Best Fitness & Activity Trackers for the 2014 Holiday Season

Getting ready to shop this 2014 holiday season?  Do you have a fitness/activity tracker on the list for yourself, or a friend, or family member?  Trying to make heads or tails out of the ever growing selection of products?  Let me help take a little bit of the mystery away by suggesting some of best devices based on price point and features.  Happy holidays!

Since last holiday season the market for wearable technology has gotten a lot more crowded.  With an onslaught of new devices this is as good a time as any to either enter the market, or upgrade the stale device you bought or received last year.  But where do you start?  I’ve broken down these devices into the best, runner up, and other considerations.  Each are slotted into a category I think you’ll find important.

If the device you’re considering isn’t on the list, or the category you want doesn’t show up here, please let me know in the comments below.  Prices are dropping like crazy as we enter the holiday season, and are subject to change from what I may list here, so please keep that in mind.


Best ENTRY LEVEL Activity Tracker (Under $100)

Winner:
Misfit Flash

  • Ideal price point ($50) makes it one of the cheapest
  • Never needs charged (Battery lasts 6 months)
  • Waterproof means you can wear it all the time
  • Automatically stays in sync with your smart phone
  • Displays the time with just a click of the unit face
  • Capable of recording non-step based activity data
Runner-Up:
Fitbit Zip
  • Same battery life as the Misfit Flash
  • Recently reduced price matches the Misfit
  • Rich LCD display with more data shown
  • Lack of wrist-based wearable option
  • Excellent app, renowned Fitbit ecosystem
  • If you prefer clip style, this one takes the cake

Best MAINSTREAM Activity Tracker ($100 to $175)

Winner:
Garmin Vivosmart

  • Water proof with Touch Screen OLED display
  • Battery life of approximately one week
  • Displays phone and text/SMS alerts on device
  • Vibration alerts for alarms and calls/texts
  • Sync automatically with your smart phone
  • Sync with your Garmin camera or bike sensor
  • Sync with an optional Heat-Rate Monitor
Runner-Up:
Fitbit Charge

  • Just released, on sale now
  • Less expensive option than Vivosmart
  • Similar overall battery life & features
  • Smaller display than the Garmin
  • Does not sync with a heart rate monitor
  • Main advantage is cost
  • Second advantage is Fitbit ecosystem
  • Close to the Vivosmart, but not quite a winner
  • See the Charge HR for the “real winner”
Coming Soon:
Fitbit Charge HR
Fitbit Charge HR
  • When released will become winner in this category
  • Slotted to be released in “early 2015” for $150
  • PurePulse heart rate monitor sensing
  • Tracks exercise ALL day long with your heart rate
  • Automatic sync with your smart phone
  • Fitbit brand, the leader in this market segment
  • Displays phone call alerts, but not text/SMS
  • Adds tang-style watch clasp, more secure
  • When released expect this will be my new favorite
DISCLAIMER: This next section is a bit of a tricky one.  None of the units have landed in my hands yet, but all feature VERY similar pricing and features.  When they are all finally released early next year I’ll perform a proper shootout.  Until then they are listed in order of my own personal preference.  One unit is out now, the other comes out later this month, and the final unit comes out early next year.  Enjoy!

Best PREMIUM Activity Tracker (Over $175)

Option #1:
Fitbit Surge

  • Fitbit is calling this their Super Watch
  • Meant to complete with GPS running watches
  • Premium device will demand a $250 price tag
  • Comes out in early 2015
  • Touch screen backlit LCD display
  • Built-in GPS for running/distance data
  • PurePulse heart rate monitor built-in
  • All-day health, fitness and step tracking
  • Vibration alerts for SMS/text, phone calls, alarms
  • Music control using touch screen & 3 buttons
  • Water resistant to 5 ATM, same as Basis Peak
  • Simple, elegant and modern design styling
Option #2:
Microsoft Band

  • Almost same identical specs to unit above
  • Adds a color display to the mix, app support
  • Adds UV monitor feedback for time in the sun
  • You can use as NFC to pay for Starbucks!
  • Should be a very good competitor to both units
  • On sale now, as of end of October 2014
Option #3:
Basis Peak

  • Coming out later this month (November 2014)
  • Similar features to both of the competitors
  • Unique styling makes it stand out, good or bad
  • Water resistant to 5 ATM, like the Fitbit Surge
  • Monitors skin temperature and perspiration
  • Lacks GPS support (other two both offer)
  • Same price as the Microsoft unit at $200

Best SMART SCALE Body Analyzer

Winner:
Fitbit Aria

  • Easy setup using your smart phone
  • Wi-Fi syncs each weigh in automatically
  • Works with multiple users, automatic sensing
  • Records weight and BMI % for each user
  • Long battery life
  • Better price of the two units shown here
  • Fitbit ecosystem, largest in this segment
Runner-Up:
Withings WS-50

  • Similar to the Fitbit in core features
  • Adds recording of heart rate sensing
  • Constantly records air quality at scale
  • Also supports multiple users
  • Excellent option, a near tie with Fitbit
  • Loses only because it is slightly more $
DISCLAIMER: Almost ALL of the units listed above can be worn to bed and will track your sleep, without the need of any added devices.  However if you want more thorough sleep tracking, or don’t want to have to wear anything to bed, the two devices below are worth considering.  Though I’ve not personally tested the two units below, I’ve spoken to a few who have.  Based on price alone one wins over the other, but feature-wise they are not identical.  Down the road I may do a true head-to-head battle of these two devices.  For now, you’ll just have to trust me! 🙂

Best SLEEP TRACKER (Stand Alone)

Winner:
Misfit Beddit

  • Reasonable price of $150, half price of Aura
  • Sensor that goes under your sheets/mattress
  • Tracks sleep, movement, heart rate, snoring
  • Nothing to wear when you sleep
  • Requires the phone app be running during use
Runner-Up:
Withings Aura

  • Rather overpriced at $300, twice price of Beddit
  • Same features as unit above, with a bed sensor
  • Adds an alarm clock type modern stand
  • Stand offers color-feature for sleep aid
  • Color display also helps bring you awake
  • Phone app doesn’t need to run all night
  • Though probably better than Beddit, is it worth twice the price?
  • And if you have a tracker that can do 90% of this recording, do either devices warrant the price of admission?

SIDEBAR: Many of these devices, these so-called fitness or activity trackers, are starting to add features that tickle the realm of a smart watch.  However, as most of them do not run third-party apps, they are not true smart watches.  My reviews do not tend to touch on the smart watch segment but that may change next year, so stay tuned.

FINAL THOUGHTS

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just a few weeks away and snow flakes starting to fall in some of the colder states, we can’t ignore the fact that the Holiday Season of 2014 is upon us.  If there were two pieces of wisdom I could give to summarize the fitness wearables right now it would be that firstly, there are still some neat items coming out after new year so don’t feel rushed to buy something now.  And secondly, to remember that like so many technological advances before them, if you don’t like the prices right now just wait- they are coming down, and they are coming down quick.

Something tells me by this time next year a lot of the devices listed here will be 30-50% cheaper than you see right now, but with the same or better features.  And as more people jump on the wearables band wagon you’ll see more smart watch features sink in, converging those premium devices with these cheaper activity and fitness devices.  Stay tuned for more reviews right here on my blog.  Happy holidays!

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Published by

Ari Jay Comet

Sharing my life experiences. Interacting with technology. Digital self-expression. Binary is black, white, and many shades of grey.

2 thoughts on “Best Fitness & Activity Trackers for the 2014 Holiday Season”

  1. Thanks so much for the helpful information. Think I am going to purchase an activity tracker for 24/7 type use, but I am also an avid cyclist, runner, fitness junkie and would like a gps enabled device to compute distance elevation etc. Those more advanced trackers are bulky and would be uncomfortable and unsightly to wear all the time. If I purchase two fitbit devices (e.g. flex and charge) do you know if the results can be merged?

    1. Tracy– you can only have one Fitbit device (tracker) linked to your account at a time. So no, you wouldn’t be able to use two in tandem like you suggest, sorry.

      However, if your goal is to have a higher level fitness device for cycling/etc, you’re probably best to go with Garmin as a brand for that. They have some great bike computers that would offer GPS and other features (elevation, etc). Then, you could use that in conjunction with the Garmin Vivofit or Vivosmart. Those devices DO work in-sync with one another on the Garmin Connect system, though I suggest you do remove the Vivo device during the bike rides, so you don’t double-log those activities.

      (Another thing to note is that both the Garmin Vivosmart and most of the Fitbit devices allow GPS-tracking real-time activities, so long as your phone is with you at the same time)

      Enjoy!

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