Fitness trackers are incredibly popular these days, and it is easy to see why. They can accurately measure a huge number of health factors, help you to plan fitness programs, give you feedback on your current program, and they can provide you with amazing insight into your lifestyle and health.
In this review, we will be taking a look at six minimalist fitness trackers.
What are Minimalist Fitness Trackers?
Essentially minimalist fitness trackers are trackers that have minimal or no display. They are compact and efficient with the amount of space they take up. Even without the display, minimalist fitness trackers can still keep incredible data logs of your workouts, heart rate, and step count.
Many minimalist fitness trackers can record your GPS location, and they are great for tracking your sleep. Some are even able to track your stress levels, mostly through monitoring your heart rate.
Best Minimalist Fitness Trackers
We have picked out six of the best minimalist fitness trackers that are currently available to purchase.
Our Top 3 Picks
Fitbit Flex 2
Fitbit Inspire 2
The majority of the fitness trackers come from Fitbit as this is by far the best company for minimalist fitness trackers, but their range is massive, so this list can really help you find the ideal fitness tracker for your specific needs.
1. Fitbit Flex 2
One of the best features of the Fitbit Flex 2 is the ability to use it while swimming. This is not that common for the smaller fitness trackers out there. If you are a swimmer, then this could be the perfect fitness tracker for you. So small and light that it won’t affect your strokes, and accurate when tracking.
The Fitbit Flex 2 is also ideal for sleep tracking, again, this is partly down to the size and comfort of the tracker. Fitbit claims that it can estimate the amount of REM sleep you get each night, and set a silent vibrating alarm to help you wake up naturally.
The tracker is also highly durable considering its size, weight, and cost. While it won’t take direct damage, it can handle the typical wear and tear of an intense workout, is very waterproof, and the band itself is able to survive for a reasonable amount of time without fraying.
But the Fitbit Flex 2 is by no means perfect. Many people have complained about the battery life, and when you start to use it regularly you can see what they mean. It’s such a small tracker that you kind of expect it to charge quickly, but be prepared to wait for several hours.
Even when it is fully charged, the battery does not last long enough and you’ll find yourself spending more time than you had expected with your arm unencumbered by your fitness tracker while it is plugged into your wall.
There have also been a number of issues over the years with the app not syncing well with the Fitbit. These issues have been ironed out somewhat after numerous patches, but it can be a frustrating experience when the data is not properly logged.
Overall, this is a really good minimalist fitness tracker that is a decent price considering the durability and the numerous functions offered. If you lead a very active life, then you may find the poor battery and charging issues frustrating. But if you have a desk-based job then charging shouldn’t be an issue at all.
- Highly durable
- Swim proof
- Perfect for sleep tracking
- So light you forget you’re wearing it
- Battery life could be longer
- Charging is a chore
- Some syncing issues with the app
2. Garmin Vivosmart 4
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a really exciting fitness tracker, even though it is minimalist by anyone’s reckoning, it still manages to fit in a decently sized display screen.
After the complaints we have had about the Fitbit Flex 2’s battery and charging issues, it is important to highlight just how powerful the battery is in the Garmin Vivosmart 4.
This is not just due to a powerful battery, but also the intelligent design of the tracker, which helps to preserve battery life by turning off the screen when not in use and rationing energy throughout the day.
One feature that we really like is the Pulse Ox, the idea is that it can estimate your blood oxygen levels as you sleep or during the day. A low oxygen saturation score can be indicative of illness, or health complaints, or it could be due to staying at altitude. Though the Pulse Ox is not supposed to be used as a medical device, it can help give you an indication of your current state.
There are a couple of issues with the Garmin Vivosmart 4. Its sleep tracking and general fitness tracking is somewhat suspect. Some people report amazing accuracy, while others are sceptical.
The fitness tracker also freezes when exposed to water, despite it being supposedly waterproof. While there are a few minor issues, this really is a superb minimalist fitness tracker.
The extremely good battery and the many functions make this a great choice. It’s also excellent value for money, thanks to a great price tag and its amazing durability.
- Incredible battery life
- Pulse Ox measures your blood O2 levels
- Excellent value for money
- Has a display while remaining compact
- Inaccurate sleep tracking
- Not great for tracking stairs climbed
- Strap can break fairly easily
- Screen freezes quite often
3. Fitbit Flex Wristband
Another Fitbit on our list, this time we’re looking at the Fitbit Flex wristband. This is a very narrow fitness tracker that is quite elegant in its design. You can even purchase fancy wristbands to go with it if you want to.
The wristband is really lightweight and very comfortable. You can use this while running, swimming, or in the gym and it won’t affect you at all. Most people forget it’s there after a couple of hours!
The price is a little steep compared to others on this list, and it doesn’t do enough to justify that. It’s pretty accurate when tracking, and it can sync data well, but unlike the Garmin Vivosmart 4, it does track your sleep but not your O2 levels, and it doesn’t give you much data about your sleep quality.
There is no heart rate monitor and no GPS tracking. If it was a little lower in price it would make a superb beginner’s fitness tracker. That being said, if you have the budget for it, then you may find it perfect as a step counter and distance tracker. It’s ideal for track runners, or anyone looking to boost their step count.
- Lightweight, you will barely notice it
- Easy to sync your data
- Five-day battery life
- Scuff marks show up quickly
- Not as durable as others on this list
- Not great value for money
- Waterproof but not swim proof
4. Garmin Vivofit 4
The Garmin Vivofit 4 is an amazingly priced fitness tracker, particularly when you consider its incredible battery life. The battery lasts for an entire year without you needing to charge it. This is astonishingly good, think about how useful this is. You can track every step you take for a year, and every night’s sleep can be measured without you having to take it off to charge it. Amazing!
The biggest drawback is the lack of GPS. Not that GPS is common with minimalist fitness trackers, but it would just turn this into a no-brainer purchase. The fact that it doesn’t have GPS will give some people pause, as this can affect distance tracking, and isn’t as useful for running or hiking.
There have been some complaints about its ability to sync with the Garmin app, which can be a frustrating experience. But this is but a minor quibble when you consider the price and the value for money it represents.
While the battery can last for a year, don’t necessarily expect the device itself to last forever. It’s low-priced, and it is not surprising that some people have found it to break and suffer from wear and tear over the course of a year.
For this price, the Garmin Vivofit is a smart purchase for anyone who is willing to risk a small chance of damage for a fitness tracker that can track every step you take for 365 days without running out of battery.
- Excellent display for a minimalist tracker
- Battery life is superb
- Swim proof
- Can provide specific goals
- Amazing value for money
- No GPS
- Not particularly durable
- Syncing can be an issue
5. Fitbit Inspire 2
While the battery of the Fitbit Inspire 2 does not quite live up to the year-long battery of the Garmin Vivofit 4, it does offer a 10-day battery life, which is pretty impressive. This fitness tracker contains an excellent heart rate monitor, and it also tracks your breathing while you sleep, helping to give you a much clearer idea of how well you slept each night.
It syncs well with the Fitbit app on your phone but sadly does not have its own GPS built in. The heart rate monitor is 24/7 though, which makes calorie estimates much more accurate and allows you to get a better idea of your metabolic rate. This is great if you are looking to gain or lose weight.
The biggest issue with the Fitbit Inspire 2 is the fact that it is kind of irritating to wear. The screen is an odd size and the buttons are placed on the side. This means that if you wear it low on your wrist, you can end up constantly triggering the buttons by accident.
But as complaints go that’s pretty minor. This is an excellent fitness tracker for measuring distance travelled, steps, sleep quality and duration, and it can give a good indicator of your heart rate and health.
- Great value for money
- Heart rate monitor included
- Decent battery life
- Tracks your breathing while you sleep
- No GPS
- Notifications can be annoying
- Side buttons are difficult to use
6. Fitbit Charge 3
The final minimalist fitness tracker on our list is the Fitbit Charge 3. This is an interesting fitness tracker. It has one of the best screens we’ve seen in a fitness tracker, and it is beautifully backlit. It is extremely waterproof, and perfect for swimming or wearing in the shower. It also has a fairly decent battery, which can last about 7 days.
This is not comparable to the Garmin Vivofit 4 but is significantly better than most fitness trackers that tend to require charging every 2-3 days. It also has a pretty decent sleep analysis tracker, and it has a heart rate monitor, though some people complain that the HR monitor is a little inaccurate.
Seems like a petty complaint, but what’s the point of an inaccurate HR monitor? You can’t use the data or draw any conclusions from it, and the calorie estimates will be off. That being said, only a few people have found it inaccurate.
The biggest issue is that the fitness tracker can be quite temperamental, often struggling to sync with the fitness app, and sometimes turning itself off randomly.
What you want more than anything from a fitness tracker is something that you can put on your wrist and forget about. So having it randomly turn off can be very frustrating.
Again, this is not a unanimous complaint, but it is certainly mentioned by enough people to warrant inclusion in this review.
- Sleep analysis is decent
- Large screen and good display
- Swim proof
- Decent battery
- No GPS
- Inaccurate heart rate monitor
- Can be temperamental
Display vs Non Display
Fitness trackers can come with a display or without one, the trackers that don’t use a display are known as minimalist. Though there are some fitness trackers with displays that are still considered to be minimalist.
Fitness trackers without displays take up very little space and are barely noticeable when you are wearing them. Almost like a bracelet.
The lack of a display can make it difficult to see your data while you are exercising, but it is great if the type of activity you are performing requires a lot of mobility.
Large fitness trackers can make wrist movement more difficult. For example, a bench press is sometimes difficult to perform when you have a large fitness tracker as it can dig into your wrist as you grab hold of the dumbbell.
If your fitness tracker can sync up to your phone, then a display is not that necessary for gym use or for general use. But if you are a runner, then a display can be crucial for seeing how far you have travelled, what speed you are travelling at, and (if your fitness tracker has GPS) the route that you are taking.
Pros and Cons of Display Fitness Trackers
- Easy to read data
- You don’t require your phone with you
- You can use it as a watch
- Great for running and hiking
- Often have shorter battery life due to power requirements
- It may be larger in size due to the size of the display
- Often cost more than non-display versions
Pros and Cons of Non-Display Fitness Trackers
- Smaller size
- More comfortable and lightweight
- Often cheaper to purchase
- Usually have a longer battery life
- You can’t access your data as you exercise
- You need to use an app on your phone to interpret data
What Features To Lookout For In An Activity Tracker?
There are a number of things that you should look out for when trying to find your perfect activity tracker. Here is a quick list:
- Does it have GPS?
- Does it have an HR monitor?
- Is it swim-proof? Or at least waterproof?
- What is the battery life? How easy is it to charge?
- How well does the tracker sync with the app/your phone or CPU?
- How accurate is it?
- Does it track your sleep? How accurate is it?
It’s hard to name our absolute favourite minimalist fitness tracker, because each tracker on this list has things that we really like, and some things that we do not. We absolutely love the battery life on the Garmin Vivofit 4, whereas the Garmin Vivosmart 4 has that amazing blood oxygen measurement system.
The display on the Fitbit Charge 3 is superb, and the Fitbit Flex is a great all-rounder. But our top minimalist fitness tracker would have to be the Fitbit Inspire 2. It just has a little bit of everything and very few downsides.
Sleep tracking is great, and step counting and distance measurement are excellent. While it doesn’t offer GPS, it can be synced to your phone for that feature. The heart rate monitor is excellent, and it works really well for estimating the number of calories you burn during your workouts.
But the best thing that you can do is take a look at all six minimalist fitness trackers on this list and decide which one is the best fit for you. Each one has many benefits to offer, and none of them will let you down.