With so many fitness bands currently on the market, it's hard to know which is best. It's not just the hardware that has to be considered but the software too - you could have the best fitness tracker in the world, but without a great platform to display it on, it's worthless.
It's even harder to know which bands are compatible with Apple's Health app. Fitbit has long said that it'll never bring native support for the Health app, meaning that all Fitbit users are forced to use the Fitbit app and nothing else (or not, as the case may be - read on to find out more).
Apple iPhone 7
Our first suggestion isn't actually a fitness band, but your iPhone itself. Apple is pushing its Health app hard, and with good reason given its merits. So with more sensors than you can shake a stick at, your iPhone is a comprehensive fitness tracker - it just needs the right software.
For example, if you're interested in sleep tracking, Sleep Cycle is a great app available for iOS. By leaving your iPhone on your bed face down, the app tracks the various stages of sleep and displays data in both its own app and the Health app.
If you have an iPhone 5s or later, then you have a motion coprocessor built into your device, which you can use your phone to track certain activities by carrying it around with you. This coprocessor provides a way to efficiently process data from the sensors on your device.
Statistics recorded include steps taken, flights climbed, and walking and running distance - while it may not be as accurate as a fitness band, it gives you a basic overview of your health and fitness without the need to buy a separate device.
The iPhone models that include a motion coprocessor are iPhone SE, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, and 7 Plus
Unlike many other fitness bands that concentrate on functionality rather than style, the Withings Activité is more in the mould of the classic timepiece. Designed in Paris, the Activité is simple and stunning, and is available in both black and white with a rather high price tag of £320.
It’s not really classed as a smartwatch – despite the analogue watch face and smart features, the Activité concentrates on fitness tracking rather than notifications, music control and the like.
The Activité records steps, calories burned, distance and the amount of time you have been active. The device also detects whether you’re walking or running and will even track your sleep automatically if you wear it in bed.
Sleep tracking gives you details on time it takes to fall asleep, duration, sleep cycles and interruptions. All this information is synced to your phone with the data available in the Withings Health Mate app, which syncs with Apple’s Health app.
Interestingly, such an expensive fitness tracker doesn’t include two popular sensors that come as standard in cheaper trackers: namely a heart rate monitor and a barometer (for measuring elevation). It’s useless in the dark too, with no backlight or glow-in-the-dark feature.
Read what our colleagues over at Tech Advisor had to say in their Withings Activité review.
Fitbit Charge 2
The Charge 2 is Fitbit's latest and debatably greatest fitness tracker, improving on the Charge HR in many ways.
Fitting a larger screen onto a similar size band means the device can display tons more information, including flights climbed, heart rate, time and the ability to easily scroll through and select workout modes or set alarms. It's brilliant.
It can also be set to vibrate to display caller ID or the first line of received text messages.
Given everything on board it's impressive that battery life is five days, however it remains a tad disappointing that it isn't waterproof.
The only way to get the Charge HR to sync with Apple’s Health app is by using Sync Solver. It manages to move your data collected from the band between Fitbit’s own app and Health automatically.
Here's a full review from our colleagues at Tech Advisor.
Fitbit Alta HR
Fitbit’s Alta HR is one of its newest and sleekest trackers, and it works well with iOS.
It has most of the features you’d expect from a fitness band of this price, including a heart rate monitor, which was dropped on the original HR to cut down on size. It’s only splash proof, though will survive a downpour, but the tracker’s strengths are in the day-to-day – this is a band to wear and allow to fade into the background.
Automatic running detection, phone notifications plus a handy exercise reminder if you’ve been sitting too long makes the Alta HR a slick, subtle choice for the everyday tracking enthusiast.
As with the Charge 2, the only way to sync the Alta HR with Apple’s Health app is by using Sync Solver. It manages to move your data collected from the band between Fitbit’s own app and Health automatically.
Take a look at Tech Advisor's full review of the Alta HR.
Huawei TalkBand B2
A significant design update from the original TalkBand B1, this band from Huawei is fairly unique in the market. As a band, it displays key time and fitness information, but this physical screen section is removable and doubles up as a Bluetooth headset for taking calls from your phone via Bluetooth. It'll track your steps, distance and estimated calories burned just like all the other bands on show here, as well as monitoring your sleep patterns.
The addition of the Bluetooth headset functionality makes it stand out though, and strikes us as either a product you will really want, or will think is utterly insane. If the former, then you've definitely found your perfect band, as call quality is excellent when using the headset, and the touch and swipe functionality of the screen works well.
It syncs up nice and easy with Apple's Health app, so for all your hands free activity band needs you should look no further.
Read what our colleagues over at Tech Advisor had to say in their Huawei TalkBand B2 review.
Misfit Flash Activity Tracker
Sitting at the more affordable end of the spectrum is the Misfit Flash. The simple round face is actually a physical button that's used for commands, and 12 LEDs sit around the face at the points of a clock to display the time and various states. Unfortunately we did find it regularly pops out of the fairly lightweight plastic strap, so be careful.
For an RRP of £50 (and usually available for even less) you get basic tracking of walking, jogging, running and even cycling, basketball, football and swimming - don't worry, it's completely waterproof - though for precision accuracy this won’t beat the competition given its basic functionality.
You sync all your data through Misfit's own app, which syncs easily with Apple’s Health app - though, like the band itself, it's all displayed fairly simply without much detail.
It's powered by a coin-battery rather than rechargeable. You'll probably get a good half-year out of one battery.
Read what our colleagues over at Tech Advisor had to say in their Misfit Flash review.
Misfit Shine 2
The sequel to the original Shine, the Misfit Shine 2 packs a few more features in than its Flash cousin. It has a capacitive touch feature rather than acting as its own physical button, and has a vibrate function for alarms and incoming messages or fitness goals reached.
It's water-resistant to 50 metres, so you can pretty much leave it on all the time, which is the whole point of a fitness band in the first place.
As well as the sports-style band it comes with, the Shine can also be worn with the included belt clasp, if you'd prefer to wear it like you would a traditional pedometer. This can also be attached to your shoelace for activities like cycling, though that would make it a tad difficult to take daily advantage of the basic music control functions - not bad for a device that hasn’t got any buttons or a traditional readable display.
Similar to the Misfit Shine but with a more slim and stylish design, the Misfit Ray can track your steps, calories, distance and other activities, as well as automatic sleep tracking.
You'll get those handy notification alerts, too, so you won't need to have your phone on you at all times which is a real boon.
Jawbone Up Move
The Jawbone Up Move is one of the cheapest fitness bands out of the group here. Despite the fact that it looks like something you'd get out of a Christmas cracker, with some "interesting" colour and pattern combinations, the Up Move is a clever gadget.
Similar to the Misfit Flash, the Up Move uses 12 LEDs instead of an LCD or OLED display. Just press the face twice to activate the clock that uses an LED that blinks to show the hour, then a second that lights up to show the five-minute period in which the exact time lies.
The accompanying Jawbone app gives an excellent readout of stats and can, as ever, sync to Apple's Health app, providing it with step and sleep data. There are some niggles, such as having to go into the Jawbone app to manually tag the activity when using the stopwatch to record your workout - some bands can detect this automatically.
However, given that the RRP of the Up Move is £39.99, it represents great value for money. Just be aware that it only comes with a clip, so if you want to wear it as a watch, you'll have to buy a separate strap.
Read what our colleagues over at Tech Advisor had to say in their Jawbone Up Move review.
The newest of Jawbone's series of fitness bands, the UP3 improves on the UP2 by recording your resting heart rate and sleep quality in greater detail. The strap is a one size fits most affair, improving the design from previous versions after complaints they popped open too easily and frequently.
Like many of the bands in this roundup it has no display, and instead depends on small LED lights to let you know what's going on, and reacts to certain commands by tapping on its face. It's good to see that it's the first Jawbone to update via Bluetooth instead of a cable, but you'll still need to make sure you don’t lose the charging cable for when you're low on juice.
It’s a good all round fitness band and allows Apple's Health app to track steps and sleep, but it sits at the high end of the price scale - spend any more and you're in smartwatch territory.
Read what our colleagues over at Tech Advisor had to say in their Jawbone UP3 review.
Xiaomi Mi Band 1S Pulse
Xiaomi has conquered the Asian market but is still relatively unheard of on these shores. However, the Mi Band 1S Pulse comes highly recommended, and is obscenely cheap for what it delivers. At the time of writing, it is available for less than £20 on Amazon, and has a heart rate monitor – unheard of at this price usually.
The unit itself is simple, with three white LEDs to indicate fitness goals reached and alarms, which can be silenced by placing your finger over the lights. It works easily through Xiaomi’s own Mi Fit app, which records your sleep patterns with alarming accuracy when considering this costs about £20.
You can also sync this certain witchcraft to Apple’s Health app, along with steps, but no other data – you’ll have to stick with the Mi Fit app for estimated calories burned and distance travelled.
Read what our colleagues over at Tech Advisor had to say in their Xiaomi Mi Band 1S Pulse review.
If you’re looking for fitness bands to use with Apple Health, we just had to mention Apple’s own offering - though the Watch isn’t strictly a fitness band, it’s a full on smartwatch. As well as monitoring essential health information and heart rate, it also syncs easily with your iPhone 5 or later via Bluetooth to turn your wrist into a mini notifications centre.
Messages, incoming calls, calendar appointments, emails, music control – the OS is fully customisable to allow you to see what’s on your phone without reaching into your pocket every two minutes. Apple has also ensured there’s an excellent range of apps specifically for the Watch that Apple users will be used to – Health is one of them, and it’s perfectly optimised to work in harmony with your iPhone.
We also put together a round up of the best smartwatch alternatives to the Apple Watch.