Which Fitbit should you buy?

We grill Fitbit's growing team of smartwatches and trackers to help find your ideal match

Fitbit is now the “Hoover” of casual fitness tech. It's so synonymous with trackers that even non-techies use it as shorthand for health-monitoring bands.

The trouble is, there are now a lot of Fitbits to choose from, and it's hard to know where to start. Basic tracker or smartwatch? Do you want water resistance, GPS or sleep tracking? Different models tick different boxes.

Fear not, though. We’ve used the entire Fitbit family, studied them, and learnt their innermost secrets, to determine which one you should be strapping/clipping to your body...

Best for: a phone-free Fitbit

Fitbit Ionic (£250)

The Ionic is like all of the best bits from Fitbit’s other trackers rolled into one.

That doesn’t mean it’s the best smartwatch you can buy (far from it), but it is the best all-round Fitbit ever, particularly if you want to track runs, bike rides and swimming.

It’s the only Fitbit with built-in GPS (although the Blaze and Charge 2 can piggyback off your phone’s GPS).

Want to store music, use third party apps or make mobile payments? Again, this or the Versa are your only options in the land of Fitbitania (although the special edition Charge 3 can do the latter).

While the Ionic has impressive stamina for a smartwatch, the downside of all this extra functionality is that it’ll only last a few days between charges, and even less if you go big on using GPS.

Compared to something like the Apple Watch, the smartwatch functionality is also pretty limited. The app gallery has a few choice picks like Strava, a Pomodoro timer and Flipboard. But there's not all that much going on compared to WatchOS and Android Wear.

Still, even taking into account the steep price tag, it’s one of the best choices around for getting daily health insights with a smattering of sport tracking. And it'll only get better from here.

Surging ahead

Best for: a health-obsessed smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 2 (£200)

Not too big, not too small, not too clever, and not too dumb – the Versa 2 is the kind of fitness-tracker-cum-smartwatch you might find Goldilocks wearing.

There are various strap options to hold its smooth, water-resistant chassis in place and it’s so comfortable to wear you’ll forget you’ve got it on, even at night when its sleep-tracking skills kick in.

There’s no GPS onboard but with seven exercise-tracking modes and a built-in heart rate sensor it’ll collect pretty much any stat your average joe could want, although some more advanced ones do require a £7.99 monthly subscription to Fitbit Premium.

There’s an option to keep its punchy 1.4in OLED display on all the time, although that will knock a full day off its impressive six-day battery life. Considering you’re going to be using it for everything from controlling Spotify to paying for your lunch, you’ll want it to last as long as possible between charges. The single-button operation can occasionally be annoying but for summoning Alexa and firing up Fitbit Pay it works well, with no noticeable pauses or lags. Our only real gripe is with how long it takes to change the display face.

There are smarter and sexier fitness-friendly watches out there, but the Versa 2 provides enough features for most people, in a well built, durable, and comfortable package, that simply refuses to die.

Blaze squad

Best for: a fitness stats-fest

Fitbit Charge 3 (from £130)

If you’re not fussed about having a full-on smartwatch, Fitbit’s customisable Charge 3 offers a host of improvements over its predecessor, including waterproofing, smarter notifications, and an improved UI.

The Charge 3’s design places it somewhere between a smartwatch and one of Fitbit’s thinner, more trinket-like trackers, such as the Flex 2 (below). Its OLED touchscreen is bright and just big enough to read stats and notifications easily, plus it’ll last nearly a week between charges.

Its tracking skills are perhaps a bit less advanced than others - there’s no GPS, for example - but it monitors a broad range of activities, measures your heart rate 24/7 and provides sleep stats when you wake up in the morning.

An extra £70 gets you a more capable Versa 2, but if you’re after something that takes tracking seriously and doesn’t look too much like an electronic tag, the Charge 3 is a more than capable companion.

Best for: casual calorie-counters

Fitbit Versa Lite (£150)

Stripped of some features, including storage for music, on-screen workouts, swim tracking and payments, the Lite version of Fibit’s Versa is also streamlined in the design department. There’s now just a single button on the left-hand side of its metal body but you do get the choice of some more eye-catching colours.

The water-resistant Versa Lite still tracks steps, sleep, heart rate and calories burned, though, and while the chunky bezels do make it look a bit dated next to something like an Apple Watch or Amazfit Verge, it still feels more premium than you might expect. The glass-covered LCD screen is responsive and readable too, even in sunny conditions.

How effective it is as a smartwatch very much depends on your choice of smartphone. iPhone users can get alerts but not respond, while it’s very much hit ‘n’ miss on Android. Using a Pixel 3, for example, works a treat, but the Versa Lite refused to play ball with a Huawei P30.

If you’re a casual exerciser, have a compatible phone and can pick one up for significantly less than the more capable standard model, the Versa Lite is still a decent buy.

Best for: all-round health tracking

Fitbit Alta HR (£130)

Fitbit's Alta HR is quite a feat of miniaturisation - it was the first fitness band to pack in an optical heart-sensor, which is particularly handy for tracking both exercise and sleep.

The Alta HR still errs on the side of health rather than sport-tracking, though you can connect it to your phone's GPS to get maps of your runs using the MobileRun feature. Its main strength, though, is sleep-tracking. It's one of only three Fitbits (along with the Blaze and Charge 3) to support the app's new Sleep Stages and Insights features.

These give you extra-fine detail on your sleep patterns and match this with your exercise data to give you advice (for example, there's a strong correlation between your runs and better sleep). The only real downside is that it's not waterproof for showers and swimming. It'll handle rain, but that's about it.

If you want an always-on health tracker with a week-long battery life, and aren't too bothered about getting real-time data from a screen, the Alta HR is the best around.

Best for: swimmers and stylehounds

Fitbit Flex 2 (£80)

Want an affordable Fitbit that you can take swimming and wear in the shower? The Flex 2 is your best option - and the good news is that it's also a fine health-tracking all-rounder. 

You get the usual steps and calories tracked and, thanks to its usually reliable SmartTrack exercise detection, it'll also automatically log runs, bike rides, walks and other workouts. For swimming, it'll also stand by with its virtual clipboard and note down lengths swum, distance and pace.

The downsides? Unlike the Alta HR, there's no heart-rate tracking, support for the Fitbit app's Sleep Insights feature, or a screen. But it does tick off all the basics and comes in a good range of colours, not to mention gift-friendly bangle and pendant form factors.