Best Fitness Tracker 2018 – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews of the Top Health Tracking Wearables
As smart watches and activity trackers become more popular, an increasing array of options are cropping up for those interested in tracking their health and vital signs.
While activity trackers used to be just fancy step counters, the technology is developing as adoption continues to grow.
Whether you’re looking for a minimal device to simply track your runs, a more complex device for medical or health reasons, or something in between, we’ve put this guide together to make buying a new wearable monitor as painless as possible.
When shopping for an activity tracker it’s important to understand how you plan to use it, as this will determine the model you’re interested in.
Do you need GPS to track running and biking?
Are you interested in breath and blood oxygen levels, or will a basic heart rate reading do?
In addition to the tracking features, you’ll have some choices to make in the look and feel department. Trackers come in a variety of styles and looks.
Some have watch-style wrist straps, while some clip onto your clothes.
Some have sleek, stylish faces and bands while some are purely utilitarian.
Taking stock of the information you want to track, the stress you intend to put on the device, and what your budget is before diving into the reviews will help you make a smart and quick decision that you won’t regret!
The 10 activity trackers we reviewed are laid out here for quick reference:
Best Fitness Trackers of 2018
1. Fitbit Charge 2 - Best Standard Activity Tracker
Fitbit’s new Charge model is an incredibly solid option if you’re looking for a standard fitness tracker experience.
It monitors your heart rate, breathing patterns, sleep and step count like most standard models, and does so in a well-constructed and sleek band that doesn’t take up too much wrist real estate.
One interesting feature is the breathing exercises the band helps you perform, working on deep breathing for health and wellness.
It has a small screen, but it’s not a full smart watch, meaning the interface can be kind of annoying to use as you have limited controls and gestures available.
However, the Fitbit application on your phone is very nice and makes checking out your data and adjusting your settings a breeze.
It WILL track GPS for runs/bike rides but requires that you bring your phone with you to act as the GPS, and during intense workouts involving a lot of movement the heart rate monitoring can get spotty.
Overall, a very solid update to the Fitbit Charge line and great middle ground for those who don’t need special features.
2. Fitbit Alta HR - Best Sleep Tracker
Fitbit’s Alta model is a light on features and size, making it a perfect minimal option for those only interested in basic heart rate, sleep, and step tracking.
Fitbit’s sleep tracking technology is some of the best, with its Sleep Stages feature keeping track of your REM cycles, time spent awake, and sleep quality over time.
The Alta HR has interchangeable bands so you can customize and wear it all the time, and the low profile build makes it much less of a nuisance than some of the larger, more feature-complete models.
While it has basic activity tracking, it doesn’t support GPS, so it’s not the tracker you’re looking for if you’re in it for the fitness.
3. Garmin VivoSmart 3 - Best Stress Reducer
The most interesting feature is the ability to produce a “stress score” based on heart rate and other readings, which can help you track and ultimately reduce your stress.
If you’re feeling stressed out or often find yourself in stressful situations, a little bit of awareness goes a long way to getting you back to your happy place!
4. Moov Now - Best Fitness Tracker
The Moov Now is an excellent choice for the fitness tracker looking to wear a low maintenance device every day. It boasts an impressive 6-month battery life and is completely waterproof.
The Moov includes exercise-geared features including swimming mode, rep counting for weightlifting, and of course run and walk tracking.
It has no screen and limited features, but is cheap and gets the job done for a long time.
5. Fitbit Surge - Best Built-In GPS tracker
It’s not the most attractive device, and sports a classic watch strap with clasp. It’s also a bit larger than most of the other devices reviewed here, making it by far the most noticeable to wear around.
It’s also notably not waterproof, so watch out for rain and unexpected dips in the pool!
6. TomTom Spark 3 - Best Tracker for Exploring
TomTom’s GPS technology is some of the best, and the Spark allows for route navigation right on your wrist, meaning you can check your map and explore new areas without your phone.
If you have some Bluetooth headphones, you can connect them to the Spark and listen to music you’ve uploaded without having to bring your phone along.
This frees up the vast majority of runners who love music from having to carry that pesky phone on the trail! That said, the sound quality isn’t the best.
7. Jawbone UP3 - Most Potential
The Jawbone UP3 is a new tracker on the scene and comes with some interesting unique features as well as an extremely stylish design.
It has no screen but is paired with an excellent smartphone app. The lack of screen is made up for by the sleek, cool look and customizable bands making it a true fashion item.
It’s chock-full of sensors, but it gets “Most Potential” from us because interestingly most of the sensors aren’t really being used yet. Jawbone has announced that over time, software updates with activate the various sensors, turning this pretty standard tracker into a much more robust device in the future.
8. Samsung Gear Fit 2 - Best Screen
Samsung’s latest Gear Fit doesn’t differentiate itself through features or apps, it’s pretty standard in what it tracks and reports.
What stands out is its waterproof status and the beautiful 1.5” OLED display that shows you all your stats clearly and brightly. The band is attractive and having the backing of Samsung helps to ensure it’s made of quality stuff.
The battery life leaves something to be desired, but as it’s effectively a full smart watch, this can be taken in stride.
9. Apple Watch 2 - Best Smart Watch
Although not strictly an activity tracker, Apple’s Apple Watch is undeniably one of the most popular fitness trackers on the market right now.
It’s beautiful and feature rich (it’s a full smartwatch after all) and has the price tag to match. It only works with the iPhone but works VERY well with the iPhone.
Any number of fitness apps can be downloaded onto your phone and the watch itself to do all sorts of interesting things with your data.
It’s waterproof, allows for customizing the watch bands, and comes with the support and guarantee of Apple.
Fitness Tracker - Buyers Guide
Do you need a built-in heart rate monitor?
Having a built-in, 24/7 heart rate monitor is a nice feature but it both increases the price and decreases the battery life of your device.
If you don’t plan on using the heart rate in real time for interval training or heavy fitness, you can easily track your heart rate on your phone with a number of different apps.
When you go to buy your tracker think about whether you really need the heart rate sensor and pay attention to the effect on the price.
Do you need GPS support?
Nearly all products listed here track your activity, but not all of them track it accurately using GPS.
GPS support lowers battery life, and built-in GPS sensor GREATLY lower battery life and increase price and device size by a good amount.
If you’re an avid runner or biker and plan on using your tracker to record your movements, GPS is probably a good call.
If you don’t need that fine-grained movement tracking and standard activity and calorie tracking can cut it, that’s definitely the route you want to go.
How fashionable are you trying to be?
As smart watches and fitness trackers become more mainstream, the fashionable options have become widespread.
How important is the look to you?
Do you plan on wearing your tracker every day as part of your outfit?
Do you dress casually most days, or will your tracker need to work with dress clothes as well?
Keep these things in mind when you’re picking out your tracker to make sure you’re keeping up appearances!
The fitness tracking market is quickly becoming crowded with offerings from every major technology company as well as new arrivals hoping to cash in on the fitness craze sweeping the world, but most devices are really the same features, simply rebranded!
It can be easy to get bogged down in options, but if you keep your needs in mind and focus on the differences between trackers you can find one that perfectly compliments your life and helps you accomplish your goals of a healthier you.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed what we put together and you got a lot of value from it.
Please leave your comments/questions below in the comments!