Guide to choosing a fitness bracelet: what to look for and the best models

By: nina-gluschenko | 03.03.2020, 12:59
Guide to choosing a fitness bracelet: what to look for and the best models

If you haven't bought your first fitness bracelet yet or are thinking of upgrading, this buyer's guide will help you decide on the brand, features and potentially interesting devices to buy.

Fitness Bracelet Rating:

Optimal choice: Honor Band 5

Stylish and practical fitness bracelet

Stylish and comfortable

Honor Band 5 is a minor upgrade to the rather cool Honor Band 4 for its budget. From what I understand, the update came out to "overtake" Xiaomi, who brought the Mi Band 4 to market literally right behind the Honor. Now technically, the "five" looks more serious. Compared to its predecessor, there is support for measuring blood oxygen levels and more dials. In my opinion, not the most necessary thing in the update. The price difference is about $10, so you see two models in this item.

Both are direct competitors to the Xiaomi Mi Band 4. They're almost identical in features and counting results, and in terms of features, the Mi Band 4 even pulls ahead thanks to the ability to control the player (not present in the Honor Band 4) and better battery life. Still, I think Honor is a more interesting proposition because the bracelet's interface and app are more user-friendly. It feels like it has more logic to it. In fewer steps you can get to the start of a workout, the dials are more informative, in the app, the way to view your metrics is straighter. Also, I think the design is nicer too, but that's a matter of taste.

If you have a smartphone of Huawei/Honor brand, God forbid. It will be more convenient to control the alarm clock (here, by the way, the smart alarm clock, for whom it is important, in Xiaomi it is usual) and will be one less application in the smartphone ("Health" is preinstalled).

Read also: Xiaomi Mi Band 4 killer?

  • Honor Band 5 review
  • 6 reasons to buy
  • 2 reasons not to buy
  • user-friendly interface
  • price/features balance
  • you have a Huawei/Honor smartphone
  • not bad battery life (4-5 days for sure, and further depends on how intense you exercise)
  • smart alarm clock

switching tracks (only Honor Band 5)

The most popular fitness bracelet

you need something more serious, for sports or you are basically ready to afford a much bigger budget for a fitness bracelet

Xiaomi you cuter and you long If you've been using these devices for a long time and you've had Xiaomi bracelets before, there's no point in changing horses at the crossroads. The capabilities of the Mi Band 4 are similar to the Honor Band 4/5, only here there's also the ability to control music and twice the battery life. But the interface is for the curious. Yes, and the battery will last more than a week.

Read also: New benchmark. Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review

4 reasons to buy 2 reasons not to buy
  • price/quality ratio
  • you are a fan of the Xiaomi brand
  • fantastic autonomy
  • you can control music in your smartphone directly from the bracelet
  • you need something more serious, for sports or you are basically ready to afford a much bigger budget for a fitness bracelet
  • you fit this price range and you have a Huawei/Honor smartphone

Cheap and with GPS: Huawei Band 3 Pro

The sleek assistant for the athlete

Sleek athlete's helper

To track your route while jogging and cycling, you don't have to take your smartphone with you. A gadget on your wrist can easily do it. More often the GPS module is equipped with a watch, but there are also more compact versions in a bracelet format. Huawei Band 3 Pro is just one of those. In fact, this is a more sophisticated version of the Honor Band 4 in a metal case and with support for offline navigation.

According to users' observations, the tracker becomes thoughtful when the message memory is full. But tracking bike rides works with any smartphone, plus GPS allows you to track open water swim stats. But remember, with geolocation turned on, the battery will last a maximum of 7 hours. In normal mode with constant heart rate monitoring, the device will last about 6-7 days. The soft strap does not interfere with charging, the only fault is a regularly sliding latch - the protruding end of the strap can cling to the clothes and other objects.

On Chinese online marketplaces also sell basic model Huawei Band 3 without GPS, but here it makes sense to think about buying Honor Band 5.

3 reasons to buy 2 reasons not to buy
  • built-in GPS
  • looks more expensive than it costs
  • good set of features
  • you would like something more on a budget, but you do not need GPS
  • you are looking for more sporty option

For runners and basketball players: Huawei Band 4e

Will do for +1

Huawei was slightly more motivating. So their ultra-budget bracelet got its own twist - features for runners and basketball players. The device can be clipped to a sneaker and it will read how the user puts his foot, jumps, etc., and give recommendations on technique. But as a fitness bracelet, it is useless - it shows the minimum of information, you can not read messages on its tiny chb-screen.

For those who are interested in the possibilities of the device, but would like a normal smart bracelet, I can recommend to buy two devices. Recently the "Health" app, which all Huawei/Honor watches and bracelets work with, added support for multiple devices. Probably just right for such cases.

Read also: Huawei Band 4e review

1 reason to buy 1 reason not to buy
  • you want to track your technique in running or basketball
  • too easy as a fitness bracelet

For a healthier: Fitbit Charge 2/3

To definitely lose weight from Monday

Fitbit fitness bracelets, like Garmin, is not about cheap and serdy, but about expensive and sporty. Fitbit has a cool platform for those who track their lifestyle - can automatically detect activity, well monitors sleep, offers different training programs (a lot of paid, though), good at tracking sleep, allows you to track the cycle and the calories consumed, can automatically detect some types of activity. The main drawback of both models is the lack of localization. Not the main one, but an important one is the monochrome screen.

Between these two models I would rather recommend to give preference to the younger one even though it is already difficult to find on sale. It has GPS, but no NFC, while the "three" has the opposite. Since Fitbit Pay does not work in our country, this is the most successful configuration. True, the newer one has a better battery for a couple of days. At least on paper.

If interested in this option, we recommend you read the review of Fitbit Versa 2, I describe the capabilities of the platform there.

3 reasons to buy 2 reasons not to buy
  • cool sports platform
  • autodetect activity
  • features almost at the level of a smartwatch
  • expensive
  • no localization

For sports for all the money: Garmin Vivosport

Sports icon

Another non-budget option for those who need a fitness tracker more for fitness, not because they are lazy to get a smartphone in their pocket. Garmin seems to have the best reputation on the market in the segment of wearable devices for sports, and this model is an opportunity to join the ecosystem of the brand more or less inexpensively. There's GPS, battery life for a week of use (or up to 8 hours in geolocation tracking mode), there's support for all popular sports and bright color options.

3 reasons to buy 2 reasons not to buy
  • cool sports platform
  • features almost at the level of a smartwatch
  • tracking oxygen levels and stress levels
  • expensive
  • and yet no contactless payments for such money

If you want Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Fit (2019)

Expensive, but not "Deo Lanos" 

In general, it is quite logical desire if you use a Samsung smartphone. Galaxy Fit will be twice the price of the first two models in the top, and the features of the bracelet itself will not have twice as much. But as I wrote above, this does not mean that the model is shamelessly overpriced and you should not take it by any means.

Firstly, it works perfectly with Samsung smartphones, maximum fun - even at the connection stage. Secondly, the Samsung Health platform will beat any budget options, it is close to Fitbit in terms of features, but the device is cheaper. I'm not sure that they can compete in terms of accuracy of readings (for example, everything is definitely not very smooth with Samsung sleep monitoring), but it certainly won't be worse than Xiaomi or Huawei/Honor. The tracker is able to automatically detect activity, and that's another plus in the budget segment. The app supports a huge number of workout types.

2 reasons to buy 2 reasons not to buy
  • perfect work with Samsung smartphones
  • advanced platform Samsung Health
  • markup for the brand is still present
  • you need something cheaper or, conversely, more sophisticated

How to choose a fitness bracelet

In choosing a smart bracelet is not so important budget and design, because basically it all is at the same level as the expensive brands, as well as budget ones, no matter who manufactures it and for what purpose. Budget options - under $50 - are mass-produced products for everyone, but for those who play sports at an amateur level, also an option. Those who need accurate sensor readings will have to pay at least $100-$150. We have already talked about specific models, and now let's deal with the selection criteria.

Manufacturer's brand

It is not so important how expensive the brand itself is, as important is its experience in the market. Samsung, Xiaomi, Fitbit, Huawei/Honor, and Garmin have been present in the smart bracelet segment for a long time and quite successfully. Of course, the more expensive and sporty the brand, the more resources it spends on algorithm development, the more accurate its measurements are likely to be. The more users the brand has, the larger the sample. The more expensive the class of device, the higher quality components will be in the device.

Xiaomi and Honor, in my opinion, are the best value for money brands in the fitness bracelet market for those who don't need super accurate readings. Huawei is essentially the same product as Honor in terms of features and system, only slightly more expensive. So if you sympathize with this manufacturer but are thoughtful about spending on electronics, you can safely favor the more affordable brand, in this case it is justified.

In addition, cheap brands may have problems with the work of the application on the smartphone, adequate support for the Russian language and Cyrillic in general, the display of alerts and, of course, the accuracy of calculations.

Fitness bracelet characteristics and functions of the mobile application/platform

When choosing a specific model, I do not recommend starting from the budget, because below a certain bar the purchase will be a waste of money.

I advise you to choose a model with a large and touch OLED screen, heart rate monitor, support for the sports you do. The rest is optional. Smart alarm clock (Fitbit, Huawei/Honor), color screen, music control (Fitbit, Xiaomi), battery life (Xiaomi, Huawei/Honor in second place), GPS (Garmin, Fitbit), etc.

It's also worth reading about the capabilities of the bracelet app and see if they meet exactly your expectations. Xiaomi and Huawei/Honor have almost the same, but if you look at the higher price category, like Samsung, Fitbit, Garmin, there will already be differences.

With expensive, by the standards of fitness bracelets, there is another nuance. Both for Samsung and for Huawei, this is not particularly interesting area, the companies are competing for the smartwatch market, more high-margin, where nonnames and brands of the Xiaomi family are not yet strong. Therefore, their presence in bracelets is rather nominal, because with their status it is impossible not to be present. Brands often donate them to more expensive smartphone models. It's great for free, but as a self-purchase item it may not be very interesting.

For example, Samsung Galaxy Fit E, which is not in the top of the best, the bracelet itself is not bad if you use it with a brand smartphone and do not pay full price for it. Because for the same money, any other smart bracelet on the market will have a color screen on which you can read text messages (the Galaxy Fit E only fits a messenger icon and the sender's name).

Samsung has frankly balked at the budget segment and releases something interesting only in the smartwatch segment. So it should be understood that this brand will not be cheap. But you can't call the price tag twice as high as Xiaomi and Honor's one-digit overpayment, either. The manufacturer has a more advanced sports platform. For it the brand quite rightly takes a surcharge too.

Manufacturer's brand of your smartphone

This item is not particularly important, but all other things being equal, I recommend that it be taken into account. The device will integrate better with the native smartphone. Often this refers to the setting of the alarm clock (for example, on my Samsung smartphone the alarm goes off separately from the Honor tracker, but with smartphone brands Huawei/Honor the alarm on the smartphone goes off and on the watch, from the watch it can be turned off).

There may be other nuances. For example, Samsung connects the native wristband much more conveniently, the smartphone itself does everything for the user. In addition, it transmits data to the proprietary Samsung Health app, and this is one of the most elaborate solutions on the market, it has everything, up to and including third-party sports apps.

Answers to frequently asked questions:

Why do I need a fitness bracelet?

Fitness bracelets are designed to motivate the user to move. The basic set of functions of such devices includes step counting, estimated distance covered and calories spent, tracking the duration and quality of sleep, as well as an alarm clock. Some models have a heart rate meter and GPS to track your jogging route. This isn't just a story about sports, though. Even inexpensive bracelets like Xiaomi Mi Band 4 can display app notifications and text messages, and a slight vibration on incoming calls greatly helps those who often miss calls.

What's the best fitness bracelet to buy in 2020?

If you do not have any special requirements for functionality, the best choice will be inexpensive Chinese smart bracelets Xiaomi Mi Band 4 and Honor Band 5. The latter gets extra points for its more user-friendly app and intuitive interface. Seriously into a healthy lifestyle, count your calorie intake and exercise regularly - take a closer look at Fitbit Charge 2 and Samsung Galaxy Fit. Outgrown the amateur level? Huawei Band 4e will help improve your running technique, while Garmin Vivosport offers a full range of sports features.

Does a fitness bracelet work without a phone?

The tracker tracks physical activity with built-in sensors, and not having a smartphone nearby does not interfere with its operation in any way. But periodically you need to synchronize with the app, because the memory of the gadget can only store statistics for the last week or two. For autonomous tracking of your running pace and route, you will also need a model with a GPS receiver, like Huawei Band 3 Pro or Garmin Vivosport.

How do I charge a fitness bracelet without a branded charger?

Usually the charger for each bracelet model is different, so just asking a friend for a spare isn't always possible. In the case of brand-name trackers, a charging dock will probably be available at local stores, not to mention AliExpress. The Chinese have even made a handy adapter to charge the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 with the strap on.

What is the difference between a fitness bracelet and a smart watch?

The most obvious difference is the size - fitness bracelets are more compact and can hardly feel in your hand. Compared to a full-fledged "smart" watch bracelets usually run on a closed platform and do not support the installation of third-party applications, but they can run for weeks on a single charge. And for those who are not satisfied with a small screen, there are fitness watches with the functions of a regular activity tracker and a large watch face.

To the list of devices ⤴

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