Over the past few years, fitness bands have come to completely dominate the "wearable computing" market. Unlike smart watches, which don't really seem to know what they're for, fitness bands have been honed to a singular purpose: improving the wearer's health. There are currently scores of different fitness bands on the market, ranging from trendy pedometers to complete life coaches on-a-wrist. We take a look at some of the most popular options on the market.
Fitness bands (AKA "activity trackers") are sensor-packed gadgets that are typically worn around the wrist. They are designed to monitor and record fitness-related metrics ranging from the amount of steps taken per day to sleeping habits and kilojuel consumption. Most fitness bands come with a corresponding smartphone app which allows you to analyse your progress, compare data and set personal goals.
See also: Which Smartwatch Should You Buy?
If you're not sure which fitness band is right for you, this guide should provide a helping hand — below you'll find a cross-section of popular models which you can currently buy in Australia. We've also included links to in-depth reviews from our sister site Gizmodo, along with the editor's personal favourites.
Jawbone's followup to its popular UP fitness band finally entered the Australian market a few months ago. It adds a handful of improvements to its predecessor including a sturdier wristband, automated data updates and Bluetooth 4.0.
The UP24's main claim to fame is its improved connectivity. The previous UP required users to physically plug their wristband into their phones to transfer fitness data. Thanks to the addition of Bluetooth, it's now possible to connect wirelessly to compatible iPhone and Android handsets. This allows the UP24 to make periodic, automatic updates when your phone is within range.
Jawbone offers one of the best fitness band apps on the market, with an emphasis on setting personal goals and challenges. For example, the "Today I Will" tool encourages uses to take on specific commitments relating to either sleep, movement, or water intake. If the user opts into the challenge, they need to reach the projected goal in 24 hours.
As with Jawbone's previous fitness band, the UP24 is only splash-proof, which unfortunately means you can't monitor your swimming strokes. On the plus side, you can cover it with shampoo and other water contaminants without affecting its functionality. Battery life will last for around seven days in-between charges. The UP24 is also one of the more trendy offerings on the market, if you care about that sort of thing.
The Jawbone UP24 commands an RRP of $179. Click here to learn more.
The Flex is a wristband version of Fitbit's earlier fitness tracker dubbed the One. Like other fitness bands on the market, it can count your steps and analyses your sleep with data relayed via the Fitbit smartphone app. It also comes with five dinky LEDs which light up when you're close to reaching your goal for the day. (If you need extra motivation to exercise, maybe some flashing lights will do the trick?)
The Flex syncs over Bluetooth to either your computer via a USB dongle or to a compatible iOS/Android device. The band is waterproof up to 10 metres, which is handy if you're a keen swimmer. The battery will last between five to ten days in-between charges.
The Fitbit app isn't as polished as Jawbone's offering, but it does cover the basics in a clean and straightforward manner. There's also a bunch of compatible third-party apps available that can tease out reams of additional data — examples include Run Keeper, My Fitness Pal and Lose It!
At the time of release, the Fitbit Flex was unfairly maligned for being technologically inferior to its predecessor, which wasn't actually a fitness band at all (instead, it was an oblong-shaped monitor that clipped to your clothing). When compared to similar products on the market, the Fit actually holds up pretty well. On the downside, it's not very stylish and is beginning to show its age, having debuted way back in May 2013. Still, if you want to test the waters with something affordable, you could certainly do a lot worse.
The Fitbit Flex will currently set you back around $120. Click here to learn more.
Mio was one of the first companies to make a watch that could accurately measure your heart rate. The Link is a shrunk down wristband version primarily designed to read your pulse during vigorous workouts.
The Link doesn't track your steps or how active you've been during the day. Instead, it just reads your heart-rate while you’re exercising; just like a chest-strap heart rate monitor. It's major draw card is that it can broadcast via ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 simultaneously. In other words, you could have it relaying data to a bike computer and to your phone at the same time. The device works with iPhone 4S and above, and any phone running Android 4.3 or higher. It’s also water resistant up to 30 meters.
The Link is compatible with the Mio GO app which comes with some pretty neat features, including the ability to play virtual tours of courses and trails from around the word while using a treadmill or exercise bike. (The harder your heart pumps, the faster you’ll race through the course.) If you just want a decent heart rate monitor that's light on bells and whistles, the Mio Link is a pretty decent option.
The Mio Link costs $149.95. Click here to learn more.
The SmartBand SW10 is Sony’s first serious stab at a fitness band. In an unusual twist, it’s actually a tiny activity tracker that slots into a wristband accessory made of silicone. We like this approach, as it means you can swap out bands to match different clothing styles or simply carry the tracker around in your pocket. (It also keeps customers churning out money after the initial wristband purchase. Clever ol' Sony, eh?)
The SmartBand SW10 wristband is one of the most comfortable on the market. If you suffer from sensitive skin or feel restricted by wristbands, the SW10 is worth checking out — you'll barely know you're wearing it. The addition of multiple wristband colours also makes it more versatile from a style perspective. Like the Fitbit Flex, it also comes with a handful of LED lights that can help you tell what mode you’re in.
The tracker is waterproof to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to half an hour. It syncs over Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, although a NFC chip can be used with a compatible smartphone to speed up the initial connection process. The SmartBand's Android app is every bit as slick and user-friendly as you'd expect from Sony — you say what you want about the company, but it sure knows how to design an effective UI. It works with all Android 4.4 phones although iPhone users are unfortunately left out in the dark.
In addition to tracking your movement, calorie intake and sleeping habits, the SmartBand SW10 also keeps tabs on other lifetyle data such as your email use, camera hone snaps and web browsing. This has caused concern in some quarters, and not without cause. Do you really want to own a device that intrusively logs your whole life? That's essentially what the SmartBand SW10 is designed to do. It's also not the most accurate fitness tracker on the market according to some reports.
The Sony SmartBand SW10 will set you back $159 in Australia. The swappable wristband accessories cost $49 each. Click here to learn more.
The Nike FuelBand SE is an LED-equipped bracelet that comes with a three-pronged accelerometer for tracking exercise and movement. If you have a penchant for Nike sneakers and baseball caps, this is clearly the fitness band for you.
The FuelBand SE is definitely one of more stylish offerings on the market although it might be a bit too flashy for some tastes. The clasp of the band comes in a variety of neon colours as well as white, silver and gold. It also comes in small, medium, and large sizes to suit all wrist types.
The FuelBand app takes the concept of "gamifaction" to a whole new level, with all activity tied into what Nike calls "fuel points". After inputting your weight, age and height, the app works out the average number of fuel points for your demographics and tasks you with keeping pace. The idea is to achieve the nominated number in a given time frame; just like playing a video game. You can view your fuel point data down to every hour on a single day.
The main advantage of the FuelBand is its primitive LED display which displays a range of information including the time, how many "fuel points" you've earned, and how many hours you've put in towards your ultimate daily goal. It runs on Bluetooth and provides around ten days of use on a single charge.
The Nike FuelBand SE isn't officially available in Australia but can be purchased from Kogan Technologies for $179. Click here to learn more.
The Moov is a crowdfunded gadget aimed at serious fitness enthusiasts. Unlike the other fitness bands on this list, it's not actually available yet but we figured it was worth including due to its unconventional approach.
As you can see from the above photo, the Moov is designed to fit various parts of the body, which allows the wearer to tailor it to their exercise regime. It differs from other activity trackers in that it contains not only an accelerometer, but also a gyroscope and a magnetometer. This allows it to take your body's movement and accurately reconstruct them in a digital space; handy for athletes who need to study their technique at a minute level.
It comes with Bluetooth connectivity to enable communication with smartphones and has a waterproof rating of IP67. The correlating app also promises more in-depth settings than the competition with specific programs that focus on a specific sports such as long-distance running and cardio boxing. For example, the Cadence program will coach you to get you up to 180 steps per minute, complete with motivational messages.
The amount of advanced analytics the app provides should be enough to satisfy the most exacting professional. On the downside, it's a bit weird looking and significantly bulkier than the average fitness band.
The Moov can currently be pre-ordered for US$79.95. Click here to learn more.
What about fitness band hybrids?
Most fitness bands are designed to be as small and lightweight as possible — you'e supposed to wear these things during vigorous workouts, after all. However, there is a growing subset of fitness trackers that sacrifice size for more sophisticated features, including an inbuilt graphical interface. These gadgets fall somewhere between fitness band and smart watch, which is why we've decided to dub them "hybrids".
Examples of fitness band/smart watch hybrids include the Samsung Galaxy Fit (which unfortunately requires a Samsung Galaxy smartphone to run), the Fitbit Force, the Garmin Vivofit and the LG Lifeband Touch.
The above models are slightly bulkier than a typical fitness band. They also boast attention-seeking designs that are impossible to ignore. In other words, they're better suited to serious sports enthusiasts and self-confessed techno geeks — everyone else should probably stick to the subtlety of a bare-bones fitness band. On the other hand, the inbuilt display allows you to keep track of your data in real time without fishing out your phone. They also double as a watch, natch.
According to Gizmodo Australia editor Luke Hopewell, the best fitness band for your money is the Jawbone UP24:
I love the Jawbone Up. As I've said of the colourful fitness tracker before, it's the only band that doesn't make you look like a Dalek. It's sleek, easy to use and has an app so beautiful it will make you weep. It's had some reliability issues in the past but with the release of the third-generation, known as the UP24, the fitness band looks to be back on track. Plus, it now comes in a neon pink colour which I simply must have.
If you're leaning towards the hybrid side of the fence, Luke recommends Samsung's Galaxy Fit:
Although I love "living UP" as Jawbone suggests, I still have a soft spot for the Samsung Gear Fit. The main advantage the Fit has over other fitness bands is the bright, beautiful curved AMOLED screen which can be used to display everything from notifications from your Samsung Galaxy phone, a media controller for your music or instructions for your workout from the integrated workout coach app. It also has a heart rate tracker which is the most accurate we've yet seen on a fitness band. The Gear Fit lets you down on the stats side of things however. For whatever reason, the Fit won't give you detailed charts, graphs and figures of your progress. How am I meant to know my personal bests if you won't tell me how far I ran or how much I lifted, bro? That's where the UP has the Fit beat.
Got a different opinion? Let us know which fitness band you plumped for in the comments section below.
Originally published on Lifehacker Australia