Best Smartwatch for Activity Tracking

Whether you are an avid exerciser, a competitive goal setter, or just a healthy individual, the best smartwatch for activity tracking is a good investment. Smartwatch can provide an interesting way to set goals and measure your progress towards goals. They can also help you keep track of all activities inside and outside the gym. Are you walking around the block during your lunch break? Even if you don’t do this in the exercise, this counts as your goal.

The best smartwatch for activity tracking is a great tool to make you healthier, more active, and even sleepier. It can help you motivate yourself, track your progress, and guide how hard you should be.

As a sports wearable device, an activity tracker can measure your heart rate, read blood oxygen levels, accompany you to swim, and tell you if you are well-rested. When you are not exercising, some can use it to pay for groceries, play music, etc.

With so many devices, choosing the best smartwatch for activity tracking for your needs can be tricky. We ran dozens of tests; spent hours on the treadmill, running, biking, and swimming-even sleeping-to see which ones are great and which ones can’t exceed the starting point.

There has never been a better choice of the best fitness tracker watch than before. But as the choices arise, confusion can arise. Which tracker has features that are suitable for you and the activities you are engaged in? Below are some tips and suggestions for choosing the best fitness smartwatch 2021 for your needs.

What to look for in the best smartwatch for activity tracking?

  • Water Resistance
  • Battery Life
  • Built-in GPS
  • Smartphone Compatibility
  • Heart Rate Tracking

See all of the best smartwatches for activity tracking and the top 10 smartwatches below.

Fitbit Charge 4

  • Water resistance: 50 meters
  • GPS: Yes
  • Heart rate sensor: Yes
  • Display: 1 inch, 160 x 100-pixel touch screen
  • Contactless payment: Fitbit Pay
  • Battery life: 7 days/5 hours continuous GPS

Fitbit Charge 4 is our top choice among the best fitness trackers and fitness watches because it introduces the main feature we lack in Charge 4: GPS. Charge 4 syncs with your smartphone to show you maps of running, hiking, and other outdoor activities. You will also see data on pace, altitude, heart rate zone and calories burned. Even better, the app superimposes this information on your route, so you can see which aspects of your adventure are messing you up.

Charge 4 also uses a SpO2 pulse oximeter sensor to better help you understand sleep patterns. Also, Charge 4 is Fitbit’s first fitness tracker with a non-contact Fitbit Pay function. If you are looking for a full-featured wearable device, then this is what you want.

By adding GPS, Fitbit Charge 4 has been greatly improved. Now you can track running, cycling, and swimming as accurately as using a real GPS watch. In addition, Charge 4 also has some other excellent features, including wireless payment support and better health tracking.

However, it is undeniable that if you want the best smartwatch for activity tracker to accurately measure your exercise, sleep, and other health indicators, then Fitbit Charge 4 is the best choice.

Pros
  • Accurate, fast GPS
  • A big community of users
  • Good design
Cons
  • No onboard music storage

Fitbit Charge 3

  • Sizes: One size, with S, M, L bands
  • Battery Life (Rated): 7 days
  • GPS: No
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Swim-Proof: Yes
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

For those on a limited budget and looking for a universal device, Fitbit Charge 3 is the best smart watch. It has a fairly large (but monochrome) touch screen display that is easy to navigate and displays your heart rate, distance traveled, and notifications from your smart phone (if connected). Charge 3 is also anti-swimming and can track the number of laps in the pool.

You also like the three sizes of Charge 3, which helps to better adapt to various sizes of wrists. In addition, many belts available allow you to personalize the device to your liking. Fitbit Charge 3 also has a SpO2 sensor that can use to diagnose breathing disorders during sleep and up to a week of battery life. It still needs a smart phone to connect to GPS, but in general, it is the best smart watch for activity tracking.

Fitbit’s most compelling new device is a smart watch, but the company has not forgotten that its best-selling product is Charge2. If you are a swimmer who wants to perform in-depth sleep analysis in it, then Charge 3 is an obvious upgrade.

Pros
  • 7 days of battery life
  • Touch screen display
  • Sleep analysis potential of SpO2 sensor
  • Anti-swimming
Cons
  • No auto-run pause at startup
  • No car GPS
  • Not the most accurate heart rate

Fitbit Sense

  • Sizes: 40mm
  • Battery Life (Rated): 6 days
  • GPS: Yes
  • Sleep tracking: Yes
  • Swim-Proof: Yes
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
  • LTE: No
  • Mobile Payments: Optional, Fitbit Pay
  • Compatibility: iOS, Android

Fitbit Sense is the company’s top smartwatch, with more advanced health functions than the Versa series. Not only does it have an FDA-approved ECG sensor and blood oxygen readings, but Sense also has the ability to measure electrical skin activity and skin temperature.

As one of the best Fitbits, Sense can run on iOS and Android, with car GPS, local app store, Alexa, etc. Fitbit is no longer just a brand that tracks the pace of our products: Fitbit devices such as Fitbit Sense can also make great smartwatches.

Pros
  • Attractive
  • Long battery life
  • Comprehensive fitness/health functions
Cons
  • No Sportily storage

Garmin Forerunner 245

  • Sizes: One size, with adjustable strap
  • Battery Life (Rated): 11 hours (using GPS and heart rate)
  • GPS: Yes
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Swim-Proof: Yes (but no swim-tracking mode)
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Garmin is the best sports watch you can buy, and Forerunner 245 is one of our favorites. There are not many bells, but this running watch is compact, with built-in GPS and a color screen, which is easy to see in bright sunlight.

Even better, Forerunner 245 has a built-in music storage function, so if you want to listen to music while running, you don’t need to carry your smart phone with you. 245 can also calculate your V02 maximum score and provide a recovery consultant to let you know the rest time between two runs. This watch also needs to pay to last for about a week of exercise time, which is not bad for such a fully functional GPS watch. However, the Garmin menu on the watch and its app may be a bit confusing.

Pros
  • Precise GPS and heart rate monitor
  • Easy to read in the sun
  • Custom interface
  • Built-in music storage
Cons
  • An application need better organized

Garmin Venu Sq

  • Sizes: One size, with adjustable strap
  • Battery Life (Rated): 14 hours while using GPS and heart rate
  • GPS: Yes
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Swim-Proof: Yes
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

The Garmin Venu Sq has some of the features in the $349 Garmin Venu-including GPS, blood oxygen (SpO2) readings, mobile payment, and optional music storage-but the price is cheaper at $199. This is what makes Venu Sq one of the best fitness trackers for less than $200.

It may not be the most attractive watch (although the mouse shape is familiar), but it can do it. Garmin Venu Sq has GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite tracking functions, as well as the function of tracking various physical exercises. For people who exercise outdoors and indoors, this is a good mixed choice.

Pros
  • Great selection of fitness and health features
  • Accurate, fast GPS
  • Great battery life
Cons
  • Limited app selection

Garmin Forerunner 245

  • Sizes: One size, with adjustable strap
  • Battery Life (Rated): 8-10 hours (using GPS and heart rate), 8-10 weeks in watch mode
  • GPS: Yes
  • Sleep Tracking: No
  • Swim-Proof: Yes
  • Heart Rate Monitor: No

If you don’t need additional bells, consider using Garmin Forerunner25. This is the best fitness tracker for runners on a budget. An inexpensive but accurate GPS watch tracks distance, speed, and pace, and notifies you to run a mile at any time. A big warning is that Forerunner 25 lacks a heart rate monitor, which may be a killer for many people. It also lacks exquisite features such as touch screens and color displays.

Forerunner 25 has nearly 10 weeks of battery life in watch mode and up to 10 hours when using GPS, so it can also be your daily timepiece and can still use when you need to jog improvised. Moreover, its price is less than $100, which may be enough incentive for many people.

Pros
  • Long battery life
  • Waterproof
  • Cheap price
Cons
  • No heart rate monitor
  • Lack of sleep tracking

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

  • Sizes: 38mm and 42mm (S and L) bands
  • Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours
  • GPS: Yes
  • Sleep Tracking: No
  • Swim-Proof: Yes
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

The GPS-equipped Apple Watch Series 3 is the latest Apple Watch, but it is the best activity tracker and best fitness watch for iPhone users. It is much cheaper than Series 5 (our top choice among the best smartwatches), and still has all the excellent fitness tracking features built into watchOS 6. It keeps basic knowledge of hiking, yoga, running, and biking.

Apple Watch Series 3 can detect when you start exercising and provide retroactive points for the time you missed. If you want a full-featured smartwatch that allows you to leave your phone at home and use it in the gym or running, then the Series 3 with GPS is a worthwhile purchase. One caveat is that its battery life is only one day, even less if GPS is used.

Pros
  • Improved fitness tracking features
  • Accurate heart-rate-monitoring
  • On-board music storage
  • Cheaper than Series 4 and LTE Series 3
Cons
  • Short battery life

Amazfit Band 5

  • Size: 1.9 x 0.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Display: 126 x 294 pixels
  • Battery life: 15 days
  • Swim-proof: Yes
  • Sleep tracking: Yes
  • GPS: No
  • Heart rate sensor: Yes

Amazfit Band 5 is the best budget fitness tracker. It promises to provide many marquee functions in this year’s advanced smart watch, but the price is a small part of it. It has blood oxygen (SpO2) reading, pressure monitoring, high heart rate alarm, built-in Amazon Alexa, sleep tracking, and several other tools provided in high-end products.

In our test, the fitness and sleep tracking performed on Amazfit Band 5 performed well. Although not very good, it is worthy of respect due to its low price, while still offering more prices than other trackers. Even better, the battery life is 15 days, which means we don’t need to charge it all the time.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight, comfortable design
  • Actionable sleep tracking
Cons
  • The display is hard to see in sunlight

Garmin Vivoactive 4

  • Sizes: 40, 45 mm
  • Battery life: 7 days
  • GPS: Yes
  • Sleep tracking: Yes
  • Swim-Proof: Yes
  • Heart rate monitor: Yes

Although it is one of the most fashionable fitness trackers, the attributes of the Garmin Vivoactive 4 are not limited to the skin. This is because the device has an excellent GPS, heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, an NFC chip, so you can use it for mobile payments.

We also like that Vivoactive 4 has screen animations for yoga, Pilates, aerobics, and strength training. It also has breathing tracking and pulse oximeters for tracking blood oxygen saturation levels and onboard music storage. It is estimated that its battery life is 7 days, which is not bad, but as you use GPS more, the battery life will decrease.

Pros
  • Two sizes
  • Provide built-in music storage and Spotify support
  • Two-button navigation
Cons
  • Occasional synchronization issues
  • Complicated application installation process

Fitbit Versa 2

  • Sizes: One size
  • Battery Life (Rated): 4 days
  • GPS: No
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Swim-Proof: Yes (but no swim-tracking mode)
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes

Fitbit Versa 2 has a more advanced sleep tracking function and can monitor your blood oxygen saturation level. (These data help identify diseases such as sleep apnea.) It can also measure your heart rate and step count when you are not asleep, and even has NFC mobile payment function.

Versa 2 is available for iOS and Android. As compared with the Apple Watch, although the app’s functionality is insufficient. You can control Spotify playback from your wrist-too bad to download songs to the watch itself. Versa 2 also lacks car GPS. In general, it is a reliable fitness tracker for those who don’t want to spend extra money.

Pros
  • Good battery life
  • Custom training programs (with subscription)
  • Great sleep analysis
Cons
  • No GPS
  • No onboard music storage

How to choose the best smartwatch for activity tracking?

When buying a smartwatch activity tracker, you should first evaluate your needs. What do you want to track? If you only use it in the gym to calculate your steps and heart rate, then a simpler and cheaper fitness tracker will be perfect for you.

However, if you plan to do more outdoor activities, such as running or cycling, you may need an activity tracker with a built-in GPS so you can see where you are going and where you have been more accurate. Dedicated runners and athletes will also want to check out our best GPS watch page.

If you plan to use a fitness tracker for swimming, you need to make sure it is not only waterproof but can also track the number of laps in the pool.

Many of the best smartwatches also have fitness tracking features and other features, such as responding to text messages and paying for purchases. But there are trade-offs. However, compared to dedicated activity trackers, smartwatches are generally more expensive and have shorter battery life.

How we test the best fitness trackers?

For each new activity tracker, we evaluate its hardware design and comfort; you need to wear the device all day long, and we found that some larger trackers are not suitable for smaller wrists. If the device has a touch screen, we hope to see its readability, especially in bright sunlight. We will also study how easy it is to navigate the fitness tracker menu. If you are not participating in a run, you don’t need to tap multiple screens to change the music.

We also evaluate features such as step count and sleep monitoring, distance calculation, and GPS and heart rate accuracy (if applicable). Moreover, we can see how well the manufacturer’s battery life claims have been maintained in actual tests.

Finally, we test the effect of pairing the device with the companion app and evaluate the experience of combining the two. We will also look at which features the device’s app supports, such as coaching and diet tracking, and whether it can synchronize data with third-party apps (such as Garmin smartwatch).

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