If you’re serious about exercise, a fitness tracker is a great way to keep your health program on track. And the latest fitness trackers do so much more than simply monitor the number of steps you make.
From heart-rate monitoring to calorie burning, sleep tracking and exercise-specific apps, the latest fitness trackers are built to work around the clock. By harnessing user data, they deliver increasingly sophisticated and targeted health and fitness insights.
But, if you’re shopping for a fitness tracker, before you make your choice, it’s essential to determine the level of health and fitness you want to achieve and to consider the features on offer.
As most fitness trackers work via a smartphone app, it’s also important to keep in mind smartphone compatibility when weighing up which fitness tracker is best for you.
Core fitness tracker features
The more multifaceted fitness trackers are decked out with a range of sensors, and are capable of providing wide-ranging health and fitness insights. However, if you’re simply keen to count your steps and track your daily run, it’s best to focus on basic functionality.
Core fitness tracker features to consider include:
- Smartphone compatibility – to gain full use of your fitness tracker’s features, you’ll need to ensure that it’s compatible with your smartphone (or other smart devices).
- Exercise modes – the range of activities that a fitness tracker is capable of tracking – from running, to swimming, cycling and more – and the types of insights provided.
- Health insights – from heart monitoring to sleep tracking, fitness trackers can collate a range of health-focused data and provide advice.
- Battery life – of course, the longer you can go between charges, the greater the convenience. Some fitness trackers provide weeks of battery life. Keep in mind that some features, such as ones requiring GPS, can significantly impact battery life.
- Design and durability – it’s important to choose a fitness tracker that provides a comfortable fit, one that won’t distract you during exercise. Also keep in mind durability, in particular water resistance, allowing for swimming or use in the rain.
- Media – fitness trackers can allow users to link up with their smartphone and control their music, providing control while on the go.
- Apps – accompanying apps typically provide a range of health and fitness insights. Manufacturers may offer free features and also paid subscription services, which means you may be looking at extra costs.
- Connectivity – fitness trackers are generally equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing for interaction with other devices. Some fitness trackers have NFC, enabling features such as contactless payments.
It’s also important to note that fitness trackers with built-in GPS do not need to be linked with a smartphone to use GPS-enabled features. This means you can leave your smartphone at home if you’re keen to use these features while exercising.
Fitness trackers are generally cheaper than smartwatches, which provide many of the same features. (For our article A Complete Guide to Buying a Smart Watch, featuring the Apple Watch Series 6, click this link.) However, the prices of fitness trackers can still vary considerably, depending on their range of features.
The following is a selection of fitness trackers available at varying price points. Always weigh up the respective features on offer, along with the cost, your budget and personal requirements.
Fitbit Charge 4
Fitbit introduced the Charge 4 earlier this year. It has an array of health and fitness features, designed to help users track their activities and improve overall health, along with a range of smart functions
The Charge 4 features a 35.8mm x 22.7mm touchscreen with a backlit display, designed to adjust to different lighting conditions. It comes with a classic wristband (small and large sizes included). There is also the option to customise the Charge 4 with a variety of accessory bands.
Charge 4 features include:
- Smartphone compatibility – syncs to Android 7.0 devices and later, and to the iPhone 5s and later. Users can receive a number of alerts, including call and text notifications. Android users are able to send quick replies to messages.
- Exercise modes – 20-plus goal-based exercise modes and seven GPS-enabled exercise modes.
- Health insights – heart-rate monitoring. Active Zone Minutes allows users to see which heart-rate zone they’re in, gauging if they’re working hard enough to reach their goals. Sleep monitoring tracks sleep stages and provides a nightly score in the Fitbit app.
- Durability – water resistant to 50m.
- Battery life – up to seven days (up to five hours with GPS); charge time: two hours (0 to 100%).
- Media – Spotify control allows users to control music (Spotify Premium subscription required).
- App – users can access health and fitness features via the Fitbit app’s dashboard. The Fitbit Premium paid subscription service delivers users a range of additional features.
- Connectivity – Bluetooth LE; NFC for Fitbit Pay (using the Charge 4 for tap and pay purchases).
Price – the Fitbit website lists the Charge 4 at $269.95*.
Garmin vívosmart 4
The Garmin vívosmart 4 brings together a range of health and fitness monitoring tools. It delivers users insights across a variety of activities, while smart features are designed to keep users connected while on the go.
The vívosmart 4 has a 17.7mm x 6.6mm touchscreen display, designed to auto-adjust to ambient light levels (allowing for visibility even in bright sunlight). It sports a slim design, featuring metal trim accents and a silicone wristband (small/medium or large sizes).
vívosmart 4 features include:
- Smartphone compatibility – Android and iOS; vibration alerts for notifications, including calls and text messages. Text replies available for Android users.
- Exercise modes – dedicated activity timers for walks, runs, strength training, yoga, pool swims and other activities. The vívosmart 4 needs to connect to a compatible smartphone’s GPS for tracking.
- Health insights – heart-rate monitoring. Pulse Ox estimates blood oxygen saturation levels, helping to gauge how the body is absorbing oxygen. Sleep monitoring tracks sleep stages and movement throughout the night.
- Durability – safe for swimming.
- Battery life – up to seven days.
- Media – users can control smartphone music.
- App – the Garmin Connect app. The vívosmart 4 automatically syncs to the Garmin Connect online community. This provides users access to a range of features.
- Connectivity – Bluetooth Smart; ANT+.
Price – the Garmin website lists the vívosmart 4 at $249*.
The Fitbit Inspire occupies a lower price point than the Charge 4. Fitbit describes it as being equipped with essential health and fitness features, designed to help users stay motivated.
The Inspire has a 37mm x 16mm touchscreen, with a backlit OLED display, and comes with a classic wristband (small and large sizes included). A range of additional bands is also available.
Inspire features include:
- Smartphone compatibility – syncs with Android 5.0 and later, and iPhone 4S and later; provides call, text and other alerts.
- Exercise modes – SmartTrack can automatically recognise and record workouts like walks, runs, swims, bike rides and other activities.
- Health insights – monitor how many calories are being burned throughout the day. Automatic sleep tracking provides insights into rest.
- Durability – water resistant to 50m.
- Battery life – up to five days; charge time: two hours (0 to 100%).
- Media – does not provide music control.
- App – users can access health and fitness features via the Fitbit app’s dashboard. The Fitbit Premium paid subscription service delivers a range of additional features.
- Connectivity – Bluetooth 4.0.
Price – the Fitbit website lists the Inspire at $139.95*.
Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5
Xiaomi’s Mi Smart Band 5 is designed to provide a seamless user experience. It has a range of health and fitness features, allowing users to keep track of different metrics, combined with smart functionality.
The Mi Smart Band 5 has a 1.1” colour AMOLED display, with adjustable brightness, and comes with a band made from TPU material, which Xiaomi describes as soft and smooth. A black band is standard, although other colours are available separately.
Mi Smart Band 5 features include:
- Smartphone compatibility – Android 5.0 or iOS 10.0 and above; incoming call and message notifications.
- Exercise modes – 11 sports modes, including outdoor running, pool swimming, rowing machine, jump rope, yoga and elliptical.
- Health insights – 24-hour heart-rate monitoring, providing for real-time monitoring with heart rate alerts. 24-hour sleep monitoring, providing interpretation of sleeping patterns.
- Durability – water resistant up to 50m.
- Battery life – 14 days (in normal mode), 20 days (in power-saving mode); up to two hours charging time.
- Media – music playback features.
- App – the Mi Fit app provides users a range of health and fitness features, allowing users to track activity and view health data.
- Connectivity – Bluetooth 5.0 BLE.
Price – the Xiaomi website lists the Mi Smart Band 5 at $69*.
*Further information on pricing can be found at individual retailer websites. This should be used as a starter guide and not considered an actual quote.
Ultimately a fitness tracker needs to access the internet, via your phone or broadband connection. And to help Kiwi consumers make more informed decisions about their broadband options, Canstar Blue annually rates all the providers in the market. We survey thousands of broadband customers and ask them to score their providers across categories including Overall Satisfaction, Value for Money and Customer Service.
Canstar Blue’s 2020 review of NZ internet providers compares NOW, 2degrees, Bigpipe, Contact, MyRepublic, Orcon, Skinny, Slingshot, Spark, Stuff Fibre, Trustpower, Vodafone and Voyager, and awards the best our 5 Star rating:
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Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in March 2020, published in April 2020.
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