10 fitness trackers and GPS watches you can buy right now

Whether you're training for a race, getting in shape or are just curious about your daily activity, these fitness bands and GPS watches can give you the info and encouragement you need.

A coach on your wrist: Wearable fitness gadgets for everyone
Jawbone, Polar and Shutterstock

A coach on your wrist

Nowhere has the current explosion of wearable tech been more evident than in the fitness gadget market. While smartwatches including Android Wear devices and the upcoming Apple Watch may steal the headlines, those products are just emerging. Activity trackers and GPS watches, on the other hand, are more established.

In fact, there are so many wrist-worn fitness devices available now that it's hard to know what to get. It doesn't help that the differences between these types of devices are beginning to blur. Some fitness bands are starting to display texts and other alerts from your phone, and some smartwatches offer fitness tracking features and even onboard GPS.

Those lines will continue to blur, but for now there's value for many of us in sticking with devices that are primarily about fitness. Not only are the products more mature, they tend to be smaller and more suited to wearing while exercising -- and some are significantly cheaper.

We've rounded up 10 relatively new fitness bands and GPS watches that offer a range of capabilities, styles and prices. These products are all available for purchase right now; you won't see items that have not yet shipped or are never in stock (Microsoft Band, anyone?) on this list.

There's something here for everyone, from the "I need to get in shape" crowd to hardcore triathletes. Take a look and see if one is right for you.

Garmin Vivofit

Garmin Vívofit

Over the years, Garmin has quietly transformed itself from a GPS company into a fitness tracker/GPS watch company. We are including two Garmin devices on this list, and we could easily have included more.

First up is the Vívofit, a waterproof fitness tracker that secures to your wrist with a sturdy band. It measures your daily steps, calories burned and distance traveled. The Vívofit will also measure your heart rate during vigorous exercise as long as you pair it with an ANT+ heart chest strap.

The Vívofit sets daily step goals for you based on your recent activity, slightly increasing or decreasing your goals based on your previous day's activity. The screen is always on, so you can see with a quick glance how you are doing for the day. If you have been inactive for too long, the Vívofit will display a red bar at the top of the screen.

The Vívofit also monitors your sleep. You tell it you are going to be sleeping by holding down the button on the device until you reach the sleep screen, and you wake it up again in the morning. It then records the time spent sleeping and how much you have moved during that duration.

A bonus is that the Vívofit uses a changeable battery, rather than a rechargeable one, so you can wear it for a year before having to take it off and switch out the battery. And since it's water-resistant to 50 meters, you can just leave it on all the time and never leave home without it.

The Vívofit is compatible with Garmin's Connect software, which you can use on your phone, tablet or computer to monitor your progress over time. Priced at $130 from Garmin, the Vívofit is widely available from various retailers for as little as $80. It comes in six colors and includes two bands to accommodate different wrist sizes.

Retail price: $50 (Amazon price)

Polar Loop

Polar Loop

The Polar Loop, which lists at $109 but can be found online for $80, is a relatively inexpensive fitness band that tracks your daily activity, calories burned, distance traveled and the amount of time you spend without activity (sending you alerts when too much time lapses between bouts of movement). It differentiates between low, medium and high intensities of fitness activities. If you want to measure your heart rate, the Loop will connect to any heart-rate strap enabled with Bluetooth Smart technology (which uses less power than classic Bluetooth).

The Loop also begins monitoring your sleep time and quality from when you first lie down for the night and your body slows. Like the Garmin Vívofit, it mostly monitors the amount of time you actually spend asleep.

Reviewers have noted that sizing the Loop can be . . . challenging, to put it mildly, and involves actually cutting the wrist strap, removing the pins from the clasp and then reinserting them at the correct size. This is a measure twice, cut once type of situation -- you don't want to end up cutting your new fitness band so short that it no longer fits around your wrist.

Though the Polar Loop has a display on the actual device, to get a full picture of your activity, you'll want to sync the Loop with the company's Flow software that lets you review your activity online. You can sync your Loop via Bluetooth with your phone, or use a USB cable to upload the data to your computer.

The Loop is available in three colors, has a 5-day battery life and is water-resistant up to 20 meters.

Retail price: $70 (Amazon price)

Basis Peak

Basis Peak

The Basis Peak looks more like a smartwatch than a fitness band, but its primary purpose is to measure your activity and sleep. The $200 device includes a sensor that can monitor your heart rate without a chest strap by shining a green light through your skin to measure the flow of blood through your veins. Other sensors track motion, your skin temperature and how much you are perspiring.

The Peak, which employs a touchscreen instead of physical buttons, uses its sensors to recognize when you are walking, running or biking, but it also uses them to detect and track your sleep cycles -- and it claims to do this more accurately than other fitness trackers out there.

As with other fitness trackers, the display face of the device can show you only so much information. You'll have to check with the mobile app, available on iOS or Android, to get a more complete look at your daily activity, sleep and heart rate. (For example, the app can show you when you were in deep, light or REM sleep, giving you a full analysis of your night.)

Basis also promises a free upgrade -- coming at an undisclosed future date -- that will display notifications from your phone on your Peak wristband. The Peak has a four-day battery life and is water-resistant to 50 meters.

Retail price: $195 (Amazon price)

Jawbone Up24

Jawbone Up24

The $130 Up24 (currently available for $100 from Jawbone and other retailers) is one of the more discreet activity trackers featured on this list: A slim band with a wavelike design on it. Unlike some competitors in its price range, it doesn't have a display, but only a status light to indicate if the band is in sleep mode or not.

Like all fitness trackers, the Up24 measures your movement and daily distance traveled and estimates calories burned. It also records how long you have slept and the quality of your sleep, and uses a smart alarm to wake you during an optimal part of your sleep cycle. Idle alerts, which are customizable, remind you to get moving when you've been sitting too long.

Using the Up app, you can log your meals either by taking a picture of your food or by scanning the barcode of packaged food. The Up24 then uses all the information it collects about your activities and sleep for its Smart Coach feature, which analyzes your data and provides personalized suggestions to help you achieve your health goals.

The Up24 has a 14-day battery life and is splash-resistant for showering, but Jawbone recommends removing it before swimming. It is available in persimmon, navy blue, pink coral, onyx, lemon lime and (plain old) red. (Some colors are currently out of stock at the Jawbone site but available at various online retailers.) When ordering, you can specify if you want a small, medium or large band.

Retail price: $21 (Amazon price)

Fitbug Orb

Fitbug Orb

The Fitbug Orb activity tracker is small, light and versatile. It comes with a wristband but also with a belt clip and a lanyard, so you can hook it to your clothes or loop it to your belt if you don't want it on your wrist. And at $50, it's significantly cheaper than some of the other devices highlighted here.

But that comes with some tradeoffs. The Orb has no screen or display. Instead, it has a single button and a single light. You get all pertinent information from the accompanying app.

After the Orb is synced with your iOS or Android app, it will record distance traveled, number of steps, calories burned, time spent active and sleep patterns. You have to manually activate the sleep mode on the Orb and deactivate it in the morning. The data is not as in-depth as with the Basis Peak and the Jawbone Up3, but it does tell you your total sleep time and your sleep quality.

Finally, with the Fitbug app, you can record your food intake. You can't do this with the Orb specifically, but it will still help give you an overall picture of your health.

Like the Garmin Vívofit, the Orb does not have a rechargeable battery, but a changeable one that will need to be replaced approximately every four months. The Orb is also only "splash-proof," so you probably want to leave it at home on beach days. It is available in black, white or pink.

Retail price: $48 (Amazon price)

Misfit Flash

Misfit Flash

At $50, the Misfit Flash is truly a basic fitness tracker, but it can achieve many of the same things that its more expensive counterparts do. The Flash itself is a small round device that can be worn as a clip, as a watch or on a keychain. The face of the Flash has twelve LED lights that indicate the time or, when pressed, tell you how far along in your daily goal you are by how many of the lights are lit up.

To get a full overview of your activity, you will need to use the accompanying mobile app, available for iOS or Android. There you will see how many steps you have taken, your overall distance traveled, how many calories you've burned and your sleep duration and quality. You can also set daily goals for yourself and see your progress over time.

It is available in seven colors: frost, onyx, fuchsia, zest, wave, reef and Coca-Cola red. The battery lasts for six months before needing to be changed, and the device is waterproof up to 30 meters.

Retail price: $20 (Amazon price)



The Wellograph fitness watch is one of the more stylish activity trackers around -- and at a price of $350, it should be. The device is made out of stainless steel and anodized aluminum with a sapphire crystal face; it comes standard with a genuine leather band, although a black nylon Nato strap is also an option.

Design aside, the Wellograph does primarily what other fitness trackers do. It measures your daily movement, your heart rate (using a sensor on the back of the watch, not a heart rate monitor) and your calories burned. As with other fitness trackers, the Wellograph works best when paired with an app, which is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

The Wellograph will last seven days between charges and is water resistant up to 50 meters.

Retail price: $80 (Amazon price)

Garmin Forerunner 220

Garmin Forerunner 220

Like other GPS watches, this $250 Garmin device uses satellites to accurately track your distance, and it records your speed and pace. The Forerunner 220 has pretty much everything you could want in a GPS watch, including pace alerts, auto pause for when you stop at a light waiting for a crosswalk, and coaching via the Garmin Connect software.

Once you are ready to go for a run with the Forerunner 220, you have to wait for the watch to pick up a satellite signal. Fortunately, it should be able to do that in as little as 15 seconds -- and after you have run a few times in the same area and it has cached the satellite locations, it should take even less time.

The watch comes with several buttons that let you start and pause your runs, indicate that you are starting a new lap, backlight the watch or scroll through various screens that you can customize to show specific stats or metrics.

The Garmin Forerunner 220 sports (get it?) a color display and comes in either purple and white or red and black. The watch is water-resistant up to 50 meters, and its battery lasts 10 hours in training mode.

Retail price: $218 (Amazon price)

Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0

Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0

The Ironman Run Trainer 2.0 offers all the standard features of GPS watches. It keeps your past 15 workouts saved on the watch, allowing you to look through the stats for each one without having to use the Web-based associated software.

What sets the Ironman Run Trainer apart is that is it also reminds you at specified intervals to either eat or drink. You are able to set up nutrition alerts, for which you can specify if you want a vibration or an audible alert, at specific time intervals (but not distance intervals). The Run Trainer 2.0 is one of the only GPS watches that currently has this feature.

To measure your heart rate, you will have to pair the Run Trainer with an ANT+ heart rate strap; to measure your indoor runs, you will need to use an ANT+ foot pod. The watch is water resistant up to 50 meters and costs $220. Its battery lasts 8 hours in full GPS mode.

Retail price: $150 (Amazon price)

Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch

Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch

This GPS watch is significantly more expensive than the Garmin Forerunner 220, but it's made for a more specialized set. The Polar V800, which costs $520 with a heart-rate sensor or $470 without, is designed for triathletes, and a few features set it apart from other GPS watches.

First, it includes tap gesture functionality, which lets you tap the screen of the device to retrieve certain information. Second, it is a cross-functional device, made to transition easily among running, cycling and swimming. The H7 heart rate monitor that is included with the more expensive model even works underwater.

As with other GPS watches, the V800 caches satellite locations, allowing it to quickly pick up a GPS signal for your activity. The watch comes with some preconfigured screens, but you can customize those based on your needs.

The V800 also continues to record your activities throughout the day to help you get a full picture of your workouts and your recovery time -- something not all GPS watches do. Available in black or blue, it comes with a 14-hour rechargeable battery and is water-resistant to 30 meters.

Retail price: $351 (Amazon price)

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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