Which activity tracker is right for you?

Which activity tracker is right for you?

Credit: KING / Caitlin Murphy

Wearable technology like activity trackers can motivate you to move more and adopt healthier habits. We put the Fitbit One, Jawbone Up and Nike+ FuelBand to the test to see how the activity tracks stack up against each other.

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by CAITLIN MURPHY / Special contributor to KING5.com

KING5.com

Posted on June 11, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 11 at 12:34 PM

Are you reaching your daily goal of 10,000 steps? How long did it take you to fall asleep last night? How many calories did you burn sitting at your desk today? If you were wearing an activity tracker, you’d have all the answers.

Wearable technology like activity trackers can make a big impact on your health and fitness habits. Not only do these little devices track activity like steps, but they also encourage you to move more and provide insight into your health. 

SLIDE SHOW: How to choose the right activity tracker

With all the gadgets to choose from, how do you know which activity tracker is right for you? We put the top three - Fitbit One, Jawbone Up and Nike+ FuelBand - to the test and see how they stack up against one other. With a broad range of features, these devices provide something for everyone. 


FITBIT ONE $99

If your main goal is to track your steps, then the Fitbit One is for you. Of the three activity trackers we tested, the Fitbit One was the most "step-centric." The built-in accelerometer accurately counts each step, and the data are displayed on the device. This makes it easy to click through and see your steps, distance and calories burned. The small, lightweight Fitbit One inconspicuously clips onto your clothes, so it’s is easy to wear during a workout or around the office.

Features: Along with tracking steps, distance and calories burned, the Fitbit One offers a few other data points as well. The display features a flower that grows or shrinks with your activity level throughout the day, which provides a nice reminder to take a walk around the block during lunch break. Plus, the Fitbit One is the only tracker we tested that features an altimeter. This means you can monitor how many stairs you’ve climbed. The device even showcases equivalent landmarks like the Eiffel Tower when you reach certain heights. This feature definitely provides inspiration to skip the elevator in order to hit your daily 10 flights of stairs.

The Fitbit One is also a sleep tracker. Slip the device into the soft wristband and it tracks how long and how well you slept, plus how many times you woke up. In fact, the Fitbit One even features a silent alarm that vibrates to wake you at the optimal time.

To see all your data, wirelessly sync the device to your computer or to the app, which is available for both iPhone and Android platforms. The interface showcases your daily totals plus a history of sleep patterns, weight and activities. You can also log food here. The sharing feature allows you to see how your activity stacks up against friends and other Fitbit users.

Pros and Cons: There are a few downsides to the Fitbit One. Because it is so step-centric, you need to manually log "non-step" activities like weightlifting and gardening into the Web or app interfaces.  It’s also not waterproof, which I found out the hard way when my original Fitbit (and its subsequent replacement) took an unfortunate trip through the washing machine.

That being said, the Fitbit is a fantastic device for encouraging activity and getting healthier. Plus, you can easily see all of your statistics on the display and the battery lasts five to seven days. It’s also a great option if you don’t want to wear a tracker around your wrist.

JAWBONE UP $130


If you want a device that not only tracks steps but also gives you insights into your healthy habits, the Jawbone Up is your activity tracker. 

The Up is a cool, colorful wristband you can wear all day. The sleek rubber casing houses sophisticated sensors and computer chips that work to give you a full picture of your health. Since the band itself does not have a display, the Up works in conjunction with the Jawbone Up app. The Up also does not have a Web interface, so you’ll rely solely on the app to display all your data (available for both for iPhone and Android platforms).

To see all this data, simply plug the Up into the headphone jack of your phone. This is a nice feature for those who don’t want to bother with external syncing devices and wireless connections.

Features: The Up tracks steps, distance and calories burned, along with your daily activity level and the intensity of your activity. It even gives you a gentle buzz  when you’ve been inactive too long, which anyone who works at a desk will appreciate. Similar to the Fitbit, you have to manually enter "non-step" related activities into the app.

Like the FitBit, the Up monitors your sleep. Sleeping with it is actually easier than you would think. It’s so lightweight and comfortable that you forget it’s there, making it a little better than Fitbit One’s sleep sleeve.  The Up tracks how long you’ve slept, how long it took you to fall asleep, how much deep sleep versus light sleep you had and how frequently you woke up. You can also set an alarm that will wake you at your most rested. My favorite feature is the power nap, which wakes you up after about 26.5 minutes, which apparently is the ideal nap time. 

To track your food, the app allows you to scan a barcode, search the database or take a picture of meals. You’ll also find calorie and nutrient breakdowns for each food.

There are a few things that really set the Up apart. First, it allows you to log your moods and make connections between your activities and how you feel each day. This gives you a nice holistic view of your health. The idea is to see patterns between what you do and how you feel, which will help you create healthier habits.

The social aspect of the Up is outstanding. There are healthy tips and reminders featured on the app’s home screen. Here you can also see a running feed of your friends' activities, moods and food and send challenges and encouragement to each other. This fosters support, motivation and a little friendly competition.

Pros and Cons: The downside to the Up depends on how much you like immediate feedback. Since the Up doesn’t have a display, you can’t glance down and see that you need to walk 2,000 more steps to reach your goal. You can view that information easily, but you need to connect the Up to your phone (which also means you need a smartphone to use the Up).

As far as pros, the Up is very comfortable, durable and easy to wear, and gives you tons of insight into your health.  It’s water-resistant, so you can wear it in the shower, and the battery lasts for 10 days. Plus, for a wristband activity tracker, it’s actually pretty fashionable. 

NIKE+ FUELBAND $149

Similar to the Jawbone Up, the Nike Fuelband is an activity tracker that you wear around your wrist. It weighs only about one ounce, so it’s very comfortable. In fact, after a while you hardly notice you’re wearing it.

Features: Off the bat, the thing that sets the FuelBand apart is the use of NikeFuel. Fuel is Nike’s take on points that correspond to your energy and calorie expenditure throughout the day.  Set your daily NikeFuel goal and the FuelBand becomes more than just an activity tracker -- it actually becomes a game.

Reach your NikeFuel goal each day and you can start a streak. The desire to keep your streak alive is surprisingly motivating. I even found myself embracing cleaning the kitchen and taking an extra walk after dinner just to see the band flash GOAL!
 
The FuelBand is chiefly about tracking how much you move each day. That said, the band prominently displays steps, distance and calories along with NikeFuel. This makes tracking your progress as simple and easy as glancing at your wrist.

To see your statistics online, simply plug the FuelBand into your computer’s UBS port or sync it wirelessly to your iPhone. Unfortunately, Android users are out of luck at the moment, since the Android app is still in development. 

The online and app interfaces allow you to input mood and share your progress with friends via Facebook and Twitter.

Pros and Cons: The biggest downside to the FuelBand is the inability to add "non-step" activities like biking or yoga. The Web interface also lacks food tracking. Plus, the use of NikeFuel might be a little misleading since a happy hour visit could register as much wrist movement as a two-mile walk.

That said, the FuelPoint streak feature is highly motivating, and it’s a simple no-nonsense way to see how active you are each day. It’s waterproof like the Jawbone Up, and the battery will last about four days. Plus, the FuelBand is a nice wristband activity tracker option that displays steps, distance and calories burned on the band itself.

Each of these activity trackers encourages you to move more, and that leads to a healthier lifestyle. So whether you want to hit 10,000 steps each day, burn a certain number of calories or wake up more rested, these wearable tech devices can help you reach your goals.

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