
The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is compatible with Spotify, even in offline mode – meaning you can leave your phone at home and still enjoy your favorite playlists and podcasts. While working out in smartphone-free mode, you'll still be able to keep track of your training routes (great for walks, jogs, and runs), thanks to the device's inbuilt GPS.
In terms of design, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro may be restrictive, depending on your individual needs; so far, there aren't options available apart from black and a black and red variant. You can, however, choose from two band sizes to find the best fit for your wrist, and count on the protection of damage-resistant glass.
*App availability varies per region.
2. Huawei Band 3 Pro
The Huawei Band 3 Pro is an affordable health and fitness tracker packed with practical features. The product's 0.95'' color AMOLED touchscreen is covered with 2.5D glass, which makes the Huawei Band 3 Pro more durable than most of its inexpensive counterparts. The wearable has a soft silicone strap, and a brushed aluminum plate surrounding the screen gives the fitness tracker a more refined feel.
Users have commended Huawei's TruSleep, a sleep tracking tool that records breath and movement information, resulting in helpful reports with ratings and advice for better sleep. A big highlight of this budget-friendly option is the built-in GPS, which makes it easier to go for a run or a bike ride without a smartphone. The Huawei Band 3 Pro includes a Find My Phone feature, is water-resistant, and offers stroke recognition and improvement tips for swimmers. Besides all the expected functionalities (such as step, distance, and calorie tracking), the Huawei Band 3 Pro has a heart rate monitor and impressive battery life (up to 14 days). The user can control calls, preview messages sent to their smartphone, and choose between running, walking, cycling, swimming, and free training profiles.
Unfortunately, the fitness tracker lost its predecessor's breathing exercise instructions. It also doesn't feature auto-brightness, and the number of watch faces (three) may disappoint users that value more options.
3. Honor Band 5
The inexpensive Honor Band 5 is packed with features and is an excellent option if you'd like to test the waters with your first fitness tracker. It features a 0.95'' color AMOLED touch display with 2.5D curved glass and up to 14 days of battery life (6 days when using all the features). Although the wearable's body is only available in black, it's possible to choose among black, navy, and pink straps, and to buy extra ones if you'd like to switch. It's also possible to customize the look of your smartwatch with the many watch faces available.
Honor is a Huawei sub-brand, and thanks to this, the Honor Band 5 features Huawei's TruSleep technology for sleep quality analysis and personalized suggestions for a restful night. The tracker has heart rate and SpO2 monitors (the latter tracks oxygen saturation levels), is water-resistant, and can automatically identify four swim stroke styles: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle. This is quite impressive, considering the price tag.
Reviewers have reported issues with notifications and slow system response (especially when scrolling). It's also unfortunate that the Honor Band 5 can only be switched on when attached to a charger. If you feel like switching it off in a situation in which you don't want to be distracted, you may have to wait before having it work again. Despite these issues and the fact that the Honor Band 5 doesn't provide much in-depth information, it has enough features to please the everyday user (unless you're looking for premium specs such an inbuilt GPS).
4. Fitbit Charge 3
The Fitbit Charge 3 is quite an improvement over the previous generation; were it not for a greyscale display and the absence of a built-in GPS, it would be close to perfect. The Charge 3 is water-resistant (up to 50 meters), has 24/7 heart rate tracking with real-time alerts for Fat Burn, Cardio, and Peak zones, and can hold a charge for up to 7 days. It offers goal-based exercises and guided breathing sessions that are personalized based on the user's heart rate.
The tracker is available in two different colors (with more options for the Fitbit Charge 3 Special Edition) and looks quite sleek with its aluminum finish and the option to choose from plenty of interchangeable bands and clock faces. What's more, the Fitbit Charge 3 includes small and large wristbands, and its display is protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3, which makes it a lot more durable.
Besides phone notifications and sleep, calorie burn, and overall exercise tracking to be expected, the Fitbit Charge 3 can display weather and calendar information. However, there's no smart alarm, and we're not sure if it's possible to sync it with calendars a user may already have. Other highlights are automatic exercise recognition, a health app for menstrual cycle tracking, and the Fitbit Pay digital wallet – an exclusive Special Edition feature, as the premium model packs NFC. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a built-in GPS, distance can only be tracked by syncing the wearable with a smartphone.
5. Garmin Vivosmart 4 (small / medium)
Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a powerful tool for fitness addicts and those looking for their zen (perhaps both apply to you). With a slim, discreet design, the water-resistant product is available in two sizes and a wide range of colors – black, gray, berry, azure, and purple.
Besides registering steps, calories, sleep, and most basic features expected from a top fitness tracker (no smart alarm...), the Garmin Vivosmart 4 can assess your fitness age and the maximum amount of oxygen during intense exercise. Unfortunately, the wearable doesn't have a GPS.
By analyzing heart rate variability, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 can calculate stress levels and suggest breathing techniques aimed at decreasing anxiety and upping your chill.
|battery life||Automatic activity detection||Activity reports||Heart rate monitor||Smart alarm||Notifications||dust- and water-resistance||GPS|
|Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro||3 days|
|Huawei Band 3 Pro||14 days|
|Honor Band 5||14 days|
|Fitbit Charge 3||7 days|
|Garmin Vivosmart 4 (small / medium)||7 days|