The best fitness trackers are much more than just basic step trackers. The activity band is becoming a wellness device, with an emphasis on 24/7 heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking and sedentary warnings.
The right fitness band for you will be based on your individual needs and how active your lifestyle is. Some will just look for step counting and reliable sleep tracking, others want GPS for running, advanced resting heart rate data and VO2 max data. The good news is that there's something out there for everyone.
We've updated our roundup of the best fitness trackers and added a new at-a-glance feature list to try and make it easier to spot the right band for you.
Got any questions? Let us know in the comments section below and we'll see if we can lend a helping hand.
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1. Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit raised the bar with the Charge 2, and in spite of the device initially falling slightly short of its own expectations, Fitbit has been improving the wearable since launch, earning it a review score bump-up and a climb to the top of this list.
As well the usual steps and sleep tracking – all logged within Fitbit's superb app – the Charge 2 tracks heart rate continuously, monitors resting heart rate and also rates VO2 Max, a scientific gauge of fitness. New breathing training to combat stress adds to a stellar line-up of wellness features, while Fitbit's new Sleep Stages and Insights, delivered via a software update, make this hugely more effective as a sleep tracker.
Heart rate tracking gets flaky during very intense workouts, meaning it falls short for the more active user, while we still have some small gripes with the interface. It will accurately track running GPS, but only if you take your phone with you as well.
All that said, the Charge 2 is one of the strongest devices on the market, and right now is our top tracker.
Why buy? Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, breathing training, VO2 Max.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Charge 2 review
Current price: $149.95, fitbit.com
2. Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Our Garmin Vivosmart HR+ equalled our best-ever review score when it arrived: it's all-singing, all-dancing and packed with tech, although that still might not make it the perfect choice for everyone.
Yes, the Fitbit Charge 2 has since knocked it off the top spot, but the Vivosmart HR+ offers a great mix of activity, heart rate and GPS tracking, which makes it a no-brainer for those who are thinking of getting a band, but nonplussed by the idea of taking a phone along for a run.
While the band is still a little chunky for some, and the screen is nowhere near as attractive as the Fitbit Alta HR, it offers up around a week of battery life, is devilishly good when it comes to notifications and it's water resistant to about 50m – although the lack of a swimming mode is a disappointment.
Run stats are a little light – if you want more than pace, distance or basic HR data then you'll need to head into proper GPS running watch territory.
We should also mention that the Garmin Vivosport has recently launched, which packs in the same features including built-in GPS, stress tracking and rep counting. We're still putting it through its paces before giving our full verdict on the Vivosmart HR+ successor.
Why buy? Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, GPS.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review
Current price: $149.99, garmin.com
3. Fitbit Alta HR
While the Fitbit Alta HR doesn't differ too heavily from its older sibling in the looks department, with the addition of a heart rate monitor into the same sleek device, this is clearly the superior tracker.
It's often said that trackers with screens can't be alluring, but the Alta HR's wide range of interchangeable straps help it become a discreet part of your everyday wear. You can pick up the sporty Classic models at the lower end of the spectrum in black, blue, plum and teal, with the more expensive Luxe bands coming in leather and metal variants.
On the tech side, the Alta HR hones in on the company's strong points: sleep, heart health and general wellbeing. In terms of the heart rate tracking, you'll be clocked at five-second intervals, logging resting bpm and zones during sessions.
But it's sleep that really gets an upgrade. Fitbit's new Sleep Stages have really upped the company's credentials, using the heart rate monitor to track deep, light and REM sleep, as well as periods spent awake. We've found Fitbit's new Sleep Stages to be the toughest critic of our kip so far, in comparison to what Garmin's Vivosmart 3 and Polar's A370 offers, filtering out time spent tossing and turning for a true assessment of your rest.
While there's no workout mode or GPS, exercise is automatically detected and logged, which means it's usable in fitness classes. There are still some irregularities during high intensity workouts that enthusiasts will find frustrating, but it generally holds up enough to give you a basic window into your fitness and ticker.
Why buy?Steps, sleep, HR tracking, customisable bands and smartphone notifications.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Alta HR review
Current price: $149.95, fitbit.com
4. Garmin Vivosmart 3
This all-day tracker aims to go toe-to-toe with Fitbit's Charge 2 as Garmin decides to get serious about stress.
On the design front, it still has that sporty rubber band but now packs in a bigger monochrome display, which melds into the curved strap and does its very best to remain discreet.
As well as the standard fitness tracking features it also includes an onboard heart rate monitor for 24/7 bpm data, VO2 Max testing, automatic exercise tracking, Garmin's Move IQ software and rep counting for those who like to lift weights. The decent accelerometer-based run tracking makes up for the missing GPS support as well.
Garmin's big play is with stress tracking, using its heart rate sensor to deliver heart rate variability readings and producing a stress score. Like the Charge 2, it also provides guided breathing exercises to get you feeling calmer. It's a little hit and miss at times, but it's the best option out there if you want to take care of mind and body.
Why buy? Steps, sleep monitoring, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, heart rate variability stress scores, VO2 Max, rep-counting.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review
Current price: $139.99, garmin.com
5. Nokia Steel HR
Hybrid smartwatches have a tendency to be a little light on hardcore fitness features, but not the Nokia (née Withings) Steel HR.
The top-notch heart rate monitor underneath the stainless steel case keeps tabs on your ticker 24/7 and chucks the data into the award-winning Nokia Health Mate app. What's more impressive is that the Steel HR still boasts a 25-day battery life, putting the likes of Fitbit to shame in both the design and longevity departments.
Steps, sleep and calories are all recorded accurately, and with a long press of the button the Steel HR jumps into running watch mode to track distance and heart rate zones – although with no GPS, it's nowhere near a Garmin replacement.
The OLED screen placed at 12 o'clock can display fitness metrics and offer details on basic notification, and the internal dial at 6 o'clock shows progress towards your step goal. It's the most fitness focused hybrid we've tested and still one of the best looking to wear around your wrist.
The Nokia-branded version won't be available until the fall, but you can still purchase the Withings version on Amazon.
Why buy? Steps, sleep, 24/7 heart rate, 25-day battery.
Wareable verdict: Withings Steel HR review
Current price: $179.99.96, health.nokia.com
6. Moov Now
Moov Now is a small, round element that you clip into a strap to wear around your leg and pair with a smartphone. The aim of the game is advanced sports training plans, at which it excels, with actionable running, swimming and cycling data aimed at making you better at the sports you love.
The band boasts ever-increasing levels of difficulty, which offer a gradual but tangible improvement curve. With both running and seven-minute workouts included, it has all bases covered.
Even better news is that Moov Now – the second generation product – also works as a daily step and sleep tracker, making it a decent activity band when you're not busting out interval times.
Why Buy? Steps, sleep, advanced sports coaching, run/bike tracking.
Wareable verdict: Moov Now review
Current price: $59.95, moov.cc
7. Fitbit Flex 2
The Fitbit Flex 2 is a return to the company's basic tracking – steps, calories, active minutes, hourly activity and sleep are all covered – all in a package that's 30% smaller than the original Flex.
But the real story here is that this is Fitbit's first swim-proof tracker. You get swim tracking features, it automatically tracks pool sessions and delivers metrics on laps, duration and calories burned.
Read this: Fitbit Flex 2 tips and tricks
It's a little feature light, and is by no means as advanced as the Fitbit Charge 2 or Ionic. The Flex 2 does benefit from SmartTrack for automatic workout recognition, which includes walking, running, cycling and aerobic workouts.
Feature check: Steps, sleep, swim-tracking.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Flex 2 review
Current price: $59.95, fitbit.com
8. Misfit Ray
Stylish and sleek, Misfit broke from the traditional design of its circular Shine tracker to offer something a little more discreet.
The Misfit Ray offers steps and sleep tracking, all within Misfit's sleek and clean app, and will alert users to messages and calls from a paired smartphone. You can also add advanced swim tracking but that requires a $10 in-app purchase to make the Ray more pool-friendly.
As far as activity tracking goes, the Ray will count your steps, measure distance walked and estimate calories burned via a 3-axis accelerometer, as well as track activities such as cycling, yoga and dancing. There's no heart rate here, nor GPS.
As far as customisation goes, there are a number of decent strap options from Misfit, and it can also be worn as a pendent. This, mixed with strong (if no frills) fitness tracking and a good price, means you can't go wrong.
Why buy? Steps, sleep, buzzes for smartphone notifications.
Wareable verdict: Misfit Ray review
Current price: $99.95, misfit.com
9. Samsung Gear Fit2
When it comes to that AMOLED panel on the front, the Samsung Gear Fit2 rules the roost. With so many bands trading quality colour displays for longer battery life, they can make for a rather dull-looking crowd. The Gear Fit2 bucks that trend with a sumptuous 1.5-inch screen with an eye-popping 432 x 216, 322 pixels per inch.
On the fitness side there's GPS built-in for run tracking and an optical heart rate monitor – all for a very competitive price tag. Samsung has announced the Gear Fit2 Pro coming with added swim tracking skills, but if you avoid the pool, the Fit2 is still worth considering.
Why buy? Steps, sleep, GPS and optical heart rate.
Wareable verdict: Samsung Gear Fit2 review
Current price: $179.99, samsung.com
10. Misfit Shine 2
When the Misfit launched the Shine back in 2012, it proved that you can count your steps without wearing an ugly piece of plastic around your wrist.
The Shine 2 remains faithful to its original features adding a redesigned action clip, smartphone notifications and vibration alerts. Also, the battery life pretty much kicks the ass of any of the trackers on this page.
Where it really impresses though is data accuracy. When we put the Shine 2 up against a GPS running watch there was 0.1km difference in the readings. If reliable data is your priority, then this is the one to go for.
However, for us it stands out because of its versatility. It ships with a clip, and has modes for attaching to shirts, waistbands, shoes and pockets, meaning buggy-pushing parents can get credit for their walks – a common request on Wareable's comments and forums.
Why buy? Step tracking, works as a clip on, sleep monitoring, smartphone notifications, waterproof for swim tracking.
Wareable verdict: Misfit Shine 2 review
Current price: $79.99, misfit.com
11. Xiaomi Mi Band 2
Now available outside China, the Mi Band 2 might not be as cheap and cheerful as its predecessor the Mi Band Pulse, but it does now add in an OLED display to check in on your stats. For the sub-$50 price, it still manages to pack heart rate monitoring on to the wrist for an astonishing price.
Xiaomi has shifted more than a million of its bands in China alone, making this possibly one of the best budget fitness trackers.
Why buy? HR tracking, steps, sleep, smart alarms, incoming call alerts.
Wareable verdict: Xiaomi Mi Band 2 review
Current price: $33.49, mi.com
12. Garmin Vivoactive HR
This everyday sports wearable blends fitness and sports features with reliable notifications in a reasonably priced package. It's not exactly a looker, but don't let that put you off – the Vivoactive HR uses GPS to accurately track running, cycling and swimming with live pace and distances.
It's not perfect – the screen is dull and the heart rate tracking can't beat a chest strap – but as an easy to live with sports companion with access to Garmin Connect, this is a brilliant buy.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3, natural successor to the Vivoactive HR has landed and introduces a smaller, round design and new Garmin Pay support to purchase items from your wrist. So that's something to consider if you're eyeing up Garmin's current gen smartwatch.
Why buy? Daily steps, 24/7 heart rate, GPS run/bike/golf tracking, notifications.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivoactive HR review
Current price: $199.99, garmin.com