We are constantly discussing and evaluating all activity trackers / fitness bands from concept through production, attempting to determine the best activity tracker available. At this time, the market is still in its infancy and there is no one fitness band that truly does it all. It appears to us that manufacturers have decided to focus on one key component, such as heart rate monitoring or accelerometer-based motion tracking, hoping to perfect implementation of a single feature before attempting to integrate many. Although we understand the concept of learning to walk before you run, this has resulted in consumers having to chose between mostly incomplete product offerings … much like the current smartwatch industry. Nonetheless, the fitness tracking niche is advancing quickly and we expect see great products on the horizon. In the mean time, if you love being an early adopter, like we do, here are our five favorite activity trackers as they exist today:
1. Fitbit Force *Best Activity Tracker of 2014*
#1 Best Activity Tracker – Fitbit Force
The Fitbit Force Activity Tracker is unanimously the crowd favorite. It is simple, has a gorgeous new OLED display, tracks both physical activity and sleep, has an integrated altimeter for you stair climbers, a Silent Wake vibrating alarm, excellent battery life, and it wirelessly syncs to your computer, iPhone, or Android smartphone. In addition, the Force seamlessly integrates with several popular fitness apps such as Lose It!, Run Keeper, Map My Fitness, and (our favorite) My Fitness Pal.
We feel that the key to an excellent activity tracker is minimalism and ease of use … it should be barely noticeable and it should just work with as little direction from the user as possible. The Fitbit Force elegantly fulfills both of these requirements. In addition, the sleep tracking capability and Silent Wake alarm features offer fitness aficionados unique insight into the often overlooked but vital element of a complete fitness routine … rest and recovery.
The Fitbit Force is an amazing activity tracker and a giant leap forward from the original Fitbit Flex. For most people in the market for a fitness band that just works, this is the one that we highly recommend. However, the Force is not suited for all applications. Cyclists will notice that the activity tracker cannot be paired with a heart rate monitor … the best way to analyze physical effort and calorie burn during a ride. In addition, the Force fitness band is not waterproof, rendering it useless for swimmers hoping to capture exertion and lap data. Nonetheless, with those caveats, we find the Fitbit Force to be the best activity tracker/fitness band of 2014 … so far.
Update – Fitbit has notified us that, as part of an upcoming firmware update, you will be able to receive incoming call notifications on your Fitbit Force when paired with an iPhone running iOS 7.
Update #2 – Fitbit has notified us that, due to a limited number of adverse skin reactions (rashes), the Fitbit Force has been recalled. A full refund will be issued to those who do not want to wait for a replacement to be shipped.
• Compare prices on Amazon
2. Jawbone UP24
#2 Best Activity Tracker – Jawbone UP24
The Jawbone UP24 Activity Tracker is definitely the most stylish and minimalist exercise tracking band in the bunch, securing a very close 2nd place in our Top 5 list of favorite activity trackers for 2014. It is comfortable to wear, fits everyone, and just looks really, really good. Like the Fitbit Force, the UP24 also tracks both daily activity and sleep patterns and has an awesome app for capturing, displaying, and analyzing exercise data. Unfortunately, for the time being, the UP24 only syncs with Apple iOS based mobile products such as the iPhone 4S and newer, 5th Gen iPod Touch, 3rd Gen iPad, and all iPad Minis. This current lack of Android compatibility certainly seems short-sighted on the part of Jawbone, excludes a large segment of the smartphone toting population, and knocks it out of contention for the number 1 spot on our list of favorite activity trackers.
The UP24 is a logical evolution from the original UP it replaces in Jawbone’s product line. Its motion tracking abilities have been significantly refined and a Bluetooth 4.0 LE radio has been added for wireless syncing. However, a criticism common to both the UP and the new UP24 is the lack of an informational display. The user must have an additional mobile device physically present in order to view collected data … a valid concern that must be weighed when making a purchasing decision. However, if your smartphone is a permanently affixed appendage, accompanies you during runs and workouts, and sleeps on the nightstand next to your bed, the Jawbone UP24 is definitely an activity tracker worth considering.
• Compare prices on Amazon
3. Polar Loop
#3 Best Activity Tracker – Polar Loop
The Polar Loop Activity Tracker is an interesting new addition to the rapidly expanding fitness band market. It has a unique feature that all other activity trackers wish they had … the ability to sync with a heart rate monitor. Polar made a name for itself producing quality heart rate monitors and already has the perfect companion ready to provide the Loop with highly beneficial cardio data … the Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor. This paring sets the Polar Loop apart from all other trackers currently holding the top 5 spots on our favorites list and is definitely the future of this market segment.
So why does the Polar Loop rank only 3rd in our list of favorites? Mostly because it is still a first generation product possessing the quirks and bugs typically inherent in first forays into a new product line. The above-listed Fitbit Force and Jawbone UP24 are recently released rev. 2.0s and successfully remedied some of the issues found in their initial offerings. When the next iteration of the Polar Loop is released, we could see it easily rising to the top of our favorites list. In the mean time, we still highly recommend this exercise tracker for anyone wanting to incorporate extremely beneficial heart rate data into their energy expenditure analysis.
• Compare prices on Amazon
4. Nike+ Fuelband SE
#4 Best Activity Tracker – Nike+ Fuelband SE
The Nike+ FuelBand SE falls to the #4 spot on our list of best activity trackers as we kick-off 2014. This second generation fitness band from Nike still looks good, is comfortable, and directly uploads to your Nike+ network account. It employs a retro LED dot matrix display that disappears when not in use and provides the time and limited activity data to users on the go. However, where the Nike+ FuelBand SE continues to be weak is in its limited sensor deployment and its forced proprietary data implementation. The data collected by the FuelBand SE is still extremely limited, making it little more than an electronic pedometer. And, what exercise data that is collected is still analyzed and displayed as proprietary NikeFuel instead of traditional calories. This is a deal-breaker for many. However, if you are already uploading data to and highly vested in the Nike+ network, the Nike+ FuelBand SE provides an additional sleek-looking sensor to supplement your analysis of daily energy expended.
• Compare prices on Amazon
5. BodyMedia Fit Core
#5 Best Activity Tracker – Bodymedia Fit Core
The BodyMedia Fit Core is big, it’s ugly, and you have to pay a monthly fee to access your data … three strikes. So why does it round up our list of favorite activity trackers? Because of its unique feature-set. The Fit Core incorporates two silver plates that press against your skin and measure body temperature and galvanic skin response. Couple that with its three-axis accelerometer, and this clunky activity tracker provides some of the most accurate and useful data available. If you don’t mind how it looks and feels and enjoy the subscription business model, this is the way to go. However, if you are like us, you are just happy to see some additional unique and useful biosensors making their way into the activity tracker market.
• Compare prices on Amazon
Our 5 Favorite Activity Trackers
Currently In Development
If 2013 was the Year of the Smartwatch, 2014 is definitely the Year of the Activity Tracker. It seems that just about every electronics manufacturer is jumping into the game. Some prototypes are looking quite promising and some like a half-hearted bid to carve out a slice of the fitness band pie. However, as you can see, the developing trend is toward a more accurate sensor compliment and advanced smartwatch-type features such as caller ID and notification of smartphone alerts. In addition, many of the manufacturers seem to be making a point of significantly refining their existing software to enhance usability and to increase interoperability with popular social fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal. Curious as to what is coming next? Below is a constantly evolving list of what we feel are the five most interesting activity trackers currently in development. Let us know which are your favorites!
1. Razer Nabu Smartband
#1 Favorite Activity Tracker In Development – Razer Nabu
The Razer Nabu Smartband is the best of a new breed of fitness bands no longer content with simply tracking physical activity. As such, it incorporates features traditionally found in smartwatches such as caller ID, message and alert notifications, and rudimentary information pulled from popular social apps. It is elegant, inconspicuous, and can exchange your social profile with a simple handshake. It blurs the line between activity tracker and smartwatch and will definitely find a home in the rapidly expanding fitness band market, especially with the active crowd. It was difficult to categorize the Razer Nabu and we couldn’t decide whether to put it in our List of Favorite Upcoming Activity Trackers or our List of Favorite Upcoming Smartwatches … so we included it in both.
2. LG Lifeband Touch
#2 Favorite Activity Tracker In Development – LG Lifeband Touch
The LG Lifeband Touch will enter the fitness fray this year, boasting a unique and brilliant looking touchscreen OLED display. We just love OLED! In addition, the Lifeband Touch exceeds traditional Android and iOS smartphone compatibility, raising the bar to include interoperability with LG’s line of televisions. We assume that means at least basic TV remote control functions from the convenience of your own wrist. In addition, it sure would be nice if our TV knew when we had been sedentary on the couch for too long and reminded us to get up and shake our booty during the commercials. The Lifeband Touch will also sync with LG’s Heartbeat Headphones, a new wearable tech set of earbuds sporting an integrated heart rate monitor. LG products consistently provide an exceptional user experience and we hope that “easy to use” philosophy finds its way into the new Lifeband Touch.
3. Sony Core With SmartBand
#3 Favorite Activity Tracker In Development – Sony Core
The Sony Core with SmartBand was recently announced, providing the electronics giant one more opportunity to capture that lucrative personal spot on consumers’ wrists. Reminiscent of the early Nike+ activity tracking system, whereby users stuck almond-sized Nike+ electronic devices into their shoes, the Sony Core and Smartband is a bifurcated combination. The Core is the brains of the operation and is intended to slip into various wearable and mobile Sony devices. The silicone SmartBand is a bit of an afterthought and just one of the intended receptacles for the Core activity tracker. What is nice about this tracker is the highly polished app and it’s interoperability with related Sony products. Sony tends not to be much of a visionary company anymore but they have become extremely adept at putting a nice finish on products that already exist. The Sony Core will likely be another successful addition to the rapidly growing list of popular activity trackers.
4. Garmin Vivofit
#4 Favorite Activity Tracker In Development – Garmin Vivofit
The Garmin Vivofit will be released in the first quarter of 2014. What makes this activity tracker special is its durability and the fact that the data it collects is just plain useful. This flows from Garmin’s extensive experience with wearable health and fitness products and the already established Garmin Connect website, an extremely popular online community of activity tracking aficionados. Garmin Connect is not only a tool for fitness data collection and analysis, it is an excellent communal source of ways that regular people use the data collected to enhance their exercise routines and thereby improve the quality of their lives. The Gamrin Vivofit, may not have all of the bells and whistles displayed by some of the next generation activity trackers currently in development. However, what it does, it does well. And, the supportive Gamrin Connect community is an indispensable asset in achieving your fitness goals, an important consideration when making your purchasing decision.
5. i4C Innovations Voyce
#5 Favorite Activity Tracker In Development – i4C Innovations Voyce
The i4C Innovations Voyce is definitely one of the most unique activity trackers coming out of CES 2014. What makes it unique is for whom this cutting edge tech is designed … your dog. The Voyce is an app-enabled collar that can track and record your furry K9 friend’s activity, heart rate, respiration, and a myriad of other health related data sets. The i4C Innovations Voyce then wirelessly connects to a smartphone app that analyzes the captured data, allowing the owner to identify doggy lifestyle trends and behavioral changes. The information can be quite useful for preventative care and can be shared with a vet when needed … in addition to helping your pudgy pooch shed those holiday leftover pounds. Recapping … yes, it is an activity tracker for your dog!
More Activity Trackers
Would you like to see what other fitness bands are currently available and what is currently in development? Poke the link and see our ever-expanding comprehensive list to compare activity trackers / fitness bands.
Jon is the Editor-In-Chief at Wear Guide and writes about wearable technology On Your Arm. Jon has a M.S. in Computer Science, won several intercollegiate events as a member of the UCLA Cycling Team, and is currently active on the USA Triathlon circuit which provides him the opportunity to field-test wearables under grueling conditions. Jon also writes for our sister publication Electric.guide.
Send tips and story ideas to Jon at: firstname.lastname@example.org