Mobile / Features

The Best Fitness Trackers of 2016

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The holidays are upon us and what better way to show the fitness fanatic in your life how much you really care than with a brand new fitness tracker? This year’s list of outstanding trackers was long. So much so, we couldn’t settle on just one. Instead, we’ve collected the five brands that were steps ahead of the pack.

A Quick Note About the Apple Watch

Before diving into the list, we should mention that the Apple Watch is not included in this particular roundup. The reason for this has nothing to with credentials. The new Apple Watch is a wonderful device and the preferred smartwatch of yours truly. However, with this list, we were looking at devices that fell more squarely under the “fitness tracker” umbrella. Although the Apple Watch provides plenty of activity-tracking features, labeling it just a fitness tracker would be like calling an Aston Martin just a car (my fellow mobile reviewer and resident gearhead, Max Waldroop, assures me this is an apt analogy). Now that we’ve cleared that up, on to the list!

Apple Watch Series 2 42mm Smartwatch

Garmin vivosmart HR+

Full disclosure: Garmin is probably my favorite brand when it comes to wearable tech. From running to outdoor navigation, Garmin’s products continually deliver an experience that keeps me coming back for more. Personal bias aside, the vivosmart HR+ really is one of the best (if not the best) fitness trackers of the year. In addition to the standard activity tracking functions—steps, distance, calories, etc.—the vivosmart HR+ also features built-in GPS, smart notifications, and an easily readable touchscreen display. And, as its name suggests, the vivosmart HR+ offers wrist-based heart rate data—no chest strap required. Add in long battery life, smart notifications, and Bluetooth connectivity, and it’s no wonder the vivosmart HR+ is such a fan favorite. The companion app isn’t quite as intuitive as some of Garmin’s competitors (Fitbit, for example), but that minor drawback aside, the vivosmart HR+ is really in a heat of its own. 

Garmin vivosmart HR+

FitBit Charge 2

Released in August, Fitbit’s Charge 2 follows in the footsteps of its hugely successful predecessor, the Charge HR, offering all-day activity tracking, sleep monitoring, and wrist-based heart rate data. However, in a bid to improve what was already its best-selling device, Fitbit bolstered the new Charge 2 with several enhancements, including a larger display, GPS connectivity, and exercise recognition technology. On top of that, the Charge 2 features a brand new guided breathing function that promises to help users calm down by guiding them through personalized breathing sessions based on their real-time heart rate. 

Fitbit Charge 2 Fitness Wristband

Samsung Gear Fit2

Samsung’s Gear Fit2 Activity Tracker is an impressive upgrade to its warmly received predecessor. The Gear Fit2 offers several new features that make it more of a stand-alone device than the original. Chief among those features are the built-in GPS sensor and the ability to store music locally for playback. The GPS sensor allows users to get accurate real-time run statistics and map-planning directly on their wrist—no smartphone required. Similarly, onboard music storage lets you stream audio from the device. All you need is a compatible Bluetooth headset and you can listen to your favorite songs without using your phone or separate music player.

Samsung Gear Fit2 Fitness Band

TomTom Touch

Lost in some of the fanfare of its peers, the TomTom Touch didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention it deserved. In addition to its standard fitness-tracking capabilities, the Touch stood out for its innovative body composition analysis feature. A built-in sensor allows users to glean body fat and muscle composition data simply by pressing a button. A side-by-side comparison with my scale showed that the readout wasn’t absolutely perfect—but it was consistently close, which makes the Touch a great option for users interested in tracking weight loss in addition to how many steps they’ve taken and distance covered.

TomTom Touch Fitness Tracker

Polar A360

As a reviewer, I was slow to come around to the Polar brand. My late-to-the-party-ness had nothing to do with Polar’s product offerings and everything to do with the oversaturation of the category in general. There are so many hours in a day, after all. However, the buzz over recent Polar offerings drew my attention and today I am a fully converted Polar fan. One of the products receiving rave reviews is the Polar A360. With the exception of its guided training, the A360 doesn’t necessarily offer a host of new features. Instead, it focuses on the features users want in a tracker (steps, distance, etc.), and does them very, very well. The A360 also boasts one of my favorite displays, an easy-to-read bar graph setup that looks as good as it performs. Heart-rate data, smart notifications, and Bluetooth capability help round the A360 out as one of the best trackers to own in 2016. 

Polar A360 Fitness Tracker with Wrist-Based Heart Rate

2016 was another banner year for fitness trackers. The technology required to make a truly great device has become more diffuse, allowing multiple brands to put forward quality trackers. While our list doesn’t hit all the standouts, it does give you plenty of top-notch options to choose from. Check out each of our recommendations to see which tracker would best suit the fitness fanatic in your life—they won’t be disappointed!

Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section, below.

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