The Best Wrist Fitness Tracker of 2013 | Up Fuelband Flex LifeTrak | Video

Rod Ferris July 1, 2013 10

Jawbone Up, Fitbit Flex, Nike Fuelband and C200 Comparison Chart

Introduction to Fitness Tracking

Fitness tracking isn’t new but it is recommended to quantify your fitness gains and show you when and how you fail. Over the past 5 years there has been a huge breakthrough in the type of tracking methods. The release of Bluetooth 4.0 gave birth to a whole new category of products that can send your progress to the cloud making your daily moves quantifiable.

Some of these trackers include:

  • Fitness activity trackers such as the Fitbit Flex, Withings Smart Activity Tracker, Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband, Lifetrak C400 (C200, C300)
  • Wifi Scales such as the Fitbit Aria and the Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer (The difference between the two is that the body analyzer does heart rate, CO2 and Bodyfat percentage while the Aria does not).
  • Withings Blood pressure monitor.
  • Heart rate monitors such as the Polar H7
  • Weight training logging apps such as MyFit Fitness
  • Diet calorie loggers such as MyfitnessPal (which integrates all the best apps and devices into one page)
  • Running apps such as RunKeeper

Fitness Trackers Comparison Articles and Summaries

2014 Update: There is an all new fitness tracker line-up for these brands.

1. Jawbone Up 24
2. Nike Fuelband SE
3. FitBit Force
4. LifeTrak C410

All of these now have bluetooth 4.0 and have improved on the negatives of the previous model. That said, most of my review still holds true in that the API’s and apps separate the devices along with the LifeTrak’s ability to never need charging. Out of these devices on apps and API’s alone I would pick the FitBit Force. They are soon adding the ability to see incoming calls and perhaps other notifications. That makes it much more useful on your wrist.

There are loads of websites that have already compared these products for you in-depth and we have posted them below (we only showed the wrist kind as I personally think that’s the kind most people want.)

Jump to our comparison chart.

The Best Wrist Fitness Trackers Available

For me, the ultimate goal is to have the best apps integrating all the products that you use to track your lifestyle communicate with each other. These apps are: MyFitnessPal (for calorie tracking), RunKeeper (for running) and MyFit Fitness (for weight training). With these three products alone and a great wifi scale like the Smart Body Analyzer you can automate your fitness tracking and take away the tedious parts of what a lot of trainers charge for. After wearing all these devices for some time my biggest gripe was having to charge and sync them. It’s something to be aware of if you pick a tracker with a poor battery life (Fuelband) or one that you have to plug in to sync (UP).

Jawbone Up

jawbone-upIntroduction

Having owned a Jawbone Up since Dec 2011, I know everything there is to know about it. The sleep and activity tracking is really really great. It may, however, fail at the most crucial point of having one of these devices: real time feedback.

Pros

  • The UP has been recently updated with integration for all the apps mentioned above.
  • Extremely stylish device which you’re not afraid to show off. People think it’s a Livestrong bracelet.
  • The sleep charts and activity charts in the app are very attractive and give loads of detailed data.
  • I got 10 days of real battery life out of this device.
  • Calorie tracking on the app is based on feelings/mood and not so much on ‘numbers’.

Cons

  • You have to plug it in to your phone all the time!
  • There is no real time feedback for your progress.
  • I had to go through 3 separate ones and they all bricked (they don’t work anymore). Version 2 appears to have fixed this issue but it’s something to be aware of. These can brick anytime!
  • The band gets caught on clothes
  • The end cap falls off and gets lost really easily

Final Thoughts:

Getting a real time step count and calorie data into a calorie tracking app such as MyfitnessPal is crucial for the future of the device. Having a 10 day battery life (for real) is a bonus.

Nike Fuelband

Nike Fuelband ReviewIntroduction

This stylish big name band made huge waves with scarce inventory and a flashy LCD screen showing progress.

Pros

  • Huge and bright LCD screen.
  • A great iOS app which shows your progress.
  • Bluetooth 4.0 so you don’t have to sync your band.
  • You don’t need a watch as it acts as one.
  • Super sexy and stylish band
  • No end cap to get caught on.
  • Very comfortable and won’t accidently open and get lost like the Jawbone Up or Fitbit Flex.
  • Easy installation

Cons

  • Terrible battery life (3-5 days).
  • The huge downside with the Nike Fuelband is of course the current lack of integration with other applications (MyfitnessPal).
  • No sleep tracking.
  • Much more expensive.
  • Must have an iPhone and a Mac to install their latest firmware and software.

Final Thoughts

While this device is a little more pricey than the others it does have the bluetooth option and a great iOS app. This device has a great LCD screen and doubles as a watch. Since the goal of fitness tracking is to motivate we think this should receive top honors as a fitness tracker. A huge con with this device is that it doesn’t track your sleep and currently doesn’t integrate well with all the other apps. All the other devices mentioned track sleep (the LifeTrak C400 does, but not the C200) and since the battery of the Fuelband only lasts 3-5 days it’s a big disappointment. With their recent API improvements it’s only a matter of time until more apps integrate with the Fuelband.

FitBit Flex

fitbit-flex-reviewIntroduction

Fitbit products almost need no introduction. They invented this category and provide excellent value. The Fitbit Flex is a new product which gives people what they wanted: a wrist version of their favourite Fitbit. Many users found with the old Fitbit that they were washing them accidentally because they forgot they were in their pants. This is the reason we are not reviewing any of those products. Wearable trackers are the future.

Pros

  • Open API and great app integration.
  • Stylish band.
  • Real time feedback.
  • Good battery life (7 days).
  • Bluetooth 4.0 for instant analysis on a PC or to get updates to a Pebble watch.


Cons

  • No LCD screen.
  • You have to tap the band to get your progress.
  • Only one type of data can be shown on the progress LED’s.
  • Plugging in the ‘dongle’ into the usb charger isn’t the easiest.
  • You can accidently get into sleep mode a LOT

Final Thoughts

Having an open API, bluetooth 4.0, a seven day battery and a fantastic app makes this device tough to beat. While this device doesn’t have an LCD screen, it does have LED lights which show your progress. The LifeTrak, Fuelband or Smart Activity Tracker all give a nice LCD real time view which does help with your motivation. All Fitbits have fantastic app integration and amazing API to get all your data. This device is also the most stylish of all the options and I am not ashamed to wear it out for dinner. This device has a major design flaw though, which is switching into sleep mode too easily.

LifeTrak C200

Introduction

Most people haven’t heard of this device before. It looks like a sport watch and functions as one too.

lifetrak-c200Pros

  • 2 year battery life and it uses a regular watch battery!
  • Comfortable.
  • Sport watch looks.
  • Awesome price for what you get. This watch is a third of the Fuelband at $50.
  • Heart rate monitor which shows an active heart rate.
  • 7 day history
  • The always there progress bar is a real motivational tool; for all the others you have to push a button or sync it to find out your current status.

Cons

  • No current app integration (but they are working on this with their higher end models which include bluetooth).
  • Can’t get the data off the device for analysis on the C200.
  • Only a 7 day history, while this is good for immediate motivation it also doesn’t tell a trainer the bigger picture. I would love to see this extended to at least the past three months.
  • Not as stylish as the others.

Having a full active heart rate monitor (shows you current readings) and an extremely long battery life (2 years!) makes this a must for non-techie types. It’s comfortable and looks better than the Pebble watch does. The band fits all wrist sizes (which ups the resale value).While the C200 doesn’t sync to your phone nor can you get the data off the watch it is a great device to keep moving. Seeing a giant number of my steps and a progress bar is a huge advantage.

Future Trackers for 2013

Withings : Pulse

The Pulse device is Withings first attempt into this category and it also brings along heart rate monitoring and bluetooth 4.0 integration. With an open API and lots of apps that already participate I have no problems recommending this as the best upcoming 2013 fitness tracker. The downside of this device may be that you need put it in your pocket as it is not a wristband and therefore it may end up in your washing machine by mistake.

LG Activity Tracker

LG’s new activity tracker watch band has a nice LCD screen like the fuelband but it doubles as a device to show your phone notifications. This is ideal as wearing more than one device at one time is somewhat bionic. This might just be the future best tracker for next year. Keep an eye on LG’s Facebook page for more updates.

July 5th Update: We just heard back from Bryan the moderator of LG’s Facebook page with the following release date: January 2014.

“Hey Rod,

We just checked with our brand team and the Activity Tracker will be available in January 2014.

Bryan
-LG Canada Facebook Moderator “

The Best Current Wrist Fitness Tracker is…

It all depends on your situation. We have broken it down by person type.

For the person that doesn’t use apps or hates plugging in electronics and wants realtime feedback the LifeTrak C200 ($50) is a bargain!

For the person that wants a stylish device with all the bells and whistles of bluetooth, app integration, sleep data and real time feedback the Fitbit Flex will make you happiest!

Let us know which ones you’ve tried or heard about in the comments below.

  • CommonSense

    Which ones I tried? None, I went with the free one. Paper and pencil. Looked up routes on Google map, set different distances, even checked out paths with satellite view, recorded everything in an Excel sheet.
    Cost for equipment: Zero. Rewards in exercise and computer proficiency: priceless.

    • http://www.myfit.ca/ Rod Ferris

      Great. Sounds very time consuming but you’re making it work, that’s great.

      The reason these products are awesome is that it ideally requires less effort to monitor your progress which leads to a healthier lifestyle over time for the non-lazy types (not you).

  • Ashley

    Can you do a review of the Fitbit Force and the NEW Nike Fuelband SE?

    • http://www.myfit.ca/ Rod Ferris

      Good idea, I think the new Force is pretty awesome just on the Stats. Getting a hold of these in stores is always the hard part.

      The new Fuelband SE is just available now in the Apple stores, I’ll have a look.

  • jclimber99

    I’ve got the Fitbit Flex. Two of your negative points – difficulty in getting the dongle into the charger and getting into sleep mode accidentally I would say are not an issue after using this thing for about a month. It’s trivially easy to put the dongle into the charger, not sure what your issue is about that. It can only really fit into it one way so if you happen to try the wrong way first you just flip it over and re-insert.

    About sleep mode, I find the opposite – it’s actually pretty tough to get it into sleep mode. Found a tip on the web that may help (tap rapidly above the led display instead of below it).

    Love the battery life – I get 7 days! It’s slim which is nice also. Thought about getting the Force to have a real display but didn’t like the fact that it was a wider band. Nice side effect if you wear it running, you can use the step count to derive your stride cadence.

    • http://www.myfit.ca/ Rod Ferris

      While I agree that one of the ‘cons’ of getting the flex into the charger isn’t that hard it still requires more effort than the others Ie. Taking it out of the bracelet which for me was a lot harder than the buckle on the Fuelband and plugging it in or the LifeTrak (you don’t EVER have to charge it). This was more of a comparison article rather than an individual review which I may not have docked the flex for with regards to the ‘charging’…

      Re: Sleep mode

      Mine (which I preordered March 2012) goes in and out of sleep mode all day and even the replacement does so. This doesn’t seem to effect the step count though so it’s not a huge deal but It’s weird how it does it.

      Thanks for the info on the cadence, I didn’t know that about the Force.

      Actually if I was to redo the comparison review now I would dock 3-4 stars for build quality on the Flex’s band. Mine and 3 of my friends have all had to get replacements for theirs as it eventually ‘bulges’ and breaks near the plastic LCD part (Takes about 3-4 months of use). Everything else is great though.

  • Cristina Dowker

    Thanks for this review! I picked up the C200 on a whim when I saw it at TJMaxx. I’ve been eyeing other HRMs after returning my Fitbit Flex. I didn’t hate the Flex by any means, but I wanted a more accurate reading of calories burned during a non-walking workout. (i.e. Circuit training, running). I grabbed the C200 because it was the last one left, even though I knew nothing about it. I have only had the C200 for two days and really love it. I miss the automatic data transfer immensely. But, paired with fitness tracking apps, I can enter the data in after a workout and with one extra step, it achieves the same thing. The “lazy” part of me would love to see it done without any extra effort. I also wish that in Workout Mode, it would track HR automatically. The good news is that it doesn’t take long to get a reading. With that being said, for the price I paid ($29 on sale), I can hardly complain. It ultimately does just what I need it to do.

    Now, once someone comes out with a HRM that automatically tracks HR, and has automatic data transfer to an app as beautiful as the Fitbit app, they will have scored BIG TIME with me :)

    • http://www.myfit.ca/ Rod Ferris

      I didn’t realize you could get the C200 for $29! That’s pretty awesome. I don’t think you’re lazy, I am the same way. I think that these devices in the next 3 years will HAVE to be completely integrated into our lives (no syncing, updating data etc) or Apple and Samsung will have already developed the product that does do it. It does seem to be a race at the moment.

      With regards to your ‘always on HR’. LifeTrak does have a product in it’s pipeline and most of the other brand names are rushing to the market with their own version. Making sense of 1000 data points in a nice sentence will be hard.

      We are actually integrating our MyFit app with the C300,C410 and future models. LifeTrak didn’t include an auto sync feature in their SDK though so you’ll have to rely on another product at the moment.. I’d wait at least another year before you buy another product. A lot of these are rushing designs to get a product out. Evolution will take time.

  • Stephanie

    I first found your youtube review and then I found this blog. Both were very helpful! I have had the Fitbit Force from when it first came out about 5 months ago. For the most part I really loved it. I sent it back because the adhesive part near the LED screen came off and the rubber bubbles up (similar, I think, to what you experienced on your Flex). And now I must find something new because it’s completely discontinued.

    I just ordered the C200 because my main qualms with the Force and the other fitness bands you reviewed is not being able to see the time all the time. I hated having to press the button to view the time if I was getting ready for work and my hands were full. And I don’t want to have to wear a watch and a Fitbit on my left hand.

    I just hope I am not horribly disappointed with the C200. I will probably miss analyzing the Fitbit data. The one thing I am really excited about the C200 is that I don’t have any worries about water damage or swimming.

    • http://www.myfit.ca/ Rod Ferris

      Hi Stephanie,

      As long as you know that the C200 isn’t bluetooth enabled like its bigger siblings (C300, C400 (sleep as well)) I think you’ll be happy. We also have an update soon to our iPhone app that allows you to enable syncing data to our app and then sync to fitbit. You’ll be able to send your lifetrak data to the fitbit app. This is the ideal scenario since the downsides of the fitbit are somewhat great at times (quality control issues.. I’ve gone through 4 bands and 1 fitbit flex itself).

      Rod