Smarter smart watches, including the Apple Watch, are coming soon. So why buy a fitness band now? If all you want is to set fitness goals, track your workouts (say, calories burned and steps taken) and monitor your sleep patterns, any of these wearables will do the job -- for a lot less than the $349 or more an Apple Watch will cost. Each is water-resistant, so you won't have to take it off to jump in the shower.
--Misfit Flash (http://www.misfit.com; $50). To see how you're progressing toward a daily fitness goal -- say, walking 3,000 steps or burning 300 calories -- click on the display (a circle of LEDs) and a number of consecutive lights will appear that show how far along you are. As for monitoring sleep, the Flash records "light" and "deep" sleep, as well as the number of hours slept. The Misfit's smartphone app (Android and iOS; Windows Phone coming soon) links to the Flash via Bluetooth; you use the app to set and track your daily goals. The Flash runs on a 3-volt coin cell battery that lasts up to six months with normal use. And Misfit recently announced that users would be able to use the Flash to control home automation devices, such as Google's Nest thermostat and the August smart door lock. One drawback: The round plastic module feels flimsy, even a little cheap.
--Fitbit Flex (http://www.fitbit.com; $100) lists for twice the price of the Flash, but it has a Web interface for users who would rather monitor their activity via a Mac or PC. Each of the five LED display lights represents 20 percent of the way toward your daily fitness target. The Flex can tell you how long you slept and how often you got up, and the silent vibration motor will gently wake you in the morning. The Flex's brain is housed inside a module that needs charging every three to five days. You'll need the mobile app (Android, iOS or Windows Phone) to plan and track your fitness goals.
--Garmin Vivofit (http://sites.garmin.com/en-US/vivo; $130, or $90 on Amazon.com) has an honest-to-goodness display that shows your steps, calories and distance, and sleep patterns; it will run for more than a year on two lithium coin-size batteries. The Garmin Connect app, where you'll track your fitness goals, runs on Macs and PCs, as well as on Android and iOS mobile devices. One nifty feature: a "move bar" that's designed to prevent binge watching.
(Jeff Bertolucci is a freelance writer for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)
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