While smart watches in general haven’t become the replacement for phones that many manufacturers were hoping for, there is a segment of the smart watch market that’s growing at a healthy pace. Names like Fitbit and Garmin have demonstrated how useful a fitness tracker can be for everyone from triathletes to people just looking to get back in shape, and companies from all over are coming out of the woodwork to get their own fitness wearables to market.
But there’s a big gap between fitness trackers that are just okay and the best fitness tracker models on the market. We’re here to help you break everything down. We have reviews for each of the 10 best fitness tracker models we’ve found along with tips to help you shop smarter.
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10 Best Fitness Trackers - Fall 2020:
- Fitbit Versa 2 Health & Fitness Smartwatch
- Apple Watch Series 5
- LETSCOM Fitness Tracker HR
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
- Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Tracker
- Xiaomi Mi Band 4
- Garmin vívoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch
- Samsung Galaxy Fit
- Fitbit Inspire HR Heart Rate & Fitness Tracker
- Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
1. Fitbit Versa 2 Health & Fitness Smartwatch
If you want an activity tracking watch that can also offer most of the features you could expect from a less fitness focused smartwatch, the Fitbit Versa 2 may be one of your best choices. Amazon Alexa integration is programmed into the Fitbit Versa, so you can access critical information without having to navigate your way through any complicated menus, and the Fitbit Versa 2 provides access to all the major music streaming apps.
And as is always the case with Fitbit, the fitness tracking options on the Fitbit Versa 2 are some of the best available anywhere. The ability to set your own goals and compete or compare with friends and family provides some extra incentive to get in better shape, and the Fitbit Versa also provides you with robust metrics for measuring your sleep schedule and habits.
2. Apple Watch Series 5
Apple has a reputation for producing some of the best consumer electronics around but also for producing some of the most expensive. That's a trend that continues with the Apple Watch Series 5. While the watchOS operating system and the general design fundamentals of the Apple Watch are widely imitated, Apple still does it best, and the Apple Watch Series 5 promises both the largest selection of apps as well as some of the latest and best features available.
Some of these features even have the potential to revolutionize what we think a fitness wearable can be. The optical and electrical heart rate sensors provide what's easily the best heart tracking available, and the always on retina screen ensures that you can always just look down and get all the information you need at a glance. The screen is designed to be brighter, bolder, and easier to navigate than ever before.
3. LETSCOM Fitness Tracker HR
If all you want to do is get your steps in, it might not be in your best interest to buy a powerful smartwatch like the Apple Watch Series 5 or a Samsung Galaxy. For less intensive users, the LETSCOM can provide you with all the fundamentals of the best fitness trackers for less than $30. The simpler OS interface means that you won't get as much versatility, but it makes setup and navigation a breeze.
You get all day activity tracking, so this fitness tracker will keep you up to date on your actions even when you aren't paying attention, and smartphone notifications are available for calls, texts, and a whole load of major apps. There are 14 different exercise modes in total, and the inclusion of GPS syncing means that you can draw even more data from this fitness tracker by connecting it by Bluetooth to your phone.
4. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 takes the solid aesthetic design and hardware engineering that Samsung is known for and adapted them specifically to cater to the fitness tracker crowd. In fact, this sports one of the best and most efficient designs we've encountered in fitness trackers. The case is lightweight enough to suit both men and women, the strap feels comfortable on wrists without chafing, and the buttons on the side are easy to operate while reducing the risk of accidental presses.
In terms of software, the Tizen operating system that Samsung uses is pretty impressive. It offers a wealth of different apps without being as proprietary as watchOS or with as many performance issues as wearOS. Similarly useful is Bixby, a voice assistant that can provide you with all the information you need via simple verbal commands, but you can just as easily display your fitness performance in clear and bright infographics.
5. Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Tracker
If you want a more stripped down fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge 3 offers some advantages over the Versa 2. The most obvious one is the price. A price cut of $50 will convince plenty of users to buy this fitness tracker, but the Fitbit Charge 3 also sports an easier to understand design and a more stripped back variety of features that can help you focus more on your fitness tracking and less on distracting notifications from your phone.
That's not to say that you can't get smartphone notifications on the Fitbit Charge 3 (or even make payments with just a tap of the case), but the focus is clearly on the sort of features fitness trackers are known for. The Fitbit Charge 3 has a water resistance rating that makes it perfectly suitable for wearing in the shower or swimming in shallow waters, and the energy saving design results in a very long battery life that's one of the best around.
6. Xiaomi Mi Band 4
When making recommendations for the best products, there's something to be said about going with a name you trust, but our research often brings us face to face with unknown brands that surprise out of of nowhere. Xiaomi may not be a name recognized by the average consumer, but you can guarantee the big names in the fitness watch market are paying attention. The Band is one of the best deals on budget fitness trackers, and this latest version builds off an already solid set of fundamentals.
This $30 fitness tracker includes a bright and always on AMOLED screen, and the inclusion of better water resistance means you can take it with you swimming. Xiaomi has expanded their exercise options to accommodate for the new upgrades to their fitness tracker. In addition to being able to track your metrics at your gym, you also get heart rate and sleep monitoring.
7. Garmin vívoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch
Here at HotRate, we've been impressed by the quality of Garmin's fitness trackers for a few years. In a short period of time, they've managed to bring an operating system to the shelves that can rival the big boys in terms of productivity, and it comes with both an NFC payment system as well as its own store for customizing your fitness tracker interface. The design choices here are strong, managing to convey a lot of information in a relatively small amount of space.
But where the vivoactive 3 really shines is how it makes the most of onboard GPS and coordinates in a sophisticated way with its complicated ecosystem of Garmin fitness apps. 14 days of tracking data are kept in your memory, and the more you invest in the Garmin ecosystem, the deeper and more meaningful metrics you'll get out of it.
8. Samsung Galaxy Fit
The Galaxy Fit by Samsung may come in a small package, but it delivers big results that exceed what should be expected for a $100 tracker. Not only does it include a variety of different preset fitness modes, but it can even determine the activity you're engaging in through the use of its multiple sensors and automatically adjust the tracking. This best level fitness tracking means you can spend less time adjusting your steps and more time pushing towards your fitness goals.
And while there aren't a lot of apps or features outside of fitness tracking, that's in line with the design sensibilitie of the Samsung Galaxy Fit. By limiting the notifications to calls and text messages and just including basics like weather tracking and time, everything is displayed in front of you neat and easily. That means you won't have to navigate a lot of complex menus, and you can spend more time staring at the track and less at your screen.
9. Fitbit Inspire HR Heart Rate & Fitness Tracker
Fitbit has stripped everything down to the essentials with their Inspire HR tracker. The Inspire HR actually offers some of the best and most sophisticated all around health tracking. The heart rate monitor runs all day, providing you greater insight into activity spikes and valleys throughout the day and offering more thorough insight into your sleep patterns. The Fitbit Inspire HR includes full analysis of your deep and shallow REM sleep cycles. Heart data is saved in one or five second intervals depending on your activities.
And in another best feature of the Fitbit Inspire HR, you can even record your activities. If you're training for a big upcoming event, the Inspire HR can provide you with great analysis of your progress and help you keep track of your goals and readjust them as necessary. Then you can just pop open the Fitbit app to archive and analyze your data through the comfort of your phone's screen.
10. Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle
Fossil might not be a name you associate with either smart watches or fitness trackers, but you owe it to yourself to track out the generation 5 Carlyle. You'll have to drop around $250 if you want to buy this model, but it offers a sense of style that few other fitness trackers can match and is even an appropriate fit for more professional attire.
The Wear OS operating system has gotten a lot of flack - often for good reason - but Fossil makes the most of the tools available to them. The interface is generally pretty breezy to navigate, and the minimalist design usually provides you with the information you need front and center. There's a built-in GPS here so you don't have to rely on your smartphone for tracking your more intense activities, and you can even take calls thanks to the audible speakers built in.
Best Fitness Tracker Buyer’s Guide
While fitness trackers come in a variety of different styles, the fundamentals are pretty similar from one fit watch to the next. And as those features become more sophisticated, the price raises as well. If you want general information about how to shop for a smartwatch, check out our guide on how to find the best smartwatches of 2020. For this guide to the best fitness trackers, we’ll instead focus our attention as much as possible on fitness specific features.
We suggest you take the time to check down here if anything on our list confuses you, and if you like, you can also read up on the guide before checking out our list. Once you’re done here, you should have al the information you need to buy the tracker you want.
What separates fitness trackers from more traditional smartwatches? While even the best definitions are a bit blurry about the specifics, there are a few features you should expect to find in all fitness trackers. Steps tracking is the bare minimum feature you should expect to find in a tracker. Keep in mind that you don’t need connected GPS to track your steps. Instead, most fitness trackers use an accelerometer for activity tracking.
Without with bluneeding any wireless connection, this sensor can estimate both forward and side to side movement to keep track of your steps. If all you want to do is track your steps, the best fitness trackers for your needs can be picked up for less than a hundred bucks, and the relatively simplistic design of an accelerometer sensor means that your tracker can last for days or even weeks without needing to be recharged.
But the best fitness trackers you can buy in the budget price range still offer significantly more than just the ability to track your steps. More sensors cost more money, but you can generally buy a watch with a decent list of sensors built in at deals you’ll like. A barometer for measuring local weather conditions, a gyroscope for more advanced analysis of your activity tracking, and a magnetometer for better calculating your direction and steps are some of the most common features you’ll want to look for on our list.
Heart Rate Monitoring
A heart rate monitor is increasingly becoming a must have feature on any list of the best fitness tracker models, but how accurate is it? That can vary. The technology behind most heart rate monitors are actually fairly simplistic. An LED light on the underside of the tracker reveals your capillary veins and uses them to determine your pulse. That pulse is then translated into a heart rate.
But because of the simplicity of the technology, the results aren’t always that accurate. You need to be standing still to get the best heart-rate results, but having another point of triangulation to determine your vitals will help your tracker better understand your activities and calorie burning. Apple in particular has been making great strides, and the latest version of the Apple Watch offers some of the best heart rate tracking you’ll find in a tracker.
If yo’re trying to maintain good health, you’ll want to track your habits when you’re awake but also when you’re asleep. A lot of fitness trackers promise the ability to track your sleep stages, but how accurate are they really? You might not like to hear this, but sleep monitoring is often inconsistent, and it can also vary widely between different models on our list.
Some wearables claim to provide sleep monitoring capabilities based off the accelerometer alone. But if you’re considering buying a wearable device based on the promise of sleep tracking, these aren’t always great deals. The basic technology of an accelerometer sensor can only tell you how much your body moves, and that means it’s not exactly deep with its insights. They can’t help you track the various stages of your sleep cycle, and they’re sometime inaccurate in what they track as waking time vs. sleeping time.
The best deals on sleep monitoring are going to be the wearables that come with at least a heart rate monitor as well. By factoring in the metric of your pulse, they can do a better job of determining when you’re asleep and what stages of the sleep cycle you’re in. While we like these features, we recommend you be cautious reading too much into them. Sleep tracking from a wearable isn’t exactly quackery, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for concrete medical science either.
More sensors tend to add three things to a wearable: increased cost, more features, and more accurate activity tracking. Global positioning is no exception. A wearable may come with a built-in GPS or it may sync up with your phone to receive a connected GPS signal. In either case, this tracking can be correlated to the results of the accelerometer and other sensors to zero in more precisely on your performance.
How much a watch makes use of GPS can vary from model to model, but Garmin has set the bar for quality GPS capabilities in 2020. They offer some of the most accurate GPS positioning around, but they also include a whole suite of fitness based programs that help you transform your GPS coordinates combined with other metrics into actionable data. They offer some of the best deals around for people who want the most accurate fitness tracking possible.
If you like to listen to music, you’ll like almost any tracker on our list. You’d have to search far and wide for a tracker that doesn’t provide you with Bluetooth capabilities, and that means that you can stream whatever music you like directly from your phone as long as it’s within a few meters.
That said, it does also require an active connection if you want to listen to live streaming music. There are two options to get around that. A few models offer Wi-Fi capabilties, and while they aren’t always the most reliable, they can allow you to stream music directly to your watch rather than having to use your phone as an intermediary. A more reliable alternative is to save music directly on your watch so you can listen to it locally, but you’ll also have to spend extra on storage capabilities unless you track down some great deals.
Watch batteries are going to generally fall into two different categories: those with a listed battery life of hours and those with a listed battery life of days or months. You may also notice that models with shorter battery life tend to be more expensive too. The vast difference between long battery life and short battery life comes down to the fact that more features and sensors means heavier power usage.
If you buy a wearable with a long battery life, you can generally expect a relatively basic feature set, but there are some great deals out there too. Keep in mind that the battery life most manufacturers list is a best estimate. Features like GPS capabilities, Wi-Fi streaming, and Apple or Fitbit Pay can quickly cut that battery life in half if you use them regularly.
The operating system on whatever wearable you choose to buy is going to have a dramatic impact on the variety of apps available to you. But there are a lot more operating systems to choose from than when shopping for a smartphone or computer. At HotRate, we like to break down the watch OS’ into three categories.
- Wear OS and watchOS are the smartwatch versions of Android and iOS respectively, and that means they have access to the largest pool of first and third party apps. That means if you don’t like an app that comes with your model, you can just replace it. But each has their own problems. watchOS will generally only sync with other Apple devices, and Wear OS is notorious for being a poorly implemented OS, but recent improvements have made it a lot more palatable.
- Samsung has Tizen, Fitbit has Fitbit OS, and Garmin has Garmin OS. These are all well built and impressive operating systems that do a great job of mimicking the capabilities of their bigger competitors. Services like Fitbit Pay and the Bixby virtual assistant both work about as well as their competitors, but the smaller nature of these OS’ mean they don’t offer the sheer variety of third party apps.
- A lot of cheaper watches are built off of unnamed proprietary operating systems. They typically down come with their own storefront, and you’re instead stuck with the apps that come built in, but they tend to be affordable compared to more recognizable operating systems.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Fitness Tracker in 2019?
The Apple Watch is still the most popular smartwatch on the market, and it’s hard to beat that top of the line heart rate tracker. It may cost you a lot, but if you want the best fitness tracker around, it’s the name to be beat.
Which Fitness Tracker is Most Accurate?
Garmin watches are generally known for their accuracy thanks to the impressive GPS technology built in. We’re particularly smitten with the Vivosmart 3, but the Garmin Vivosmart 4 offers some respectable improvements.
Is Fitbit the Best Activity Tracker?
It’s easily one of the best, but there are too many watches out there to call it objectively the best. Both the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Fit can give the Fitbit Versa or the Fitbit Inspire HR a run for their money.
Looking for a great fitness wearable? Our guide has you covered. We recommend that you take the time to consider the features you’ll use and the ones you won’t and think about what sort of activities you regularly get involved in. The difference between the best and worst fitness watches are only a couple hundred bucks, so the investment might be worth it even if it doesn’t seem that way at a glance.If you liked our article on fitness trackers, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.