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Which Fitness Tracker Is Right for You?

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If you want to sleep longer, eat better, and increase your activity, the newest crop of wrist-worn fitness trackers may be for you. Part pedometer, part sleep accelerometer, and part calorie counter, these devices collect data—like skin temperature and body movement—and then sync with your computer or smartphone to reveal the number of steps you take, the duration and intensity of your activity, the number of calories you burn and, frequently, the length and quality of your sleep. These gadgets also have a coaching component, collecting your stats, then setting goals for improvement, and rewarding you once you reach them.

Most of the devices on the market (and all of the ones listed here) track your steps taken, calories burned, and exertion levels. But that’s where they diverge. Some devices also track sleep, while others monitor calorie consumption. Some only work with iOS or require uploading data to a PC. In addition, some demand more manual user input than others. Here’s a closer look at some of four of the most popular wrist-worn fitness devices, and how they compare.

Basis

Basis is a wristwatch-like device with an accelerometer. Its temperature and galvanic skin-response sensors monitor your heart rate without a chest strap. Basis measures your activity level, calories burned and sleep patterns, then suggests small changes to help you make improvements, such as going for a walk during a coffee break instead of eating that donut at your desk. You transfer the data to your computer via USB and then upload it to the Basis website, where you can compare your stats to the goals you set, and benchmark yourself against others using the device.

Pros:

  • Tracks heart rate for the most accurate readings on calories burned, activity level, and sleep quality
  • Checks resting heart rate—a key indicator of cardiovascular fitness
  • Calculates calories burned during most activities, not just walking or running
  • Provides specific activity and sleep recommendations as opposed to a chart or general information

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer traditional heart rate functions for fitness and medical use
  • Doesn’t track calories or food intake
  • Doesn’t offer wireless syncing (you have to plug it into your computer to sync data to the website), although an Android app is in the works
  • Has a shorter batter life than other devices (about 4 days compared to 5-10)
  • Doesn’t offer progress sharing on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • Comes in only 2 colors: black or white

Where to Find It: mybasis.com
Cost: $199

Fitbit The One

A thumb-sized pedometer-like device that snaps onto your pants by day and slides onto a wristband by night, The One tracks steps, distance, stairs, sleep, calories consumed, and calories burned—plus duration and intensity of physical activity. It then sets goals for improvement.

Pros:

  • Is small and inconspicuous
  • Has an alarm feature
  • Tracks your calorie consumption, not just calories burned
  • Shows progress on display for immediate feedback
  • Lasts 5-7 days on a single charge
  • Offers progress sharing on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • Offers wireless syncing with PC/Mac, iOS devices, and select Android phones

Cons:

  • Requires a manual switch from wake to sleep mode
  • Must move it when you change clothes and then to a wristband while you sleep
  • Measures calorie counting for walking and running only; you must log into the website to record bicycling and other activities
  • Has limited food catalog for calorie counting, so you have to enter many meals manually
  • Comes in only 2 colors: black or burgundy

Where to Find It: fitbit.com
Cost: $99

Nike Fuelband

A wristband that logs your daily activity and collects data about your habits, the Nike Fuelband helps you track and improve your activity level over time. The Fuelband wirelessly syncs your data to the Nike+ website via USB to your computer or smartphone. You can monitor your stats, compare them with other members of the Nike+ community, set personal goals, and share your progress with social networks. The more you move, the more “Nike fuel” you can earn and compete with the Nike+ Community online.

Pros:

  • Is simple to operate—one button controls everything on the band
  • Provides stats on LED display for immediate feedback
  • Tracks most activities (even tossing a Frisbee counts), not just running or walking
  • Presents goals, statistics, and suggested improvements in charts and graphs so you can see improvement over time
  • Offers progress sharing on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Path
  • Lasts 4-7 days on a single charge
  • Comes in 3 colors: black steel, white ice, and black ice
  • Offers wireless syncing to Nike Fuelband iOS via Bluetooth

Cons:

  • Doesn’t track sleep
  • Doesn’t monitor food intake
  • Doesn’t make tailored recommendations
  • Doesn’t monitor heart rate
  • Is not waterproof, so you can’t monitor swimming; showering is fine
  • Supports iOS only

Where to Find It: nike.com
Cost: $149

Jawbone UP

The Jawbone UP is a flexible wristband with vibration and motion sensors that monitor and analyze exercise, diet, and sleep data.The motion sensors track your daily calories burned, physical activity, including time, distance, and intensity, and sync it to the UP app on any Apple smart device (it’s compatible with iPhones, iPods, and iPads). You can share your daily activity with friends and family who also have the UP, and challenge or compete with others. Show your partner who really walks more steps daily or who works out more in a week!

Pros:

  • Tracks inactivity and vibrates when you’ve been sitting still for more than 15 minutes
  • Features easy, single-button mode change
  • Has an alarm feature
  • Offers 8 colors to choose from: onyx, mint green, blue, light grey, navy blue, red, orange, and hunter green
  • Has the longest battery life, lasting 10 days on a single charge
  • Syncs data to app via any iOS device (requires direct connection via headphone jack)

Cons:

  • Has limited calorie counting feature—you have to manually enter meal data
  • If you forget to put it in sleep mode, your data is inaccurate and your daily progress suffers
  • Supports iOS only, although plans are in the works for an Android app
  • Doesn’t offer progress sharing on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter
  • Doesn’t have a display, so you have to plug in to see your progress
  • Doesn’t offer wireless syncing (you have to plug it into your device)

Where to Find It: jawbone.com
Cost: $130

Editor’s Note: Do you use a fitness tracker? Chime in below!

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