Fitness trackers and wearables are the hot new buzzword. Our guide explores the key differences to help you choose the right one to buy.
What is a fitness tracker?
A fitness tracker is any piece of electronic technology you can wear on your body, either directly on the skin or attached to an item or clothing. Also known as wearable technology or wearable devices, fitness trackers are accessories that can monitor your health and fitness, allow you to access data in real time and connect to your smartphone. Fitbits, Apple Watches and Android Wear smartwatches all fall under this banner.
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Activity tracker. These are all about measuring how much you move in a day and measure things like steps, distance and calories burnt. They’re great for not just measuring your morning run, but for recording how much incidental exercise you’re getting in a day.
Smart clothing. Working in a similar way to activity trackers, these are pieces of clothing (usually fitness-related) that have the technology built in. With sensors closer to your skin, they can pick up the more subtle cues of your movement, heart rate and breathing patterns than activity trackers. These can include anything from motion detecting pants to heat sensing bras.
Smartwatch. Examples of smartwatches include the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S and the Pebble. Their capabilities are still growing, but their range is vast: they can monitor your fitness, send emails, make phone calls, order taxis, book hotels and most importantly, tell you the time.
Smart glasses. These are wearable computers for your eyes, such as the now defunct Google Glasses. Don’t rule these out as a technology, though. They have the ability to immerse you in augmented reality, so expect their rise in gaming in 2019.
Smart band. This is the same as an activity tracker, except it sits solely on your wrist.
Headphones. Yes, even headphones are getting the wearable treatment. You can find ones that act as a music player, microphone, Bluetooth headset, fitness tracker and heart rate monitor all in one.
Fitness trackers are designed to both make your life easier and track changes in your body you would otherwise not be aware of. Not every wearable will have every one of these features, just like not every wearable will track the same things (see below).
However, some of the key features you can expect to find in a fitness tracker are accelerometers (the technology that tracks your movement), Bluetooth, communication with another device (such as your smartphone), notifications and water resistance.
What are the tracking metrics of a fitness tracker?
What would be the point of a fitness tracker if it didn’t track things like your movement throughout the day? If you’re not interested in your personal data, you might as well get a regular watch instead of a smartwatch.
However, if you do want to monitor your health and fitness, a fitness tracker can track:
Speed and/or pace
Steps taken per day
Most fitness trackers will also be able to tell you the time. What’s the point of a smartwatch if it can’t even tell you when you’re running late?
Fitness trackers are designed to be used for a range of sports, such as running, cycling, swimming, golf, skiing, snowboarding and even diving. (If you’re an avid diver, the Pebble is waterproof for up to 50 metres).
Yoga lovers might like one that tracks posture, such as the Movea G-Series, while runners may prefer a Fitbit that tracks their time, distance and pace.
If you get your exercise in one big burst at the gym then spend the rest of your day in front of a computer, you might want to invest in an Apple Watch. It reminds you to stand up at least once an hour and as we keep hearing, sitting is the new smoking.
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Georgia-Rose is a publisher at Finder.com and specialises in all things shopping and travel. She has years of experience working in retail and tourism and as an avid budget traveller, she loves helping people find the best deals on everything from plane tickets to sunglasses.
When she's not jetting off somewhere new you'll find her watching cake videos or befriending stray cats.
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