Best Fitness Trackers: Nike Fuelband SE, Garmin vivofit, Jawbone UP24 and Fitbit Flex

By Robert J Nelson on 20 Jun 2014 12:17 pm
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MobileFit We are well into MobileFit month here at Mobile Nations and while we've discussed various methods of using technology to try and improve your fitness — there is one item that seems somewhat recurring — the fitness tracker. These devices provide a relatively low barrier of entry in terms of pricing, and perhaps more important, the ease of use. This combination likely leaves many looking to buy and begin using a fitness tracker, however the hardest part may be in deciding which tracker to buy.

Trackers are available from a wide variety of companies. The models we dub the best of the bunch come from Nike and Garmin, as well as Jawbone and Fitbit. The latter actually has multiple trackers available at this very moment. We have already taken a deeper look at Fitbit earlier in the month, so for the purpose of this latest post, we are going to focus on the Fitbit we feel is most deserving — the Fitbit Flex.

Sticking with the Fitbit line for just a moment, we do have to throw in an honorable mention for the Fitbit One, just in case someone prefers to have something that isn't worn on the wrist. Having said that, and without even diving in any deeper — if you are looking for something that isn't wrist worn, the Fitbit One is the model you should purchase.

Moving past Fitbit, the remaining models included in this 'Best Fitness Trackers' post are the Jawbone UP24, Gamin vivofit and Nike FuelBand SE. As we have already stated — these models are all worn on the wrist. They also all provide the basics. That is to say they all keep track of your steps, distance and calories. Sitting below are some of the highlight and standout features for each of the four trackers.

Nike Fuelband SE

Fuelband

  • Available in multiple colors and multiple sizes
  • Rechargeable battery: up to 4 days days
  • LCD Display that shows current step count and time of day
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • No detailed sleep tracking
  • Water resistant, but not waterproof (safe to wear in the shower or rain, but not for swimming)
  • Support for Windows and Mac, as well as Android and iOS
  • Currently priced at $99.99

Nike is a name that is known and trusted by many. That alone may win over some users, however there has been some uncertainty surrounding the Fuelband SE. Nike released the FuelBand SE in November 2013, and more recently there had been reports of the band being discontinued. Perhaps more important though, Nike recently released an Android companion app, which ultimately means there is now mobile support beyond iOS. In addition to the mobile syncing, Nike FuelBand SE users can take advantage of the Nike+ web community.

Garmin vivofit

vivofit

  • Available in multiple colors (with the ability to swap colors without having to buy a new tracker)
  • Uses CR1632 coin cell batteries which offer battery life of up to 1 year without needing to charge
  • Display that offers time of day and your current stats (drawback is the display is not backlit)
  • Offers a personalized daily goal system that learns your activity level
  • Sleep tracking
  • Water resistant to 50m
  • Support for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS
  • Currently priced at $129.99 (or $169.99 with heart rate monitor bundled)

The Garmin vivofit is one of the newer entries in the fitness tracker space. But while new to the fitness tracker space — Garmin, similar to Nike, is a name that has been around and therefor has some trust built up. The vivofit isn't the best looking tracker in the bunch, and it may not even be the most comfortable to wear. But on the flip side, the band does have some solid features. Along with an easy to use web and mobile setup, the Gamin vivofit integrates with a chest-strap style heart rate monitor. Garmin sells the vivofit by itself, and also in a bundle pack that includes the heart rate monitor.

Jawbone UP24

Jawbone

  • Multiple colors and sizes available
  • Battery life of up to 7 days
  • Sleep tracking, smart alarm and customizable idle alerts
  • Integration with other apps to include Runkeeper, IFTTT, and more
  • Can handle splashing, but should not be submerged in water
  • Support for Android and iOS
  • Currently priced at $149.99

The UP24 originally launched in November 2013. This band was a follow-up to the UP, and arrived with version 3.0 of the software. The UP24 saw some changes from the original UP in terms of the connector (going from a 3.5mm connector to a 2.5mm connector). A little more important for the user though — the 3.0 software release meant new features.

While Nike and Garmin may be names that are associated with trust, Jawbone isn't lacking in this space. Also known for Bluetooth headsets and portable Bluetooth speakers, a solid reason to go with Jawbone comes from having watched the company go from the UP to UP24. Not to mention (those already mentioned) software updates that came along with the 3.0 update.

Fitbit Flex

Flex

  • Available in multiple colors (with the ability to swap colors without having to buy a new tracker)
  • Battery life of up to 7 days
  • Sleep tracking
  • Integration with other services to include Runkeeper, Map My Fitness, Lose It, and more
  • Water resistant to 10m
  • Support for Windows and Mac, as well as Android and iOS
  • Currently priced at $99.95

Fitbit can follow the same logic we used for the Jawbone. Similar to how we saw the improvement from the UP to UP24 -- Fitbit has been adding new features and improvements as they cycle through the various models. The Fitbit Flex isn't the newest model from the company. That honor would go to the Force, however that model has since been recalled.

The Fitbit Flex was first introduced in May 2013 and basically arrived as a wrist worn version of the Fitbit One. One key feature difference between the Flex and the One is the lack of altimeter on the Flex. Otherwise, the Flex has a simple display with 5 LED lights. These lights indicate the progress you have made towards your daily goal and the band also vibrates when you reach your goal. The lights also serve as a battery indicator.

Final Thoughts

Fitness Bands

If price is your main concern here, the Nike FuelBand SE or Fitbit Flex would be the models to consider. One key difference between the Nike and Fitbit is the lack of detailed sleep tracking on the FuelBand SE. In fact, the FuelBand SE is the only model in this bunch of four that doesn't offer such as feature. The FuelBand SE records sleep as any other activity session and will track start and end times.

If price is your main concern here, the Nike FuelBand SE or Fitbit Flex would be the models to consider.

Sleep tracking may be a good feature for some, however you may also want to consider platform support. With the exception of the Jawbone UP24 -- these fitness trackers all sync with a wide variety of platforms to include Windows and Mac as well as Android and iOS. The UP24 is mobile only with an app available for Android and iOS.

Despite these all being wrist-worn, some have proven more comfortable than others. For comfort the UP24 seems to be getting the most compliments. Some of the other factors to consider are battery life and service integration. If you're worried about battery life the Garmin vivofit is the model to consider as it doesn't require regular recharging. Some of the other perks for the vivofit include the the water-resistance (up to 50 meters) and the personalized goals which actually change based on your current activity levels. The Gamin also shows the time on the display, though due to the lack of a light, that is really only a benefit during daylight hours.

Bottom line here, these four fitness trackers are all solid options, and are all worth considering.

Bottom line here, these four fitness trackers are all solid options, and are all worth considering. And while we have dubbed these as the best of the bunch -- there are plenty of other alternatives available. This includes entries from other companies such as Withings, Basis and Misfit Wearables. Then on the other end of the spectrum you have the more generic budget models that are available in your local convenience stores.

In the end we almost have to equate fitness trackers with the saying about cameras. You've likely heard this before, but they say the best camera is the camera you have with you. The same logic can apply to the fitness tracker. Color options and extra features are all nice, but in the end we suspect a vast amount of people simply want something that tells them how many steps they are taking throughout the day. For that even the lower-priced (no fancy name attached) models that you can pick up for a few bucks may be something to consider.

Do you own, or are you planning to own, one of these trackers? Sound off in the comments!

2 comments

Johnston212

I'm actually now trying out the Garmin Vivofit. It's a bit different from my previous Fitbit Force, but I am definitely liking it, especially since I can get more accurate measurements of my workouts with my Mio Link heart rate monitor.

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Jaguarr40

Thank you for including the Vivofit in your article. I bought one and was asked to do a mini article on it by zocster in the forum that I mentioned I bought it. I have had noting but good luck and accuracy with it. It is awesome and I agree with the other commenter as well. Again thank you.