The fitness tracker isn’t dead, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the people keeping these little devices alive. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch have all but taken over the mainstream wearable space, but the humble fitness tracker remains an option for anyone that's really focused on one thing: accurate workout and daily activity monitoring. Despite the overwhelming popularity of smartwatches, there are still a number of solid fitness bands out there to choose from. We've tested a bunch of the most popular fitness trackers available today to name our top picks.
Fitbit Charge 6
Best fitness tracker overall
Garmin vívosmart 5
Xiaomi Mi Band 8
Best fitness tracker on a budget
Best fitness tracker for style
What do fitness trackers do best?
The answer seems simple: Fitness trackers are best at monitoring exercise, be it a 10-minute walk around the block or that half marathon you’ve been diligently training for. Obviously, smartwatches can help you reach your fitness goals too, but there are some areas where fitness bands have proven to be the best buy: focus, design, battery life and price.
When I say “focus,” I’m alluding to the fact that fitness trackers are made to track activity well; anything else is extra. They often don’t have the bells and whistles that smartwatches do, which could distract from their health tracking abilities. They also tend to have fewer sensors and internal components, which keeps them smaller and lighter. Fitness trackers are also a better option for those who just want a less conspicuous device on their wrists all day.
Battery life tends to be better on fitness trackers, too. While most smartwatches last one to two days on a single charge, fitness bands offer between five and seven days of battery life — and that’s with all-day and all-night use even with sleep tracking features enabled
When it comes to price point, there’s no competition. Most worthwhile smartwatches start at $175 to $200, but you can get a solid fitness tracker starting at $70. Yes, more expensive bands exist (and we recommend a few here), but you’ll find more options under $150 in the fitness tracker space than in the smartwatch space.
When to get a smartwatch instead
If you need a bit more from your wearable, a smartwatch may be the best buy for you. There are things like on-watch apps, alerts and even more robust fitness features that smartwatches have and the best fitness trackers don’t. You can use one to control smart home appliances, set timers and reminders, check weather reports and more. Some smartwatches let you choose which apps you want to receive alerts from, and the options go beyond just call and text notifications.
But the extra fitness features are arguably the most important thing to think about when deciding between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. The latter devices tend to be larger, giving them more space for things like GPS, barometers, onboard music storage and more. While you can find built-in GPS on select fitness trackers, it’s not common.
Other fitness trackers we've tested
Fitbit Inspire 3
The Fitbit Inspire 3 strips out all the luxury features from the Charge 6 and keeps only the essential tracking features. You won’t get built-in GPS tracking or Fitbit Pay or Spotify control but you do get solid activity tracking, automatic workout detection, smartphone alerts and plenty more. The updated version has a sleeker design and includes a color touch display and connected GPS, the latter of which lets you track pace and distance while you run or bike outside while you have your phone with you. When compared to the Charge 6, the Inspire 3 is more fashionable, too. Its interchangeable bands let you switch up the look and feel of your tracker whenever you want, and it’s slim enough to blend in with other jewelry you might be wearing. We were also impressed by its multi-day battery life: Fitbit promises up to 10 days on a single charge, and that checked out for us. After four days of round-the-clock use, the Inspire 3 still had 66 percent battery left to go.