Best fitness trackers 2018: Which wearable is right for you?
In the past, we’ve always had separate lists for best smartwatches and best fitness trackers, but a quick glance at this page tells you that the line between these two types of device has become increasingly blurred.
Indeed, smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series 3 and Samsung Gear Sport can be used to track practically any physical activity and continuously monitor your heart rate, while fitness-geared watches like the Garmin Vivoactive 3 now display smartphone notifications and widgets that sync to your phone’s calendar.
For that reason, it’s difficult to directly compare some of the devices in this list. We’ve covered everything from basic fitness bands to best-in-class smartwatches and multisport watches, so that you can find the right fitness tracker for you. Importantly, we’ve also chosen with a range of budgets in mind, from £50 to over £300, so if the first few entries aren’t to your tastes, keep on scrolling and you should find your perfect training partner.
Best Fitness Trackers 2018
1. Apple Watch Series 3 – The best all-rounder
Price: From £329
The Apple Watch Series 3 offers superior tracking and health data to any Apple Watch before it, making it the only fitness tracker most people could ever need. It monitors steps and flights of stairs climbed, nudging you to stand up every hour and its Workout app offers a range of different modes to let you accurately track all manner of indoor and outdoor activities, using its GPS where applicable.
Like the Series 2, the new Apple Watch can also be used in the pool. It does a great job of keeping note of laps and lengths and it can now even tell you what stroke you’ve been doing. The heart rate app on the Series 3 measures your beats per minute as before, but now also charts your average walking and resting rates, as well as your recovery time after workouts. The only, slightly disappointing omission is the continuing lack of sleep tracking, although you can add that feature via a third-party app.
2. Garmin Vivoactive 3
Like the Apple Watch Series 3 the Garmin Vivoactive 3 tracks practically every activity you could want (except for open water swimming), but it’s more overtly fitness orientated. For example, you can also pair it with Garmin’s external sensors, including chest-strap heart rate monitors and speed and cadence sensors for cycling (but not power meters), making it the perfect watch for true fitness fanatics.
Significantly, it also has outstanding battery life. If you don’t enable GPS, it can last up to six days and Garmin claims it will track 13 hours of solid activity with GPS enabled. The only thing missing is some of the features you get with true smartwatches, including any kind of music playback. At only £250, though, it represents excellent value and comes highly recommended.
3. Fitbit Charge 2
Price: From £95
A couple of minor bugbears aside, it’s hard to find fault with the Fitbit Charge 2. OK, it doesn’t have GPS built in – but aside from that, it has pretty much everything the casual fitness fan could possibly want in a streamlined, attractive and inexpensive package.
By tapping the screen you can scroll through steps, heart rate, distance travelled, calorie burn, stairs climbed, active minutes and hourly activity. When you use its multisport mode, the Fitbit simply connects to your phone and uses its GPS to useful metrics including distance and pace. Unlike the Flex 2, the Charge 2 tracks your heart rate, but it doesn’t support swim tracking.
4. Fitbit Flex 2
We like the Fitbit Flex 2. It works well, it’s waterproof, and it will track everything you need it too, including swimming, for a reasonable price. The only things missing are heart-rate monitoring and a barometric pressure sensor, which would allow it to count how many flights of steps you’ve climbed.
If you’re serious about progressing and you have a specific goal in mind, the Flex 2 is probably not the tracker for you. However, for those starting out on the road to a healthier lifestyle, the Fitbit Flex 2 is ideal. The app is easy to use and presents a useful, digestible amount of data. It isn’t much more expensive than its rivals, and once you’ve set it up you don’t have to touch it again except to charge it.
5. Garmin Forerunner 30
Price: From £95
The Garmin Forerunner 30 is a solid, dependable running watch. It’s not flashy, but it gets the job done and you miss it when it’s not around. If you value the ability to measure other activities then it’s probably worth getting the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio, or a Polar M430. But if running is all you’re interested in, then Garmin has listened to your needs and made precisely the product for you. For what it does and this price, it’s a great buy.
6. Garmin Vivosport
The Garmin Vivosport is a perfectly competent device that achieves everything it sets out to. It looks fine, has a long battery life, tracks things accurately and has an excellent app for chewing over the data. For £170 it isn’t unreasonably priced for a device that packs in GPS and heart rate monitoring, either.
Our only criticism is that it lacks swim tracking and the screen is also tiny and fiddly. If you want something that just records your activities for later analysis, then great, but there are better choices for checking data on the go.
7. TomTom Spark 3
Price: From £70
Sadly, TomTom has announced that it’s withdrawing from the wearables market but, while the Spark 3 remains available, it’s probably the biggest bargain on this list. Indeed, at only £90 for the basic version that doesn’t track heart rate or offer music playback, you get a solid GPS watch that you can use to track running, cycling and swimming.
Unlike anything else in this price bracket, it can also be used with external sensors and you can also import routes from websites such as MapMyRun. Its one shortcoming is that it’s a fitness watch first and lacks smartwatch features, so you won’t be able to check your notifications when you’re exercising.
8. Polar M430
If running is your life and your budget is £200, your search is over. As a day-to-day watch, the Polar M430 might fail. It’s bulky. Its monochrome screen is far from beautiful. And it’s uncomfortable to wear for extended periods but, as a running tracker, it’s flawless. It’s incredibly accurate, it’s easy to use on a run, it displays the information well and the battery lasts for weeks. The extra features, such as being able to tap a button to mark a lap and getting your runs added to Google Calendar are just gravy on top.
If all you want is a wearable for race day, the Polar M430 is hard to beat. If you’re looking for a dressy smartwatch that also happens to track running, then maybe look elsewhere. But, be prepared, it’ll likely do a worse job than this.
9. Moov 2
Instead of simply tracking your activity and rewarding you when you hit your targets, the Moov Now aims to coach you towards your goals, actively encouraging you via audio instructions to go further and dig deeper.
If you’ve already got your training regime sorted, the Moov Now won’t add much, but if you’re looking for something to provide fascinating insights into your running technique (including stride length and a ground impact score) and to accurately track your swims, the Moov Now is an ideal companion. The data it provides at the end of each training session is on another level compared with standard fitness trackers and it doesn’t cost the Earth, either. It also has a whopping six-month battery life. Nothing else comes close at the price.
10. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
The Gear Fit2 Pro will track pretty much any activity, log your heart rate and even store Spotify music offline. It does all of this while costing only a touch over £200. So what’s stopping it from being at the top of this list? Unfortunately, we found its swim tracking – a newly added feature – somewhat unreliable and its GPS isn’t as accurate as other watches in this list. If Samsung can fix this with a software patch, then it could easily make its way into our top 3.