Fitness trackers have come a long way since the humble step count (although of course we all still love that) – you can now measure everything from stress levels to sleep, to temperature and pregnancy cycles using a wrist wearable.
Tech brands really have gone wild for metrics, but the purpose of a wearable now goes way beyond fitness, with a number of studies currently looking into how activity trackers may help to detect early signs of coronavirus. The latest big health metric? Blood oxygen, with brands such as Garmin, Fitbit and Apple now featuring blood oxygen sensors on their smartwatches. It analyses the percentage of oxygen being carried by red blood cells and can offer insight into a person’s overall health, indicating if a person is experiencing breathing issues, for example.
From the new wellness-focused Fitbit to the Amazon Halo, which monitors body composition and tone of voice, and recovery-focused tracker Whoop, here are the models to know.
Apple Watch Series 6
Still the king of smartwatches
Apple unveiled its Watch Series 6 last year with a slew of new features, including blood oxygen monitoring, sleep tracking (finally), handwashing reminders and faster charging. Now one of the biggest other draws to the device, has to be the launch of Fitness+, Apple’s new workout platform which is built entirely around the watch – you can even use it as a remote, starting and pausing the class from your wrist if you’re not in touching distance of your TV, iPad or phone. You can now also listen to music or podcasts on Spotify using your Watch without your iPhone – as long as you have WiFi or cellular. Read our full review of the Apple Watch 6 here.
Look and feel: Apple Watch 6 now available in a variety of casing and colourways. The model features an upgraded watch strap, a new solo loop band with no clasp, buckle or overlapping parts.
Price: from £379.
Wellness on your wrist
Fitbit’s newest device wants to give you a holistic snapshot of your health and wellness with more data than you’ll know what to do with. Feeling stressed? The new Sense features an on-wrist EDA scanner, which detects electrodermal activity, as measured by electrical pulses in your sweat, to predict your body’s response to stress. It also takes your skin temperature each night to highlight any variations and features an ECG sensor which can detect heart irregularity, plus there’s menstrual health and mood tracking and the Fitbit app offers the best sleep tracking of devices I’ve tried. Workout-wise, you can earn points for active minutes, which measure more rigorous activity using heart rate, buzzing your wrist when you enter your target zone, while built-in GPS maps out your runs and walks in the Fitbit app. Sense comes with a six-month membership of Fitbit Premium, which is required to access a number of the data breakdowns and stress-management tools.
Look and feel: The Fitbit Sense comes in Lunar White with soft gold stainless steel or Carbon in graphite stainless steel. It’s lightweight, comfortable and very similar to the Fitbit Versa 3.
Price : £299, plus six-months of Fitbit Premium.
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
Perfect for runners
Most runners who are into data will tell you they own a Garmin, but with so many models on the market where to start? The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a solid choice. VO2 Max allows you to track your cardiovascular fitness levels over time, Pulse Ox estimates blood oxygen saturation and Body Battery attempts to track your energy levels so you can find the best times work out and chill, while a built-in recovery time advisor lets you know how long to rest before another big effort. Get phone notifications to your wrist and sync music and podcasts offline with streaming services Spotify, Amazon Music and Dezeer. Garmin Coach offers training plans with guidance from expert coaches and you can even track running metrics, like cadence, stride length and ground contact time, if connected to the Running Dynamics Pod. Meanwhile, the Garmin Connect app allows you to track both menstrual cycles and pregnancy symptoms and also post your achievements to social media.
Look and feel: The round face is a smart alternative to the usual square or rectangular shapes of many other smartwatches and you can switch up the display interface with various options. Instead of being touchscreen, you navigate the watch using side buttons.
All about that balance
Been overdoing it on the burpee front? Refreshingly, and contrary to virtually any other tracker out there, Whoop is all about ensuring you’re getting enough recovery – and LeBron James, Michael Phelps and Andy Murray are just a few of its celebrity devotees. The strap takes into account three factors: daily strain (or exertion), sleep and recovery to help users find balance in their workout routines and avoid burnout, while still achieving their fitness goals. Rather than counting steps, it logs movement with heart rate and calories burned to give users a strain score of between 0 and 21. Then it calculates your recovery percentage based on heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate (RHR), respiratory rate (RPM) and sleep, which indicates how ready your body is to take on strain each day. The device also measures how much time you spend in each sleep stage to estimate how much Zs you need to perform the next day.
Look and feel: The strap is screenless and is not equipped with GPS, but you can track your route via Strain Coach on the Whoop app. The proknit band features a rubber grip to prevent slip.
Price: from £24/month for subscription including band.
Halo by Amazon
‘Creepy’ or useful?
Last year Amazon unveiled its first fitness tracker, Halo, with two main features: tone of voice analysis and an in-app body scanning feature, which allows wearers to measure their body fat percentage at home by uploading photos of yourself in your underwear – though, understandably, some have deemed these features “creepy”. The Tone feature uses machine learning to analyse the “energy and positivity” in the wearer’s voice so they can understand how they are perceived by others, supposedly to help them improve their communication and relationships. There is a point system to reward users for activity, based on intensity and duration, there’s also sleep tracking, temperature checking, plus access to Labs, a library of challenges and workouts from Amazon Halo experts, as well as brands like Headspace, Aaptiv, Orangetheory Fitness and P.volve, R, among a slew of others.
Look and feel: Not unlike Whoop, there’s no screen face or built-in GPS. Customers can choose from three free fabric band colours at purchase.
Price: $99 (£75) with six months free membership ($3.99/month thereafter) – but it’s currently exclusively available in the US, so watch this space.