Two years ago, technology analyst firm Forrester reported that few people were interested in wearable fitness monitors. They found that most people know what they need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle and didn’t feel they need an expensive device to remind them to eat right and get exercise.
But a lot has changed in two years. The market for wearable devices in general, and fitness monitors specifically, has only grown, and the emergence of the Apple Watch and other feature-rich smart watches, which typically include fitness monitoring tools, is only expected to drive adoption further.
For 2015, the tech analysts at Gartner expect retailers to sell more than 68 million wearable fitness monitors, a category in which they include smart watches, fitness bands, smart garments and other monitoring devices. They expect that number to grow to 91.3 million next year. At the same time, the line between fitness bands and smart watches is starting to blur. So here’s a look at some of the most popular options out there for runners and others who choose to go “smart” with their fitness in addistion to just buying a pair of sneakers.
From the grandaddy of fitness monitors, this devices goes beyond the typical tracker. It has a nearly one square inch screen that displays workout summaries and daily activity reports, as well as call and text message notifications from your phone. It syncs to your phone or computer to track stats over time. The Surge retails for about $250
Remember when Garmin was synonymous with GPS devices? They’re back with a line of fitness monitors. The Vivoactive is where fitness trackers meet smart watches. It’s design looks a lot like a smart watch, but it has all the features of a typical fitness wearable. It tracks calories burned, activity level, heart rate and steps. The interactive screen lets you see how your workout is going even when you don’t have your phone on you, unlike most monitors which have to sync data to your phone. It also allows your phone to push call and text message notifications to it. You can find the Vivoactive for about $250.
From one of the companies that got the fitness monitoring trend started, the UP24 has the basic features you need to keep track of things like steps, activity level and calories burned. The device also tracks your sleep patterns and can deliver personalized advice to help improve your sleep. It syncs wirelessly to Android or iOS devices, and at $129 direct from Jawbone — discounted at some retailers — it’s a solid budget buy.
Nike+ FuelBand SE
This one comes with the flash of one of the biggest athletic brands in the world, but is a bit more limited in features. It comes with the standard step, activity level and calories burned tracking of most other fitness bands and also monitors sleep habits. The biggest downside here is that it only syncs to iOS devices, so while iPhone users may be interested, Android users are left out in the cold. The social feature, which allows you to connect with other Nike+ users, is nice but the lack of Android support will limit your social universe. The FuelBand SE goes for anywhere from $120-$320, depending on options.
While clearly not the primary draw, the Apple Watch does sport a full array of fitness features. It tracks all your movements throughout the day and graphically displays how many calories you’ve burned, how much exercise you completed and how often you stood up. You can also plug in information about what kind of activity you’re doing and it will give you workout summaries specific to your activity.
Of course, if you’re main concern is tracking your activity, you may want to skip the Apple Watch. Its fitness monitoring features are fairly robust, but to get them you’ll have to pay for a lot more because of all the extra non-fitness-related bells and whistles. The cheapest model costs $350 and ranges upward to the laughably expensive $17,000 18-karat gold models. If cost is a primary motivator or monitoring fitness is your only concern, there are plenty of suitable budget bands out there.