If you’re looking for an inexpensive fitness tracker that doesn’t compromise on features, you’re in luck. The latest generation of Chinese fitness wearables offers a wide range of different features to choose from at budget prices. In many cases these are fully featured smartwatches that also offer activity tracking functions.
Essential reading: Wearables that won’t break the bank
One common feature you will find with all Chinese gadgets are the incredibly low prices. Smartwatches typically sell for less than $50, and fitness trackers for about half this price. Chinese manufacturers are looking to expand to the West and you can purchase many of them on Amazon now. For others, you can opt for one of the dedicated sellers such as GearBest, which has US and EU warehouses.
Read on for our selection of the top fitness trackers if you’ve decided to go down down the Chinese route.
Chinese tech giant Xiaomi has released a new fitness tracker in June this year. The third generation band combines the best features of the predecessor devices, and adds an OLED display to the mix. Which means that for the first time Mi tracker users are not tied to their smartphones to check on their daily progress.
The device itself is super lightweight and comfortable to wear. The “capsule” pops in and out of the band for charging but is in no danger of falling out once pushed in. The wearable tracks steps, distance, calories, heart rate (on demand) and sleep, and has a battery that lasts 20 days between charges. It is water-resistant and will even wake you up in the morning.
The Mi 2 band does the basics well and with its lightweight, slick design, looks good enough to wear during the day, in the office or for an evening function. The addition of a screen this time around makes a big difference. As a entry level fitness tracker you won’t go wrong with Xiaomi’s latest fitness device.
You can also opt for Xiaomi’s second generation wearable. The Mi Band 1S was released in 2015 and for the first time included a light-based PPG (photoplethysmography) sensor to measure your body’s blood flow. The heart rate sensor can be used on demand, such as while running or monitoring your sleep patterns.
One drawback is that the on-demand works only through the app. It can take up to 30 seconds for heart rate monitoring to start up, but the readings are fairly accurate for a wrist based heart rate monitor. HR monitoring works particularly well for resting heart rate, less so if you are engaged in more intense activities such as running. There is no periodical heart rate measuring throughout the day, but apparently it is possible to use third party apps for this.
Xiaomi Mi Band tracks steps, distance, sleep and calories. It also breaks your walking and running into blocks of active time and presents hourly, daily, weekly and monthly graphs. You can set the number of steps (daily goal) and the band will alerts you by vibrating when you have achieved it. Don’t expect a sophisticated app, but on the positive side, the devices syncs with Apple Health and Google Fit.
The Mi Band contains three LEDs, which can be customised to show your daily progress. The fitness band is reported to weigh just 13.5 grams and has a 45mAh battery that lasts up to 30 days.
The SMA-R is a fully featured smartwatch that also offers certain fitness functions. If you are looking for simple elegance and classic design, this might be the device for you.
You can find all the standard features you would expect in a 2016 smartwatch such as answering calls, dialing, call log, call reminder, notifications, find your phone, message reminder, remote control for camera and music, Siri voice commands, voice recorder, calculator and alarm.
The splash-proof watch features a 1.3 inch screen that sports a resolution of 240×240 pixels along with IPS technology. Interestingly, it offers multiple interfaces that you can change to suit your mood.
The watch can be controlled via gestures. It will automatically switch on when you lift your hand. You can switch between screens and answer calls just by shaking your wrist.
In terms of the health and fitness features, you will find an integrated heart-beat and sleep monitor, sedentary reminder and pedometer.
The SMA-R watch sells for less than $50 and comes equipped with a polymer, 300maH battery that has a standby time of up to 5 days (2-3 days of use). You can recharge it in about 2 hours. The watch is compatible with Android 4.4 or iOS 8.0 and newer versions.
The Kingwear KW18 is a smartwatch that features a rubber band and round aluminum display. Available in black, silver, and champagne gold color it sports a fashionable classic look. Weighing only 680 grams, this splash-proof watch will feel very light on your wrist.
The 1.3 inch 240×240 pixel screen provides you with information on messages, e-mails and incoming calls.
In terms of the health monitoring features, you will find a heart rate monitor, a sleep monitor (provides info on sleep time and sleep depth), and a pedometer which records your steps, distance and calorie consumption. Prolonged sitting is a common problem, so the watch will nudge you to get up at set intervals.
This is a smart bracelet that you can opt for as a cheaper alternative to a Fitbit. It features a 0.91 inch OLED touch screen which does the job, but leaves a bit to be desired in terms of responsiveness. It switches on automatically when you raise or turn your arm.
During the day, the I5 will track your steps, distance and calories. You can set daily targets and it will tells you when you reach them. At night the wristband will monitor the quality and length of your sleep. A vibration alarm can wake you up in the morning. There are also sedentary reminders.
You can configure the I5 to receive notifications. When an incoming messages or call comes in, you will get a text/Caller ID and the bracelet will vibrate to alert you.
All in all, the device works fairly well as a basic fitness tracker. It is lightweight and comfortable and also looks quite good.
This is another watch that provides a wide number of smart features along with basic fitness tracking.
In terms of design, the watch looks almost identical to the Samsung Gear 2. There is a home button below the sapphire glass screen that is used to switch the power on or off, while a speaker and microphone occupy the side edges. Along the top edge you will find the camera that allows you to take quick 2.0 MP photos.
The smartwatch features include SMS and various other notifications (wechat, facebook, whatAPP, etc), intelligent transfer, automatic locking, calendar, alarm, flashlight, find my phone, album, voice memo and music player. You can place calls and answer directly from the watch; it’s the simple way to keep up when you have a lot going on.
Fitness tracking features include a heart rate sensor, pedometer and a sleep monitor.
With Bluetooth 4.0, compatible OS including IOS and Android, G2 can be connected with 99% smartphones in the market.
This affordable fitness tracker keeps tabs on your steps, distance, calories, sleep and heart rate.
The MGCOOL Band 2 band comes with a soft silicon band and a water-resistant IPX7 rated design. Sporting a large B&W screen, on the back of the wearable is a hump that shelters the heart-rate sensor. Beneath that is the three-point power connector. While all activity tracking is automatic, it is worth noting that the heart rate monitor is not 24/7. Similar to the Xiaomi Mi 2 Band, you can only trigger it manually to take your reading.
I’ve been testing the product over the past few weeks now, and while I like the design and the device spits out adequate stats, often they would be off when compared to a Fitbit or Garmin device. So its something to keep in mind if you decide to buy this tracker.
On the other hand, you are comparing like with like, so as long as you wear the same device you can see whether or not you are improving over time. Plus you are paying several times less than you would if you were to purchase a Fitbit or Garmin fitness tracker.
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