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Best fitness tracker 2021: Which fitness tracker is right for you?

Edward Munn Michael Sawh
10 Dec 2021
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Trying to decide which fitness tracker you should buy? We're here to help

If you’re looking to get fit this year, our pick of the best fitness trackers can point you in the right direction. Of the many fitness-orientated devices out there, the humble fitness tracking wristband is by far the most popular, mainly because they’re discreet, counting steps and tracking workouts with a minimal physical presence.

In this list, we've concentrated on more basic, affordable fitness trackers, but there are also a couple of fitness-orientated smartwatches that we think are represent such good value that they're worth considering. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you'll find our buying guide, where we explain how to buy the best fitness tracker for you.

If you're looking for the best smartwatches, or indeed the best cheap smartwatches you can buy, please refer to those roundups. Also consider taking a look at our list of the best waterproof fitness trackers to buy – if that's your dish.

Without further ado, here's our pick of the best fitness trackers of 2021.

Save over 10% on the Fitbit Versa 3

The Versa is a very popular line for Fitbit with the Versa 3 now reduced by 10% on its average retail price, while stocks last. It has built-in GPS, heart rate monitoring and even a voice assistant for all your random queries and questions.
Amazon
Was £179
Now £159

Best fitness trackers: At a glance

  • Fitbit's best-value tracker gets an upgrade: Fitbit Inspire 2 | Buy now
  • The best budget fitness tracker: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 | Buy now
  • The best Fitbit: Fitbit Charge 4 | Buy now
  • The best Fitbit alternative: Garmin Vivosmart 4 | Buy now
  • A near perfect Fitbit smartwatch: Fitbit Versa 3 | Buy now

How to choose the best fitness tracker for you

What's the difference between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch?

These days, almost all smartwatches – such as the Apple Watch Series 6 or Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – are also accomplished fitness trackers. They will allow you to monitor pretty much any physical activity, and will most likely keep track of your heart rate and sleep patterns at the very least. They will inevitably have large watch faces, Apple/Android app support, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, built-in GPS and many, many other jazzy features.

On the flip side, most fitness trackers are simple, with tiny monochrome displays. They will often track basic fitness information (steps taken, calories burned, distance travelled) onboard, but tend to require a permanent connection to a smartphone for in-depth analysis, GPS tracking and to display notifications.

How much should I spend?

The fitness trackers on this list range in price from around £30 to almost £200. The expensive entries are very nearly full-blooded smartwatches; ordinarily, you should be able to find a cracking fitness tracker for less than £100. All of the major manufacturers (Fitbit, Garmin, Huawei, Xiaomi and so on) sell fitness trackers that cater to the top and bottom ends of the £100 bracket.

Bear in mind that manufacturers usually distinguish between the regular and heart rate-tracking versions of their products, and will often slap a small premium on the latter.

What features should I look out for?

All of the items on this list will track the same set of basic fitness metrics: steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned. Most will also track a vast selection of sports, either automatically or otherwise. All will have an app that displays the collected fitness information and connects users to the broader community.

Other crucial features (that may not be present in all models) include:

1. Heart rate sensor: It's becoming increasingly common to see fitness trackers with built-in heart rate tracking, but be sure to check just in case. Often, these models will be marked by an “HR” in the product name.

2. GPS: Fitness trackers tend to use something called connected GPS to track your route. In brief, this means that they rely upon a smartphone's GPS signal, adding to the data your smartphone records rather than tracking your route outright. This means you cannot track your run without also taking your smartphone with you.

The alternative is built-in GPS, which means that the device has a built-in sensor. These wearables will track your run without needing a connection to your phone. Check before you buy – we list what kind of GPS our recommended trackers support in the Key Specs sections above.

3. Altimeter: To measure how many flights of stairs you've climbed over the course of a day (or more adventurously, how many flights of stairs the mountain you just climbed equates to), you'll need an altimeter.

READ NEXT: Best fitness tracker deals

The best fitness trackers to buy in 2021

1. Fitbit Inspire 2: Fitbit’s best-value tracker gets an upgrade

Price: £60 | Buy now from Argos

The Fitbit Inspire 2 was introduced as the successor to the Inspire HR, a fitness tracker that we were delighted to give a five-star Best Buy review. With this in mind, the new tracker has rather big shoes to fill.

The Inspire 2 launched at the same retail price as the HR, and (for the most part) it looks identical too. As an entry-level fitness watch for tracking activities such as walking, running, cycling or swimming, as well as being able to monitor sleep and measure your heart rate, the Inspire 2 is an easy recommendation. The battery life is a serious improvement at ten days (double that of the HR), and you now get Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes metric. Plus, the £75 price tag gets you a year-long trial of the Fitbit Premium subscription service.

However, if you’re serious about your fitness, you might be better off considering a fitness-orientated smartwatch such as the Garmin Venu Sq. The tiny screen on the Inspire 2 plus the often-fiddly controls could easily frustrate the dedicated athlete.

Read our full review of the Fitbit Inspire 2

Key specs – Screen type: Monochrome OLED; Battery life: 10 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Connected only; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: No

2. Xiaomi Mi Band 6: Best budget fitness tracker

Price: £39 | Buy now from Amazon

It might not be the prettiest of devices, but the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 does offer a lot of features for your money. It’s just jumped up in size with a larger 47mm body that now packs a higher-resolution AMOLED screen that’s 50% bigger than the one on the Mi Band 5.

This makes for a nice, colourful place to view your stats, and you still get all of the same activity tracking and sleep monitoring features along with the Personal Activity Intelligence metric, which shifts the emphasis away from steps and on regularly raising heart rate through exercise. The Mi Band 6 now offers 30 sports profiles up from the 11 on the Mi Band 5 and can still use your phone’s GPS to track outdoor runs and rides. It’ll even count the jumps in skipping rope sessions.

You can enable continuous stress monitoring and now Xiaomi has added an SpO2 sensor to let you take on the spot blood-oxygen measurements for an extra hit of wellness data. Xiaomi still promises up to two weeks of battery life, which is better than what you’ll get from pricier Fitbit and Samsung fitness trackers. If you don’t want to spend big but want plenty of features at your disposal, the Mi Band 6 is certainly one to look at.

Key specs – Screen type: Colour AMOLED; Battery life: Up to 14 days; Replaceable strap: yes; GPS: Connected only; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: No

3. Fitbit Charge 4: The best Fitbit

Price: £100 | Buy now from Argos

The Fitbit Charge 4 takes the successful (if dated) design of the Charge 3 and adds a few key features. Built-in GPS support means you won't need to take your phone out with you on runs, although you may still want to if you're going to take advantage of the all-new Spotify playback controls: the Charge 4 has no onboard storage.

Fitbit has also come up with an excellent new way of tracking your exercise targets, called "Active Zone Minutes". You'll be set daily and weekly goals that require you to spend certain amounts of time in given heart rate "Zones"; your personalised Zones will cover a mixture of low- and high-intensity workouts, to help you reach those WHO-recommended daily/weekly exercise targets. It's not a new concept, but it's implemented exceptionally well.

We found a lot to like in the Charge 4: With dashing good looks, a slew of new features and access to Fitbit's excellent software and community, this is the Fitbit to buy – if your budget allows it.

Read our full review of the Fitbit Charge 4

Key specs – Screen type: Monochrome OLED; Battery life: 7 days (no GPS); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Built-in; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: Yes

4. Garmin Vivosmart 4: The best Fitbit alternative

Price: £100 | Buy now from Argos

Despite its age, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 remains an excellent fitness tracker. Alongside the usual slew of fitness tracking functions – including heart rate, step, calorie, staircase, sleep and stress tracking – the Vivosmart 4 introduces blood oxygen saturation tracking and broader “Body Battery” tracking. This last feature calculates your body's overall resources and gives you an idea of when you should be working out – and when you should be resting.

Simply put, the Vivosmart 4 is a durable, well-rounded fitness tracker that suffers only from a lack of GPS. If a Fitbit doesn't appeal but you don't fancy compromising on features, you won't find much better at this price.

Read our full review of the Garmin Vivosmart 4

Key specs – Screen type: Monochrome OLED; Battery life: 7 days; Replaceable strap: No; GPS: None; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: Yes

5. Samsung Galaxy Fit 2: The best fitness tracker for Samsung phones

Price: £49 | Buy now from Argos

The Galaxy Fit 2 not only boasts a bigger screen than its predecessor, but also offers significantly improved battery life compared, with Samsung claiming it can now last up to 15 days on a single charge with moderate usage. Along with its low price, these iterations make the Samsung Fit 2 a great-value option, especially for anyone with a Samsung phone. To clarify, the Fit 2 also works with iOS and non-Samsung Android phones, but you’ll need to install both the Galaxy Wearable/Fit app and the Samsung Health to do so.

There’s no built-in GPS, which, although expected from a device of this price point, means that you’ll need to be in close range of your smartphone and have Bluetooth switched on in order to track workouts with a higher degree of accuracy. Along with continuous heart-rate monitoring and sleep tracking, the Fit 2 offers workout modes for walking, running, cycling and swimming. If you have a Samsung phone and are tempted to try wearable tech, you could do a lot worse for the money.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

Key specs – Screen type: Colour AMOLED; Battery life: 15 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: None; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: No

6. Huawei Watch Fit: Best fitness tracker and smartwatch hybrid

Price: £70 | Buy now from Argos

The Huawei Watch Fit resembles a smartwatch that’s been squashed to make it take up less space on your wrist. This means it has a nice large screen, giving welcome extra space to view phone notifications and follow workouts on. It also packs plenty of features including a heart rate monitor and built-in GPS along with the ability to track blood oxygen levels. That’s in addition to fitness tracking staples like counting steps, monitoring sleep and stress.

There are 96 sports modes in total including Huawei’s Running Courses, which introduces new runners to useful training programs they can follow. It’ll also track pool swims and offers performance insights like VO2 Max, so that you can delve deeper into your current state of fitness. If you’re a relative novice, animated workouts can also help to give your workouts some more structure.

The Watch Fit works with Android phones and iPhones alike, letting you view smartphone notifications, control music playback on your phone and even check the weather. You can expect to get anywhere from seven to ten days of battery life depending on whether you choose to keep tabs on heart rate 24/7 and regularly use the GPS tracking. Occasional inconsistent heart-rate tracking aside, there’s a lot to like about this tracker and smartwatch hybrid.

Key specs – Screen type: Colour AMOLED; Battery life: Up to 10 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: In-built; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: No

7. Withings Steel HR Sport: Best hybrid fitness tracker

Price: £171 | Buy now from Amazon

Despite having the appearance of a traditional analogue wristwatch, the Withings Steel HR Sport is packed with useful fitness-tracking features. Along with a sub-dial that shows progress to your daily step count target, the fitness tracking is offered via a small, circular monochrome OLED screen. This tiny display not only lets you view notifications and heart-rate info, but you can also track up to thirty different sports (including swimming), piggybacking off your smartphone's GPS where necessary.

It might be limiting having such as a small digital display in some contexts, but the biggest perk to it is that the Withings Steel HR Sport can last “up to 25 days” between charges. Surely that's a tempting compromise.

Read our full review of the Withings Steel HR Sport

Key specs – Screen type: Monochrome OLED; Battery life: 25 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Connected only; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: Yes

8. Fitbit Versa 3: Fitbit’s near-perfect smartwatch

Price: £160 | Buy now from Argos

Styled more like a smartwatch than a fitness tracker, the Versa has always been a popular Fitbit. Although it hasn’t achieved perfection just yet, the latest in the Versa line has made some big changes, by adding in-built GPS (a much longed-for feature) and a new “multipath” sensor to monitor your heart rate. It’s also got a slightly bigger screen, one which allows you to reply to texts as well as take calls. It’s also added Google Assistant, which joins Amazon’s Alexa to give you two smart voice assistants to choose from.

Read our full review of the Fitbit Versa 3

Key specs Screen type: Colour AMOLED; Battery life: 6 days (48 hours with always-on-display enabled); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: In-built; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: No

9. Garmin Venu Sq: A competitively priced smartwatch packed with premium features

Price: £130 | Buy now from Argos

With its vibrant 1.3in screen and slew of fitness features, the Venu Sq is one of the best value sports-orientated smartwatches you can buy. The “Sq” in the watch’s title refers to the change in its design when compared to the original model, with Garmin opting to use a square panel instead of the round watch face on the first Venu. The Sq also omits the AMOLED screen of the original, which is reflected in the fact it costs roughly half of the RRP of the flagship Venu model.

The Venu Sq offers most of the key fitness features that you would expect of a decent running watch in this day and age including heart-rate monitoring, stress and sleep tracking and even blood-oxygen measurements. However, perhaps the biggest draw to this device is its ability to store and play songs from Spotify offline.

The main concession is its less than world-beating battery life, which, at six days of average use is a full day shorter than Garmin’s similarly priced Vivoactive 3. Unfortunately, Garmin Pay is also supported by far fewer banks than Apple Pay or Google Pay. Still, these omissions aren’t enough to discredit what, at its core, is a great GPS watch at a good price.

Read our full review of the Garmin Venu Sq

Key specs – Screen type: Colour LCD; Battery life: 6 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; Altimeter: No

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