What fitness tracking armb..wat.. THING is right for me?
August 17, 2017 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm shopping for a fitness and health tracking device, but I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the choices available, and having a hard time finding which one has the features I want, will do a decent job, and won't cost an arm and a leg.

I'm aware of a previous ask from a few days ago, about armbands. However, that asker's needs were not the same as mine, and after some looking around I'm wondering if, to get the features I want, I have no choice but to go with a smartwatch.

Things I need/want:
  • decent walking/running tracking
  • heart rate tracking
  • sleep tracking
  • tracking of other types of workout
  • GPS
  • water resistant (shower and pool, I don't do scuba diving or anything like that)
  • ability to sync to Google Fit (I user some apps for running, working out and doing yoga, and sync all data there). If it can be done via a workaround that is not a huge hassle, I guess it's ok as well.
I don't really need to be able to read emails, take calls and all of that. I'm only considering smartwatches because I cannot seem to find all those feature in an armband. Please tell me if that armband exists.

What armbands or smart watches do you recommend? I don't have a specific budget, but I'm not going to buy the most expensive watch right now.

posted by Promethea to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Garmin. I don't have a fitness device but from other devices, and reports, they make quality equipment that's reliable for decades. Frequent reports that cool new internet style companies stuff has a nine month life at best.
posted by sammyo at 10:36 AM on August 17, 2017

I own an ancient Fitbit HR, and it covers almost ALL your bases.
I'm not sure what you mean by tracking other types of workout, but if you tell it "hey, I'm getting ready to exercise", it will time it for you and keep track until you tell it that you're done working out.
I am also not sure just HOW waterproof it is. I've never worn mine into the shower or in our pool, but I have stuck my hand in my pool skimmer occasionally and accidentally, and it never stopped working.
I have found that the band isn't replaceable, but if it starts falling apart during the 1st year, Fitbit will send you a new one for free.
I use the fitbit app on my iPhone, and MyFitnessPal, but I am pretty sure that Fitbit will sync with other apps or software.
Other than those two caveats, I would highly recommend one as your gateway into fitness devices.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:36 AM on August 17, 2017

Fitbits (other than their fitness watch models) only have GPS in as much as they use your phone for its GPS. If I left my phone back in my locker and went out for a run, all my Fitbit (Charge 2) would know is that I ran x many steps, but it would not know where I ran or be able to map my run. That's all done by having my phone along with me. The armband tells my phone GPS when to start and stop recording my movements and adds that GPS data to the Fitbit app.

If you want stand-alone GPS, you are going to be looking at more of a fitness watch or smart watch deal than a standard fitness tracker.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:05 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately from what my relatively recent research said, none of the Fitbit options offer both waterproofness/resistance for swimming AND heart rate monitoring. I would have snapped it up!
posted by brilliantine at 11:05 AM on August 17, 2017

AFAIK with Fitbit the thing that makes them not waterproof for swimming is the altimeter. It needs to contact the air because it measures change in air pressure. There is actually a company that sells Fitbits that they have sealed to be waterproof after market. You won't get a measure of floors climbed any more, but you can wear them swimming.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:25 PM on August 17, 2017

I think you may like the Garmin Vivoactive HR.
posted by barnoley at 12:26 PM on August 17, 2017

I believe you want the Garmin Vivosmart HR+.

Standalone GPS, water resistant to 50 meters*, heart rate, workout tracking, sleep tracking, and you can sync to Google Fit through a third-party app like Strava.

DC Rainmaker is a great site for reviews, and he also has a comparison feature where you can compare devices side-by-side to scan for the features you want. Only devices he's reviewed, though.

* I've never understood the need to shower with a tracker, especially a tracker that you are going to wear overnight for sleep tracking--you need to charge it eventually, and while you're in the shower is the perfect time to do so. But swimming is a different story. There is no Fitbit model that covers all your requirements including swimming. The only water-resistant Fitbit is the Flex 2, and that's a barebones pedometer without a display or HR, much less GPS.
posted by mama casserole at 12:33 PM on August 17, 2017

I have a Fitbit Surge, which does in fact have internal GPS. But I don't recommend it, at least not for that—it has ~5 day battery life with the GPS off, and ~5 hour with it on (you need to explicitly indicate that you're working out to start GPS logging). It would be easy to kill the battery if you turned on GPS with only a day or so left in the tank. Whatever you get, pay attention to the battery life.

There's a site called DC Rainmaker, where the author (who is a triathlete) does amazing overkill reviews of every workout gadget ever. He seems to think the Garmin Vivoactive will check most of your boxes, but I haven't read the whole review.
posted by adamrice at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2017

You want a Garmin Vivosmart HR+. I switched to it from the Fitbit Charge HR a few months ago, and the Garmin is hands down the winner. I made my choice based on the Sweethome review.
posted by little king trashmouth at 1:23 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

A cheapo option is the Xiaomi Mi Band 2. I can't vouch for it myself since I haven't gotten around to buying one yet. It was featured on Cool Tools and seems to be well reviewed on Amazon
posted by Hash at 6:14 PM on August 18, 2017

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