We've seen how some of the best smartwatches can help you sail through a busy day efficiently but more often than not, many prefer an exclusive fitness tracker. The line between a fitness and a smartwatch is actually very thin but fitness trackers have the added advantage of being tailor-made to recognize workouts and activities. They can also accurately track sleep patterns and are generally more comfortable to wear for long periods. Unlike many smart watches, fitness trackers can also be used underwater for up to 50 m so that you can take them for a swim without any worries.
There are many fitness trackers from companies big and small in the market today so choosing one requires some diligence. While selecting a fitness tracker, ensure that the essential tracking features such as an accurate heart rate monitor, GPS, and sleep tracking are present. The accuracy of these sensors depends on a lot on how you position them on your wrist and on environmental factors as well but in general, they should not deviate much from standard dedicated equipment. The other important factor is the mobile app that allows you to pair the tracker with your smartphone and tablet. Unlike smartwatches, fitness trackers have a limited display area so you will mostly rely on the mobile app to show detailed information. Having a good mobile app that syncs without connection drops is, therefore, of the utmost essence.
With these factors in mind, we've narrowed down on some of the best fitness trackers in the market. We've consciously left out smartwatches and included only dedicated fitness bands in this list. So, here are the 8 best fitness trackers to buy in 2018.
1. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is one of the best fitness trackers from Samsung and it offers a lot of features. For one, you can store your favorite tracks directly on the Fit2 Pro without having to rely on streaming services or your phone. The Fit2 Pro also comes with built-in apps by Under Armour including Map MyRun and MyFitnessPal. The Fit2 Pro hosts a heart rate monitor and a GPS and it can also respond to calls or read texts when paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth. You can recharge the Fit2 Pro wirelessly and the battery life is excellent.
Performance-wise, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro does not disappoint and the heart rate monitor is one of the most accurate we've seen. However, there are some issues when it comes to the water resistance of this fitness tracker. Samsung claims that the Fit2 Pro is resistant for up to 50 m under water but many users have complained that it is not the case. Also, Samsung does not include a charging head to plug into the wall outlet so make sure you have one handy.
- Pros: Good tracking of fitness activities; Accurate heart rate monitor
- Cons: Water resistance is not very good; Charging head for wall outlet not included
2. Fitbit Charge 3
The Fitbit Charge 3 allows you to choose from more than 15 built-in exercise modules and get real-time stats and other vital information from your workouts. The Charge 3 can measure heart rate 24x7 and also track different sleep stages. With a 7-day battery life, you can rest assured that the Charge 3 won't die in the middle of an intense workout session. It is waterproof for up to 50 m and is great for swimming or other water sports. The Charge 3 works with Android and iOS but you get the ability to quickly reply to texts if you pair with an Android smartphone.
While the tracking features of the Fitbit Charge 3 are indeed great, there are some issues with the software. There is no option yet to change watch faces so you should be content with whatever is offered. On top of that, the watch does not seem to show the current date for some reason. It also connects to only one device at once although you can download the app on multiple devices.
- Pros: Good tracking features; Auto-sleep tracking
- Cons: Can pair with only one device at a time; Software has limitations
3. Fitbit Alta HR
The Fitbit Alta HR is similar to the Charge 3 but will appeal especially to women and those with small wrists. The Alta HR is Fitbit's slimmest fitness tracker yet and offers features like heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, workout tracking, and more. You can also receive notifications from your smartphone on the display. Like the Charge 3, the Alta HR offers a 7-day battery life for uninterrupted activity tracking. The Alta HR can auto-detect the exercise being performed and logs the information to the Fitbit Health and Fitness app.
While the Alta HR is one of the best fitness trackers with accurate heart rate monitoring, it does have a few quirks. Some types of activity do not get logged, like pushing a cart or a trolley for example. Also, like the Charge 3, there are restrictions on customizing the information shown on the OLED display. The calorie burn calculator also does not seem to be very accurate. But all those can be easily addressed in upcoming software updates so the Alta HR is still a compelling fitness tracker to buy.
- Pros: Sleek and functional design; Smarttrack exercise monitoring
- Cons: Limited customization options; Calorie burn indicator not very accurate
4. Huawei Band 3 Pro
The Huawei Band 3 Pro is an upgrade from last year's Band 2 Pro and is one of the best fitness trackers under $100. The 0.95-inch AMOLED touch display offers a higher density of information and can be customized according to one's preferences. The Band 3 Pro can tolerate pressures up to 5 ATM or up to 50 m under water so this makes for a good swimming band. The sleep tracking on the Band 3 Pro is fairly accurate and it also offers a camera shutter remote to help you take better selfies or photos with your smartphone. Battery life is excellent and you can easily get a week's usage at a minimum with GPS on.
The Band 3 Pro is a competent fitness tracker but it does come with some limitations. While it offers customization, there are not many band faces that are available to change. Also, you require the Huawei Health app for controlling most of the band's functions without which the Band 3 Pro is almost useless.
- Pros: Good activity and sleep tracking; Camera shutter feature
- Cons: All functions are dependent on Huawei Health app
5. Garmin Vivosport
The Garmin Vivosport combines the best of Garmin's GPS expertise with great fitness tracking. You get all day tracking of exercises along with heart rate monitoring and VO2 Max estimates. The Vivosport is available in multiple color options and is perfect for use in the shower or even in the pool. The Vivosport also comes pre-loaded with many cardio activities, which you can use to improve your fitness levels. Without GPS, the Vivosport offers a 7-day battery life and with GPS on, you can get up to 8 hours, which we feel is pretty decent.
The Garmin Vivosport is a capable fitness tracker but we feel that more features can be offered at this price. The build quality is not very great and the rubber strap seems to tear within a few days of use. The GPS also takes time to lock-in but once locked, it works seamlessly so we think this can be addressed in a firmware update. The tracker also needs some improvements with respect to how it tracks elevation changes.
- Pros: Great for outdoor activities
- Cons: Indoor tracking needs to be improved; GPS takes time to lock-in
6. Moov Now + HR Sweat Bundle
The Moov Now is a very good fitness tracker that focuses on the essentials. Therefore, it does not come with any built-in display and all tracking and monitoring is done via the app. The Moov Now is available in combination with the Moov HR Sweat, which is the first headband heart rate monitor that is perfect for swimming. The headband heart rate monitor is extremely accurate and works almost as good as dedicated ECG equipment. Moov offers dedicated real-time workout guides via the app for a wide range of exercises along with tracking sleep patterns.
We'd prefer to buy this bundle instead of just the Moov Now for more accurate tracking. But some users have reported that Moov is not shipping both the Now and HR Sweat together. The headband heart rate monitor is indeed accurate but you need to spend some time with it to ensure that it is calibrated well.
- Pros: Good tracking; Accurate headband heart rate monitor
- Cons: Heart rate monitor takes time to calibrate; No display
7. Xiaomi Mi Band 3
The Mi Band 3 is Xiaomi's attempt at designing a good fitness tracker and we must say the company has delivered. The Mi Band 3 is very comfortable to wear and you can easily read the display by just lifting the wrist. The Mi Band 3 pairs well with your phone and can easily respond to calls or messages directly from the display. It offers most tracking features found in other fitness bands such as heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking and also, give you a sedentary reminder to get up and walk.
Xiaomi does not provide a detailed instruction manual to walk you through the setup but just head to the Google PlayStore or Apple App Store and download the MiFit app and pair it with the Band 3. The app will walk you through the necessary steps required to get the Band 3 up and running. You might also have to change the default language from Chinese to English depending on when you've bought the Band 3. The steps counter is also not very accurate and can use some calibration. Otherwise, the Mi Band 3 is one of the best fitness trackers under $50.
- Pros: Comfortable; Good activity tracking; a Sedentary reminder
- Cons: User manual is not very detailed; Default UI language is Chinese
8. Garmin Vivofit 4
If the Garmin Vivosport is not up to your taste, check out the Garmin Vivofit 4. The Vivofit 4 boasts of a whopping 1-year battery life. Yes, that wasn't a typo. You can track all your activities 24x7 and also take it to the pool or the shower without having to worry about its safety. The always-on color display offers important information at a glance including weather, alarms, stopwatch, and more. The Vivofit 4 offers Move IQ that automatically starts or stops tracking based on your activity. Want to challenge your kids for a running competition? You can, thanks to the Toe-to-toe feature that connects with another Vivofit device and tracks both of them together. All data is easily accessible via the Garmin Connect app available for Android and iOS.
The Garmin Vivofit 4 uses just a coin battery to keep the tracker ticking so there's no need to recharge it constantly. However, it should be noted that the reason for a long battery life is because the Vivofit 4 does not have sensors such as a heart rate monitor or a built-in GPS. This is more of a step tracker and does not offer some of the more advanced exercise features. But you do get advanced features such as BMI readouts and calorie counts.
- Pros: Good for step tracking and calorie counts; Long battery life
- Cons: No built-in sensors
Dear readers, those were our picks for the best fitness trackers to buy in 2018. As you can see, there are many great choices available, all of which are competent when it comes to basic tracking features. However, there will be differences in the accuracy of their sensors and how you use them so we'd suggest first that you spend some time with your fitness band and try to calibrate it for your specific use case. This will improve the accuracy of the readouts tremendously.
We hope that this article has addressed your fitness needs. If you have other recommendations or any questions, feel free to let us know in the comments below.