1. Expert reviews

The 9 Best Activity Trackers of 2021

Daniel Hessel

Updated March 28, 2021

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 several activity trackers to see which ones live up to the promises given, and we nominate the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 as our overall best choice because of its many functions and very convenient format. Read our test below if you’re interested in the performance of the candidates!

The 9 Best Activity Trackers 2021

How we did the test

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.

1. Xiaomi Mi Band 5 – BEST CHOICE ACTIVITY TRACKER 2021

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 Mi Band 5

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.

Xiaomi Mi Band 5

Charging finally fixed

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.

Xiaomi Mi band 5

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.

Xiaomi Mi band 5

Incredibly good value for money

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.

Xiaomi Mi band 5

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.

Nice screen with fun animationsincredibly good value for moneyfinally a good charging solution
Not all functions are activatedapp is a bit meh

Price Comparison

Compare all prices
OnBuy.com Logotype

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 Smartwatch - Black | Fitness Tracker

£21.28
ShopBetter24 Logotype

Smartwatch Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 1,1" AMOLED 125 mAh Black

£21.99
Amazon.co.uk Logotype

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 Black Health and Fitness Tracker, Upto 14 Days Battery, Heart Rate Monitor, Sleep Tracker, Activity Tracker, 5ATM 50 m Water Resistance and Swimming Tracking, Pedometer, Sleep Counter

£22.99

2. Garmin Vivofit Jr 3

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

Garmin Vivofit Jr 3

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.

Garmin Vivofit 3 Jr Iron Man edition

Doubly motivating

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.

Garmin Vivofit Jr 3

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.

Garmin Vivofit Jr 3

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.

Very motivating for the childthe app is a nice solutiondurable and long battery life
Expensiveslightly fiddly navigation

3. Withings Scanwatch

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

Withings ScanWatch 38mm

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.

Discreetly analogue

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.

ECG and health

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.

Long battery lifeattractiveinbuilt ECG-meter
Display works poorly in sunlightdisplay too small for most notificationshigh price

4. Garmin Vivosmart 3

Full of functions in a reasonable format

GPS: No Screen resolution: 64 x 128 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): 18.5 x 9.8 mm, 197/223 mm (Small/Large) Weight: 20.4/21.5 g (Small/Large) Watertight/Depth: Yes/tolerates swimming Battery life: Up to five days Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart, Ant+ Altitude meter: Yes Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Pulse measurement: Yes

Garmin Vivosmart 3

The Garmin Vivosmart 3 demonstrates very well exactly how many functions an activity tracker can have. It gives you step counting, an altitude meter (measured in the number of flights of stairs), a built-in pulse meter and automatic sleep logging. The pulse meter is also used to measure stress levels in a brilliantly simple way. By connecting it to your mobile, you also get notifications straight to your wrist. There are many additional functions built into the activity tracker too, such as a stopwatch, VO2 max measurement (with an external pulse strap) and lots more besides. But Garmin have succeeded in a tricky balancing act by displaying the most important functions in the interface without overloading it.

Clear screen but short battery life

The Vivosmart 3 is intended as an effective activity tracker that can do more than it first appears. This is also obvious from the design, which is certainly sporty but still sufficiently discreet that it doesn’t shriek “fitness fanatic”. The band is also relatively small and light, but unfortunately doesn’t have the best battery life (five days) in this class. The screen is clear most of the time, although telephone notifications are sometimes a bit messy if they’re very long.

If you want to use the band for training, it covers the most common forms of exercise, but there’s no measurement for swimming, which is a shame as this is quite common in the competitors’ similar trackers.

The app does most things

With a minimal display, the majority of settings are done in Garmin’s app, which continuously synchronises data with the band. One fun function here is the opportunity to challenge your Garmin-using friends in step competitions. Other than the motivation you get from an activity tracker (and reminders when you've been sitting still for too long), the weekly competitions with your friends are a fantastic way to encourage yourself into an extra walk or run.

The Garmin Vivosmart is generally a useful gadget that will suit anyone who’d like the option to explore their exercise data a little more without wanting to go the whole way to a full-scale GPS watch.

Neat formatlots of functions in the appmany built-in functions in the band
No swimming measurementmediocre battery life

5. Withings Move

Normal watch with smart insides

GPS: No Screen resolution: No Dimensions (WxHxD): 195x38x13 mm Weight: 45 g (depending on bracelet) Watertight/Depth: Yes/50 m Battery life: up to 18 months Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altitude meter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: No Pulse measurement: No

Withings Move

The Withings Move is an activity tracker that looks like a normal watch. The only thing that reveals it’s anything more is the second analogue dial on the right-hand part of the watch dial. This shows a value between zero and 100, and is simply a measurement of how close you are to achieving your step count for the day.

Unbeatable battery life

Unlike Withings’ more expensive watches and many of its competitors, it doesn’t have an advanced display or lots of functions or exercise forms – and no pulse meter either. With their Move, Withings have put everything into a design that looks like a normal analogue watch and what’s probably the longest battery life yet for an activity tracker – up to 18 months. For obvious reasons we haven’t been able to test that particular claim completely, but when it’s time for a battery replacement you do it in the same way as when a normal watch needs a new battery.

Of course you’ll miss a number of advanced functions that other trackers can be equipped with, but that’s actually the point here. And it doesn’t mean there are too few functions. It has step counting and does a very good job. It also measures sleep and can, if you press the single button, start an exercise session.

Not much for training

Training sessions are a bit different. The watch can act as a timer without really displaying anything, while it simultaneously uses your telephone to capture GPS data. The watch also kicks in when you begin running without starting a session, and can even record simpler data for swimming.

It works, but on a very basic level.

The linked app is intended for you to use the watch together with Withings’ scales and other health gadgets. But even with only the watch in the system you get a good overview of how you’re moving and sleeping.

The Withings Move is an attractive watch with an elegant solution for activity tracking. It also has a fantastic battery life. Sometimes you don’t actually need much more than this.

Extremely long battery lifeattractive designeasy to use app
Only simple exercise functions

6. Garmin Vivofit Jr

Smart fitness for children

GPS: No Screen resolution: 64 x 64 pixels Dimensions (WxHxD): Standard (up to 145 mm wrist), X-large (up to 175 mm wrist, openable) Weight: 17.5 g Watertight/Depth: Yes/5 Atm Battery life: Up to one year Wireless technology: Bluetooth Smart Altitude meter: No Compass: No Vibration alarm: Yes Pulse measurement: No

Garmin Vivofit Jr

An activity tracker is a great source of motivation to move more and counteract sedentary behaviour. The adult world has a whole bunch of them and now it’s time to connect the younger generation too.

It can sound a little cruel to keep track of your child’s exercise during the day through an app. But at the same time sedentary behaviour is a growing problem in all age groups and Garmin have really thought about how the Vivofit Jr can provide added value.

For instance, the packaging can be reused as a piggy bank. The tracker is a simpler model with a black-and-white but clear screen. A single button changes between different views and new bands can be purchased in a number of different colours and patterns. One disadvantage is that the band has no buckle, but is instead semi-elasticated. This makes it easier to put on and take off for small fingers, but at the same time the fact that it slips around on thinner wrists is annoying. You can change to a band with a buckle, but the fixed one feels very large for the stated age range of 4-7 years. The battery is a watch battery type that lasts for up to a year. Just like other Garmin bands, the wearer gets a reminder if they’ve been sitting still for too long and a notification when they’ve reached the day’s activity goals.

Smart app for children and parents

The band is synchronised with a special app and not with Garmin’s normal one. This is where a lot of the target group adaptations come in. Parents and children have different account levels (with support for more than one parent). The children’s part displays simplified data on how many steps have been taken, total points and even a game that you can unlock more of by taking more steps and collecting more points. The parent’s part also shows this data, but contains tasks too. These can be teeth brushing, making beds or similar things and as these are ticked off, the child’s account earns coins that can be used in the game. The disadvantage is that you can’t top up the activities, so if the child has cycled for an entire afternoon, for example, it doesn’t make much difference on the activity tracker.

Useful but expensive

The Vivofit Jr can feel a bit expensive for what it does. But the app with the motivating game, the tasks and the parent/child modes are well thought out and useful. If you want to encourage your child to move more and simultaneously motivate them to help out around the house, this is quite a good product – but if your child is happy just seeing their number of steps there are cheaper options.

Well thought out appapp also works as a task manager
Fixed band sizecan feel a bit clumsy

7. Garmin Vivosport

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

Garmin Vivosport

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.

Almost like a GPS watch

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.

Small format makes it hard to navigate

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.

GPSreliable connectiondetailed activity tracking with GPS
Not easy to navigateshort battery life in GPS modeno swimming function

8. Xiaomi Mi Band 3

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

Xiaomi Mi Band 3

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.

Long battery life

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.

Limited notifications

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.

Long battery lifemeasures steps and pulse well
Quite thick and clumsyfew functions in both app and tracker

9. Garmin Vivomove HR

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

Garmin Vivomove HR Sport

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!

Stylish watch

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.

Unusable outdoors

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.

Attractiveneat display solutiongood tracking functions
Display unreadable in sunlight

Consider the following before buying an activity tracker

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.

My phone can log my walking. Why should I have a bracelet too?

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.

So, what benefits does a bracelet give me, compared to a phone?

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.

  • Workout: With the pedometer and heart rate monitor built-in, you aren’t far from being able to log your workouts as well. Most bands can log your running or your gym workouts, which can then be added to the band’s associated app. Here, you can then get a proper overview and track your progress.

These are just some of the advantages we see in an activity band/tracker.

Do I have to sync an activity tracker to my phone?

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.

What is the difference between an activity band and a heart rate monitor/pulse watch?

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.

What the difference between a smartwatch and an activity band, then?

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.

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