Bestmodo: The Five Best Fitness Trackers for Christmas

By Simon Munk on at

It's still far from clear when the kind of footpods that Adidas have been messing about with for years suddenly morphed into "wearables". But if you want to track physical activity, there's now a bewildering number of wristbands to do it with. But which are best?

For Christmas, it's this lot – but be warned, new 24/7 optical heartrate monitoring technology is the next big thing and due to arrive early in 2015 from Jawbone, Microsoft, Fitbit and others.

5.) Withings Pulse Ox

Withings' Ox tracker may be chunkier than most, particularly in its rather industrial watchstrap casing, but it's very versatile. It tracks activity (including elevation) and sleep, can be worn on a clip or strap, and features built-in spot heartrate monitoring and blood oxygen level.

Perhaps most importantly, the app corrals data from other Withings products including their Smart Scales and can talk to external apps such as RunKeeper and myfitnesspal. Because of that, it's fairly useful for an all-round fitness tracking approach. Where it does fail is on water-resistance – even minor splashes can mess with the touchscreen for a while.

4.) Jawbone Up Move

One of the cheapest fitness bands around. And, given that, surprisingly good too. Best of all (well, beyond the fact it's a perfectly decent activity tracker) is the replaceable, rather than rechargeable battery, that lasts for months.

On top of that, the Up Move uses Jawbone's class-leading Up app, which offers better activity analysis and nudges to hit daily goals than just about anyone else. As well as being able to track sleep (though that does really need the wrist strap, that's an optional extra), the Up Move can also track high-energy activities and estimate calories burned when you assign a period of activity to a specific sport in the app.

The only major downsides are there's no waterproofing, so unlike the Up Move's main rival, the Misfit Flash, you can't swim with it. And it looks like a kid's watch in garish plastic.

3.) Fitbit One

One of the oldest Bluetooth-synching fitness trackers, the Fitbit One released in the UK in September 2012. And that's why, come early in the new year, Fitbit's new 24/7 heartrate monitoring bands, the Charge, Charge HR and Surge will doubtless be taking over. But that also means the One should be dropping in price, although it's already fairly cheap for what you get.

What you do get is a small clip-on tracker with included band that handles steps with elevation as well as sleep with vibration wake-up alarm (although it won't wake you up at the right moment in your cycle, unlike the Jawbone Up24). It's very accurate, has a long-lasting battery, is fairly rugged and splashproof and the app features nice friendly competitive features too.

2.) Jawbone Up24

Slim, stylish, but no screen. The lack of any visual feedback can make the Up24 a bit weird to those not used to fitness trackers. But actually, we've all been getting on just fine without watches for a while. And what's important in the Up24 is in its app.

The Jawbone Up app is best in class – with gently worded notifications pushed to your phone if you're on track to slightly miss a daily target, or if you haven't been exercising enough recently across multiple days.

Like with Withings, the app also plays nice with others such as myfitnesspal and RunKeeper, which means you get really good regular snippets of advice on what you can do to improve your life.

This attention to detail extends as far as the sleep alarm, which wakes you on or just before your chosen wake-up time, at the exact right point in your sleep cycle. This is the only real difference, bar the looks, between the Up24 and Up Move, but it's a really useful difference.

1.) Garmin Vivosmart

The choice between the Vivosmart and older Vivofit is a closely-run one: both are the best fitness bands on the market for simply tracking fitness. Both feature class-leading 5 ATM/50m waterproofing, so you can not just swim with these, but do some diving. Both also feature wireless connectivity not just to phone, but to ANT+ heartrate monitor straps – so you can start and track high-energy activities by HRM on just the strap.

On top of these two fairly important features comes excellent battery life, sleep tracking and connectivity with Garmin's app, for not just fitness-trackers, but a broader running and cycling community – as Garmin users can come in via fitness band, GPS watch and/or smartphone app.

In the community portal, you can find routes from other Garmin-using runners and cyclists, set personal bests for your "courses" and bring all your Garmin-logged activities into one screen.

Annoyingly, though, the app doesn't integrate steps logged and daily activity in the way some bands/apps do (Nike FuelBand, Polar Loop etc.). So, if you go for a hard gym session, your HRM might log lots of work but no steps, and therefore your daily activity tracked in competitive "challenges" you're entered into doesn't reflect your actual fitness activities that day, just your walking/running activity, even though Connect has logged everything else you've done separately. On top of that, Connect is far from as widely used as Strava, for instance.

To pick between the two Garmin bands, it all comes down to how much faff you find regular charging. The Vivofit lasts on a replaceable battery for a year; the Vivosmart only lasts a week before it needs a recharge. That's because on top of all the good stuff above, the Vivosmart adds on a touchscreen with smartphone notifications, phone/distance "find my phone" tracking and alerts,  Garmin Virb action cam remote control, phone music control, ANT+ cycling speed sensor support and vibration.

The last two items are potentially very useful. The speed sensor adds another way to track bike activities without using up smartphone battery or using a dedicated cycle computer. And the vibration enables instant "move" alerts when you're inactive for too long, as well as silent alarm clock and notification alerts.

For pure fitness both the Vivofit and Vivosmart are top dogs, until new 24/7 heartrate monitoring fitness trackers arrive in 2015; even then, their battery lives and waterproofing are likely to remain superior.