By Victoria Song / @vicmsong
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In 2023, you might wonder if Fitbit is still relevant. Despite getting acquired by Google, Fitbit remains one of the most recognizable names in the industry. Fitbit trackers aren’t meant for the most hardcore of athletes, but they’re still excellent devices for tracking overall activity as well as monitoring certain health and wellness metrics like EKGs and blood oxygen levels.
That said, the next few years will be a transition period from the Fitbit of old to whatever Fitbit will be going forward. I wasn’t impressed with a recent decision to sunset legacy community features like challenges, or the fact that all Fitbit accounts will require you to log in via Google by 2025.
While Fitbit’s future is a tad murky, there are reasons to stick with its trackers in the meantime. Fitbit trackers are relatively affordable, especially since they often go on sale. All the devices come with a free trial to Fitbit Premium, the company’s subscription service that adds guided workouts, meditations, and access to more in-depth metrics. So long as you’re aware that changes lie ahead, here are the best Fitbits to buy.
The launch of the $349.99 Pixel Watch has thrown a wrench into Fitbit’s smartwatch lineup. Technically, it’s a Google product, but Google owns Fitbit, so they’re all Google products now. Fitbit powers all of the Pixel Watch’s health and fitness features. But really, this is the smartwatch that Fitbit never could manage to build on its own.
For starters, it’s got a beautiful design with a circular domed display that looks way more elegant than the squircle Versa or Sense smartwatches ever did. On your wrist, it looks like a watch, not a tracker dressed up as one.
The Pixel Watch is also a lot smarter than the Versa 4 or Sense 2, in part because Fitbit made its watches less smart. You get Google Assistant — which was removed from the aforementioned Fitbits — and the whole suite of Google services like Maps, Home, YouTube Music, and Wallet. The Google Play Store has a ton of third-party apps, and the number keeps growing. Fitbit’s native app store is bare, and the Versa 4 and Sense 2 don’t support third-party apps anyway, though their predecessors did. The Pixel Watch also has an LTE version for $50 more, which has emergency SOS calling. No matter how you look at it, the Pixel Watch is a better smartwatch than the Versa 4 and Sense 2.
Google’s first in-house smartwatch has a beautiful domed display and native Fitbit integration for health tracking. It comes with six months of Fitbit Premium and three months of YouTube Music.
For health and fitness tracking, the Pixel Watch is essentially a Fitbit. Fitbit integration is built right into the watch, and the Fitbit app is where you’ll view your data. There are a few shortcomings, however. While the watch has EKG capabilities, it doesn’t offer alerts for abnormally high / low heart rates or irregular heart rhythms. Its version of automatic tracking is less handy than a real Fitbit’s, and it doesn’t offer stroke tracking for swimmers or nightly SpO2 percentages. This may change, however, as Google and Fitbit recently reversed course and added the Sleep Profile feature to the Pixel Watch.
If all you want is a fitness tracker that looks like a smartwatch, you can consider the Versa 4 or Sense 2. They’ll get the job done. The $229 Versa 4 is the more budget-friendly option, and I only recommend the $299.95 Sense 2 if you care about EKG readings and more robust stress tracking.
The Inspire line hasn’t always felt, well, inspired. But the $99.95 Inspire 3 is different. With a color OLED display, it’s reminiscent of the Fitbit Luxe (formerly $149.95, now often around $99.99), just with a matte black plastic case instead of a metal one. It’s a great throwback to classic Fitbits for people who only want the basics.
The Inspire 3 doesn’t overcomplicate things. It’s a fitness band. You won’t get built-in GPS, contactless payments, or digital assistants. Still, what it lacks in smarts it makes up for with Fitbit’s advanced sleep tracking, stress management features, and irregular heart rate notifications. The OLED display is also a step up from the Inspire 2’s monochrome screen, and you still get 10 days of battery life. (Though it’s more like two to three if you enable the always-on display.)
The Fitbit Inspire 3 is an minimalist fitness band that delivers notifications and tracks your activity on a bright OLED screen.
The Inspire 3 has a variety of accessories, including a clip attachment if you want to discreetly track steps. There’s even a gold or silver mesh strap if you want to dress it up a bit.
To be honest, the Inspire 3 and Luxe are quite similar, and they’re often around the same price. It’ll boil down to whether you think the Luxe’s nicer case is worth trading half the battery life for — the Luxe gets an estimated five days instead of 10.
The Charge series has always been popular, and the $149.95 Charge 5 is no exception. It’s Fitbit’s higher-end fitness band but easily competes with the more expensive Versa 4 on features. There’s now a color OLED screen plus an EKG and EDA sensor. You also get built-in GPS, NFC payments, and SpO2 sensors — the only thing you’re really missing is a digital assistant.
The only qualm we have with the Charge 5 is the always-on display. While it’s beautiful, it’s a major battery drain. The Charge 5 has an estimated seven days of battery life, but that dwindles down to about two if you have the always-on display enabled. It’s a shame because the OLED is a lot easier on the eyes than the monochrome LED screen on the Charge 4.
Altogether though, you’re getting a hell of a lot for the price. It’s the only FDA-cleared EKG wearable you can find for under $200, and the only other Fitbits capable of EKG and EDA readings are the Sense and Sense 2. So unless you’re dead set on the smartwatch form factor, the Charge 5 is the better overall deal.
If you’re trying to decide between the Charge 5 and Versa 4, we recommend the Charge 5 in most cases. Both will get you similar health tracking experiences, though the Charge 5 packs in a little extra thanks to the EKG and EDA sensors. (But as I mentioned earlier, most people probably won’t use these sensors that much.) The Versa 4 will get Google Maps in the near future, but it’s been nerfed when it comes to third-party apps. All things considered, the Charge 5 is the better value.
The Fitbit Charge 5 does all the usual heart rate and activity tracking and also offers access to new tools like an EDA Scan app to manage stress as well as a six-month membership to Fitbit Premium.
That pretty much covers the current Fitbit lineup. The only one we haven’t touched thus far — and the only one that I haven’t tested myself — is the $79.95 Ace 3. That’s Fitbit’s tracker for kids — and it’s the single Fitbit available for minors. It’s a basic tracker with a rugged bumper and comes with parental controls. It’s got better battery life than its predecessor but doesn’t come with GPS. Also, while it does have heart rate sensors, it’s not a metric that’s actively tracked for children. Instead, it’s used to determine how many “active minutes” they’re getting. Overall, it’s a decent choice for parents whose main priority is making sure their kids get enough daily exercise. If you want location tracking, however, you’re going to have to look for something other than a Fitbit.
Fitbit’s fitness tracker for children sticks to the basics, comes with parental controls, and has eight days of battery life.
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By Victoria Song / @vicmsong