Would you like to stay informed about how much you move a daily basis? Get in better shape? Stress less? Or perhaps just achieve a proper overview of how you’re doing? We have tested a wide range of activity trackers from Garmin, Xiaomi, Withings and others to see which ones deliver on both accuracy and functions.
We used the activity trackers, or activity bands as they're also called, in everyday life as they're intended to be used. Where they can record sleep, we slept with them on, and where they can record different types of exercise, we tested that too.
The actual step counting has been checked on a fixed, but varied route, and where the trackers have built-in pulse meters, they have been checked too, against a GPS watch with a separate pulse strap.
During the test we focused on a number of parameters that we feel are particularly important.
Accuracy: How accurate is the step count? Is the step count low, or does it overestimate the steps taken? The same thing applies to sleep and pulse. For pulse measurement, how often the pulse is taken is also important.
Functions and apps: Can the band show notifications from your telephone? How is your collected data presented both on the unit and in the app? What can the band do in addition to the basic functions? Is the app easy-to-use and does it give you tips on how you can improve?
Design and battery life: An activity trainer you need to keep charging will eventually end up being forgotten about and left in a drawer. A good activity trainer lasts for about a week's use, during which time you should simply be able to forget that you're wearing it. Consequently, the design is also important. The band has to be comfortable to wear all the time, not get in the way and quite simply blend into your everyday life.
Fully packed fitness band
GPS: No Screen resolution: 1.47 inch (amoled) Dimensions (WxHxD): 42.05 x 24.45 x 10.15 mm Weight: 15 g Waterproof/Depth: Yes/5 ATM Battery life: Up to 14 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altimeter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Heart rate monitor: Yes, integrated optical heart rate monitor
Xiaomi is hardly a rookie when it comes to activity bands – in terms of sales volume, they are among the largest in the world. However, they are usually called Mi Band, followed by a number. Now they are releasing the first fitness band within their budget brand, Redmi: Xiaomi Redmi Smart Band Pro.
We in Sweden seem to be far too picky, so we have to settle for the Pro model of the band. On the other hand, we were positively surprised by the design, which is anything but a copy of their existing Mi Band.
The design lands somewhere between traditional activity band and wristwatch. This is mainly due to the rectangular display, which is more like a watch than Xiaomi’s usual pill-shaped fitness band. The shape also makes the screen significantly larger, without taking up too much space on your wrist. The icons are large and clear, so that you can easily navigate correctly.
At the same time, the design of the interface is the major difference between this band and Xiaomi’s “normal” activity band. You use the same app to sync to your phone and send notifications back to your wristband, and the features are very similar.
This is not a bad thing – on the contrary. Xiaomi’s activity band has loads of features and measurement data, in addition to steps, heart rate and sleep. There are plenty of exercise modes, and the battery lasts up to two weeks. In terms of features per Swedish crown, Xiaomi is hard to beat. At the same time, we would have liked to have seen greater opportunities for the analysis of the collected data.
The only thing that is otherwise missing here is support for mobile payments, which Xiaomi’s usual band supports. However, it is hardly a vital function considering the price tag. The price tag also makes things, such as music support or GPS, feel less relevant. However, we would have liked to have seen the same charging plug as for Xiaomi’s regular band, or really anything except the one that exists now. The cord is thin, feels brittle, and feels like it will loosen at even the slightest sneeze. So it’s good that it has such a long battery life.
Xiaomi Redmi Smart Band Pro is mostly a design option for those who are not too keen on Xiaomi’s usual bands. At the same time, it’s an incredibly good option, with so many features that you won't have time to use half of them.
The budget king among activity trackers with some really nice updates and a bigger screen.
GPS: No Screen resolution: 1.1 inch OLED, 126 x 294 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 47.2x18.5x12.4 mm Weight: 11.9 g Waterproof/Depth: Yes/5 ATM Battery life: up to 20 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altimeter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Pulse measurement: Yes
Xiaomi's activity tracker has long suffered from an outdated and dull app, a small screen, a poor charging solution and an almost non-existent ecosystem to support it. But Xiaomi seem to have seen that as a challenge, because with their Mi Band 5 a lot has changed.
Though one good thing does remain the same: its still the best activity tracker per pound spent in almost every respect. Despite all the shortcomings, you get a huge amount for your money.
Previously, you had to charge the Mi Band by taking the device out of its bracelet and connecting it into a special charging dock. Finally, you no longer have that hassle, as charging is now handled via a magnetic mount on the underside. At the same time, the battery life lasts for about 20 days, which puts the Mi Band in the top tier of its class.
The screen has also received an update. Specifically, the size has been increased from 0.95 to 1.1 inches. That may sound small, but the device itself is also very small, so every millimetre makes a big difference.
In the same vein, Xiaomi have added a plethora of animated dials and more settings over what to display, which greatly enhances the experience.
Unfortunately, the app is still the same. It does a decent enough job, but lacks all kinds of extra features and the ability to share data and workouts.
To be fair, given the price, you can’t really complain about that. Because you get the same sleep measurement, heart rate measurement, phone notifications, training modes and accurate step count as before, and still at an insanely good price. There are also several new features such as support for blood oxygenation, NFC for easier pairing and voice assistant support. Sadly, so far, these features are only active in Xiami’s home country of China.
Despite this, the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 stands out as our winner for best budget choice, just like its predecessors. Shortcomings notwithstanding, you can’t find anything with more functions at this price.
All in one unit
GPS: yes Screen resolution: 1.04 inch (amoled) Dimensions (WxHxD): 36.7x22.7x11.2 mm Weight: 28g Waterproof/Depth: Yes/5 ATM Battery life: up to 7 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altimeter: Yes Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Heart rate measurement: Yes, integrated optical heart rate monitor Other: ECG monitor, skin temperature sensor
Fitbit Charge 5 is a bit like Garmin’s old Vivosport bracelet – a kind of attempt to see how much can actually be pushed into a small bracelet. At the same time, it’s perhaps the biggest update on Fitbit’s classic bracelet since it first appeared. You get the entire host of sensors with GPS, heart rate, skin temperature, ECG, height meter, etc. combined with data for steps, stress, sleep and (depending on whether you pay or not) most other data you can imagine.
Design-wise, this is the biggest update to Fitbit Charge since the first version of the bracelet was released seven years ago. Firstly, the classic button has disappeared in favour of only input via touchscreen. Secondly, the screen has also been equipped with Oled technology and an overall colourful and pleasant appearance. Although Fitbit’s attachments are unique, it’s also easy to replace the wristbands with one that’s right for the day.
Along the sides, there are now sensors for picking up ECG as well as stress measurements via Fitbit’s mindfulness department. Naturally, the heart rate monitor is located on the underside of the device, which provides really precise results. The pedometer is not quite as accurate, as is a bit too happy to count steps, so to speak. No super-serious errors, but Charge 5 picks up far more steps when sitting at a desk or counter than its competitors.
Despite the new screen and all the extra features, we didn't usually need to charge the bracelet more than twice a week. This is hardly a record, but good enough in terms of functional level.
With all the sensors you can imagine, there is a lot of data that can be collected. To make the overview easy, there is only a small amount of data in the interface of the bracelet. We would have liked to have been able to switch which functions and data to display on or off to a greater extent, but this is not possible. Overall, it feels a bit like the interface often hits the ceiling and that many of the functions are presented better on the slightly more expensive smart watches that Fitbit makes.
Instead, you will find most of the data in the app. About half of the data can be seen by regular members and, if you shell out for Fitbit’s premium service, you’ll have access to all the data. With the premium service, you also get a “daily readiness score”, which takes both previous exercise, heart rate, and the like into account when it tells you how well-recovered you are and which exercise is recommended based on this. The analysis is a bit on the cautious side, but overall it works well.
A real killer feature, on the other hand, is the smart wake-up call, which, together with the sleep analysis, keeps track of when it is most appropriate to wake you up during a certain time interval. An old feature in Fitbit circles, but incomprehensible that it’s not the industry standard in all these products considering how well it works.
Overall, Fitbit Charge 5 works really well, especially by not flooding the user with unnecessary data on the small screen. While we can always discuss the functions and pricing versus upgrading to a “real” GPS watch, this is about as good as it gets for an activity bracelet.
Fitbit Charge 5 Fitness Tracker Built-in GPS HR Monitor Gold White
Fitbit Charge 5 Gold and Lunar White
Fitbit Charge 5 Fitness Tracker - Platinum / Blue - Advanced Health Tracker with GPS, Stress & Readiness Scores, Vibrant Display & 7-Day Battery., New
GPS: No (Assisted GPS via phone) Screen resolution: 194 x 368 pixels, 1.47 ins AMOLED Dimensions (WxHxD): 43x25.4x10.99 mm Weight: 18 g (without band) Waterproof/Depth: Yes/5 ATM Battery life: Up to 14 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altimeter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Heart rate measurement: Yes
In many ways, the Huawei Band 6 feels like it’s in one corner of the boxing match between Chinese activity trackers. Because Huawei’s activity trackers are largely aiming for exactly the same target market as Xiaomi and their Mi Band series. This brings both pros and cons.
On the surface, the two companies' Band products are quite similar. An activity band with a very good balance between size and weight which offers a relatively large and colourful OLED screen. Huawei’s products cost a little more, but they have also invested that money in a significantly better build quality. On the other hand, you’re stuck with the band their device comes with, while with Xiaomi you can change bands.
The Huawei Band 6 is controlled either via the touchscreen, or via the single button on the side. Navigation always feels straightforward and logical.
The similarities with Xiaomi also continue in the software. Of course, the band counts steps, sleep, measures heart rate and so on. The measurement of steps is very accurate and well within the limits of what is reasonable. ‘The same with heart rate measurement and even, to some extent, with sleep measurement. In addition, there’s a big focus on training, with a large range of training modes included and some basic analysis functions. If you have your phone with you while running, the band can pick up GPS data from it, but nothing like that is built into the device. In addition, there are a number of extra functions – stress measurement, breathing exercises, stopwatch, menstrual cycle tracking and so on.
All more or less the same as with Xiaomi's band. It does have more setting options for the dials, and Huawei have a better workout mode, but overall they are very similar to each other. This also applies to the disadvantages. Because even though lots of data is collected that can be displayed in the app, the products are also locked to that app. Sharing of data or workouts is virtually non-existent and there is no ecosystem of friends to challenge.
The Huawei Band 6 is very similar to the Xiaomi Mi Band and they really should be compared to one another. Huawei offer better build quality and a slightly better developed workout mode, while Xiaomi’s product comes at a lower price and offers slightly more opportunities to personalise the band. As a cheap activity tracker with an attractive design and good functionality, the Huawei Band 6 works pretty well, however.
Well-thought-out fitness tracker for younger users with lots of nice extras
GPS: No Screen resolution: 112 x 112 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 14.11x14.11 mm Weight: 25 g Waterproof/Depth: Yes/5 ATM Battery life: up to 1 year (CR2025 battery) Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altimeter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: No ** Heart rate measurement:** No ** Miscellaneous:** Games and challenges in the app
Today's children need to move more. Can a fitness tracker intended for kids help achieve that? The answer from our nine-year-old tester is a resounding yes – after they've worn the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 for just over a month.
The idea behind it is similar to what we've seen in previous versions of the Vivofit Jr, but this time it has an updated and more watch-like design, colour screen and, finally, an adjustable strap. The latter was missing in at least the first edition of the junior model.
Great focus has also been placed on a collaboration with Disney's Princess and Marvel themes. However, sadly the Iron Man edition, for example, is locked to that character, so you can't have a red watch with a Frost theme in the interface.
The watch itself keeps track of steps and sleep, and has functions for seeing your child’s progress. It also has a stopwatch, emergency number and similar simple functions.
Navigation is controlled with a push or long press on the unit's single button, which is equally simple and yet frustratingly clumpy. The watch itself has been proven to withstand a lot of wear without looking worn and works perfectly in the bath or shower.
Equally important is the junior-adapted app. Using the adult's telephone, you can sync the device, view data and even set various tasks to be performed. These might be things like a reminder to put the dishes away or feed the dog.
If your child has their own phone, they can, via the app's child mode, see their progress and virtual money earned on both movement and tasks and spend these in the app's built-in games. The games themselves aren't very interesting. They are just a way of ticking off performed tasks and filling in the activity or step bars every day – but this was actually the real carrot for our test subject, who gave the unit a top score.
From an adult's perspective, the whole package of the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 feels well thought out. At the same time, we’d have liked to see slightly better navigation, a more logical way to turn on the backlight and the ability to tick off tasks directly on the device instead of just being able to see them. On the downside, the price is enormously high in terms of what this fitness tracker does and what its competitors offer for half the price.
Analogue watch with hidden smart features
GPS: No Screen resolution: 13.8 mm Dimensions (WxHxD): 38x13.2 mm or 42x13.7 mm (38 or 42 mm models) Weight: 58/83 g (38/42 mm) Watertight/Depth: Yes/5 atm Battery life: up to 30 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altitude meter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: No Pulse measurement: Yes, built-in optical heart rate monitor Miscellaneous: ECG meter
The Withings Scanwatch continues Withings’ line of analogue watches that in some way or other have hidden smart features. For example, the cheaper Withings Move only had an extra analogue meter to show how close you were to your step target. The Scanwatch has a design with a minimalist display that Withings has used in a couple of previous models. And this provides significantly greater opportunities to display information. At the same time, the focus is on measuring ECG using the watch.
The Scanwatch comes in two sizes, 38 mm or 42 mm. In practice, size is the only thing that distinguishes the two models and all functions are included in both. The watch itself is pretty discreet and can easily be mistaken for an ordinary analogue watch.
But if you want a smart watch that's as unobtrusive as possible, you should choose the black model, as that display blends into the dial more. On our white test watch, the screen is pretty obvious, which does take the edge off the design a bit. It’s also quite difficult to read in sunlight.
The display shows health data such as steps and heart rate, as well as simpler notifications via your phone and settings for the watch. Everything is controlled with the button on the side of the watch.
For obvious reasons, the display is very small and not great for anyone who needs glasses. At the same time, it does manage to display basic information surprisingly well. However, that small size becomes a nuisance when you try to read notifications on it.
The Scanwatch works for around 20 days on a single charge, which feels quite generous. During that time, it automatically keeps track of steps, sleep, heart rate and the like. Everything is then presented really nicely via Withings’ app. The sleep analysis in particular feels really well done.
This is due to the fact that a lot of effort has been put into looking out for sleep apnoea, which is a full half of the health aspect with the Scanwatch. The second is the ability to take an ECG with the watch and therefore to keep track of any atrial fibrillation. Even if the ECG function is medically classified and seems to work well as far as we can judge, it must still only be seen as a complement to actual medical care and primarily as an indication of something going wrong.
If you’re looking for a discreet activity meter, the Scanwatch could be a really good choice. At the same time, you do pay a hefty supplement for the ECG function in relation to the company's cheaper analogue watches with displays. This means you really need to like the design in order to cope with the price tag.
Withings ScanWatch – Hybrid Smart Watch with ECG, Heart Rate, Oximeter - 30 Day Battery Life - Smart Watches for Women, Smart Watch for Men, Fitness Tracker - Android & iOS
Withings Scanwatch - Hybrid Smartwatch with ECG, Heart Rate, SPO2 and Sleep Tracking, Sport Smartwatch, Pedometer Smartwatch with Charger - 38mm - White
Withings Scanwatch (38mm White)
A single function ruins the pricing
GPS: No Screen resolution: 1.56 ins OLED, 152x486 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 47.4x18.6x12.7 mm Weight: 11.9 g Waterproof/Depth: Yes/5 ATM Battery life: up to 12 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altimeter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Heart rate measurement: Yes Miscellaneous: NFC
Xiaomi have decided to simplify their naming strategy. Instead of this type of product being called the Mi Band, as with things like phones and so on, they have scrapped the Mi part. So Xiaomi’s latest activity band is called the Xiaomi Band 6 NFC and nothing else. But it’s that last abbreviation that destroys what’s always been so good about the company’s activity trackers.
The external dimensions of the Mi Band 5, Mi Band 6 and Band 6 NFC are identical. This is great news if you’re looking for an extra band, but a little less fun if you expect groundbreaking new functions. The changes between Bands 5 and 6 included adding support for measuring oxygenation in the blood and so on. The change between the Band 6 and Band 6 NFC means, in practice, that we in the west now get the version the Chinese had from the outset. The only significant difference is thus the addition of NFC, which gives you support for contactless payments. Admittedly that’s currently only for Mastercard, but more are underway. Of course this is a fun and welcome function. But it’s also the band’s biggest disadvantage, because it’s meant an almost 50 percent price increase. Fifty percent for one, rather limited extra function. Well, there’s actually one more function. Now, there’s a microphone on the band that can be connected to Amazon Alexa.
Apart from the price increase, the Xiaomi Band 6 is a pretty nice device. Like its predecessors, you get lots of workout modes, step counting, basic sleep analysis, the ability to measure stress and so on. Altogerther that makes for a pretty complete activity tracker in itself, and one that turns out to be really accurate in its measurements. However, Xiaomi’s app is still the odd one out. It feels a bit cluttered, while you and your data are still largely locked to it. There is now a function for adding friends, but much of the analysis function that other activity trackers offer via their apps is missing. At the same time, the app is messy and it’s very hard to actually find things in it. The Xiaomi Band 6 NFC is a really good and very competent activity tracker, there’s no doubt about that. The sad thing is that the NFC function is very limited at present, and yet the price of the band has gone up substantially. From that point of view, it's a much better idea to simply buy the NFC-free predecessor instead.
Because we can
GPS: Yes Screen resolution: 72 x 144 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 9.7x19.3 mm Weight: 24.1/27 g (small/large) Watertight/Depth: Yes/no information (should cope with swimming) Battery life: up to 8 hours with GPS Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart, ANT+ Battery life (standby): up to 7 days Altitude meter: Yes Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Pulse measurement: Yes, built-in or with pulse strap
How many functions can you expect from a compact activity tracker? Garmin seem to have approached this one by asking “how much we can squeeze into it?”
In many ways, the Vivosport looks like a lot of other activity trackers – confusingly like Garmin’s simpler Vivosmart devices. It’s a rubberised bracelet with an oblong and relatively simple screen. It’s made to be discreet but simultaneously a bit sporty, just like pretty much the entire category of activity trackers.
The big difference is on the inside, because the Vivosport is one of few activity trackers with built-in GPS. Competitors like Fitbit often boast about their GPS functionality, but this is usually only the tracker picking up the GPS signal from your phone. Here it’s inbuilt from the start and even if it isn’t the fastest receiver in town it’s very welcome in an exercise context.
Running and cycling are the sports that benefit from GPS tracking, but there are a handful of other sports to choose from that don’t require GPS data, such as indoor running or strength training. Unfortunately there’s no functionality for swimming, something that many competitors at least attempt to measure. However, you can connect a separate pulse strap if you want.
Overall you get really good step counting, altitude and sleep measurement and synchronisation with your phone for both exercise data and mobile notifications. The tracker also keeps track of your pulse and uses it to determine how stressed you are.
The disadvantage is, of course, that the tiny screen neither contains much information nor makes the system very easy to navigate. If you use the GPS part the battery level also goes down very quickly, which isn’t surprising given the format.
This also means that, for the Vivosport 3, the answer to the question “how much we can squeeze into it?” doesn’t depend on desire or opportunity, but instead on the execution. Because even though there a lot of functions in a neat package, overall it’s a bit too much for the system to handle well.
Simple functions with amazing battery life
GPS: No Screen resolution: 128x80 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 46.9x17.9x12 mm Weight: 20 g Watertight/Depth: Yes/50m Battery life: Up to 20 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altitude meter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Pulse measurement: Yes, inbuilt
The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 follows the same trends as Xiaomi in general. In other words impressive specifications for a really good price. Here you get an activity tracker that at least on paper has the same functions as trackers that are three times as expensive.
You don’t need to charge the Mi Band 3 very often. Xiaomi states 20 days as the battery life, and we’re almost inclined to agree with this. It goes down a bit if you exercise often, but you can easily get through a week without charging it.
The design is very discreet. But it’s quite thick. This means that it easily gets stuck in your sweater sleeves and so on. It also makes it a problem for sleep measurement, because it’s uncomfortable to wear in bed.
As a step counter it does its job and agrees with our reference counter pretty well. To save the battery there’s only one mode for the pulse meter, and this measures once every 30 minutes. This works, even if it isn’t as detailed as the competitors.
You can also get notifications from your phone, although these are limited. Phone calls, texts, WhatsApp and Instagram are supported, but nothing more.
Navigation is simple – you do everything via short or long presses on the single button or by swiping on the little touchscreen. Which is perfectly acceptable given both the unit’s price and size.
The price tag in particular is reflected in the tracker’s functions. The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is most suited for people wanting to keep track of their steps and “record” the odd exercise session. You won’t get any more detailed history, analysis, friend functions or sharing in the app and the built-in exercise types pretty much consist of “run” and “other”. This is a bit of a shame, particularly because Xiaomi boast that the unit is watertight down to 50 metres, but without any way of measuring swimming.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is a product that puts price first. If you just want to log steps to a mobile app you’ll find this tracker useful, provided you can get on with the thickness.
Really attractive indoors, useless outdoors
GPS: No Screen resolution: 128x64 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 43x43 mm Weight: 40.8 g Watertight/Depth: Yes/5 Atm Battery life: up to 5 days (14 days for just the analogue watch) Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altitude meter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Pulse measurement: Yes, inbuilt
The Garmin Vivomove HR is a really advanced activity tracker disguised as a normal analogue watch. The lower part of the watch face contains a screen that’s completely hidden until it’s activated. When you need it the screen lights up to display simple data... And the hands move temporarily so they aren’t in the way of the screen, which we think is really clever!
As a watch, the Vivomove HR is really attractive, if a little bit bigger and thicker than a normal analogue watch. The thickness comes from the HR part of the name, because on the back it has a built-in optical pulse meter that keeps track of your heart rate throughout the day. This is a measurement that can also be translated into how stressed you are and calculate your VO2 max – in other words your oxygen uptake ability. Alongside this you get step and sleep measurements and notifications from your telephone. The little screen is touch sensitive, so you can easily change between different information screens or music controls.
Other than counting “intensive minutes”, there are minimal exercise functions. You can choose between strength training and condition, but that’s it. And this is a bit stingy, because other, simpler trackers can do more than this.
But the biggest disadvantage is a result of the attractive design, because the concealed display is completely unreadable in normal sunlight. This makes the Garmin Vivomove HR an attractive and functional activity tracker indoors, but unsuitable for outdoor use.
Repeats the same mistakes
GPS: No Screen resolution: 72x154 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 40 x 40 x 11 mm Weight: 33.8 g Waterproof/Depth: Yes/5 ATM Battery life: Up to 5 days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altimeter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Heart rate monitor: Yes, integrated optical heart rate monitor
The Garmin Vivomove Sport is a really smart activity watch in theory, but sadly Garmin has failed to correct the major problems from the first Vivomove version. What we get instead is mostly cosmetic changes to a watch that’s virtually unusable outdoors.
Like the earlier version, this smartwatch has an analogue watch face with a hidden touchscreen display in the lower part. You control the screen with tap and swipe gestures and it works surprisingly well, despite the tiny format. When you tap on the screen, or when you get a notification, the hands on the surrounding clock face discreetly glide away to a quarter to three to be out of the way while you look at the screen. When you’re ready, the hands swish back to the correct time. Really beautiful!
The problem is just that the screen is very dim. You won't notice it indoors – everything works fine there. But even a cloudy morning in April is too bright for you to be able to see the display properly. It doesn't happen gradually either: suddenly the screen has disappeared and you stand there wondering what the clock wants when it buzzes and vibrates.
Another disadvantage is battery life. Garmin claims five days - two, or three if you’re lucky, is closer to the truth. So while you may not experience the constant panic about battery life you get with some of the more advanced smartwatches, it still fails to match the performance of its rivals in the same price range.
Two things happen with a tiny screen: firstly, the entire menu system has to be translated into icons instead of text, and secondly, much of the analysis has to be transferred to your phone. The former works maybe 50% of the time – we’re still scratching our heads over what some of the icons do. Generally speaking, at least we’re able to navigate among the everyday features.
Keeping track of your data in the Garmin Connect app isn’t a huge problem, even if it urgently needs an update to sort out an interface that’s become rather bloated over the years. The watch offers plenty of features and data points that are collected, and the only thing we really miss is built-in GPS. At the same time, we think that the Fitbit equivalent does more and is more user-friendly at a lower price, but then you don’t get an activity tracker with the traditional look of an analogue watch.
It’s a pity that the Garmin Vivomove is completely unusable outdoors – this could have been such a beautiful friendship.
The simple pedometer has come a long way in just a few, short years. Nowadays, it is built into your phone, along with an entire service package, in order to help you keep track of your health. At the same time, the wearable devices have also seen a lot of development in recent years. Here are a few things that are worth considering before making a purchase.
Today, most phones (even some of the very simple ones) can log your steps automatically. Typically, they do this through a built-in health app (such as Samsung Health or Apple Health) or through an external app downloaded from the app stores.
In all honesty, that is more than enough for many people. You set a particular goal of steps taken or distance walked, and as long as you have your phone with you, it keeps track of how you’re doing, and you can see the results. Simple. So while your phone can handle the basic necessities, it does require that you have it on you at all times.
The simple answer is you always wear the activity tracker. While your phone tends to stay on a table or counter for a bit as you go about your daily business in your home, a bracelet is always attached to you.
During our testing of activity bracelets, we noticed just how often we didn’t have our phone with us. Even though we think it’s always right there in our trouser pocket, it is surprisingly often it remains on the kitchen counter, the office station, or otherwise. Seriously, try to notice how often you put your phone down for an extended period of time, especially at home during the weekend. You’ll be surprised.
This also means that a phone will tend to track significantly fewer steps than you may have actually taken during a day. This is even more true, if you’re the type of person who keeps their phone in their jacket or a purse.
Thus, with an activity tracker, you not only ensure you are tracking your walking throughout the day, but you’re also getting a few more functions to make the logging more fun and comprehensive. While the features differ heavily depending on the bracelet, some of the advantages a bracelet has over a phone are:
Step count: Okay, all activity bands count steps. The advantage is, as we’ve already said, that you always have it with you. At the same time, the pedometer is only one of a thousand things your phone can do, while for an activity tracker, it’s the main task. This typically means that the bands tend to be a little more accurate.
Pulse/heart rate: Most activity bracelets have a built-in optical heart rate monitor. This means that it can detect your heart rate through a series of lights that shine on your skin. From here, your pulse can then be used (depending on the bracelet) to track calorie burning and stress. If you choose to sleep while wearing the bracelet, it can also use your heart rate to determine how well you sleep.
Sleep: We ought to sleep a third of the day; eight hours on average. Even if we do this, how high quality is said sleep? You can use an activity band to help keep track of your heart rate and movement during the night. This way, you can get an idea of just how good (or bad) those hours with your pillow really are. Typically, the trackers will also combine this information with tips on how you can improve your sleep and your overall health.
Notifications from your phone: While not per se an advantage, we found that during our testing of activity bands, we tended to put our phones down a lot more often. Our modern phones throw tons of notifications at us daily, and on an activity bracelet, you can usually choose which ones to display. We found that by only allowing the important ones (such as text messages) to pop up, some testers felt a lot less stressed than usual. There is something nice about not having to pull out your phone ever so often, just to find that it was another pop-up from Instagram or Facebook.
Essentially, we see it as an advantage that you can separate notifications between the bands and your phone.
These are just some of the advantages we see in an activity band/tracker.
One of the big advantages of an activity tracker is its ability to directly synchronise with your phone and its associated app. Everything the tracker records is then saved automatically to the app, including steps, sleep, workouts, heart rate, and more. Additionally, you can add your weight, age, height, and more to get a complete overview.
The apps that belong to the activity trackers usually include some sort of health coaching. By keeping track of all your vitals, they can provide tips on how to improve your health, such as going to bed earlier, doing breathing exercises to reduce stress, and more. The main reason for all of this is simply to make it easier for you to track your own performance in a simple and concise package.
At first glance, there might be very little discernible difference between the two, outside of the price tag and the look and feel of the products.
The easiest way to look at it is to see the activity tracker/band as the first and cheapest step in your journey of health tracking and measuring, once your phone’s capabilities seem limited.
A fully fledged heart rate monitor is designed for the person who really wants to focus on their workouts in earnest, while an activity tracker is more for those of us who struggle with filling our daily quota of movement (yes, we’re looking at you, office work). While the heart rate monitor also tracks steps, sleep, and everything the activity band does, a heart rate monitor usually comes with a built-in GPS and additional features aimed at running, cycling, swimming, and other sports. If you’re curious about heart rate monitors, you can read our heart rate monitor test.
Do you really need an activity band if you have or are craving an Apple Watch or another smartwatch? Not really. The smartwatches basically have the same functions as an activity band when it comes to logging your heart rate and movement.
The differences between the products available today are already quite blurred, and they have hardly become clearer as the products have been getting more advanced. If we try to look at it fairly bluntly, we can say that:
Activity tracker: The entry category. Cheaper, keeps track of steps and basic data. Often has a battery life of about a week or longer.
Heart rate monitor: Does the same things as an activity tracker, though usually has built-in GPS and a stronger focus on workout associated tools. Battery life is usually about a week.
Smartwatch: Also does the same things as an activity tracker, though at quite a higher price point. It is usually more limited in the workout area, compared to a heart rate monitor. Usually sacrifices battery life in order to provide you more apps and more advanced features.