Your buying guide to the best fitness trackers in 2017
Fitness trackers, which are also called activity trackers, activity monitors or fitness bands, are like high-tech pedometers that can count your steps and then estimate the distance you’ve travelled and the calories you’ve burned.
The biggest activity brand in the market is Fitbit, so we’ve also rounded up the best Fitbit trackers, but below you’ll find more general advice, and the best trackers from any manufacturer.
You can use fitness trackers to monitor your activity, but the general idea is that they spur you on to exercise more, helping you to get fitter and/or lose weight. Many are great for monitoring your sleep, too – which is being regarded by medical experts as a key health indicator.
Most fitness trackers have a display that shows you steps and calories information, and often the time too, and they tend to be worn on the wrist like a watch or clipped onto your clothes.
You might also be able to add friends that use the same brand of fitness tracker to compete against, but not every fitness tracker offers this. Pitting yourself against others can be extremely motivational, and we recommend Fitbit as the best for this – awarding badges and setting challenges, plus offering expert personal training advice on the higher-end models.
Bear in mind that fully fledged smartwatches also offer fitness tracking but it tends to be basic so very few have made it into this chart. If you like the idea of tracking activity with a smartwatch that also does other cool things like notifications and apps, check out our best smartwatch chart. For a closer look read our Fitbit vs Apple Watch comparison.
You might also find historical data in the app that will tell you whether you’re improving.
All basic fitness trackers should be able to monitor steps, distance covered, calories burned and active minutes. Some might also have a clock so you can tell the time, although some are simply a series of LEDs that give you an approximation rather than the exact time.
More advanced fitness trackers will add features like sleep tracking, a built-in vibrating alarm, a barometer to measure height climbed, heart-rate monitoring, session recording for various sports and more.
Few are completely waterproof, but virtually all can withstand sweat and rain. We’ve also rounded up the best activity trackers for swimmers in case you want one that can withstand water pressure better.
Some also have built-in GPS, but that’ll add to the price tag and take from the battery life. Without it, though, keep in mind that you’ll need to take your phone with you on a run to accurately record distance and the route you took.
Batteries in non-GPS fitness trackers can range from a few days to several months depending on their power source and they type of tracker you opt for.
As well as the fitness tracker itself, the app it uses is a crucial piece of any activity monitor. For some, the software can even be more important than the hardware.
Why? The software provides extra features, such as the ability to compete with friends, track food and drink intake, monitor your weight and more.
Conversely, some apps can be limited or poorly designed which could discourage you from using the fitness tracker at all. Among the best apps are from Fitbit and Misfit, as well as Apple.
How much should I spend on a fitness tracker?
The cheapest trackers worth buying can be found for as little as £20-£40, with the most expensive (such as the Apple Watch 3) costing over £350. That means there’s something in the chart below which will fit your budget.
If you want to compare trackers more closely, check out our activity tracker comparison reviews.
The Fitbit Charge 2 is rightly one of the most popular activity trackers available, with all the major fitness stats and a useful heart-rate monitor – all in a slim, minimal design (interchangeable) wristband that still boasts a large enough, clear display. It measures and monitors you through sleep to the walk to work, workout at the gym, everything in between, and then back to bed. It’s great for keep-fit, sports and gym enthusiasts, as well as the casual user interested in improving their overall fitness or losing weight. You can buy replacement straps in a variety of materials and colours. The Fitbit Charge 2 is an impressive all-rounder.
Read our Fitbit Charge 2 review.
The Series 3 with LTE does what it set out to do, but it is a bridge product. We are not yet in a sci-fi world where everyone wants a watch to make calls instead of a smartphone. Apple has nailed the integration way better than anyone else, but with network restrictions and a high price – and limited practical use cases – it isn’t going to become mainstream yet.
As a fitness tracker its Activity app works well but isn’t as fully featured as other activity trackers, such as the Fitbits.
As a smartwatch though it excels – iPhone users will adore seamless notifications, fitness tracking and outstanding build quality.
Read our Apple Watch Series 3 review.
The Alta HR is Fitbit’s most stylish heart-rate tracker to date. It lacks an altimeter for stair and hill climbing stats, but its 24/7 heart-rate monitor will help you get fitter, lose weight, and better monitor your sleep. You get the core Steps, Distance, Calories and Sleep measurements, and automatic exercise recognition functionality. We love the Activity Reminder prompts which help you get more active during the day. Caller ID and the ability to read texts on your wrist are also big plus points. You really don’t need to wear a separate watch and you’ll hardly know you’re wearing the Alta HR as it’s so comfortable and lightweight. We think the Alta HR is worth the extra £30 over the standard Alta for both its heart-rate monitor and watch-like strap buckle. It challenges the Charge 2 as our favourite Fitbit.
Read our Fitbit Alta HR review.
4. Fitbit Ionic
We’re really pleased to see a smartwatch made by Fitbit. While it’s expensive for a fitness tracker, it does pack in a lot of high-end features that will appeal to a wide range of people, from hardcore fitness fanatics to the more casual gym-goers.While the range of non-fitness apps is not wide at launch what it offers is still beneficial to people looking for a more healthy lifestyle. With built-in GPS and music player, contactless payments and on-screen notifications it means you can leave your phone and wallet at home when out exercising.
The Ionic is lightweight and comfortable, and looks good too – even in the pool. The range of straps means you can swap out bands for different occasions – either at the gym, the office or out on the town.
While it can’t rival the mainstream smartwatches for a dazzling array of apps, the smart-enough Ionic (allied with Fitbit Coach) looks like the first proper health smartwatch.
Read our Fitbit Ionic review.
5. Fitbit Alta
The Fitbit Alta is a mid-range activity tracker for the everyday fitness fan, which is a real winner when it comes to slim, chic looks and a range of fashionable accessories. It tracks the basics (Steps, Distance, Calories and Sleep), plus boasts Caller ID, Text and Calendar notifications, and is cheaper than the more fully featured Fitbits such as the Charge 2, Blaze and Ionic. Its higher-end sibling the Alta HR adds a heart-rate monitor if you want to dive deeper into your health, fitness, sleep and weight-loss metrics. But the cheaper Alta is a stylish tracker that will appeal to people who don’t want a giant sports watch on their wrist, or need a huge array of stats in the app.
Read our Fitbit Alta review.
6. Misfit Ray
We’d recommend the Misfit Ray. It’s really good-looking and the choice of colours makes it even more stylish to suit each individual, haptic feedback is a real boon and it compares really well with rivals in the same price range. Battery life is excellent and the app is intuitive too. You’ll find that you’re motivated to get out there and get fit in no time.
Read our Misfit Ray review.
With a new OLED screen the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 offers better value than ever. We’d like to see better integration with third-party apps, but at this price the Mi Band 2 is impossible to fault.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Band 2 review.
8. Moov Now
The Moov Now is one of the most interesting activity trackers we’ve tried. It puts workouts and coaching first and the basic activity and sleep tracking second, and that’s obvious, but not necessarily a bad thing. The voice coaching itself is motivating, but it’s the levels, achievements and personal bests that’ll keep you coming back for more. It’s a shame that the activity and sleep tracking is so limited, so if that’s what you’re looking for in an activity tracker you’ll want to look elsewhere, but for runners and cyclists of any level and for people who enjoy quick workouts at home, £59.99 will go a long way here.
Read our Moov Now review.
Overall, we’d recommend the Misfit Shine 2. It’s an all-rounder with some added perks including the haptic feedback for notifications and calls, which we’ve found enormously useful. Comparing it with rival Fitbit we think it’s been priced well, and not having to think about the battery life too often is a huge boon, meaning you’ll rarely have to take it off.
Read our Misfit Shine 2 review.
The Gear Fit2 pro is a solid choice if you want a slim GPS fitness tracker that works well on Android or iOS. It has more features and a vastly better screen than the similarly built Fitbit Charge 2, but costs £90 more.
For less than £209 you could get a Garmin Forerunner 35 with GPS, but the design and screen is not as premium as you’ll find with the Fit2 Pro. Samsung has made a fitness tracker that costs more than rival products, but over £100 less than its smartwatches but packs in most of the same features.
It does try to do too many smartwatch things with a screen that doesn’t suit though. Buy it if you like the design, but if it’s not a deal breaker you can opt for something cheaper with the same basic GPS functionality.
Read our Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro review.