Best Cheap Fitness Trackers
$25 - $50Cheapism
$50 - $100Mid-Range
$100 and upHigh End
- Published on
- By Louis DeNicola
Many consumers swear by fitness trackers for motivation to work out, as well as accurate and easily accessible overviews of their exercise habits and overall health. Sales more than doubled in 2015, according to the NPD Group, and the average selling price increased to $109. But some of the biggest names in the game, including Fitbit, Jawbone, and Misfit, offer fitness tracking devices (also commonly referred to as activity trackers or activity monitors) for less than half that price. To save some legwork for shoppers in search of good cheap fitness trackers, we've scoured expert reviews, consumer feedback, and product specifications to find the best offerings under $50.
LifeTrak Move C300 Review
This is a surprisingly inexpensive wrist-worn fitness tracker that doubles as a watch and includes a heart-rate monitor, offering consumers the features of a high-end tracker without the cost.
Fitbit Zip Review
The Fitbit Zip is the cheapest option from one of the biggest names in fitness tracking. This easy-to-use clip-on device excels at displaying the collected data and works well with other apps.
Misfit Flash Review
With a versatile design that mirrors the successful Misfit Shine, the Flash is a waterproof fitness tracker that users wear proudly. It monitors a variety of exercises and automatically tracks sleep.
Jawbone Up Move Review
This disc-shaped activity tracker can be attached to a wristband, clipped on, or placed in a pocket. Jawbone's app is one of the best out there, with diet tracking and tips to keep users motivated.
iFit Act Review
With a battery that seems unreliable at best and an app interface that many can't manage to sync with their devices, this is an option some consumers have scrapped right out of the box.
iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker Review
This cheap activity monitor offers sleep tracking and can be worn with a clip at the waist or as a watch. However, it's so heavy and cumbersome that many owners don't bother using it.
Cheap Fitness Tracker Buying Guide
In reviews of cheap fitness trackers, experts and consumers say that simply strapping on a fitness tracker encourages longer and more frequent workouts, as well as increased mobility throughout the day -- enough to recommend giving one of these wearables a try. For many users, however, the novelty fades, and a high-priced, super-loaded band can end up gathering dust on a dresser. This guide focuses on entry-level fitness trackers, so buyers who ultimately don't use them won't be plunged into ice-cream-binging despair over wasted money.
Even the cheapest activity monitors typically track steps taken throughout the day, distance traveled, and estimated calories burned, acting more or less like high-end pedometers. A few of the best inexpensive models can also track sleep patterns or heart rate, and most pair with a mobile app to provide deeper insight. The more wallet-friendly models generally focus on activities such as walking, running, and cycling, but a select few can give users feedback on swimming, as well.
Our top picks, the highly rated Fitbit Zip (starting at $49) and LifeTrak Move C300 (starting at $47), are inexpensive yet reliable trackers from tried and trusted brands. The Zip can be clipped to clothing or tucked in a pocket, while the Move C300 is a wristband. Two other recommended models, the Misfit Flash (starting at $20) and Jawbone Up Move (starting at $24), can be worn all three ways and also garner positive reviews. Consumers should think twice before opting for the iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker (starting at $29) or the iFit Act (starting at $28), as both lag behind in terms of features and performance.
Other Fitness Tracker Brands.Critics have been singing the praises of Garmin fitness bands, the brand of choice for many hardcore workout buffs. The sleek new Vivosmart HR (starting at $150) is fully waterproof for swimming, with sleep tracking as well as a heart rate monitor. The band doubles as a pseudo smartwatch, pairing with a smartphone to remotely control music and display any texts, emails, or notifications that come in during a workout. The original Garmin Vivofit, a more basic product with no heart monitoring or "smart" notifications, sometimes drops to our $50 price ceiling on Amazon in certain colors, but Vivofit models tend to fall in the midrange.
Moov, a line born out of a crowdfunding project in 2014, has a fully waterproof design, multisport tracking capabilities, and active coaching features. It garnered positive buzz out of the gate, but reviews from consumers are mixed. While the original version is available starting at $40 on Amazon, the upgraded Moov Now remains outside our price range (starting at $69).
Xiaomi is a mega seller in China that recently made its debut in the United States. The Xiaomi Mi Band deserves a mention for solid performance and a ridiculously low price (starting at $15) but needs a little more time on the U.S. market before a verdict can rendered.
Home Try-On.Before buying any fitness tracker, shoppers might consider taking some out for a test drive. For a fee of $30, Lumoid lets consumers choose up to five trackers to try at home for two weeks. At the end of the trial period, those who decide to buy receive their money back as a credit toward the purchase price of their chosen model. All four of our top choices, as well as the Xiaomi Mi Band and Moov Now, are available through this service.
This is also a chance to take one of the more expensive Garmin bands out for a spin. A hands-on, head-to-head comparison between products could help determine whether to make a larger initial investment. One caveat: Some of the final prices listed on Lumoid are slightly higher than we found at other retailers. But the extra money may be worth the assurance that you've chosen the right band.
What We Looked For
Advanced Tracking Capabilities.Although just about every activity monitor tracks the basics -- steps taken, distance traveled, and estimated calories burned while walking, running, or biking -- some add more to the mix. The waterproof Misfit Flash can track swimming and automatically detects when the wearer is going to sleep. The LifeTrak Move C300 has a built-in heart monitor, which increases the device's accuracy when tracking calories and can help wearers target heart-rate "zones" when exercising. Keep in mind that the readings provided by built-in heart-monitoring systems shouldn't be considered exact. In a recent lawsuit, Fitbit conceded that the heart-rate monitors on some of the brand's more expensive models couldn't claim 100 percent accuracy. Still, the company countered that its devices are better than the monitors found on gym equipment, which provide active-heart-rate stats without the benefit of resting-heart-rate information. If heart-rate monitoring is extremely important to you, consider purchasing a dedicated strap for that purpose. Many third-party products can be readily paired with fitness trackers including the Garmin Vivofit and Moov.
With various workout-specific apps, the Moov band can analyze not only running/walking and biking but also swimming, boxing, and seven-minute workouts. Here's the rub: The band works only when you're active and it's been paired with an app. It doesn't do double duty as a basic pedometer and track steps throughout the day, which defeats the purpose for many who are more interested in just getting moving, as opposed to monitoring a particular type of workout.
Clear Data Presentation.Even the best fitness tracker is pointless if the wearer can't interpret the data the device collects. With some activity monitors, users can easily glance down and see specific stats on a display, and a good portion of the cost of the Fitbit Zip and LifeTrak Move C300 is tied to the convenience of that screen, which doubles as a watch. The least expensive trackers are more rudimentary when it comes to visuals. The Misfit Flash, Jawbone Up Move, Moov, Xiaomi Mi Band, and iFit Act rely on LED lights that change pattern or color to indicate progress toward daily goals. Most fitness trackers use a proprietary mobile and/or web app to give users detailed access to the data the device has collected. Fitbit's resources are among the most enjoyable and educational, and the Jawbone Up system is also a popular option. Whereas many popular trackers offer only a mobile app, Fitbit features a web interface, as well. An online portal and profile provide ample insight into users' physical activity and are lauded by reviewers. The iFit Act is a particular failure on the software front, with widespread complaints of inability to sync with the app and much griping over membership fees required to access data online.
The iFit Act also has a closed ecosystem, unlike the Fitbit Zip and many other trackers, which can sync up with third-party apps such as Runtastic, MapMyFitness, and the popular calorie counter MyFitnessPal. Although the latter app is helpful on its own, a review on the fitness site BuiltLean says incorporating data collected by a tracker makes MyFitnessPal an even better tool for people trying to lose weight.
Convenient Syncing.Some trackers require users to connect to a smartphone or computer and press a button to upload all the data they've gathered. Our top picks use Bluetooth to sync wirelessly when they're within range of a compatible device. In most cases this happens automatically; the LifeTrak Move C300 requires the push of a button. Although automatic syncing is a more seamless process, it may drain the battery more quickly. Keep in mind that not every tracker can connect to every device. Most trackers sync using Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which is available on recent Apple devices and select Android devices. It's important to check the packaging or company website to see if a fitness tracker supports your phone, computer, or tablet. The Fitbit Zip offers the most flexibility: It wirelessly syncs to a multitude of Apple, Android, and Windows mobile devices and to computers via a USB dongle.
Water Resistance.The best cheap fitness trackers are designed to motivate wearers to build up a sweat, so they are also designed to resist moisture. Consumers who want the added convenience of being able to wear the device in the shower or track swimming have more limited options. Only two of the activity trackers we reviewed are waterproof: the LifeTrak Move C300 and the Misfit Flash. Our other top picks should withstand a splash or a run in light rain but are not suited for swimming.
What We Ignored
Calorie Counting Capability.Activity monitors often estimate calories burned, but the number shouldn't be taken as fact. When a Quartz tech reporter wore four activity trackers at once, she found that each was consistent in accounting for ups and downs in her activity level, but the totals varied greatly among devices. Some allowed her to enter the type of activity she was doing and measured her heart rate, temperature, and sweat levels in an attempt to get a better read. Regardless, she concludes that calorie counts can be motivational, but the only sure way to get an accurate count is with a laboratory-grade calorimeter.
The cheap fitness trackers recommended here use information such as age, sex, weight, height, and the amount of time the wearer has been active to reach an estimate. Some consider only steps taken, while others let users go back and specify what form of exercise they were doing, which can increase accuracy. A heart-rate monitor within a device such as the LifeTrak Move C300 can also improve accuracy, but the calorie number is still only an estimate.
Fitness Tracker Reviews
In our research, we read fitness tracker comparisons by experts at CNET, PCMag, and other tech-focused sites, as well as consumer reviews on popular e-commerce sites such as Amazon and Best Buy. Some reviewers have owned several different devices over the years and offer insight into a specific model's strengths and weaknesses. More often than not, though, fitness tracker reviews come from first-time buyers, so these must be read with a discerning eye. Although reviewers recognize that our picks are much cheaper than high-end activity monitors, they don't cut them any slack. A lower price tag means fewer features but shouldn't mean worse performance.
Comfort.Fitness trackers are meant to be worn all day, and sometimes all night, so it's important they be lightweight, comfortable, and unobtrusive. Most budget fitness trackers take the form of either a clip-on or a bracelet. Some wrist-worn devices double as a watch, which some users consider a perk, while clip-ons are often lighter and less noticeable. Which to choose is a matter of personal preference and, for some, style. Some newer devices, such as the Misfit Flash and Jawbone Up Move, are small discs that can be placed into a clip, on a wristband (or ankle band, in the case of the Moov), or in a pocket. The versatility is handy, especially for tracking more localized movements -- for example, clipping to a shoe during a running workout. On the flip side, the trackers can fall off, be misplaced, or accidentally be thrown into the wash.
Although the packaging might claim that a device is easy to clip on and forget about, fitness tracker reviews provide more insight into reality. An example of what can go wrong is the Fitbit Force, a popular model that was recalled because it caused skin rashes on some wearers. The good news is that most reviews are positive when it comes to comfort. The Xiaomi Mi Band fares particularly well in this respect, with reviewers saying they often forgot they were even wearing the band. One exception is the iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker, which many users say is so heavy and awkward that they can't be bothered to wear it.