The Ultimate Guide to the Best Fitness Trackers of 2014
I love my Fitbit Force.
I really do. In fact, I think it’s one of the best fitness trackers out there. But I’m a little biased.
I have found it to be extremely motivating, especially on days when I work out. I always strive to reach a minimum of 5,000 steps during a workout so that I can easily hit 10,000 steps by the end of the day. So on the days I feel like I just don’t want to keep going, or don’t want to do the classes that get me the most steps (and incidently raise my heart rate the most), my Fitbit is there to taunt me by letting me know I’m nowhere near my minimum of 5,000 steps or that I’m only 200 steps away.
My hubby thought it was just another gadget I didn’t need. But he has conceded that as long as I like it and use it, that’s all that matters.
One of the best features of the Fitbit is its ability to track my sleep. I finally figured out how horrible my sleep pattern was and why I was constantly tired because of my Fitbit.
Although, I wish it had a heart monitor.
Fitbit’s aren’t for everyone though. There are a lot of fitness trackers on the market and trying to decide which one is right for you can be a daunting task.
There are a few industry leaders like Fitbit, Withings, Jawbone and Basis that have really revolutionized the fitness tracker market with a variety of features and apps. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best product.
Other fitness trackers are flying onto the scene as everyone jumps on the bandwagon. In fact, Samsung just came out with their wearable that works with the Samsung Galaxy. With all these choices, it’s difficult to know which tracker has the best features for the right price.
Best Fitness Trackers of 2014
Since fitness trackers or “wearables” are all the rage right now, I thought I’d put together a list of fitness trackers that give you the best bang for your buck. The following is a list of the four best fitness trackers available in 2014 that boast the most features for the least amount of money. But I’ll warn you, this is an Ultimate Guide, so it’s a bit long.
1. Fitbit Force/Flex ($129.99/99.99)
Okay, you may think I’m biased, but hear me out. The Force is actually no longer available, which is why I’m also listing the Flex, but the Force was the ultimate fitness tracker for the price and features. It tracks sleep, steps, stairs, calories and active minutes and has a display that allows you to see progress on each one of these goals as well as the time – and all for $129. While Fitbit did actually recall the Force because of the rash issue, I kept mine since I haven’t had a problem with it.
The Flex has most of the same features minus the stair counting and display, although it does have a system of lights that tells you how close you are to your goal.
Fitbit devices have the advantage of being able to sync with a variety of third party apps, which makes it the only wearable currently on the market that will make your stats available on a Windows Phone. However, it won’t sync with a Windows Phone… yet.
Fitbit devices are also easy to use. To activate sleep mode, the only thing you have to do is after you get into bed, hold the button down on the side until it vibrates, and you really don’t even have to do that. As long as you know what time you went to bed and what time you woke up, you can log your sleep and see your sleep pattern. Plus, it’s comfortable to wear while you sleep. The Flex and Force both have the option to set silent alarms to wake you up in the morning. I have several alarms set including one at 8:30 pm to remind me to start my bedtime routine (more on this in another post).
This sleep functionality can also be used to track activities that the band itself won’t track. So you start the timer when you begin your activity and stop when your finished. You can then enter in the details of the activity/workout on the Fitbit website and estimate caloric burn among other things. I use it to track each cardioboxing class that I do with Your Shape Fitness Evolved. It allows me to get a more accurate caloric burn from each class and track how many steps I managed to get per class and during my entire workout (a real time saver when I’m in a hurry because I know which class gives me the most steps).
Fitbit’s website also allows you to track other things the device itself won’t track. You can track heart rate, blood pressure, glucose, weight, activities (that aren’t able to be tracked by the device like weight lifting) and mood. Plus you can add your own tracker and keep a journal. I added a general pain level tracker to mine to keep an eye on how bad my chronic pain levels are throughout the day.
Fitbit’s website also allows you to track food, but I haven’t used that portion since I use My Fitness Pal as well and the two apps work together.
That’s another plus. All Fitbit devices “play well with other apps” as the website says. But it’s true. I can link my Force with My Fitness Pal and it adjusts my calorie allotment for the day based on my activity level. I can link it with the Walgreens app and earn balance reward points just for walking. I also have my Force linked with Achievemint which gives you points based on steps, sleep, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and a variety of other things. Once you reach 25,000 points, you get a digital $25 Visa gift card. Sweet, right?
You can also link it with other wearables like the Garmin heart rate monitor to get a clearer overall picture of your health. So the Flex (and Force) are quite versatile, and their the only wearable out there with so many options.
While the standard Fitbit website doesn’t analyze your data for you like the Basis or Jawbone, you can get a premium membership for $50 a year that will do all this for you, and you can try it out for week before you but it. You can also use the Fitbit website (both standard and premium) without a Fitbit Device.
Fitbit also rewards you with badges for milestones like reaching your first 5,000 and 10,000 step goals as well as weight loss milestones and total steps taken since you started using the device. You can also compete with friends via the leaderboard and you even have the option to cheer on your friends or taunt them. There’s also a Fitbit community where you can join forums and chat with other Fitbit users for motivation and tips.
2. Basis B1 ($199.99)
The Basis wearable is considerably more than a glorified pedometer, but you also pay for the extra features. The Basis tracks steps, sleep and everything else the Fitbit does, but it also tracks running and bicycling as well as your workout intensity based on skin temperature and perspiration.
It also has an advanced sleep tracking function. It doesn’t just use your movement to determine if you’re awake or not. It tracks your sleep pattern, including all four stages of sleep. It even finds your REM stage using the heart rate monitor.
Speaking of the heart rate monitor, it’s what makes the Basis really stand out. But there’s a problem with it. It doesn’t necessarily track your heart rate while you’re in motion. So, if your working out, you may not get a heart rate reading, which is when you really need if you want to determine what zone your in and what percentage of your target heart rate you’re reaching when you workout. For those trying to lose weight, this information is a necessity.
Basis does explain why the heart rate monitor doesn’t track during movement. In order to make the device smaller, lighter and give it a longer battery life, the company decided to not to use a heart rate monitor that could do everything. The company recommends using a chest strap heart rate monitor when exercising if you want this type of heart rate information.
Another feature that makes the Basis stand out is the analytics. Basis actually analyzes all the data for you and tells you what you want to know. It will show you your habits and make suggestions that can help you form new, healthier habits. You can also customize which habits you want to focus on, like getting a better night’s sleep, etc. and it rewards you for reaching goals with badges.
When I was deciding on a wearable, the Basis and Fitbit were my top two choices, and I admit, I had a really hard time deciding between the two. But what made me ultimately purchase the Fitbit was the fact that the Basis was more expensive, and only provided an iOS and Android app. Of course, I could view my stats on the web, but I liked the fact that there was a 3rd party app for my Windows Phone that let me check stats whenever I wanted to. The Basis also doesn’t work with other apps like My Fitness Pal. That combined with a heart monitor that only works at rest and Basis was quickly kicked out of the running for my fitness tracker of choice.
If you have the money, the Basis is a great choice considering it’s features. It’s definitely worth the $200. The data alone that it provides is well worth it. But if you want a heart rate monitor that tracks all the time, use My Fitness Pal or you have a Windows Phone, this isn’t the fitness tracker you want.
3. Jawbone Up/Up 24 ($79.99/$149.99)
For me the Jawbone was never really in the running as a choice for a Fitness Tracker, although it is the reason I decided to look into trackers initially.
The Jawbone Up, and the newer Jawbone Up 24 have similar features to the Fitbit. However, it adds a few bells and whistles. It has an alarm that goes off if you’ve been sitting too long and analyzes your data to find patterns and habits, kind of like the Basis but without as much detail.
One of the disadvantages of the Jawbone system is that you have to have a phone that connects to the Jawbone if you want to see your stats on a regular basis. There’s no display on the device, and while you can see your stats on the web, you don’t always have access to a computer, and not all smart phones can access the site (although with newer generations this will be less of a problem). If you have an iOS or Android, you’re good to go. Sorry Windows Phone users, you’re screwed again. No app for you, third party or otherwise.
Like the Basis, the Jawbone finds patterns in your daily habits and makes suggestions to help you create healthy habits, and rewards you when you hit milestones. It tracks sleep and can give you detailed information on your sleep cycle, but the info isn’t as detailed as the Basis because the Jawbone lacks a heart rate monitor.
Like the Fitbit, the Jawbone allows you to track food, moods and other details on it’s app, although it will connect to My Fitness Pal if you prefer. Unlike the Force, the Jawbone doesn’t track floors, and has no display, but it does have lights that tell you how close you are to your goals and warns you if your battery is low. Jawbone also has the same activity tracking stop watch the Fitbit has. Start the timer at the beginning of an exercise and stop it when you finish. However, logging the activity is a bit different. You enter the workout/activity and estimate its intensity and Jawbone estimates the caloric burn for you.
The Jawbone Up 24 syncs to your phone wirelessly via Bluetooth 4.0, and the original Up connects to your phone or computer through a 3.5mm jack typically used for headphones.
So why didn’t the Jawbone factor in as a choice for me? It didn’t seem user friendly. The app looked a bit cluttered, like I couldn’t find the info I wanted quickly, and of course it didn’t sync with my phone. I also couldn’t tell from the website if the Jawbone would sync with my PC. I only found that out when I spoke to a friend who had it. It does sync with the PC (Jawbone has since updated their site). The Up syncs through the stereo headphone jack and the UP 24 syncs wirelessly through Bluetooth.
The Jawbone is also quite stiff. I got to see it up close and personal thanks to my friend (who loves it by the way and says its quite comfortable). It just wasn’t as impressive to me as the Force.
4. The Withings Pulse O2 ($119.95)
The Pulse O2 isn’t as well known as the Fitbit, Jawbone or Basis, but it is a unique fitness tracker with lots of features. Like other fitness devices it tracks steps, calories and distance. Like the Fitbit Force, it also tracks elevation. It also tracks your heart rate, but you have to take the device off to do so, kind of like using a cell phone camera lens to check your pulse with your finger.
What the Pulse O2 has that isn’t available on any other device is a blood oxygen sensor. Your blood oxygen level refers to how saturated your red blood cells are with oxygen, also called oxygen saturation.
But, unless you’re an athlete or mountain climber, or you have a respiratory condition like COPD, asthma or chronic bronchitis, you probably don’t need it.
However, because of the O2 sensor, the Pulse has more precise tracking of your sleep patterns and may even be beneficial for those who have, or suspect they have, sleep apnea. Granted, the Pulse O2 isn’t a sleep study, but it can help you determine if you need one. It also gives you a more accurate idea of your sleep stages, letting you know exactly when you went into a deep sleep, REM or light sleep.
The Pulse also has a touch screen that allows you to “swipe” through your stats, and it can be worn as a wrist band, or worn in your pocket like a Fitbit One. It syncs with the iPhone and Android (sorry Windows Phone users). But the app does have some neat features. It creates a game out of your stats by awarding you with badges for milestones, although Fitbit’s site does this too. And like Fitbit, you can also compete with friends via a leader board.
The app also has the ability to coach you by giving you suggestions on how to incorporate healthier habits into your daily routine. It can make suggestions like walking while taking a phone call, or going to bed a bit earlier. When you reach a goal, the app tells you what your next step should be. The Pulse also works with My Fitness Pal to keep your diet on track.
There you have it. These four fitness trackers will give you the best bang for your buck, and each of them have unique features, which means there’s something for everyone. Hopefully this guide will help you decide what features you’re looking for in a fitness tracker and help you decide on the best one for you.
Do you have a fitness tracker? Which one? Tell me about it in the comments below!
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