Choosing the right Fitbit tracker

Fitbit is the global leader in wearables sales. There is a reason its trackers sell so well. They are simple to use, reliable, look smart, provide great vitals statistics and have an excellent app behind them.

Essential reading: Compare fitness trackers with our interactive tool

With Ionic going on sale in October, the company now has twelve different devices for tracking steps and calories. You can still purchase all of these, although some of the older devices have been superseded with new versions.

In fact, Fitbit has stopped selling One, Flex, Charge and now the Surge, but you can still pick them up from retailers such as Amazon, often at a discount. For the sake of completeness, we include the complete range in this article.

In a nutshell, for the average person who is interested in tracking fitness and does the occasional run here and there, Charge 2 is our recommendation. This is also the Editor’s choice for the best fitness tracker in 2017. If you want something more discreet, the Alta HR is your best bet. For swimmers there is the Flex 2, while for those more serious about fitness might want to go with the new Ionic.

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Zip | One | Flex | Charge | Charge HRSurge | Blaze | Alta | Flex 2 | Charge 2 | Alta HR | Ionic

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Fitbit Zip

First released: September 2012

Fitbit bands

Fitbit Zip can be worn in your pocket, on a belt or on a bra, as it is as discreet or as visible as you want it to be. This entry level fitness tracker monitors steps, distance, calories burned and syncs everything to your computer or smartphone. The wearable has a silicone clip and is rain, splash and sweat-proof. The battery is replaceable and lasts up to six months.

The mobile app which is used across all Fitbit trackers, remains a well-designed, easy to navigate tool for looking at your data, monitoring your fitness progress, and also tracking your food intake and water consumption. Any metric can be tapped to show historical data, and weekly totals. If you are only after a simple pedometer, this is the one to go for.

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Fitbit One

First released: September 2012

Fitbit bands

Fitbit One is also a belt-clip/carry on activity tracker, but goes a bit further than Fitbit Zip. In addition to tracking your steps, distance, calories burned, Fitbit One measures stairs climbed. Come nightfall, the device also keeps tabs your sleep quality, helps you learn how to sleep better and wakes you up in the morning.

While Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip were novel and innovative back in 2012 when they were released, these days the metrics they track are fairly standard. However, if you are looking for a basic device to measure your activity, the Fitbit Zip and Fitbit One both represent a great choice due to their reliability, excellent value for money and a first class app. You may also be able to purchase them at a discount.

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Fitbit Flex

First released: May 2013

Fitbit bands

The Fitbit Flex is slim and comfortable wrist worn gadget. It monitors steps, distance, and calories burned and shows you how you’re stacking up against your daily goals.

Fitbit bands

At night, the device monitors your sleep cycles. LED lights show how your day is stacking up against your goal while stats are synced wirelessly and automatically.

The Flex is an old model, probably not worth the money even if at a discount. We suggest you go with one of the newer trackers instead. For a small difference in price, you will get a screen and heart rate monitoring. Or you can go for the new and improved Flex 2.

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Fitbit Charge

Released: November 2014

Fitbit bands

Fitbit Charge sports a monochrome OLED display, which is very vibrant and easy to read, despite being roughly the size of a fingernail.

The screen shows your basic stats, and you cycle them using the button on the left. The tracker can also an display caller ID information from a connected smartphone through the Fitbit app.

This is a device for everyday users who want to get fitter and see how they are doing in real time on the wristband and also via the excellent free app and graphics-heavy desktop dashboard.

We suggest though, dishing out a few extra bucks and going for the upgraded Charge 2. It also monitor your heart rate and looks better!

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Fitbit Charge HR

First released: January 2015

Fitbit bands

The main difference between this device and the Charge, is that there is now a heart rate sensor onboard. The Charge HR has also improved the Charge’s clasp for a more secure fit.

When your heart beats, your capillaries expand and contract based on blood volume changes. Fitbit’s proprietary PurePulse optical heart-rate technology uses safe LED lights on the underside to detect blood volume and capillary-size changes under pressure.

When compared to trackers with no heart rate monitor and those which only measure heart rate on demand, the ones that continuously measure provide a much more accurate calorie burn figure. Knowing your heart rate means the wearable knows the intensity of the exercise. Plus you get info on your resting heart rate, probably the most important indicator of your health and fitness.

This was our choice for the best fitness tracker in 2015. You would now be better off going for the Charge 2 though.

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Fitbit Surge

First released: October 2014

Fitbit bands

This is Fitbit’s first attempt at a ‘ultimate fitness’ tool. But its stepped up specs and touchscreen LCD make it bigger in size and price.

Fitbit bandsThe device records all the usuals including steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, stairs climbed, active minutes, caller ID and sleep. However, the Surge goes a step further than other Fitbits by including GPS mapping.

Essential reading: Gone for a run: top GPS watches for running and training

The real-time heart rate monitoring gives reasonably accurate results and the automatic sleep function is a plus. On the negative side, the Surge is not perhaps as accurate as the top-tier fitness sports watches, and the display is not really attractive for a night out or for use in the workplace. Plus Fitbit is now phasing out Surge as it looks to push its new Ionic smartwatch.

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Fitbit Blaze

First released: February 2016

Fitbit bands

The Blaze looks a lot like the Apple Watch, but puts fitness first. This is Fitbit’s first wearable with a color touch-screen, which pops out so you can swap bands.

The device tracks activity and records heart rate, but lacks the GPS of the Surge and Ionic. Instead it has something Fitbit calls Connected GPS. This means its capable of tapping into your smartphone’s GPS for readings.

Blaze is sweat, rain and splash proof, but unfortunately is not swim proof. Its optical heart rate sensors take heart rate readings every five seconds during the day and every second during workout sessions. This should, in theory, give wearers relatively accurate stats.

With a battery life of 5 days, this is a stylish wearable which represents a great compromise between a fully fledged smartwatch and fitness tracker.

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Fitbit Alta

First released: March 2016

Fitbit bands

The Alta has a slim stylish design, a major step up in the looks department from the retro feel of its 2015 lineup. The device features a discreet, slightly curved, touch-screen, OLED display.

Fitbit bands

In terms of price, this is one of the cheapest trackers sold by Fitbit. The company has not included a heart rate sensor, which has allowed it to offer it at a discount compared to its other wearables. It also does not contain a GPS or an altimetre for counting floors climbed.

What it does contain is a 3-axis accelerometer and a vibration motor. This means Alta is able to track steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes. It is also equipped with reminders to move, nudging you to stay active throughout the day, while providing visual feedback on your progress and keeping you connected with smart notifications.

Essentially, with Alta Fitbit is styling up what it already offers. There is no ground-breaking new technology on board. But if you’re looking for a stylish fitness tracker that does the essentials from a recognised brand, this could be the device for you.

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Fitbit Flex 2

First released: September 2016

Fitbit bands

The Flex 2 is the company’s slimmest tracker yet and for the first time for a Fibit device is water resistant.

The device is 30% smaller than the original model and features a removable core unit and interchangeable slim, classic fitness bands in seven colors. A simple LED display uses color-coded lights to show progress toward your daily goal, and keeps you connected with call and text notifications.

There is a full range of options if you wish to customise the tracker. You can choose from a range of luxe, premium mirror-finish bangles in silver stainless steel, and 22k-plated gold or rose gold stainless steel, or elegant lariat-style necklaces in silver stainless steel or 22k-plated gold stainless steel.

More importantly, this is Fitbit’s first swim-proof wristband. The device is water resistant up to 50 meters, whether you’re in the shower, pool or ocean, and it automatically tracks your pool swims including laps, duration and calories burned in the Fitbit app.

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Fitbit Charge 2

First released: September 2016

Fitbit bands

As mentioned, Charge 2 is the Editor’s choice for the average user who is looking to boost their fitness and does the occasional run here and there. It gets the basics right and sells at a decent price point.

The device features an enhanced exercise experience, new health and fitness tools, detailed sleep metrics and an upgraded design with a screen that is four times larger than before. You get everything you would expect from a fitness tracker along with a few new features that are powered by your personal heart rate.

The one that is most useful is called Cardio Fitness Level. This gives you a snapshot of your fitness level which is based on your estimated VO2 Max (calculated using your user profile and resting heart rate). You also get to see how you compare to those of the same age and gender.

The other new addition are Guided Breathing Sessions. This is a relaxing mindfulness experience that calms your body and mind through personalised deep-breathing sessions called “Relax”.

Just like the Blaze, you don’t get GPS connectivity. The device links instead to the GPS on your smartphone to provide more precise data on pace and distance when you’re running, while recording a map of your route in the app.

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Alta HR

First released: April 2017

Fitbit bands

A little over a year after the original Alta, the Alta HR is here to throw heart rate and advanced sleep tracking to the mix. This makes it what Fitbit calls the “world’s slimmest” wrist-worn tracker with a continuous heart rate sensor.

Fitbit bandsWith the Alta HR, Fitbit has shown that it is possible to bring its Pure Pulse technology to a device this narrow. Until now, continuous heart-rate tracking has only been available in Fitbit’s larger devices, such as the Surge, the Blaze and the Charge 2. However, the company has developed a new chip that reduces the size and number of components needed by 25%.

The tracker is also the first to benefit from Fitbit’s new sleep features. ‘Sleep Stages’ uses accelerometer and heart rate data to more accurately estimate how long you spend in Light, Deep, and REM sleep stages each night. The values are calculated by combining accelerometer data, heart rate variability (the time between beats), and Fitbit’s proprietary algorithms.

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Ionic

First released October 2017

Following months of rumours and speculation, Fitbit has finally taken the wraps of its new fitness watch.

With its blocky, retro design, its not exactly a looker but at least it packs some decent specs under the hood. You’ll find 8 different sensors inside including something Fitbit calls a relative SpO2 sensor. This measures blood oxygen levels and could be used to identify sleep apnea in the future. The more accurate heart rate sensor has the potential to help with determining atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).

In terms of activity monitoring, the watch includes absolutely everything Fitbit has on offer. For outdoor fitness tracking, the built-in GPS/GLONASS will keep tabs on your pace, distance, elevation and split times. It can also time your intervals.

The exercise mode captures real-time stats on 20 different types of activities such as biking, golfing, kickboxing and tennis. Because the watch is water-resistant down to 50 metres, it will track your swim sessions too, with lap count, duration and calorie burn.

Fitbit has, however, taken its first timepiece beyond the fitness tracking environment. You get 2.5GB of internal storage for music, notifications and a built in NFC chip for payments. There is also an App store with Strava, Accuweather, Flipboard, Starbucks and more.

The watch is slated for release in October but you can pre-order now.

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