The Best Fitness Trackers and Watches for Everyone
Best Budget Tracker
Fitbit Inspire 3
If all you want is a simple health tracker that will track your steps and your sleep and let you know when someone is calling, the internet’s marketplace is awash in knockoffs of this fitness tracker. For $80, you might as well get the original instead. This year, Fitbit released the latest version of its hugely popular Inspire, which thankfully (in my opinion) does not use Wear OS. Instead, it continues to use Fitbit’s clear and easy Fitbit app, has a pedometer, tracks SpO2 and sleep, and comes with a wide array of watch faces and accessories.
It wasn’t all easy-peasy. I had some connectivity issues and had to restart my phone when the Inspire 3 wouldn’t update the time zone for a day or two. The Inspire 3 also regularly overestimated how much sleep I’d gotten, which made me mistrust the new Sleep Profile feature. For two months, I had a chronic nighttime cough; the Inspire 3 regularly logged me at seven hours a night because I was lying still when switching to a more sensitive fitness tracker put me at a much more accurate five. However, if you have no health issues, it is more reliable and accessible than a knockoff Inspire 3, and Fitbit also regularly puts its trackers on sale.
Best Running Watch
Garmin Forerunner 255
Garmin’s Forerunner line has long been the best GPS-enabled fitness tracker for runners, and the midrange Forerunner 255 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) offers an incredible value for the number of features it offers in Garmin’s lineup. Do you want a feature? It probably has it, like multiband GPS support and a barometric altimeter, a compass, improved sleep tracking, and Bluetooth compatibility with a number of heart rate monitors. The battery life is incredible—WIRED reviewer Scott Gilbertson estimates it at about 30 hours of continuous use—and you can extend the battery life even further by turning off features like continuous Pulse Ox measuring. He especially liked the new Morning Report, which includes Body Battery as well as a daily greeting, the weather, and other tidbits, much like what Apple offers.
It’s also worth noting here that the Forerunner line is quite extensive and meets a variety of needs. A beginning runner or triathlete will probably be happy with the cheaper and more basic Forerunner 35 ($190), while the experienced triathlete will want the Forerunner 945 ($600). Older models also retain their value and go on sale all the time.
Best for Android Owners
Samsung Galaxy Watch6 and Watch6 Classic
Unlike last year’s Galaxy Watch5, this year’s Watch6 Classic brings back the fabulous, clicky, rotating bezel (7/10, WIRED Recommends). It’s fun and tactile and not a feature that you’ll find on many other smartwatches and fitness trackers. Other than that, it doesn’t look or feel too terribly different from the Watch5, which is a good thing. The Watch6 Classic comes in a 43- or 47-mm case, and the standard Watch6, which doesn’t have the mechanical rotating bezel, is available in 40- and 44-mm cases.
The Watch6 runs Wear OS, which means you have access to Google Maps and Google Assistant, and it also has access to Samsung’s fairly robust health features. In addition to the usual suite of SpO2 measurements, auto-workout detection, and sleep tracking, it now has FDA-cleared irregular heart rate notifications and blood pressure monitoring (the latter is not available in the US nor cleared by the FDA). Some features are also restricted to users who pair the watch with Samsung phones, rather than other Android phones, like the ECG. If you prioritize design, you might want to stick with a Pixel Watch; if you don’t have a Samsung phone, you might want to stick to a Garmin. All that said, It’s a fairly capable watch with a fun party trick.
Best for Wear OS
Google Pixel Watch
Note: Google is expected to announce a new Pixel Watch 2 in October. We recommend holding off on the first-generation model.
While Apple’s smartwatch and fitness trackers are finely tuned machines, Google has been noticeably late to the party. When this watch debuted late last year, reviews editor Julian Chokkattu noted that while it does include key fitness features like an ECG and a heart rate monitor, it didn’t have auto workout detection, fall detection, or SpO2 sensing (at the time). Thankfully, we’ve seen new updates with astonishing frequency throughout 2023, including the redesigned Fitbit app, SpO2 sensing, fall detection, and high- and low-heart-rate notifications. It’s all very promising.
The Pixel Watch is also incredibly attractive. It’s so beautiful that this long-time Apple Watch devotee is half-convinced to switch, even if I have to switch phones. The heart of the fitness tracking experience is Fitbit’s, which means that the data itself is accurate and empowering (you will still have to pay for a Fitbit Premium subscription).
Best Outdoor Watch
Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2)
This year, Garmin again released updates to its two high-end sports watches, the Epix Pro ($900) and the Fenix 7 Pro ($900). Last year, the limited battery life and huge case on the Epix were off-putting, but now it comes in three sizes and with a whopping two weeks of battery life. It’s now one of my favorite sports watches (8/10, WIRED Review).
The main difference is the screen. The Epix still has the bright AMOLED display, while the Fenix 7 Pro has a less bright memory-in-pixel display. The Fenix also has the option for solar charging, which extends the battery life quite a bit, but I have found that the Epix lasts long enough for a week of camping. The AMOLED is noticeably clearer and brighter, which makes a difference when you’re running and climbing outside, and it has useful features like a flashlight and redshift mode for training outside at night. For runners, there’s also a new Up Ahead feature that lets you see the closest points of interest and a new endurance score to … well, check out your endurance if the zillions of other Garmin proprietary metrics aren’t doing a good enough job of assessing what great shape you’re in.
★ Alternative: I have steadily grown to appreciate Coros’ sports watches, which often eschew bright screens for more affordable price points and thoughtful features like locking mechanisms that prevent me from stopping or starting tracking when I’m snowboarding and falling down while scream-singing to Jon Secada. Earlier this year I tested the Coros Apex 2 Pro, which offers much of the same functionality as a Garmin at half the price. I liked it!
Oura Ring Gen3
I originally complained about Oura’s Gen3 ring—namely, that the company was strongly encouraging its customers to commit and upgrade to the Gen3 and a new $6-per-month subscription long before any of the newest features were even available.
However, in a sea of identical square and round watches, there really isn’t any other tracker like the Oura. It’s extremely small and attractive, and this year’s new onboard sensors are just as accurate as they were before. Those features are now available with the membership, and you can access guided meditations, personalized insights, and educational content; without it, you will only be able to access your three basic Oura scores, which are your Daily Readiness, Sleep, and Activity scores (essentially what you saw last year). If you have trouble predicting your period, the ring is sensitive enough to pick up the half-degree temperature drop right before mine starts. Although the company has made no explicit statement about Roe v. Wade, it’s based in Finland and abides by the GDPR, and US-based health authorities cannot subpoena data from it.
The Most Wearable
Whoop 4.0 (Membership)
The biggest problem with any fitness wearable of any kind is how often they get in the way of … working on your fitness. You can’t wear the Oura ring while rock climbing, for example. That’s why the cult fitness tracker company Whoop introduced a line of smart clothes this year. Right now, I’m wearing the tracker tucked into the Any-Wear bralette. I can’t even feel it! Now I can track my runs with my Garmin!
Whoop is best suited for athletes who can independently interpret its somewhat arcane metrics. “Daily Strain” measures only cardiovascular load, so a day where I walked 3 miles to and fro is supposedly a harder day than when I lifted weights for an hour. The Whoop 4.0 is also smaller than last year’s model, with a new battery, but I did experience charging issues with the new version. You have to keep the app running at all times, lest it constantly warn you that it can’t update right this second. At $30, the monthly subscription is the most expensive one here, and the line of proprietary clothing does not have extended sizing. Even with all those caveats, it’s the only wearable I’ve ever forgotten I’m wearing.
An Update to a Classic
Casio G-Shock Move
A G-Shock is a classic watch for an outdoorsy person; these devices are known for being big, rugged, and unbreakable. (To me, they’re best known for being the watch that Keanu Reeves wears in Speed). Lo, this spring Casio released the G-Shock Move, which has the classic G-Shock looks and functionality coupled with Bluetooth connectivity and a brand-new partnership with Polar. The company known for its granular fitness data collection recently released 25 of its algorithms for use with commercial partners, of which Casio is the first. The partnership needs a little ironing out—you connect to the Casio Watches app (and not, confusingly, the G-Shock Move app), and it’s unattractive and hard to navigate, plus Polar’s biometrics can be difficult to interpret. It’s also slower to connect to GPS than other trackers I’ve tried. Accuracy while recording my outdoor runs suffered as a result—I often just took off rather than standing around shivering in my shorts.
However, it’s still a G-Shock. The battery lasted 10 days; the display is clear and easy to read; the buttons are pleasantly clicky and easy to navigate; and it’s much, much lighter and easier to wear than other G-Shocks I’ve tried. The data on sleep collection also goes into much deeper detail than any other tracker I’ve tried. If you’ve always wanted a smart fitness tracker but were wedded to your classic Casio, this is the one to try.
Best for Weekend Warriors
Apple Watch Ultra 2
The next iteration of Apple’s rugged outdoor watch (8/10, WIRED Recommends) has a faster new chipset, second-gen ultra-wideband chip, and compatibility with WatchOS 10. It also has a new, shockingly bright 3,000-nit screen that is theoretically useful for looking at your watch amidst the bright, snow-reflective glare. I didn’t notice a difference on a sunny day at the river between the 3,000 nits of my watch and the 2,000 nits of the iPhone 15, but maybe you will!
Apple has mostly given up on the idea that you will ever be without your phone, and many of the Watch Ultra 2’s most useful features are seen only in conjunction with your iPhone. For example, you can look at offline maps only when you are within Bluetooth range of your iPhone and have downloaded them beforehand. In WatchOS 10, starting a cycling activity on your watch turns your phone into a de facto bike computer. A Watch Ultra 2 and iPhone combination doesn’t work quite as well as a dedicated sports watch, but it works well enough, especially if you also want the full smartwatch functionality that an Apple Watch provides. After all, as much as I love sports, I spend the majority of my time at work and chasing kids around.
My Favorite Watch
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
Out of all these watches, the one I chose to come with me on a two-week beach adventure vacation was the Instinct 2 Solar (9/10, WIRED Recommends). It’s one of Garmin’s most popular backcountry watches and combines a somewhat chunky, technical aesthetic (and fun colors!) with backcountry capability. With the Instinct 2, you get access to Garmin’s multiple satellite systems and navigational features, insane battery life, and the ability to track many sport-specific metrics … without blowing money on extras like a big light-up screen.
The main updates to the Instinct 2 are improved solar charging, a high-resolution display, and a petite 40-mm case size. That smaller size fits on my wrist and under my jacket sleeve much more easily, and the high-resolution display is easier to read. The battery also lasted for a mindblowing 21 days, with multiple tracked activities per day. It also comes in a ton of different colors and sports-specific styles. For example, the popular Surf Edition—there is also a Tactical version—is compatible with the hugely popular surf forecasting company Surfline. You can see tide data and track your surfing. (It also has the best colors.)
★ Alternative: Can’t decide between the Instinct and the Vivomove lines? Now you don’t have to. The Instinct Crossover Solar ($426), combines the Instinct’s rugged capabilities with Garmin’s solar-powered watch face. It’s a little less intuitive to operate than either the Instinct or Vivomove itself, but I do find the analog hands convenient and the battery life is stellar.
Other Trackers We Like
We liked some other watches that didn’t quite make it into our top picks.
Mobvoi TicWatch GTH Pro for $100: Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 5 is one of my colleague Julian Chokkattu’s top smartwatch picks. That’s a Wear OS watch though, and the GTH Pro isn’t so smart. Its standout feature is Arty, which uses two light sensors to monitor your heart health. However, the Withings watch has been cleared by the FDA, and so far the GTH Pro has not. The screen also fritzes out occasionally.
Amazfit GTR 3 Pro for $190: This is the first of Amazfit’s watches I’ve actually liked wearing. It has onboard GPS and is sturdy and durable, and the screen is beautiful. However, I didn’t reliably get my Bluetooth notifications, couldn’t measure my blood oxygen levels or control my music, and some of the advanced training metrics needed ironing out.
The Polar Ignite for $190: I like the Ignite’s low profile and extremely granular data collection, which lets you check how factors like heart rate variability, breathing rate, and heart rate all combine to ramp up your autonomic nervous system.
The Suunto 9 Peak for $286: We recommended the Suunto 9 Baro for bikepacking, and the 9 Peak includes all of the features in a much more compact, attractive package. It’s too sensitive to be a great everyday tracker (it tells me I’ve hit 400 steps before I even get out of bed), but it’s a great adventure watch.
The Wahoo Fitness Elemnt Rival for $200: The functions on this watch were pretty perfunctory; there are much more capable trackers for this price. However, it integrates with Wahoo’s smart indoor trainer system, which is excellent.