The fitness wearable industry is only going from strength to strength, with more and more people wanting to be held accountable for their health. In fact, some 70% of Australians own some sort of fitness watch or fitness tracker.
This has seen the rise of a huge number of companies producing fitness watches, that can give you an overall picture of your health; your heart rate; the distance you’ve travelled, to name but a few features.
Separate to running watches, the best fitness watches provide information and metrics for a wide variety of sports, including running, cycling and swimming, but a good majority cater to pretty much any sport that can be tracked from your wrist.
While it certainly wasn’t the first to the party, it’s fair to say Apple has definitely had a huge impact on fitness watch market thanks to the Apple Watch. Capable of recording a wide array of metrics and syncing that data with your phone and various dedicated apps, we’re able to view a pretty detailed picture of how our fitness levels stack up against our friends.
It’s features such as these that instil a competitive nature within us. For example, if you can easily view your previous 5km run time, you have a benchmark from which to progress, and we all want to get better at something, don’t we?
So, which of the best fitness watches are worthy of a spot on your wrist? We’ve put together this definitive list of the very best fitness watches and fitness trackers available to buy right now. Designs and features vary, so be sure you know exactly what your prospective best fitness watch will do for you before you go ahead and buy.
Fitness Tracker vs Smartwatch: What’s The Difference?
The main point of difference between a fitness watch and a smartwatch is that fitness trackers tend to be smaller and less cumbersome, often coming in more streamlined designs compared to watches. Think of them more as bracelets. Fitness trackers are also more likely to be cheaper than smartwatches because they offer fewer functions, and they should also sport much longer battery lives, because they don’t need to be powering bright screens for long periods of time.
In short, there isn’t much to separate fitness trackers and smartwatches from one another. Fitness trackers can monitor your heart rate, record number of steps taken or distance travelled, for example, and most will now also show you notifications from a connected smartphone. Smartwatches were initially an extension of your smartphone, showing notifications and allowing you to send messages or listen to music. But now they too offer a wide array of fitness tracking capabilities.
Admittedly, it is now harder to choose between the two, especially when most people appreciate the convenience of smartwatches and the ability to quickly read messages or see who’s calling, as well as being able to listen to music via wireless Bluetooth headphones
Now without furhter adeu, here’s our picks for the best fitness watch and best fitness trackers.
Fitbit Charge 5
Metrics: Heart rate monitor; ECG monitor; Sp02 sensor; Skin temperature tracking at night; electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor (for detecting stress)
Battery Life: Up to 7 days
Price: From AU $270/US $180
The Fitbit Charge 5 is the very latest fitness watch to come from Fitbit, one of the major players in the fitness wearable space. The preceding model, the Charge 4, has long reigned supreme as the fitness tracker of choice for many, and the Charge 5 takes everything that was great about that, and makes it better. The new design is much sleeker than before, being more rounded, and you get a colour screen for the first time. Some may find the screen a little small for their needs, especially if you’re out running and you don’t have time to glance down.
However, Fitbit’s tracking technology tends to be among the very best, with both your heart rate and distance travelled (via GPS) being pretty bang on. Fitbit will also eventually roll out a feature called Daily Readiness Score, which will let you know if you actually are going to be capable of completing an intense workout on a particular day, by compiling previous workout data along with sleep data. It may think you’re ready to dig deep one day, or it can detect if you need a bit of rest and will recommend a meditation session instead.
Fitbit has now removed all buttons from the Charge 5, so navigation is carried out via swipes on the screen. This may take a little getting used to, and it’s fair to say physical buttons can be handy during certain workouts, so that you can be sure you’ll get to the screen you want. But data should be legible thanks to the bright colour screen, but again, because it could be deemed a little small, you may just need to learn which data is displayed where.
The OG when it comes to the best fitness tracker in the market.
Apple Watch Series 7
Metrics: Blood oxygen level (Sp02), heart rate monitor, ECG monitor, sleep tracking
Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Price: From AU $599/US $399
The Apple Watch can be found on the wrists of millions of people worldwide. It’s understandable, since so many people own an iPhone, having an extension of that on their wrist makes complete sense. They’re buying into an ecosystem that just works, not to mention owning one what could be argued is the best fitness watch around.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is the latest model, and has a much larger screen than the Series 6, making it even easier to view your workout data during a run or cycle. It’s waterproof to 50-metres too, so you can wear it swimming if you wish.
If there’s a particular sport you enjoy, chances are the Apple Watch can track it, including pilates and tai-chi. Cyclists can begin tracking automatically from the moment they pedal, and the Apple Fitness+ subscription service gives way to guided workouts across 11 disciplines.
Samsung Galaxy Watch4
Metrics: Heart rate monitor, ECG monitor, body composition measuring, sleep and stress tracking
Battery Life: Up to 40 hours
Price: From AU $449/US $250
Samsung, unsurprisingly, has a fitness watch of its own and the latest version is the Galaxy Watch4. Samsung does have an Active2 fitness tracker on its books, but it’s a couple of years old now, and the Galaxy Watch4 offers incredible fitness tracking capabilities, as well as everything you’d want from a smartwatch in one rather attractive package.
It’s available in two versions: Watch4 and Watch4 Classic. The former is geared more towards those who will use it more from a fitness standpoint, being given a sweat-proof strap and aluminium case, while the Classic looks more like a conventional watch, complete with stainless steel case.
Software-wise, this is the first wearable to use the brand new Wear OS platform, now developed under a joint venture by Google and Samsung (the two previously had their own separate wearable software, but have partnered up to create something great) which is easy to use and understand. Samsung Fitness is the default fitness tracking software, but you’re free to download any other fitness tracking apps from the Google Play Store.
A rather intuitive feature of the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 is the ability to measure your body composition; that is, how much muscle, fat and water you’re carrying. It likely won’t rival dedicated machines for outright accuracy, but can give a general overview.
Samsung is a worthy opponent to Apple and a contender in the best fitness watch stakes.
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Metrics: Heart rate monitor, Blood oxygen level, stress tracking, women’s health tracking, sleep tracking, hydration and respiration monitoring
Battery Life: Up to 7 days
Price: From AU $499/US $330
Garmin has a wide range of smartwatches and fitness trackers available, all offering slightly different features and interfaces, as well as designs. The Vivoactive 4 is one of the most fitness-orientated wearables in the company’s range, offering many of the same features as the flagship Fenix 6, just in a smaller and more affordable body. It ticks off all the fitness tracking metrics you’ve come to expect, including steps taken, distance travelled and your heart rate, but also has a Body Battery feature.
This works in a similar way to the Daily Readiness Score feature that will soon come to the Fitbit Charge 5. By this, we mean it can bring together your workout and rest data, and tell you how much juice you have left in your ‘body battery’.
Where Garmin shines is with the data viewable within the companion app on your smartphone. You can use it to really dive into statistics and measurements, and see how your fitness has changed over time to excruciating detail. When it comes to performing workouts, Garmin has a number available for download directly to the watch, complete with animations for how to correctly perform exercises and there’s also a built-in coach designed to help you competently complete various running distances. It’s probably one of the best fitness watches out there.
Metrics: Heart rate monitor, respiratory monitoring, sleep tracking, blood oxygen level monitor
Battery Life: Up to 30 days
Price: From AU $500/US $280
French company Withings has always taken a slightly different approach to fitness wearables, installing various trackers and monitors into a watch that looks like, well, a watch. The latest model, the ScanWatch, is definitely worth your consideration, because it offers much of the same features as the Apple Watch Series 6, in what we would consider being a far more attractive package.
From the face of it (pun intended) you wouldn’t believe the ScanWatch would be as capable as it actually is, as it employs a typical chronograph layout of a watch face, with sub-dials at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock. The top dial is actually a PMOLED screen that is used to display a variety of data, such as your heart rate, your ECG stats or your blood oxygen percentage.
You don’t get the vast quantity of workouts that can be tracked as you do with other fitness watches on this list, but the ScanWatch does tick off the basics: running, walking, swimming and cycling. Withings says there are 30 sports that can be tracked, but since there’s no GPS built into the ScanWatch, you’ll need to keep your phone nearby so data can be tracked within the companion Health Mate app.
But, this slight lack of features and capabilities means the battery life is exemplary, and it can easily last a good month before needing to be recharged. Consider the Apple Watch usually needs a recharge every night and it gives food for thought. If you want a fitness watch that actually looks like a watch, the Withings ScanWatch is the best fitness watch for you.
Apple Watch SE
Metrics: Heart rate tracking, GPS
Battery life: Up to 18 hours
Price: From AU $429/US $279
If you’re keen on strapping one of Apple’s watches to your wrist, but don’t want to shell out for the flagship Series 7, the Apple Watch SE offers the vast majority of fitness functions you’re actually going to use, but for a more wallet-friendly price. It doesn’t have blood oxygen sensing or an ECG, but when you consider these features aren’t a perfect substitute for an actual doctor, you might not miss them. But it can detect falls and automatically call an emergency contact.
It has the slightly smaller screen of the Series 6, and it’s water-resistant too, and you can even have it with built-in cellular, meaning you can leave your phone at home but still track your health and stream music. In short, the Apple Watch SE is probably the best fitness watch for those on a budget.
Garmin Swim 2
Metrics: Heart rate monitor, stress tracking, body battery monitor
Battery life: Up to 7 days
Price: From AU $399/US $250
If you’re an Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps wannabe and find yourself in water more often than not, then something like the Garmin Swim 2 is the perfect fitness watch for you. While other fitness watches can track swimming, the Garmin Swim 2 was literally built with swimming in mind, and as a result, offers a far greater depth (again, pun intended) of features for water-going folk. Firstly, it can monitor your heart rate underwear without the need for a chest strap, and thanks to built-in GPS, you can use it to track your progress when swimming in open water too.
You’re able to track and record a great number of statistics, including distance, pace, stroke count and stroke type, and SWOLF. SWOLF is something all keen swimmers should recognise, but the uninitiated, it’s a number that’s generated from your stroke count and the time spent in the water. Essentially, the lower the number, the more efficient swimmer you are. It’s not just a dedicated swim watch, however, as it can also track all the other standard workouts such as runs, walks and cycles, as well as sleep.
Metrics: Heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, stress tracking, altimeter
Battery life: Up to 48 hours
Price: From AU $600/US $399
Finnish company Suunto is known for its tough and ready outdoor fitness watches, and the Suunto 7 is one of the most versatile watches it makes. Both a fitness watch and a smartwatch, it runs on Google’s wearOS platform, and is packed full of features.
Not only can it measure your heart rate, steps taken and all the other metrics you’d expect, it also has offline maps, which include heat maps, so you can see where others have run, cycled or swam, to find the best routes. Tracking is available for over 70 sports, and if you wear it to bed, it will monitor your sleep and tell you how much energy you have the following morning to help you plan your day.
Polar Ignite 2
Metrics: Heart rate monitor, GPS, swimming-specific metrics
Battery life: Up to 5 days
Price: From AU $349/US $300
The Polar Ignite 2 could be one of the most accomplished fitness watches out there. With smartwatch features included too, including music streaming and notifications, it’s an ideal companion for anyone who loves to keep fit. Tracking is available for over 130 sports, with personalised guidance able to be dished out to help you smash your PBs.
It’s highly customisable too, so you can choose strap colours and watch faces to suit your mood, and with simple access to weekly training summaries and even guided breathing exercises, your training is sure to improve.
Polar Vantage M2
Metrics: Heart rate sensor, GPS, stride/cadence sensor
Battery life: Up to 100 hours
Price: From AU $449/US $300
The Polar Vantage M2 offers many of the same features as the Polar Ignite 2, but throws a few more in for good measure. These include the ability to sense how many strides you make in a minute during runs, as well as speed and even cadence to help you improve your cycling technique.
The display isn’t touch-sensitive, instead, you control all menus via buttons, but the Vantage M2 has also been built to be tougher than the Ignite 2, meaning it can accompany you anywhere you want to go. While it might not necessarily have the same brand appeal as, say, the Apple Watch, the Polar Vantage 2 more than holds its own, making it one of the best best fitness watches around.
Metrics: Heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, blood oxygen level, skin temperature, stress monitoring
Price: From AU $200/US $150
Some people may enjoy wearing a traditional watch, but still want to track their daily activity. This is where something like the Fitbit Luxe comes into play. Small enough to be worn on the opposite wrist and not look unsightly, it offers the bare bones when it comes to fitness tracking.
This includes steps taken and distance travelled, although it doesn’t have GPS built-in, so you’ll need to have your phone nearby. But it can detect your blood oxygen level and skin temperature, which can give an indication as to your overall health. The colour screen is bright and responsive, and it can show you select notifications from your phone, although you can’t act upon them, since this isn’t it doesn’t have full smartwatch capabilities. But for those on a real budget, it’s one of the best.
Timex Ironman R300
Metrics: Heart-rate monitor, GPS
Battery Life: Up to 25 days
Price: From AU $233/US $129
The brand name Timex should conjure up images of a well-established watch brand, and admittedly, the Ironman R300 is technically a smartwatch. However, it’s so packed full of fitness credentials and features, that it can also comfortably be called a fitness tracker. With the Ironman name emblazoned on it, referring to the seriously tough endurance races, this is a fitness tracker for those who want to make damn fine progress running, swimming and cycling.
With it, you get built-in GPS and a 24/7 heart-rate monitor to keep track of your vitals, along with the ability to load-up guided workouts from some of the world’s top athletes. Being a watch for the Ironman, it’s water-resistant to 50-metres, and you can even compare your race times with your friends.
Withings Steel HR
Metrics: Heart-rate monitor, calories burned, steps taken
Battery Life: Up to 25 days
Price: From AU $300/US $180
The Withings Steel HR is incredibly similar to the ScanWatch. Like its sibling, it too is a hybrid fitness tracker design, meaning it looks like a conventional watch, but with a few tricks up its sleep. Namely, this comes in the form of a small digital display on the main dial, which is used to display information relating to your health.
The Steel HR can track your heart rate as well as various activities – with automation detection, we’d like to add – but it doesn’t have the ECG monitor or the blood oxygen monitor that you’ll find in the ScanWatch. Many of you may not miss these features, as while they can give you a good indication of your health, they’re not going to be a match for a proper doctor. You also get connected GPS, so you’ll need to have your phone nearby if you want to track your distance, and it can also monitor your sleep.
Put simply, the Withings Steel HR can do much of what you’re actually going to want, with accuracy, and for not a lot of money. It’s available in two sizes and the strap is connected via traditional lugs, meaning you can swap it out for your own one, if you wish.
Garmin Vivofit 4
Metrics: Steps, calories, distance, sleep.
Battery Life: 1 year+
Price: From AU $129/US $80
If you’re on a budget, or simply don’t need a fitness tracker with all the bells and whistles, instead just lusting after something that will tracks your steps and calories, look no further than the Garmin Vivofit 4. Admittedly, it’s not the most attractive fitness tracker out there, but if you’re only going to be strapping it on for runs and cycles, does it really matter?
It will automatically detect what activity you’re performing, whether it be walking, swimming or cycling, and will track steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. It will even keep a log of when you’re not moving, so you can easily see how lazy you’ve been.
Perhaps best of all, you can pretty much forget about charging the thing, since it promises over a year of battery life from a single charge. You can’t get more convenient than that!
Metrics: Heart rate, blood oxygen, sleep, Strain (mental & physical stress).
Battery Life: Up to 5 days
Price: From US $24/month
And now for something, a little different. Whoop is now in its fourth generation, and the Whoop 4.0 fitness wearable is unlike others on this list. There’s no screen, for starters, meaning all your data has to be viewed via the companion smartphone app. But, that data is claimed to be incredibly accurate, thanks to its advanced sensor. It can track your heart rate, blood oxygen and sleep, to give you a clear picture of your overall health, as well as provide tips for ways to improve it.
The sensor can be placed into companion pieces of clothing too, making it truly wearable, and it can even be charged wirelessly thanks to a snap-on battery pack, so you can wear it 24/7. As for buying, you don’t pay for the Whoop wearable itself, but rather, a monthly membership, which gets you the Whoop for free.