Fitness Tracking on the Cheap
If you're new to the world of fitness tracking, a band under $100 might be the best way to go — at least until you know you'll stick with the devices. You can snag a step-counting device for as low as $20, but bumping your budget up to the $70-$99 range will yield huge dividends. If price isn't the most important factor, check out our picks for best fitness trackers here.
You can find bands that will track your sleep, monitor your heart rate and send you notifications from your smartphone. A few of these affordable trackers have companion apps with social features for challenging friends, which is a great way to get active. Some even have built-in GPS, which is key for serious athletes who want to track their running and cycling workouts.
If you hate the chunky rubber aesthetic of your run-of-the-mill activity tracker, you can also find devices that look like analog watches and jewelry for under $100. The best cheap fitness tracker is the one you'll wear all the time, and a little bit of style goes a long way toward keeping an accessory in regular rotation.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Fitbit Flex 2 (4/5)
Fitbit's $99 Flex 2 is an ultraslim, waterproof wristband that automatically tracks activity, including swims. The fact that you never have to take it off makes it a solid entry-level device, because keeping it on your wrist all the time will make it part of your daily routine. This tracker does need to be charged every four or five days. The convenience of being able to constantly wear the device almost negates the Flex 2's lack of display.
Instead of viewing your activity and notifications on a screen, the Flex 2 relies on LED light indicators that flash different colors to let you know when you've reached an activity milestone or that you've received a text message. In reality, you will promptly forget what colors signify which notifications. If you don't mind not having a display to glance at, Fitbit's solid app, great price and sleek design make the Flex 2 a seriously worthy fitness tracker.
Huawei Band 2 Pro (4/5)
Huawei's Band 2 Pro is a surprisingly feature-packed fitness tracker that rings in at under $70. That's impressive on its own, but the fact that this wearable sports GPS, a heart rate sensor, a detailed sleep dashboard — and is accurate, to boot — makes this band one of our top picks at this price.
Unlike other budget fitness trackers, the Band 2 Pro has a tap display that lets you view your stats as you're working out. The device's built-in GPS and heart rate sensor give you an accurate overview of your running routes and mileage. The Band 2 Pro also uses its heart rate-tracking to tell you how long you spend in light, deep and REM sleep. The Band 2 Pro lasts about three days with constant wear on a charge, which is impressive.
It's not perfect. The Band 2 Pro's display is extremely dim, which is tough to see in bright sunlight. And it lacks interchangeable band options, which makes it less versatile for daily wear. But at this price, we don't care.
Garmin Vivomove Sport (4/5)
Garmin is well-known for its high-end GPS running watches with high price tags to match. But the company’s $80 Vivomove Sport is an affordable fitness tracker that looks like a traditional timepiece. The device accurately tracks your activity and sleep in the background, all the while functioning as a perfectly good watch. The only way you can tell the Vivomove Sport is an activity tracker is a small bar on the watch face that shows how close you are to reaching your daily activity goal.
There is a downside: If you have smaller hands and wrists, the Vivomove Sport might be a little too large. But if you're looking for a solid fitness tracker that can do double duty as a watch, with up to one year of battery life, look no farther than the Vivomove Sport.
Withings Move (3.5/5)
Withings isn’t breaking the mold with its Move fitness tracker. Like other popular Withings wearables, the Move looks like an analog timepiece with a round display and traditional watch hands. But an in-laid subdial on the watch face marks your progress toward your daily activity goal.
This tracker doesn’t have a heart rate sensor. It also lacks smartphone notifications, so you can’t respond to texts (or even know when you receive them). Its fitness-tracking is pretty basic, though it does offer connected GPS when you take your phone for a run. This stopped working for me at one point, but unpairing and repairing the watch to your phone will fix the issue.
What the Withings Move lacks in advanced features, it makes up for in spades with lengthy battery life. The watch lasts 18 months (yes, months) without needing to be charged.
In a sea of smartwatches and fitness trackers that need to be juiced up daily — or at least once every few days — the Move is refreshingly low-effort. The only time I felt the need to take it off was after a run, to give my skin a break while I showered. If battery life is your highest priority, there aren’t many other fitness trackers that can last longer than a year without needing to be charged. But you sacrifice quite a few features to get lengthy battery life in a light, cheap, stylish package.
Huawei Band 3 Pro (3.5/5)
Huawei's successor to the Band 2 Pro is the Band 3 Pro, which offers many of the same features as the older version in a slightly larger package. For just $70, this fitness-tracking band packs in a colorful OLED touchscreen display, heart rate-monitoring, built-in GPS and in-depth sleep analysis.
But the Band 3 Pro has some downfalls: Its new metal frame is too bulky for small wrists, its GPS takes forever to capture a signal, and its heart rate data isn't entirely accurate.
The new band has solid battery life, and the larger, vivid display is beautiful. But this isn't our favorite fitness band.
Fitbit Zip (3.5/5)
Want a simple, reliable fitness tracker you don't have to wear on your wrist? The $60 Fitbit Zip is just what you need. The pedometer clips to your clothing and has a small LCD screen that you tap to view daily stats, like steps walked and calories burned. With a replaceable battery, the Zip lasts about six months before it needs to be charged, making this device as easy to use as it gets.
Unlike the $99 Fitbit One, the Zip doesn't track sleep. That's why the One is our top pick. But for people looking to get active and get access to Fitbit's app, which is chock full of graphs, charts and social features, the Zip does just enough for its price.
Misfit Ray (3.5/5)
You can easily find a suitable fitness tracker for under $100, but the odds of it being stylish are slim to none. That's where the $99 Misfit Ray comes in. This device looks more like a bracelet than a fitness tracker, thanks to a polished-aluminum cylindrical design that you can accessorize with a wristband, cuff or necklace.
The Ray lacks a display, which means you'll have to rely on Misfit's app to see your activity and sleep data when you sync the device to your smartphone. An LED light flashes specific colors to signify certain notifications, but I found myself relying on the app rather than remembering what those colors meant.
Misfit Shine 2 (3.5/5)
Like the Misfit Ray, Misfit's $60 Shine 2 lacks a display. Instead, its touch-responsive aluminum face is ringed by 12 LED lights that shine in different colors when you tap the device, once to show the time and again to show the progress you've made toward your daily activity goal. Those lights are difficult to see in sunlight, but after you sync the Shine 2 to Misfit's app for iOS and Android, all of your sleep and exercise metrics will show up on your smartphone.
Thanks to a replaceable battery, the Shine 2 is waterproof and lasts up to six months without needing fresh juice. That means it's a great swim companion, though an upgrade to the Shine 2 Speedo edition for $120 will give you deeper lap-tracking analytics.
Misfit Flash (3/5)
Misfit's $30 Flash is one of the cheapest fitness trackers you can buy, and it shows. Like the Shine 2, which costs $40 more, the Flash has a round display ringed by LED lights that flash for notifications. But the disc-shaped sensor is made of plastic instead of aluminum and is prone to popping out of its plastic wristband. You don't have to wear it on your wrist; Misfit includes a clip for fastening the Flash to your clothes or shoelaces.
If you don't mind a cheap-looking device, you might appreciate the Flash, which accurately tracks your sleep and activity, including automatic workout recognition of cycling, soccer, tennis, dance, yoga and more. The splash-proof tracker is perfect for people who want the fitness-tracking basics without any fuss whatsoever.
Xiaomi Mi Band 2 (3/5)
A $30 fitness tracker with a built-in heart-rate monitor is practically unheard of, but Xiaomi's second-generation Mi Band pulls it off. This slim black band can't compete with high-end heart-rate-tracking devices, but it's fairly good at tracking basics like steps and current heart rate. Xiaomi promises 20-day battery life, another rarity for a heart-rate-tracking device.
There are a few drawbacks at this price, though. The band lacks automatic exercise-tracking and you have to launch a workout from the Mi Fit app for iOS and Android rather than on the device itself. The heart rate sensor could be more accurate, and it doesn’t track your BPM continuously. You have to tap the display to see your heart rate or open the Mi Fit app for iOS and Android. And the sleep tracking is completely off-base. After a night of restless sleep during which I woke several times, the Mi Band reported that I slept through the night with no time spent awake. I wish!
I didn’t love the Mi Band 2, but when it comes to price, this fitness tracker just can't be beat.
Amazfit Arc (2.5/5)
The Amazfit Arc is a $70 fitness band with an optical heart-rate sensor and automatic sleep and activity tracking. Sounds pretty great, right? Unfortunately, the Arc is an overall meh device.
The Arc's built-in optical sensor doesn't continuously monitor your heart rate, so you won't get much data while you work out, unless you tap the display to see your BPM or open the Amazfit app for iOS and Android. The tap display shows basic stats — time, steps, miles walked, calories burned — and you would expect the Amazfit app to show deeper analysis. But it doesn't. All you get from the app's dashboard is current heart rate, steps and mileage, and calories burned.
The band's sleep-tracking also leaves a lot to be desired. It accurately reported my sleep and wake times, but didn't sense my middle-of-the-night restlessness. This fitness tracker is a skip.