Wearable Health Trackers

by karen on March 1, 2019

As we continue to explore health technology, today’s blog focuses on wearable health trackers (read Part 1 of our health tech series here). Whether you are curious if you’ve chosen the best device to fit your needs, currently use one and are looking for an update, or are trying to determine if you would benefit from starting to use a Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin or other; may this be a concise review of the best options.

Millions of Americans use wearable devices to monitor their health and fitness. Sensors on these devices track everything from body movements to heart rate and even blood pressure. They also include audible notifications to remind us to stay active throughout the day.

The benefits of these devices are many, and include:

  • A focus on health and well-being
  • Individually tailored goals
  • Enhanced chronic disease management
  • Incentive for healthy habits
  • Healthcare cost savings
  • Ease of tracking progress
  • Personal accountability

Here’s a quick view of the top-rated wearable health devices to compare cost and functionality to ensure you’re getting the most of your tracker, from CNet’s 2019 review.

 

Device

Cost

Features

Apple Watch Series 4

$385+

The Good The Apple Watch Series 4 offers a larger, crisp display that shows more with less bezel, super fast speed and a louder speaker. It adds high and low heart-rate detection, fall detection with SOS trigger and an FDA-cleared ECG app for more detailed heart readings.

The Bad Starting prices are higher than last year. Battery life still won’t last past two days. Watch face options are still very limited in choice and function. It only works with iPhones.

The Bottom Line The Apple Watch Series 4 is the fastest, most connected and best overall smartwatch around, but its battery life and watch face options often fall short of the competition.

Garmin Vivomove HR

$199

The Good Full fitness features on a regular-looking analog watch. The Vivomove HR includes heart rate, step count and sleep tracking, and smart functions like notifications. It works on Android and iOS and has 50-meter water resistance and a weeklong-plus battery life.

The Bad The tiny touch display is hard to navigate. There are no physical buttons. It lasts longer in watch-only mode but won’t track fitness, and the glass body can collect scuffs.

The Bottom Line Garmin’s heart-tracking blend of fashion watch and fitness watch is a great choice for everyday watch wearers who want a fully embedded fitness experience.

Fitbit Ionic

$227

The Good Fitbit Ionic has a better-than-most smartwatches four-day battery life, while still having always-on heart rate and a comfy fit. It has features galore: waterproofing, GPS and on-wrist mobile payments, plus new watch faces and a growing app store. It works with iOS and Android, and has an excellent phone app and social community.

The Bad Wrist payments don’t work with as many banks as Apple Pay and Android Pay. On-wrist music is hard to set up and use. Software and apps sometimes feel buggy.

The Bottom Line Fitbit’s fitness smartwatch has gotten better with an infusion of watch faces and apps, but some of its extra-smart features still aren’t as polished as the competition.

Fitbit Charge 2

$127

The Good Swappable bands. A multi-line OLED display that can show time and fitness data. Always-on heart rate. A great companion app. Affordable price. Five-day battery life.

The Bad Not water-resistant for swims or showers. Lacks GPS. Phone notifications on the Charge 2 display are limited and hard to read.

The Bottom Line If you don’t need water resistance and GPS, the Fitbit Charge 2 is the best overall fitness tracker you can buy.

Fitbit Versa

$220

The Good The Fitbit Versa is a compact, lightweight smartwatch and fitness tracker with an improved interface for easier fitness stat readouts. It’s water-resistant to 50 meters, and works with iOS and Android. Many of the apps and watch faces are useful and fun. Multiday battery life beats the Apple Watch.

The Bad Its battery life falls short of other Fitbit fitness trackers. The apps and watch faces aren’t always easy to load. Music transfer to the watch is complicated and limited. There’s no on-board GPS and the charger is bulky. Tap-to-pay model costs a bit more in the US.

The Bottom Line The Fitbit Versa is the best fusion of smartwatch and general fitness tracker under $200, if you can live with its limitations.

Amazfit Bip

$76

The Good The Amazfit Bip is a complete fitness smartwatch that’s a remarkable bargain. It has an always-on display, weeks-long battery life, plus extras like heart rate, GPS and water resistance. Works with Android and iOS. Gets notifications.

The Bad Plastic design and limited watch faces aren’t as flashy as premium smartwatches. Mi Fit app isn’t as refined as Fitbit for fitness or health tracking. No installable apps. Onboard features like stopwatch/timer can’t run in background.

The Bottom Line The Amazfit Bip is affordable, has fantastic battery life, and is the best low-key casual smartwatch around. It’s a fine replacement for your old-school Pebble, minus the apps.

Huawei Watch 2 LTE

$392

The Good The Huawei Watch 2 is one of few watches that supports 4G connectivity, though not in the US, and does fitness tracking as well as any other wearable.

The Bad No features that make this a must-have device for the average user. It’s also a little too big and bulky, and its 1.2-inch screen is too small.

The Bottom Line Within the category of smartwatches, the Huawei Watch 2 is a great device. But that doesn’t mean it’s one you need to buy if you’re not already sold on wearables.

Garmin Forerunner 235

$249

The Good The Garmin Forerunner 235 has accurate GPS for tracking runs and a 24/7 wrist-based heart-rate monitor. It can track all-day activities like steps and sleep, and can display notifications from iPhone and Android devices. It’s water-resistant and can be worn in the shower or while swimming.

The Bad Heart rate accuracy drops off during interval training, there are occasional connection and syncing problems and Garmin’s Connect app can be confusing to navigate.

The Bottom Line The Garmin Forerunner 235 offers the best value for serious and casual runners looking for an all-in-one running watch and fitness tracker

 

Karen Fisher, MS, RD, LDN, CDE is a dietitian in Reno, Nevada, happily promoting the benefits of healthy foods at her nutrition consulting firm, Nutrition Connection. Find her website at www.NutritionConnectionNV.com

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