The Best Activity Tracker 2016 – Next Generation Trackers
An activity tracker is an ubiquitous device at this point: lots of people have the rubberised bands around their wrists, and talk of steps taken and calories burned dominate casual conversation and social media updates. It’s even led to some bad jokes: if you walk to the mailbox and you’re not wearing your Fitbit, do those steps even count?
In fact, we’re at the point where many people have owned an activity tracker for a year or two and are now looking for a second one, either to upgrade with newer features or replace an out of warranty model on the fritz. Adding to that, most manufacturers are on second, third, and even fourth iterations of their popular trackers, adding more capability and slowly but surely bringing prices down.
It may seem like we’re past peak on the activity tracker crazy, but in reality, the market is showing no signs of sluggishness. Texas-based research firm Parks Associates estimates that the tracker market, which was worth $2 billion in 2014, will be worth an estimated $5 billion by 2019.
And all those concerns a year ago about how the Apple Watch would have a negative impact on activity tracker sales? According to the NPD Group, a market research company, that simply did not happen.
There’s also the research from a few years ago suggesting that about a third of activity tracker owners stop wearing their device after six months, but clearly, people are still buying them.
If you’re looking to buy a new activity tracker, it’s important to realise that your choices in 2016 are significantly different from your choices just a year ago. What’s new on the market, and what’s the best activity tracker for 2016? It depends on your priorities and budget, but here are the ten that we like the best.
10. Xiaomi Mi Band 2
To be perfectly honest, we’ve got the latest iteration of Xiaomi’s highly affordable tracker on our list based on price alone.
It’s just too hard to pass up a fully appointed activity tracker that costs just £35. Unlike the first two offerings from Xiaomi (the original Mi band and the Mi Pulse), the Mi Band 2 has a small OLED display to show time and data points. It’s not a touchscreen, though, but it’s definitely a step up from the previous versions.
The Mi Band 2 can track the basics:
- and calories,
- plus time asleep,
- time awake,
- and your overnight sleep activity.
There’s also a silent alarm, and you can set more than one alarm if you need several throughout the day (or if you know you’re prone to falling back asleep after you stop your band from vibrating).
As for advanced features, the Mi Band 2 has onboard heart rate monitoring, which is huge at this price point. It can also handle smartphone notifications, a nice convenience. Battery life is about two weeks, which is pretty good for a device with heart rate monitoring, the device has a silicone band, and it’s waterproof. Xiaomi’s corresponding app isn’t anything groundbreaking; it gives you just the numbers and no motivational messages or social component, but if all you want is your data, you’ll get it.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 2 is a solid basic activity tracker, especially for its low price tag. It’s probably not the one you want if you’re more than a little serious about your fitness, but for daily step counting and a little more, it gets the job done at a great price.
9. Jawbone UP2
The Jawbone UP2 has been out for a year now, and even though the UP3 and UP4 have more features, we still like the UP2. It may not be the absolute greatest tracker on the market, but it’s one you should most definitely consider. Simply put, the UP2 strikes the right balance between useful features, user friendliness, and price.
It’s a basic activity tracker, keeping tabs on steps taken, distance travelled, and calories burned, plus sleep. There’s no heart rate monitoring, no GPS, no smart notifications — there’s not even a display. It does have a funky aesthetic going for it, though; it’s stylish like a cool bracelet rather than a rubbery tracker, and if looks are important to you in a device like this, then the UP2 is one you’ll want to look at carefully.
Where the Jawbone UP2 really stands apart from the pack — where all Jawbone trackers stand apart — is its app. There are charts for your data and insightful analyses, food and mood logging, a robust social component, and helpful smart coaching with great feedback.
It’s really everything you’d want in a health and fitness app, and it uses your own numbers to help you improve.
The battery life on the UP2 is about ten days. It’s water resistant and splashproof, though showering or swimming with it is absolutely not advised. It’s fairly straightforward in what it can do, and while the UP2 costs more than other trackers with similar capabilities, the Jawbone app makes it worth the money.
8. Fitbit Alta
The Alta is one of the new 2016 offerings from Fitbit, the biggest player in the activity tracker game. It feels like a substantial upgrade of the Fitbit Flex, with basic tracking features and some added capabilities to make it feel like an overall improvement.
There’s an actual screen on the Alta — it’s a slim 128×36 OLED tap display that can show you the time, your data points, and smart notifications.
Its tracking capabilities are what you’d expect from a device like this: steps, distance, calories, and active minutes, plus sleep, and it also tabulates your stationary time. One of the best new features on the Alta is its ability to track hourly mini goals for movement in addition to a daily goal.
It will buzz you if you haven’t met your hourly objective, so you’re never sedentary for long. If regular movement is a priority of yours, this is an incredibly helpful feature. The Fitbit app is predictably great, giving you charts for all your data, food logging, and social connections with Fitbit wearing friends. There’s no heart rate monitor on the Alta, though, and battery life is about a week.
The Fitbit Alta is priced at £99.99, which is sort of on the high end for a basic tracker for just a few extra features. You do get the great app, though, as well as the Fitbit name, which, let’s face it, does jack up the price.
It’s important to note that the base price includes a rubberised band; upgrade, and you’ll pay more. A leather band runs £49.99, and a stainless steel one (which admittedly looks awesome) is £79.99.
Go for the stainless steel band, and you’re looking at a total price of £179.98, which is more than a little ridiculous; for that price, you could buy a well appointed GPS tracker. But it all depends on your priorities: the Fitbit Alta is nice if you can fit it into your budget.
7. Withings Activité Steel
The Withings Activité Steel is perfect if you like the idea of an activity tracker but don’t especially care for the sporty aesthetic of most wearables in the category.
The Activité Steel looks like an ordinary watch, and a pretty nice one at that. It boasts a stainless steel frame, chrome watch hands (yes, it’s analog!), and even though it comes with a silicone strap, it doesn’t have the ultra casual look of, say, a Fitbit.
The Activité Steel keeps tabs on steps, distance, and calories. It can track running and swimming (yes, it’s highly water resistant), and it has a sleep tracker with sleep cycle analysis and a silent alarm. There’s no heart rate monitoring or GPS or smart notifications, but again, this is an activity tracker you buy predominantly for looks, not advanced features.
All you see on the face is the time, plus a discreet smaller dial that shows you how close you are to meeting your daily goal. That’s it. To get the rest, you’ll need to use the Withings Health Mate app, which has your data plus food logging and more.
The battery on the Activité Steel lasts up to eight months, and it’s easy enough to change out when necessary. Buying one will set you back £139.95 for the black model, £159.95 for colours, £199.95 for a red leather wristband, and £219.95 for a black leather one. It’s definitely pricier than an ordinary tracker, but cost wise, it’s on par with a respectable watch — and it really looks great.
6. Polar A360
The A360 is the nicest looking tracker that Polar has come out with. It boasts a full colour touch screen, a good smartwatch-like size, and an oblong shape that neither overwhelms small wrists nor feels lost on large ones.
It tracks the usual data points — steps, calories, and sleep — and is really helpful for tracking workouts as well. Plus, it allows for daily goal setting that isn’t 100% reliant on steps; you can go for a bike ride, for example, and it will count toward your daily movement, even though there are no steps involved.
There’s an optical heart rate sensor on the A360, but it’s not for continual heart rate monitoring — it’s for workouts only.
However, it’s surprisingly accurate, and it even works while you’re swimming; the A360 is waterproof to 30 metres, though it does not track strokes and other swim-specific metrics. If you want to pair the A360 with a more accurate chest strap monitor, it’s compatible with Polar’s H7.
The A360 gives you move reminders as well as smart notifications. Thanks to its default dark screen (you need to flick your wrist to turn it on) and non-continuous heart rate monitoring, the battery lasts up to ten days on a single charge. Syncing is not automatic, and while manual sync isn’t a huge deal, it’s an anomaly in the activity tracker field.
The Polar A360 is an excellent tracker with a great app (Polar Flow) for £149.50. Given its colour touchscreen, heart rate sensor, and versatility, along with its good looks, that’s a very fair price.
5. Misfit Shine 2
The Misfit Shine 2 is like a tracker incognito: a small metal disc with 12 multicoloured LED lights circling the circumference to show you daily goal progress and other notifications.
It’s got a minimal design that would make Dieter Rams proud, and there’s probably no way you’d guess it was an advanced piece of tech if you didn’t know what it was.
For everyday tracking, the Shine 2 records steps, distance, and calories. It has auto sleep tracking, and it can vibrate for both a move alert and a silent alarm.
Plus, it can act as a smart button; download the Misfit Link app, and you can program in functionality to turn it into your phone’s camera shutter release, a music remote, and more. It can also handle smart notifications, with its LEDs flashing in a specified colour when you have a text or a call.
The battery on the Shine 2 is a button cell that lasts six months and is easily replaced. It’s also waterproof, so you can swim with it or keep it on in the shower. There’s no heart rate monitoring or GPS, but it’s still a good and attractive activity tracker. Plus, it’s priced well at £80.54 for the standard Shine 2 or £96.54 for the swimmer’s edition with more advanced swim tracking features.
The only real downside is that the Shine 2 is not really secure in its wristband. Some owners have complained that the small round disc is easily lost, which is frustrating for an £80 device.
Owners do have better luck snapping it in the included clip holder, but then you can’t wear it around your wrist. It’s still a good purchase, but if Misfit can solve this problem, it will be a great purchase.
4. Garmin vivosmart HR
The capital-letter challenged vivosmart HR is a product from Garmin, a company that built its entire empire on GPS navigation technology. So yes, the vivosmart HR has built in GPS.
And, as its name implies, it also has built in continual heart rate monitoring. These two premium features bring the price above that of a standard tracker: it retails for £169.99. However, if specific distance information and heart rate data are priorities for you, then then vivosmart HR is well worth the money.
As an everyday tracker, it tracks steps, distance, calories, floors climbed, and active minutes, plus sleep tracking. It provides smart notifications, and there are numerous widgets built in, including one for music controls and another for weather.
The latter one is an extremely helpful addition if you run outside. The vivosmart HR is waterproof, so you can swim and shower in it. The Garmin app is good but not great, as there’s no smart coaching or feedback on your performance to help motivate you.
Battery life on the vivosmart HR is about five days, less if you have the GPS on a lot. That’s pretty good for a device with an always-on colour touchscreen display.
It looks pretty good, though it’s chunky and not at all discreet. Still, for a tracker with built in GPS and heart rate monitoring, the vivosmart HR is a really nice product for £169.99. Plus, UK orders come with a free bPay loop for contactless payments up to £30 — it’s a £19.99 extra for free.
3. Moov Now
If you want an all day tracker that’s also a smart coach and a great device for workouts, then the Moov Now is a great choice. It’s definitely funky looking, with its webbed covering and its faceless watch shape, but the odd exterior hides a powerful piece of tech underneath.
For starters, the Moov Now is a good basic tracker, gathering numbers on steps, calories, and active minutes, plus some very basic sleep data. There’s no built in heart rate monitor, though it does support data from many third party chest straps.
Run, Cycle, Swim
Where the Moov Now really shines, though, is during workouts. Whether you run, cycle, swim (yes, it’s waterproof), or do cardio, you get helpful data and motivational smart coaching from the device. It can help you improve your form and efficiency, so you improve your numbers and avoid injury. You do need your phone within range, though, as the Moov Now needs to connect to its app and piggyback on your phone’s GPS for distance data, but you’ll probably have your phone on you for your music anyway.
The Moov app does have some built in exercise routines, like the popular seven minute workout, and it can even walk you through an excellent cardio boxing workout. For the latter activity, though, you’ll need two Moov Now trackers — one on each wrist. That may sound exorbitant, but it’s actually not, as a package of two Moov Nows costs less than most of the activity trackers on our list. One is $59.95 USD (about £45), while two is $99.90 (£76).
The Moov Now is powered by a button cell battery that lasts about six months. It’s a decent all day tracker, but it’s really best for the more serious athlete who wants daily tracking plus some motivation during workouts. It’s a fantastic device, and it’s highly affordable to boot.
2. Samsung Gear Fit2
Samsung’s Gear Fit2 is a is a powerhouse of an activity tracker, but what you notice first is it’s gorgeous appearance. It actually looks like an oblong smartwatch, thanks to its striking curved AMOLED display that fits the contours of the wrist so well. Plus, it’s full colour and responsive to touch. Beyond appearances, this is a device that still shines.
All day tracking is no problem at all for the Fit2; it’ll keep tabs on steps, calories, and sleep, all automatically. However, this is a wearable that’s more ideal for individuals who do more with their fitness than try to meet a daily steps goal. For starters, it has built in GPS with on-screen mapping plus heart rate monitoring, two awesome features.
The heart rate monitor is a little fussy at times, but it works well enough. Besides, serious athletes who want highly accurate heart rate data will invest in a chest strap monitor. It can also automatically detect specific exercises, and you can always manually enter new ones.
There are four gigs of onboard storage for your music; this feature along with the built in GPS means that you can go for a run and leave your phone at home.
The Fit2 also has Spotify integration, but you do need your phone within range for your playlists to work; you can’t download them for offline playing. Another slight drawback is that you can’t see multiple data points on the screen at once, such as distance and time simultaneously. Instead, you need to swipe the screen or check the app.
The Fit2’s display isn’t always on; to get it to light up, you need to flick your wrist. It’s a slight annoyance, but it helps to improve battery life. Speaking of, the battery on the Fit2 maxes out at three days, less if you have the GPS on for long stretches. It’s not fully waterproof, but that’s not unusual for a devices like this, and splashes and sweat won’t hurt it.
Almost as fantastic as the Fit2’s looks is its price: £149. That’s a low price for such a well appointed device. It’s perfect for intermediate athletes: serious runners and triathletes will want something more advanced, while those who just want to count steps may find it’s too much tech for them.
1. Fitbit Blaze
Like the Alta, the Blaze is a new Fitbit for 2016, and it tops our list for the best activity trackers for its functionality, versatility, and great style. This is another product that straddles the line between and activity tracker and a smartwatch. Aesthetically, it’s clearly a response to the Apple Watch, with its squared off face and its bright, full colour touchscreen, though the Blaze’s abilities are somewhat less impressive, its profile is a little lower, and its price is a whole lot less.
This is a product from Fitbit, so of course it can handle all of your daily tracking needs: steps, stairs, calories, and distance, plus auto sleep tracking with a silent alarm. But it can also gather data from more intense exercise automatically as well; these include running, cycling, and other cardio workouts. Plus, the Fitbit Blaze has built in FitStar on screen workouts as well.
There are advanced features too. The Blaze has a heart rate sensor for continuous heart rate monitoring. And while there’s no GPS on the device, it can piggyback on your phone’s GPS if it’s within range to provide you with highly accurate data information. It can handle smart notifications from your phone, and there are music controls as well. However, there are no other apps — again, this is predominantly an activity tracker and not a smartwatch.
Fitbit App Included
Of course, you get the awesome Fitbit app for full data analysis, helpful motivation, and friendly competition with Fitbit wearing friends. Battery life is about five days, which isn’t bad for a device of this ilk.
Finally, the price of the standard Blaze is surprisingly competitive, especially for a Fitbit product (since they tend to be priced higher than their equivalent competitors that don’t have the big brand name).
It retails for £159.99 for a Blaze that’s black and silver, blue and silver, or plum and silver. Choose the black and gunmetal (which is less shiny than the silver finish), and you’ll pay £179.99.
Bands are expensive, though: a leather one is £59.99, while a stainless steel one runs £89.99.We say skip the fancy bands and check out the Fitbit Blaze.
Best Activity Tracker – Track On, You Crazy Steppers
If you’re still tracking and still collecting data about your movements, then we urge you to consider upgrading to one of the great activity trackers for 2016 on our list. Which one are you thinking of buying? Or, if you already have one of the trackers mentioned on our list, do you like it? Was buying it money well spent? We’d love it if you could leave us a comment and tell us all about it.
See recommended fitness trackers on Amazon
Fitbit Charge 2
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Misfit Shine 2
Xiaomi Mi Band 2