Fitness trackers have come an extremely long way over the years. No longer are they glorified pedometers; most standard fitness trackers nowadays can track your steps taken, distance traveled, caloric burn, and even your sleeping patterns. They’re handy little devices if you want a better look at how active you are throughout the day, and there are plenty to choose from. It can be a little daunting trying to choose the best fitness tracker to suits your needs, so we’ve compiled a list of the best fitness trackers you can buy in 2021.
Buying the right fitness tracker for your needs
Everybody needs something different out of their fitness trackers, so we listed each model in a different category to help you choose the right device for your needs. If you’re buying a wearable for running, we’d recommend looking into a device with built-in GPS or connected GPS functionality. If you’re looking for a great smartwatch experience above all else, you should look into something with a bigger display. If you want something to track your activity and don’t care about the extra features, a smaller fitness tracker will do the trick.
Let’s talk lingo: Fitness trackers vs. smartwatches
Before we get into it, let’s talk about an important distinction — smartwatches vs. fitness trackers. For the sake of this article, we are referring to devices with big displays that prioritize apps and notifications as smartwatches. For devices that have smaller displays and look more like a traditional fitness band, we’ll refer to those as fitness trackers.
The best fitness trackers
- The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker you can buy. It’s a great option for runners and those who need contactless payment support on their wrist.
- The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is the best fitness tracking smartwatch you can buy. It’s constantly on sale and is one of the most well-rounded products we’ve ever tested.
- The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best fitness tracking smartwatch for iPhone users. It’s the best smartwatch you can buy, and it has a solid fitness tracking feature set.
- The Fitbit Sense is another solid fitness tracking smartwatch. It’s expensive but not quite as pricey as some of its Garmin competitors.
- The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is the best cheap fitness tracker you can buy, thanks to its extremely low price point and solid fitness tracking.
- The Fitbit Inspire 2 is another great inexpensive offering. It’s not the flashiest piece of tech, but it integrates with Fitbit’s fantastic app.
- The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is a cheap smartwatch that’s great for basic fitness tracking.
Fitbit Charge 4: The best fitness tracker
The Fitbit Charge 4 is the best fitness tracker you can buy. Fitbit didn’t need to do much to achieve this title again, but it managed to fix all our gripes with the Charge 3 and keep it at the same price point. The built-in GPS is welcome, as is Fitbit Pay being standard across all models.
The only reason you should consider buying another wearable at this price point is if you want a more smartwatch-y experience. Then, I’d recommend you go for the Fitbit Versa 3.
- Sleek, customizable design
- Good battery life
- Fitbit Pay standard on all models
- Sleep tracking is fantastic
- (Mostly) accurate GPS and heart rate sensors
- Finicky inductive button
- GPS can take its time to lock-on
- The heart rate sensor can be laggy
Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Charge 4.
Garmin Vivoactive 4: The best fitness smartwatch for Android users
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is the best fitness tracking smartwatch you can buy if you’re on Android.
Everything you loved about the Vivoactive 3 and 3 Music is here, along with about 3.5GB of onboard storage for music. You can load up your favorite songs or download playlists from Spotify, Deezer, and iHeartRadio.
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a solid upgrade to the Vivoactive 3 and 3 Music and will certainly please those in need of a midrange multisport watch. It’s not as flashy as the Garmin Venu, but that might be a good thing: the Vivoactive 4 has a more readable display and longer battery life.
- Garmin Pay support is convenient
- Music storage is now standard
- Unique breathwork exercises
- Accurate fitness and health tracking
- Useful and accurate sleep tracking
- The display isn’t technically as good as the Venu’s
- High retail price
Check out our full review to learn more about the Garmin Vivoactive 4.
Apple Watch Series 6: The best fitness smartwatch for Apple users
The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch you can buy, and it’s one heck of a fitness tracker. Heart rate monitoring is unmatched compared to other wrist-based heart rate sensors, and GPS performance is solid. We do think Apple’s new sleep tracking metrics are too basic, but you can always download a third-party sleep tracking app if you need it.
- Premium design and accessories
- Big, bright screen with always-on display
- Stellar heart rate monitoring
- Accurate, reliable GPS
- Unmatched app support
- Sleep tracking is too basic
- Battery life could be better
- No third-party watch faces
Check out our full review to learn more about the Apple Watch Series 6.
Fitbit Sense: Fitbit’s most premium offering
For as much complaining as we’ve done about the Fitbit Sense, it does get a lot right. The basics are all here: accurate heart rate monitoring with Fitbit’s new PurePulse 2.0 heart rate sensor, onboard GPS that’s quite accurate, fantastic sleep tracking (as always), and a much-improved design.
The new EDA and SpO2 sensors aren’t that well implemented and don’t do a very good job explaining the data they collect and how it affects users’ health, which is why this one is further down on our list. If you don’t need the ECG, skin temperature, or EDA sensors, we’d also recommend checking out the cheaper Fitbit Versa 3.
- High-end, premium design
- Improved quick-release straps
- (Mostly) accurate GPS and heart rate sensors
- Skin temp sensor provides useful data
- Detailed sleep tracking
- ~6-day battery life
- Bad inductive button
- EDA and ECG sensors need refining
- Fitbit OS still needs work
Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Sense.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: The best cheap fitness tracker
Xiaomi’s fitness trackers are popular because they’re good and cheap. Really good and really cheap. In terms of fitness features and accuracy, the sub-€50 Xiaomi Mi Band 6 rivals the likes of some more expensive fitness trackers. It’ll track most of the same activity metrics as the other devices and even has two-week battery life if you use it minimally.
Xiaomi is heading in the right direction with the Mi Band line, though it shouldn’t rest on its laurels. Competition from Huami and Huawei is heating up, and we may not see the Mi Band line at the top for long.
- Affordable price
- Good battery life
- Bigger, colorful display
- Lots of sports tracking modes
- Useful smart features
- Accurate resting heart rate readings
- Battery life takes a hit with advanced features
- Heart rate sensor struggles with high-intensity workouts
- Sleep tracking can be off
- Xiaomi Wear app still needs work
- No NFC, voice assistant outside China
Check out our full review to learn more about the Xiaomi Mi Band 6.
Fitbit Inspire 2: Fitbit on a budget
The Fitbit Inspire 2 is a great fitness tracker, health tracker, and sleep tracker. It’s just $100, too!
It’s small and lightweight, supports interchangeable straps, and offers smartphone notifications on your wrist. It might be small, but it doesn’t skimp on the features. The Fitbit Inspire 2 offers connected GPS, a heart rate sensor, as well as 10-day battery life.
Think of the Fitbit Inspire 2 as the “Fitbit Charge 4 Lite.” It removes a few notable features like notification history, an altimeter, and a bigger display to reach that $100 price point. If you don’t need those things, though, the Inspire HR is a fantastic option. Plus, it comes with a full year of Fitbit Premium.
- Low price point
- Small, lightweight design
- Accurate fitness, health, and sleep tracking
- Connected GPS is a nice addition
- Bland design
- The display isn’t great
- Side buttons can be unresponsive
Check out our full review to learn more about the Fitbit Inspire 2.
Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite: A cheap and basic fitness tracking smartwatch
The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite surprised us. Not that we didn’t expect Xiaomi to deliver on basic fitness tracking (Xiaomi does make Mi Bands, after all), but we didn’t expect the Mi Watch Lite to offer as many fitness features as it does. You get onboard GPS, an accurate heart rate sensor, post-workout analysis powered by Firstbeat, and nine-day battery life.
The on-device software isn’t great, and the Xiaomi Wear app needs a ton of work. If you can get past those two caveats, the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is a fantastic fitness tracker for well under $100.
- Very affordable
- Plenty of fitness data and sport profiles
- Workout analysis from Firstbeat
- 9-day battery life
- Good heart rate monitoring
- Limited smartwatch features
- Xiaomi Wear app needs a lot of work
Check out our full review to learn more about the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite.
That’s it for our list of the best fitness trackers you can buy, but it’s only a fraction of what’s out there. We also want to give an honorable mention to the following products:
- Xiaomi Mi Watch: The Xiaomi Mi Watch is one of the best cheap smartwatches for fitness you can buy. At €99, it offers plenty of fitness and health features and a great design. We wish the software experience was a little more polished.
- Garmin Vivosmart 4: Garmin has essentially abandoned the fitness tracker form factor, but the Vivosmart 4 is the most recent device in that lineup. However, it’s a bit small for our liking.
Why you should trust the editor
Not only does Jimmy Westenberg love wearables, he loves helping people find the right devices to suit their needs. He’s been our resident fitness reviewer at Android Authority since 2016, and in that time, has reviewed dozens of fitness products and other wearables.
Through his rigorous testing of fitness products and deep knowledge of health devices and services, you can rest assured knowing Jimmy will give you honest recommendations. Looking for more brand-specific recommendations? Check out the following guides:
- The best Garmin watches
- The best Garmin running watches you can buy
- Buying the best Fitbit for your needs
- The best smartwatch deals we could find