Buy This, Not That: This $42 wearable fitness tracker is a ‘real bargain’ — and as good as $100 options

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Fitness trackers are all the rage these days — they generated $25 billion in sales in 2018, according to Statista — but they’re not all created equal.

Fitbit FIT, +1.37%, one of the first brands in this space, has become synonymous with the fitness tracker. But Fitbits are far from the only game in town. There are plenty of options at a range of price points, from $25 to several hundred, with a dizzying array of available features.

Being the budget-minded consumer that I am, I wondered if it was possible to get a reliable fitness tracker with useful functions at an affordable price — in this case, under $100. The answer is yes. Here are several winners for your consideration.

Best budget fitness tracker: Xiaomi Mi Band 3 Fitness Tracker (about $42)

Amazon

This tracker is a real bargain, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 has a decent-sized screen, similar to that of the Galaxy Fit and Fitbit Inspire HR. Like the Fit and the Inspire, it tracks several common exercises, calories burned and sleep. Where it actually excels is its battery life, which is easily twice as long as the others.

The bands are interchangeable, and there are different color and pattern options on Amazon, though some of them are not from Xiaomi. There are a couple of little quirks — I haven’t been able to change the weather reading from Celsius — but all in all, it’s a legitimate lower-cost alternative to the low-cost alternatives. Read more here.

Best Samsung fitness tracker: Samsung Galaxy Fit (about $80 at Amazon)

Amazon

While Samsung Galaxy Active watches start at $199, the less-expensive Galaxy Fit at about $80 fits into my budget — and I haven’t been disappointed.

The Galaxy Fit is a lightweight wearable with an on-face display and lots of useful features. It automatically tracks six different types of workouts, including running, walking and cycling — it has dozens more pre-installed activities — it tracks steps and sleep, and it reminds you when you’ve been sitting too long. It also measures your heart rate and stress level, and how far you’ve walked or run.

It receives notifications from my phone for things like texts, calls and calendar reminders, vibrating and displaying abbreviated info on the screen, which is about one inch by a half inch; it gives me a weather report; and it has a water-resistant certification of 5ATM, which means it’s resistant up to 50 meters.

The Galaxy Fit syncs with the Wear Galaxy app — which allows you to change the on-screen display, and what phone notifications you would like to receive on the tracker. You can also use the Samsung Health app for in-depth tracking and historical data. It’s available only in black and silver/white at the moment, but the bands are interchangeable so I’m hoping for more colors down the road. Read more here.

Best iPhone fitness tracker: Fitbit Inspire HR Fitness Tracker (about $80 on Amazon)

A friend paired the Fitbit Inspire HR with her iPhone 10 and is head-over-heels in love with it. It has features very similar to the Galaxy Fit in terms of battery life, water-resistance, heart-rate monitoring — get it without this feature for under $70 — sleep tracking and phone notifications.

In addition to tracking 15+ exercises, including running and yoga, you can set goals and receive alerts when you reach them. It also has a guided relaxation feature, if you are feeling stressed.

The screen size is comparable to the Galaxy Fit, about 1 ½ inches, and you can select your preferred on-screen display and view in-depth data through the app. The wristbands are interchangeable and each box includes a large and small size.

It’s important to note that despite numerous attempts, I could not pair the Fitbit Inspire HR with my Samsung Galaxy S9. Read more here.

Best retro-style fitness tracker: Withings Move Hybrid Smartwatch (about $70)

Amazon

The Withings Move has the look of a classic analog wristwatch, and its low profile makes for a very streamlined look and feel. This is a beautiful accessory, one that would look great with your workout gear, but also with a suit. It is water-resistant and comes in a variety of interesting colors, from basic black to statement-making orange.

The Move works differently than face-display trackers in that the clock face commands most of the real estate, with a small dial for daily step tracking. The rest of the data lives in the Withings Health Mate app, which tracks walking, running, swimming, biking and a handful of other activities, and counts calories burned and daily distance. The sleep tracker provides a “sleep score” based on factors like light and deep sleep, and interruptions. You can also set a silent, vibrating alarm. The Move doesn’t provide phone notifications or track heart rate.

One of my favorite features: an impressive 18-month battery life. The drawback: batteries need to be replaced by a watch pro (most jewelry stores can do it), but the long battery life might be a reasonable trade-off. Read more here.

Best modern-style fitness tracker: Misfit Ray (about $88 on Amazon)

Unlike the others, the Ray doesn’t have an on-face display so it’s ideal for people who want their fitness tracker to look more like an accessory than a watch or a conventional tracker. It has a futuristic style and is available in a few different colors including Rose Gold and Carbon Black. When I wore it during testing, I got plenty of compliments.

In place of an on-face display, the Misfit Ray alerts you to phone calls, texts, alarms, and other phone notifications with a flashing light or a vibration. Through the Misfit app, it does everything that a standard tracker can do, including counting steps and measuring distance traveled and sleep.

The Misfit Ray has a long battery life — six months — and the three button-cell batteries are easy to replace. Like the others, it’s water resistant to 50 meters, and through the Misfit Link platform, you can program it to do things like turn on smart lights, or take a selfie with your camera by tapping three times. Read more here.