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Matthew Nelson
Matthew Nelson


Background: New fitness trackers and smartwatches are released to the consumer market every year. These devices are equipped with different sensors, algorithms, and accompanying mobile apps. With recent advances in mobile sensor technology, privately collected physical activity data can be used as an addition to existing methods for health data collection in research. Furthermore, data collected from these devices have possible applications in patient diagnostics and treatment. With an increasing number of diverse brands, there is a need for an overview of device sensor support, as well as device applicability in research projects.


Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the availability of wrist-worn fitness wearables and analyze availability of relevant fitness sensors from 2011 to 2017. Furthermore, the study was designed to assess brand usage in research projects, compare common brands in terms of developer access to collected health data, and features to consider when deciding which brand to use in future research.

Methods: We searched for devices and brand names in six wearable device databases. For each brand, we identified additional devices on official brand websites. The search was limited to wrist-worn fitness wearables with accelerometers, for which we mapped brand, release year, and supported sensors relevant for fitness tracking. In addition, we conducted a Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online (MEDLINE) and ClinicalTrials search to determine brand usage in research projects. Finally, we investigated developer accessibility to the health data collected by identified brands.

Smaller names like Oura and Whoop have drummed up some buzz for themselves by eliminating screens entirely and focusing on very specific metrics, while the line between smartwatches and most other fitness trackers has become increasingly blurry.

As is true with many other forms of digital technology, use of these devices varies substantially by socioeconomic factors. Around three-in-ten Americans living in households earning $75,000 or more a year (31%) say they wear a smart watch or fitness tracker on a regular basis, compared with 12% of those whose annual household income falls below $30,000. Differences by education follow a similar pattern, with college graduates adopting these devices at higher rates than those who have a high school education or less, according to the survey of 4,272 U.S. adults.

There are more modest differences by gender and race and ethnicity. Women are more likely than men to say they regularly use these devices (25% vs. 18%). Hispanic adults are more likely than whites to report regularly wearing a fitness tracker (26% vs. 20%), while black adults fall in between at 23%.

While you may think fitness trackers are best for avid runners and gym rats, that's not the case at all. Anyone and everyone can benefit from a fitness tracker of some sort if they care at all about their well-being and want to track daily activity by logging steps, calories, sleep, and even heart rate.

In this list, you'll find the best fitness trackers and smartwatches that stand out the most to us in 2023, but the Fitbit Charge 5 is at the top because it's lightweight, has excellent battery life, and the basic smartphone connectivity features that we all need. And if you're looking for Fitbit trackers specifically, there are some great Fitbit deals to be had, too, making Fitbit a great choice if you want an affordable fitness tracker.

Though this list consists mostly of fitness bands, smartwatches also do a fantastic job of tracking our health and giving us valuable insights into our well-being. That's why we have a few of those here as well. But if you're looking for smartwatches specifically, you may want to take a look at our best smartwatch roundup.

The Fitbit Charge 5 has reminded us exactly why we love Fitbit's fitness trackers. Fitbit has updated the Charge's design language with the Charge 5, adding smooth rounded corners and leaving behind the boxier design of the past. It's a look that's more in line with the latest Apple Watch Series 8, and it means the new Fitbit fitness tracker is something you won't be ashamed to be seen wearing. It's made from aluminum, glass, and silicone too, so it feels as good as it looks.

So we know it looks good, but good looks that aren't backed up by great fitness tracking are useless. Thankfully, it's great. It's a dedicated fitness tracker, and it's as capable as you'd hope, with 20 exercise modes. A number of those start automatically, so it'll capture walks and hikes without you needing to start them, and while the GPS can lag behind slightly when starting a tracked exercise, it always caught up without severely impacting our workouts. Workouts are only part of the story, though, and the Charge 5 also has an impressive suite of wellness features. It can keep an eye on your blood oxygen saturation and your stress levels, and will soon feature support for the Fitbit ECG app.

As mentioned earlier, the Fitbit Charge 5 also offers a seven-day battery life, which is pretty standard for this level of fitness tracker. Best of all, it's reasonably priced, so you won't be shelling out a huge amount of money for it, and it certainly offers a lot of bang for your buck.

It's cheap, it's cheerful, and it's very, very usable. Amazon's first forays into fitness tracking weren't without their problems, but the Halo View is a well-priced and well-featured fitness tracker that won't break the bank. The design is strongly reminiscent of similar offerings from Fitbit, and while the unit itself isn't a perfect fit to the band, the band itself is comfortable, and the Halo View itself is extremely light, being about a third lighter than most fitness trackers.

A lack of GPS tracking (even with a paired smartphone) does mean the "fitness" element is a little light compared to some competitors. No GPS means it's of limited use to cyclists or runners, but it does make that up somewhat with a broad-stroke approach to fitness. Halo Fitness has a good amount of bodyweight exercises to get you moving, and the weekly goals and step counts are solid reasons to start moving and keep moving. It has automatic sleep tracking, too, so you can tell how restful your slumber has been, and the nutrition features can help you to lose weight if that's your goal.

Like Fitbit, Amazon wants you to sign up for a subscription to get the most out of the service. It's $4 a month to get the advanced metrics like daily activity scores and personalized insights, but the View does come with a year's worth of Halo membership, so you get to try before you buy. At $79, it's cheaper than a lot of fitness trackers out there, and if you're not put off by a lack of GPS tracking, then this is a great place to start your fitness tracker journey.

Samsung's Galaxy Watch 5 is a smartwatch that retains a more traditional watch appearance with a round display, and the aluminum casing comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes. Overall, it's lightweight and comfortable to wear, which is always important when it comes to a fitness tracker or smartwatch. The Galaxy Watch 5 also has an always-on Super AMOLED display that brings bright and vibrant colors with deep, rich blacks. You won't have any trouble seeing the watch face in direct sunlight.

While we have some issues with the software from the adult's side, the Fitbit Ace 3 is an excellent fitness tracker for young children. Older kids may find it too childish, but for those under 12, this should work extremely well.

While a lot of fitness trackers seem super expensive these days, the Fitbit Inspire 3 is one of the best budget options you can pick up. Plus, it has a super minimalist design, so it really just gives you a no-frills health and fitness experience, which is just what you need sometimes.

But how about those fitness sensors? They're very accurate, considering the cost. In our review, the Inspire 3 was able to accurately track all of our steps on a walk, and the heart rate sensor seems a bit more accurate than other fitness trackers that we've used. Sleep tracking is also vastly improved and better than other trackers.

The biggest caveat with the Fitbit Inspire 3 is the fact that it relies on the Fitbit app, instead of just integrating with the native health apps on iOS or Android. But the Fitbit app is very informative with detailed health insights, and if you get the premium Fitbit subscription, you get even more fitness and health analytics. A Fitbit Premium subscription costs $10 a month or $80 a year.

Why you should buy this: If you don't want a screen or any other distractions on your fitness tracker, the Whoop 4.0 satisfies that need and provides valuable and detailed insights on your health.

The Whoop 4.0 band is simply a band that you wear on your wrist. There is no screen, no notifications, or any other distractions. It is simply a band that has health and fitness tracking sensors on it, and it's very comfortable to wear all day, every day.

It's incredibly important to take into account the cost of Whoop ownership. It may be cheaper than other trackers and smartwatches in the first year, but after that, the cost will just keep adding up. It does have very detailed health insights and reports, but is it worth the cost in the long run? That's up to you.

Much depends on what you want to get out of it. If you don't have some motivation and goals to go along with your new fitness tracker, then it may be tough to justify spending the money on one. Smartwatches are a good alternative if you're concerned about finding that motivation, as most can run apps that can help push you and they also have multiple other functions too, so you won't feel like it's wasted money if you don't immediately meet any fitness targets.

Almost all fitness trackers require you to sync the data from the tracker to the app that collects the data and analyzes it for you. Most people sync to their tablet or smartphone, but you also can sync to your computer. Connecting to a computer is not as convenient as syncing to a smartphone, but it can be done. Some smartwatches like the Apple Watch are available with a cellular connection and can perform many functions without a smartphone, but you will need to pay extra on your monthly phone bill to use this feature. 041b061a72


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