Wearables — computing devices that are designed to be worn rather than carried — are the next big thing in tech right now. The largest wearable category is the fitness tracker. These devices are focused on providing you information about your activity during the day and quality of sleep at night. Deciding which fitness tracker is right for you can be difficult given all the options out there, but with the benefit of our tips and recommendations you will be able to find the perfect one for you.

Is a fitness tracker right for you?

While fitness trackers make up the majority of the wearables market, they are not the only choice.

Smart watches are the second largest wearable category and growing. Apple made a big splash with their Apple Watch, which allows you to track your fitness information while reading text messages and viewing photos all from your wrist, and the newest generation is water-resistant. In many cases smart watches provide some of the same functionality as a fitness tracker, however they add significantly more complexity and in most cases offer just one to two days of battery life, versus five days or more with a fitness tracker. Where smart watches excel is in delivering information from your smartphone to your wrist, saving you from having to pull out your smartphone every time you receive a notification.

The final wearable category encompasses purpose-built devices like heart rate monitors. If you are an athlete looking to maximize your workouts, then a heart rate monitor might be better suited to the task. These devices typically resemble a digital watch and display your heart rate, calories burned and will also notify you when your heart rate hits the proper target zones.

Critical features to consider

  • Splash-resistant/water-resistant: You benefit most from your fitness tracker if you are only taking it off to charge it, so make sure you choose one that can get a little wet to avoid worrying about it when washing your hands or taking a shower.
  • Bluetooth 4.0: This allows your fitness tracker to communicate with your smartphone, so you will want to verify that your smartphone supports it.
  • Battery life: Most fitness trackers use a rechargeable battery and will go 5-7 days on a single charge. Some opt to use a replaceable battery and are able to offer considerably more battery life. If you have trouble remembering to charge your devices this could be a very important factor for you.

Ease of use

Fitness trackers can be simple devices. As long as your smartphone has Bluetooth 4.0, your smartphone will communicate wirelessly with it and basically all you have to worry about is charging it. But if you want to get more out of your fitness tracker, there are options that cater to that as long as you are willing to deal with a bit more complexity.

A heart rate monitor is probably the best example, as most trackers that offer this option will require that you actively request your current heart rate through an app or series of button presses on the device. Most fitness tracker functions, however, occur without requiring you to do anything.

Basic smart watch functionality is also available in some of the newer fitness trackers. The FitBit Surge is one such device that adds notifications from your phone, like caller ID, to the suite of typical fitness tracker functionality.

Connected apps and accessories

Virtually all fitness trackers have a companion app for your smartphone or tablet that will show you your data, but they can also pass that data on to an app that will gather all of your health info in one spot.

MyFitnessPal (iOS/Android) is perhaps the most popular option. It is free and allows you to track your fitness and nutrition information. It also automatically imports the data from your fitness tracker and can factor that into any diet or exercise goals you set for yourself in the app.

You can add additional devices to further simplify your health tracking, like the FitBit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. This scale pairs with your iPhone or Android device and shares the data with any connected apps.

Recommended fitness trackers

Fitbit Charge 2 fitness tracker

 

We’ve assembled a collection of our favorite fitness trackers based on the critical features we outlined, user reviews and compatibility with connected apps and accessories.

Just the basics (think Jawbone UP24 and Fitbit Flex)

      • Simple and elegant design
      • Activity and sleep tracking
      • Splash-resistant
      • Five day battery life (rechargeable)

You’re invested (think FitBit Charge HR and Samsung Gear Fit)

      • Activity and sleep tracking
      • Display shows steps, goals, calories and current time
      • Water-resistant
      • Five day batter life (rechargeable)

Advanced (think Fitbit Surge and Samsung Galaxy Gear)

      • OLED display can be seen in the dark
      • Displays fitness tracker info as well as simple smartphone notifications
      • Activity and sleep tracking
      • HR model tracks heart rate in real-time
      • Water-resistant
      • Five day battery life (rechargeable)

Conclusion

A fitness tracker is a simple way to keep you active and healthy in 2015. Take a look at the  full line-up of fitness trackers and find the one with the features that best match your lifestyle. While all fitness trackers may not offer all the options listed here, if you keep these things in mind, you’re sure to find the right one.

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