Count More Than Steps
There's never been a better selection of fitness trackers, but with choice comes confusion. Which tracker has the features that are right for you and the activities you do? Here are some tips and recommendations for choosing the best tracker for your needs.
If you want to give fitness tracking a try (but without a wearable), start by using a mobile app that counts your steps. This method requires the least commitment, and could be of interest if you're a beginner. Use apps like Argus, Fitbit, and Moves.
If you run or cycle, we recommend tracking your runs or rides with an app before splurging on a tracker. Why? With some trackers, you still need to carry your phone to get accurate pacing, distance, and mapping, so you'll want to know before you make a purchase if you're okay with carrying your phone, or if you'd prefer a tracker with built-in GPS so you don't have to. A few apps we recommend are Runtastic PRO (for running), Cyclemeter (for cycling), and Strava (for both running and cycling).
Set Your Spending Limit
In general, most fitness trackers cost between €40 and €230.
More expensive trackers usually include built-in optical heart rate monitors and GPS, and often, these features are tailored toward athletes and exercise enthusiasts. Don't get suckered into buying a tracker with a heart rate monitor if your primary activity is walking; it's an unnecessary expense. If you walk and don't do much else, there are great options in the €49 to €149 range.
If you do work out often, we highly recommend spending at least €99, as that's the price point where you'll start to see the features that are useful to very active users.
Do You Want Heart Rate Monitoring?
Heart rate monitoring sounds like the best feature ever, but there are different kinds of heart rate monitors, and frankly, some people don't need it at all. A built-in heart rate monitor drives up the price.
If you're interested in knowing your resting heart rate, you don't need to buy a tracker with an optical heart rate monitor to find it. Many smartphone apps let you take your heart rate in about 15 seconds using the phone's camera. Check your pulse once or twice a day, and you're good to go.
Will You Track Sleep?
Many fitness trackers record your sleep. When they do, they generally watch for movement using a three-axis accelerometer to a more sensitive degree than they do during the day. Some devices report graphs showing the times when you were in light sleep and deep sleep based on motion.
Swimmers will want a waterproof tracker, but keep in mind that not all water-safe trackers actually track swimming. Runners will probably want a watch that shows time, distance, pace, and lap time, at the very least. If you want good accuracy for those metrics without having to carry a smartphone, you need a runner's watch with built-in GPS.
Also consider the display. If you want to see your stats at all times, or simply use your tracker as a wristwatch, look for one with an always-on display. How you control the tracker is also important. If you like to run in the cold while wearing gloves, you may want to steer clear of devices that only have touch-enabled displays.
Cyclists have even more considerations. There's a difference between tracking how many kilometres you pedal and calories you burn versus monitoring your power and cadence. If all you want is the former, you can find a few fitness trackers that support cycling as an activity. More serious cyclists will want a device that can pair with additional bike equipment, like a cadence sensor, and should look at devices from sport-specific companies, like Garmin, Mio Global, and Polar.
The App Experience
A fitness tracker's app matters. Whether on your phone or on the web, the app is absolutely vital because it is where you make sense of the information the tracker collects.
Smartwatch vs. Fitness Tracker
Several fitness trackers have some smartwatch functionality, and some smartwatches have fitness features, too.
Take a look at our range here
- Our top fitness tracker is the Huawei Honor Band 4