TL;DR – These are the Best Fitbits:
1. Fitbit Charge 4
Best Fitbit Fitness Band
Fitbit Charge 4
The Fitbit Charge 4 takes what was already an excellent fitness band and makes it even better. This newer models offers the same features that made the Fitbit Charge 3 geat, but has added GPS tracking, so you can keep track of where your exercise has taken you with fine detail. Keeping GPS on will drain the battery though, limiting the Charge 4 to five hours, but if you’re not using GPS, the battery can last a whole week.
Beyond the GPS, the Fitbit Charge 4 doesn’t change too much. It still has a swim-ready design with water resistance down to 50 meters. It also supports 24/7 heart rate tracking and can automatically detect a wide range of exercises to ensure all your activities are tracked. It also has some smartwatch features, like notifications from your phone and the ability to reply to them, as well as built-in NFC for contactless payments at many retailers.
2. Fitbit Versa 2
Best Fitbit Smartwatch
The Versa 2 hits the sweet spot in the fitness-themed smartwatch lineup. It has almost everything you’d expect to find in a smartwatch, but clocks in at a reasonable price because it dispenses with a few extras (like swim tracking and on-board GPS) you can probably live without. Of course, you get all the usual step, sleep, and exercise tracking, including floors climbed, a feature only a few models can claim.
A bright and readable always-on display runs apps and shows smartphone notifications. And in addition to quick replies, you can fire off voice replies as well. The Versa 2 has one unique feature: It fields voice commands via the built-in Amazon Alexa virtual assistant. And you can store hundreds of songs or play music from Spotify.
3. Fitbit Ionic
Best Fitbit Smartwatch for Leaving Your Phone Behind
Looking for a gold-plated smartwatch that looks good when you’re not working out? Then strap on an Ionic, which does virtually everything the Versa 2 can do (with a couple of weird exceptions, like the lack of an always-on display, Alexa, and voice replies to text messages). It has all the usual Fitbit tracking—steps, calories, sleep, exercise, heart rate, and even both floors climbed and swim tracking.
But a few features take center stage. Not only does the Ionic have the biggest and best screen of any tracker in the Fitbit lineup, its built-in GPS means this is the only Fitbit watch you can take out for a jog and leave your phone at home. The Ionic also has an exclusive feature: Adidas-branded on-screen workouts.
4. Fitbit Inspire HR
Best Value Band
Fitbit Inspire Hr
Fitbit offers a formidable lineup of health bands, but the Fitbit Inspire HR offers the most bang for the buck. Priced over 30 percent less than the “best overall band,” the Charge 3, you’re honestly not missing out on a lot. In the laundry list of tracking features—steps, calories, sleep, exercise, swim, and more, the only thing that’s missing is floors climbed.
It’s also somewhat less obtrusive than some bands, with a narrower, more understated display. And while the Inspire HR could have stopped there and most people would be happy, you even get call and text notifications, albeit without any ability to respond.
5. Fitbit Inspire
Best Budget Band
If all you need are the basics, the Fitbit Inspire has you covered. The least expensive band you can buy—the kid-focused Ace 2 notwithstanding—the Inspire is what to choose if you’re just warming up to the whole idea of fitness tracking and want to try it on a budget.
You get just the basics: steps, calories, and rudimentary sleep tracking, along with move reminders. There’s even simple call and text notifications. The Inspire may whet your appetite for more sophisticated exercise modes, heart rate monitoring, and sleep stage tracking, though, at which point you’ll need to upgrade to a model like the Inspire HR or the Charge 3.
6. Fitbit Versa Lite
Best Budget Smartwatch
Fitbit Versa Lite
Take the Versa 2, shave off a few features, and lower the price into fitness band territory. What do you get? The Versa Lite, a smartwatch that gives you most of the stuff you expect in a watch, minus a few features (that you might consider dealbreakers). You get all the usual fitness features except for floors climbed and swim tracking.
But despite being a smartwatch, you don’t get any on-screen workouts. If you don’t care about more advanced smartwatch features like Fitbit Pay and music storage, this could be a smart buy—and there are some more vibrant color choices, which might be important to you as well. But the Versa Lite lives on the razor’s edge of being making so many compromises that you might want to spend a few more dollars on the Versa 2.
7. Fitbit Ace 2
Best Band for Kids
Want to get your kids into a fitness mindset without spending a fortune? Most Fitbits are overkill for kids, but the Ace 2 was built with kids aged six and up in mind. These colorful and rugged bands do just the basics—step and basic sleep tracking, move reminders, and call (but not text) notification. The mobile app experience is optimized for kids, and parents can set up a family account and monitor the kids’ activities.
8. Apple Watch Series 5
Best Fitbit that’s Not a Fitbit
Apple Watch Series 5
Auto exercise recognition: Yes ● Heart rate monitor: Yes ● GPS: Yes ● Battery life: 1 days ● Swim Tracking: Yes ● Respond to Notifications: Yes
Fitbit has cornered the market on fitness trackers, but Apple really wants in on the health and fitness biz as well. The Apple Watch Series 5 is the first model worthy of being recommended in place of a Fitbit, though. The always-on display can be configured with a wealth of health and fitness complications, and like most Fitbits, the watch automatically senses a variety of exercises.
It can’t compete with the multi-day battery life of most Fitbits, nor does it do sleep tracking (at least, not without a third-party app and some serious compromises). But by syncing the watch to Strava or myFitnessSync, the Fitbit app can draw on Apple Watch tracking data, which is just short of magic and lets you continue using the Fitbit app even after switching to Apple.
What to Look for in a Fitness Tracker
If you’re in the market for a fitness tracker, the good news is that most Fitbits share the same set of core features. Most fitness trackers track steps, exercise, and activity level, as well as provide at least a rudimentary sort of sleep tracking—and trackers approximate a calorie count as well. (The only fitness tracker that purports to measure your actual calorie count is the very contentious Healbe Gobe, which claims to sense your glucose level.) From that basic set of features, though, trackers can vary quite a bit, with simpler models clocking in under $100 and advanced smartwatch models costing $200 or more.
These days, virtually all fitness bands can conveniently detect when you’re starting certain common kinds of exercise, but not all trackers are equipped to measure every kind of exercise. If you’re a swimmer or want to track stairs, your options will narrow significantly. And if you want to leave your phone at home when you go for a jog, look for models with integrated GPS (and perhaps even the ability to store music).
The key takeaway is that you don’t need a tracker bristling with sensors that can do everything—it depends upon what you want to track. If you never swim, you obviously don’t need swim tracking. And if you’re mainly trying to get your 10,000 steps in and don’t do intense workouts, you probably don’t need a heart rate monitor.
Since most fitness trackers go on your wrist, some try to replicate some smartwatch functionality. Many bands can display phone call and text notifications, for example, but the best smartwatch experience comes from a fitness tracker that’s actually shaped like a watch, with a large screen, support for apps, and perhaps even the option to show on-screen workout while you exercise.
Finally, keep an eye on battery life. While most Fitbits can run for at least four days on a charge, some can go as long as a week. And that’s not necessarily true of non-Fitbit trackers. The Apple Watch, for example, needs to be charged daily, which is one reason it has no built-in sleep tracking.
While the Fitbit device itself is a big part of the equation, don’t forget that Fitbit also has a large community of active users. Getting a Fitbit will let you join the community, sharing exercise tips, troubleshooting issues with devices, and plenty more. There’s also Fitbit Premum, which can offer guided workouts to help you reach your fitness goals.
Dave Johnson has been writing about gaming and tech since the days of the Palm Pilot. See him shout into the Twitter void @davejoh.
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark