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There's never been a better selection of fitness trackers, but with choice comes confusion. Which tracker has the features that are right for you and the activities you do? Here are some tips and recommendations for shopping.
Try Before You Buy
If you want to try a tracker out before committing to it, we recommend Lumoid, a service that lets you try five trackers for a week for $45, including the Apple Watch . Check the fees, as they are subject to change.
Another way to try fitness tracking in general (but without a wearable) is to use a mobile app that counts your steps. This method is the most lightweight, and it could be of interest if you're a beginner. Some apps we like are Argus, Fitbit, and Moves.
If you run or bicycle, we recommend tracking your runs or rides with an app before going whole-hog and splurging on a tracker. Why? With some trackers, you still need to carry your phone to get accurate pacing, distance, and mapping, so you'll want to know before you make a purchase if you're okay with carrying your phone, or if you'd prefer a tracker with built-in GPS so you don't have to. A few apps we recommend are Runtastic PRO (for running), Cyclemeter (for bicycling), and Strava (for both running and cycling).
Set Your Spending Limit
In general, the best fitness trackers cost between $50 and $250. If you pay less than $50, you will probably get a subpar product with poor accuracy (the Misfit Flash Link is a notable exception). In addition, less expensive trackers usually don't have a display, so you can't see how many steps you've taken unless you look at your smartphone.
More expensive trackers usually include built-in optical heart rate monitors and GPS, and often, these features are tailored toward athletes and exercise enthusiasts. Don't get suckered into buying a tracker with a heart rate monitor if your primary activity is walking; it's an unnecessary expense. If you walk and don't do much else, there are great options in the $49-$149 range.
If you do work out often, we highly recommend spending at least $149, as that's the price point where you'll start to see the features that are useful to very active users.
Choose Your Form Factor: Bracelet, Clip-On, Watch
A very important question to ask yourself before choosing a fitness tracker is the type of form factor you want. Fitness trackers are usually bracelets, watches, or clip-ons. Most clip-on devices these days can also be worn on the wrist, but not vice versa. Bracelets and watches are hard to lose. Clip-ons can fall off or get thrown into the wash.
That said, bracelets and watches can get in the way when typing on a computer or washing dishes, for example. If you're bothered by having something on your wrist 24/7, you're probably better off with a clip-on. Additionally, wrist-worn devices are not always eye-catching accessories to your outfit.