The fitness industry is known for its fads, and fitness trackers were labelled the same upon release. But the tech evolved beyond a simple step tracker, encompassing health and fitness elements and now even wellbeing features.

In fact, for many people with underlying health conditions, a smartwatch is essential. The varied features of a smartwatch or a fitness tracker make them a popular choice for fitness adherents and those looking for the functionality of a tablet or smartphone on their wrist. And the good news? The continued growth of the market has made the tech far more affordable.

So what’s the difference between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker?
While there was once a distinct difference between the two, in recent years there has been a convergence of features between smartwatches and fitness trackers. There are still some differences, but by and large there’s a great deal of health and fitness crossover. In short, smartwatches generally have more features, such as call, text, GPS track, and the ability to listen to music from your wrist. However, this will add dollars to the price.

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Sports Watch
The Vivoactive 3 bridges the gap between a fitness wearable and a smartwatch. Aesthetically, it also combines lifestyle and fitness, making it a good option for those looking for a more traditional design. While you won’t be able to make calls, you will be able to check notifications if connected to Wi-Fi or your smartphone. Sleep, heart rate and stress tracking are covered as are over 15 pre-loaded sports, including swimming. A touchscreen makes operation easy and it also comes with GPS for those long runs.

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Huawei Watch Fit Smart Watch
Another good value proposition. The comfortable Watch Fit might not pack all the features of its higher priced contemporaries, but what you do get is a good watch for tracking fitness and health. Waterproof for up to 50 metres, the Watch Fit has heart rate monitoring and alerts for both high and low readings and blood oxygen level tracking, too. On the sports side the watch features step by step animated workouts on the screen to keep you active, and GPS. Huawei suggests a ten day battery life for standard use.

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Withings Steel HR
The Steel HR is designed not to look out of place in the gym, on a run, or presenting a Powerpoint presentation in a boardroom. Behind a conventional looking watch is a suite of sports tracking features accessed by a single button, and all the information you need – including how you slept through the night – can be accessed through the free Health Mate app. The bonus here is the battery life – the company says 25 days and having reviewed one, we can say quite confidently that they’re on the money.

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What to consider and look out for:

  1. Good battery life is an imperative feature for a smartwatch – the last thing you need is for the tracking of your fitness program to drop out mid-session.
  2. Look for a smartwatch with a robust build. You won’t always be climbing a mountain as part of your workout, but your watch will get knocked occasionally when you’re active.
  3. Make sure the device you’re buying is compatible with your smartphone. While many smartwatches feature cross-platform support, there are some hard and fast rules with some manufacturers.
  4. Do you need NFC (near field communication) so you can pay for a coffee using your smartwatch? It’s exceptionally convenient.
  5. Finally, connectivity. While it’s harder to get in the budget range, if you want to make calls, listen to music or check your socials when you’re out on a run without carrying your smartphone, you’ll need a watch with a SIM that connects directly to a chosen network.