Whether you're looking to count your daily steps, keep track of your sleep habits or see how many calories you burn in a workout, a slew of new devices aim to offer everyone from athletes to average Joes more insight into the details of their lives. These gadgets, called fitness trackers, have increased in popularity in recent years, and are showing no signs of slowing down. The devices often work together with smartphone apps and websites to help you view your activity, set health goals, share your achievements with friends and sometimes provide extra motivation to get off the couch.
Live Science reporters have tested all of the fitness trackers listed here, and ranked each in four categories — Design/Comfort, User-Friendliness, Value of Information and Enjoyment/Inspiration. We've reviewed them, and can give you a look at the pros and cons of each device, as well as how it stacks up against the competition.
Choosing the right fitness tracker depends on may factors, including the seriousness with which you approach fitness, exactly what you want to track, how much you want to spend and how discreet or flashy you want the device on your wrist to be.
Below is the overall rating for all the devices we've reviewed, along with summaries of our reviews to help you pick the right one for your lifestyle.
Best Overall: Basis Peak (Full Review): 7.5/10
The Basis Peak is a fitness tracker that automatically detects what you are doing, such as running, cycling or sleeping. The Peak continuously monitors your heart rate, and is water-resistant enough that you can take it swimming. The company says that with a coming software upgrade, the Peak will soon have some smartwatch capabilities, such as notifications for incoming calls. Like the previous Basis trackers, the Peak excels at motivating you — it uses a point system, and gives you an explanation for why you should work toward each of several "habits." The cons are that the device is a bit bulky, doesn't have an alarm and is not GPS-enabled.
Best for the Money: Jawbone UP Move (Full Review): 6.6/10
The Jawbone UP Move fitness tracker will track your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and hours slept. With the ability to personalize your goals, and get reminders to help you work toward them, our reviewer found that the UP Move provides a lot in the motivation department. The Live Science testing team picked the Jawbone UP Move as our "Best for the Money" tracker for a few reasons: At $49.95, it's about half the price of the Fitbit One and the Polar Loop. In addition, the although the UP Move's price is comparable to that of the Fitbug Orb, the Orb is a bit bulkier and doesn't have an alarm, nor does it have as many social media capabilities as the UP Move.
All the rest:
Fitbit Charge (Full Review): 7.3/10
Because it boasts a handful of smartphone features, the Fitbit Charge stands apart from ordinary fitness trackers. This device costs about $130, tracks all of your usual metrics and will even display incoming calls to your phone right on your wrist. We found these call alerts to be handy during workouts, limited in usefulness: You'll still need to pull out your phone to actually take a call. The tracker is more comfortable to wear than most, and unlike some of the other options from Fitbit it has a small display screen. But the Charge is not waterproof and does not have a heart rate monitor.
The TomTom Runner Cardio is designed for runners — it has both a heart rate monitor and GPS capabilities that let it track data such as your distance, time, pace and speed. The Live Science testing team determined that this device is also the best overall tracker because it not only has the advanced features of a heart rate monitor and GPS, but it is also supremely easy to use. It has a single, large button that makes it easy to scroll through your data, even on the fly. You can also wear it while swimming. The accompanying MySports app will create charts of your data over time, and also lets you set your own goals for distance, time or calories burned, sending you text alerts to help you work toward them. However, at about $270, the Runner Cardio is pricier than other fitness trackers, and it doesn't track your sleep.
Moov (Full Review): 7.1/10
The Moov fitness tracker stands out from the competition because it not only tracks the same data as most fitness trackers — steps taken, calories burned and the amount of time spent working out — but it also provides spoken instructions through your headphones on how to improve your form or sustain certain movements while exercising. The device, which costs $79.95, can be worn on your wrist or ankle, and is water-resistant enough that you can take it swimming. The Moov does not track how much time you spend sleeping, and it has no screen, so users must look at a smart phone or tablet to see their stats.
Withings Pulse O2 (Full Review): 6.8/10
The Pulse O2 is the latest fitness tracker from Withings, and is marketed as a way to track daily activity and improve health. It tracks steps taken, elevation changes, distance walked, calories burned, heart rate and sleep, and is the first fitness tracker to measure blood oxygen levels. You can wear the device on either a belt clip or a wristband, and a touch screen makes it fun to use. The accompanying app also allows you to set reminders to engage in healthy behaviors. However, the device is not intended to check your heart rate during exercise. And the blood oxygen level measurements seem unnecessary for most people.
The Pop is a fashion-forward fitness tracker that comes in three colors and looks like a regular watch. It tracks your daily steps taken, displays your progress toward you daily goal right on the watch face and automatically goes into sleep mode when you hit sack. The device is waterproof, so you can take it swimming, and it runs on a watch battery, so it does not need to be charged. At $150, the Pop is the more-affordable version of Withings' previous fashion-forward fitness tracker, the Activité, which costs $450. Withings recently redesigned its HealthMate, making it easier to see all of your stats. The Pop does not track heart rate.
Fitbug Orb (Full Review): 6.5/10
The Orb is a fitness tracker that tracks your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and quality of sleep. The main selling point of the Orb is its price: At $49.95, it's about half the price of the Fitbit Flex and the Polar Loop. The main advantages of the Orb are that there are more ways to wear this tracker than with many other trackers on the market, and users receive emails and notifications with tips that provide you with meaning behind the information it tracks, as well as suggestions for improving your health. However, the wristband lacks a screen interface, and requires you to put the battery in yourself. The battery needs replacing every four to six months.
Adidas Fit Smart (Full Review): 6.5/10
The Adidas Fit Smart is a tracker aimed at people who are training for a race, or who want to stay in shape for a sport. The app lets you create your own training schedule, and the device can even coach you during your workouts, alerting you to when you should pick up the pace. It also includes a heart rate monitor, which not all trackers do. However, the Fit Smart does not track your calories or sleep, and is not meant for use during swims.
Fitbit One (Full Review): 6.4/10
The Fitbit One, at $99.95, is in the mid-level price range for fitness trackers. It tracks all the basic metrics, including sleep, steps taken, distance walked and calories burned, and also counts the number of floors you climb. We gave the One high scores for its small size, the way it lets you connect with friends, the alarm that you can set, the inclusion of a wireless dongle to sync with your computer and a lower price than trackers such as the Garmin Vivofit. It does lack certain features found in higher-priced fitness trackers, such as the ability to track cycling, a capability of the Basis Carbon Steel Edition. Also, the One's sleep graph is somewhat difficult to navigate (and the device tends to count "steps" while you're asleep).
Garmin Vivofit (Full Review): 6.3/10
The Garmin Vivofit is marketed as a device that can help you turn your daily exercise into a healthy, lifelong habit. In addition to logging the standard fitness-tracker data — including steps taken, calories burned, distance walked and hours slept — the Vivofit assigns you a personalized fitness goal, which adjusts itself daily, as the device learns your habits and milestones. We experienced some issues syncing the device to a computer and phone, but the Vivofit's one-year battery life definitely sets it apart from other fitness trackers currently on the market.
Fitbit Flex (Full Review): 6.3/10
The Fitbit Flex wristband ranked highly in comfort and design. The tracker's soft, rubbery band is comfortable and easy on the eyes. We found it among the most inspiring and enjoyable of the fitness devices we've reviewed, in part because the wirelessly connected app provides a lot of data to allow you to work toward your goals and monitor your progress. Although it can be a little clunky to use, the Flex does a good job motivating you with goals for daily distance and activity time. Note that another well-known fitness tracker from the company, the Fitbit Force, was recalled in February 2014 after users experienced allergic reactions to the nickel in the device.
FitBit Zip (Full Review): 6/10
The Fitbit Zip is an economical fitness tracker, priced at just $59.95. This basic device tracks steps taken, calories burned and distances walked, but does not track sleep time or stairs climbed, nor does its screen light up. Through its app, the Zip provides a fair amount of motivation to get you moving.
The Polar Loop is one of few fitness trackers on the market that is truly waterproof, allowing users to track activity while swimming laps. (The other is the Misfit Shine.) We found the Loop to be very comfortable (when you first get it, you cut the band so it fits your wrist), easy to use and simple to sync with the iPhone app and computer software. The biggest drawback we found is the button used to display the time and activity data, which is small and sits low in the band, making it difficult to push. Although the Loop measures the basics of sleep time, steps taken, activity time and levels, and calories burned, it does not give you any details on sleep quality, nor does it let you input calories eaten.
The Jawbone UP24, a newer version of the original Jawbone UP, stands out from other fitness trackers in that it provides useful data on several aspects of your daily routine, it's easy to operate and it allows you to scan food barcodes. Depending on your style, you might find the UP24 among the more fashionable tracker wristbands. However, for those who like to check their information without having to access their phone, the UP24 may not be for you, as it doesn't have a screen. In addition, frequent swimmers and people who live or work near water may want to look for a water-resistant tracker like the Misfit Shine or Polar Loop.
iFit Active (Full Review): 5.8/10
The iFit Active fitness tracker is part of the iFit platform, and syncs wirelessly to update both its mobile app and its website. One standout feature of the iFit is that it lets you track your intake of not only calories, but also individual nutrients, such as sodium and saturated fat. The app is a bit buggy — it may crash when you scan the barcode on a food product to enter your calorie intake — and the device is not waterproof. It does not have a heart rate sensor, but it is priced at $129, which means the iFit is less expensive than other trackers that do have this feature. BUY the iFit Active >>>
The LifeTrak Brite R450 aims to provide a comprehensive view of health and fitness. Not only does it track daily steps, distance, calories burned, heart rate and workouts, it also automatically detects when you fall asleep and wake up. And unlike many fitness trackers on the market, the Brite R450 also monitors light exposure, including exposure to blue light. The device will notify you when you've been inside too long and need to get more natural light. And the Brite R450 can send you alerts when you get an incoming call, text or email, and is waterproof up to 90 feet, so you can wear it swimming. The device's app can show you more information about your daily activity, but syncing with the app proved frustrating - it took several minutes to transfer data from the device to the app. And although the Brite R450 tracks light exposure, it provides very little information about what to take away from this data, leaving us wishing that the device made better use of this feature.
Garmin Vivosmart (Full review): 5.7/10
Garmin's Vívosmart tracks steps taken, calories burned and distance walked. You can also use the device to track your sleep. And since this fitness band is also part smartwatch, it lets you read texts and other notifications from your smartphone right on your wrist. But these smartwatch features will cost you. Vívosmart goes for $169.99, which is significantly more than what you’d pay for a fitness tracker with more basic functions. We experienced a few problems when trying to sync Vívosmart with a smartphone, but the device did prove effective at getting us up and moving throughout the day.
Runtastic Orbit (Full Review): 5.4/10
The Runtastic Orbit is a fitness tracker that monitors both daily activity (steps, calories and distance) as well as your sleep habits. At about $120, the Orbit is in the mid-level price range for fitness trackers. The Orbit has a few advantages compared to many other fitness trackers, including that you can set the device to vibrate to alert you if you’ve been sitting still for too long, and it’s waterproof, so you can wear it swimming. However, in our experience, the Orbit came up short in several areas. The device and accompanying app provide little information about what your statistics mean. (For example, there is no information about how much activity you need in a day to be healthy.) And although the device claims to track happiness and ambient lighting, these features appear to be in a primitive form, and there was no information on how to use these features. But if you are a user of other Runtastic products, you may find the device useful, because it can pair with the general Runtastic app, which tracks workouts.
Microsoft Band (Full Review): 5.3/10
The Microsoft Band is a fitness tracker that includes some smartphone features, such as the ability to read email, texts and other reminders on your wrist. The device is also one of the few fitness trackers that has GPS capabilities. The band tracks your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and the quality of your sleep, and also offers a guided workout feature. But despite its whistles and bells, in our review, the Band seemed to come up short on comfort. It pairs with the Microsoft Health app, which works on iPhones as well as on Android or Windows phones. At $269, the Microsoft Band is at the higher end of the price range for fitness trackers.
Samsung Gear Fit (Full Review): 5.3/10
The Samsung Gear Fit is not just a fitness tracker or a smartwatch — it's both. The device stands out for its sleek design and interactive display, and the ability to receive notifications on the device itself. However, its user-friendliness could use some improvement. You'll need three apps to manage the device, including a separate app just to look at a lot of your sleep data. The Gear Fit also shares some features with Samsung's latest smartphone, the Galaxy S5. Both devices have a heart rate monitor and a pedometer, which can lead to some confusion. For example, you have to change your settings if you want the phone to use pedometer information from the Gear Fit, rather than from the phone itself. BUY the Gear Fit >>>
The Nike FuelBand SE is an update to the original version of the FuelBand, and includes a few new features, including the ability to set reminders to move. You can also create "sessions," which let you track the Fuel points you earn during a specific activity, like an afternoon run, as well as the duration of the activity. But the device provides little information about how much activity you need to be healthy, and does not provide sleep analysis.
Soleus Go (Full Review): 5/10
The Go is a fitness tracker from Soleus that tracks daily steps, calories burned, distance traveled and sleep quality in addition to workout time and pace. The tracker also includes a few smartwatch features, such as alerts when you get a call or text. Two appealing features of the Go are that the device vibrates to remind you to move, and users have the option to set the device to automatically enter sleep mode at a certain time. However, Soleus provides little information about what your stats mean, and the charging device is cumbersome. In addition, users need to press buttons on the device multiple times to find certain information, such as daily steps.
Misfit Flash (Full Review): 4.25/10
The Misfit Flash is a basic, budget fitness tracker that usually retails for between $34 and $50. The device is waterproof, and may appeal to people who want to try out the whole activity- and sleep-tracking thing without spending a lot of money. You can wear the flash several ways — on your wrist, clipped onto your belt or dangling from your keychain — and the device will tracker your distance traveled, calories burned and hours spent sleeping. The Misfit app features a point system that brings in all the data on your running, swimming, cycling and other sports into a single number that lets you see how active you are everyday. In our testing, the Flash lost points because its wristband seems to break rather easily, and because in lieu of a watchface or liquid crystal display, the tracker has only a circle of tiny lights, making it difficult to interpret your data.
Other Fitness Trackers Reviewed:
Basis B1 (Full Review): 6.8/10
Withings Pulse (Full Review): 6.6/10
Jawbone Up (Full Review): 5.8/10
Misfit Shine (Full Review): 5.4/10
Nike FuelBand (Full Review): 5.1/10
Bowflex Boost (Full Review): 4.1/10
How we test fitness trackers:
Live Science's reviews of fitness trackers involve far more than just wearing the devices around our office, or relying on manufacturer specs. Our team tests the devices by wearing them for about a week, in the real world. We sleep with our trackers, eat with our trackers, and wear them at home, at the gym, outdoors and even while running races such as 5Ks and half marathons. If we hit a snag while using a tracker, we reach out to the company with our questions, so we can tell our readers about not only how to fix the problem, but also about the company's customer service. Live Science brings a degree of scientific rigor to our evaluations that you won't find at other review sites.
Editor’s Note: In February 2015, we changed the rating system we use in our fitness tracker reviews from a 5-star system to a 10-point system. Not all of our ratings were a straight conversion (i.e. 2/5 stars = 4/10 points). Instead, we adjusted some of them in order to give our readers a better idea of how these devices perform in relation to each other.
Live Science writers and editors Rob Britt, Jeanna Bryner, Denise Chow, Bahar Gholipour, Tia Ghose, Miriam Kramer, Tanya Lewis and Karen Rowan contributed reporting to this article.