Monitoring activity has become a massive trend. There are countless activity trackers available from standard rubber bands, to Swiss Made watches, all of which will tell you how many steps you've taken, how far you have travelled, and plenty more.
But all of these trackers face some tough challenges. They have to look good enough to stay on wrists, comfortable enough to actually do the job they are intended for, and accurate enough to be at all worthwhile. All that and they are now also competing with the standard smartphone.
We climbed the 1085-metres up Snowdon in north Wales to compare the data recorded. We took the Misfit Flash, Fitbit Charge HR, Withings Pulse Ox, Withings Activité, Samsung Gear Fit and Huawei TalkBand B2 on our arms. We also wore a Garmin Forerunner 610. Here are the results.
There was around a 6000 step difference between the lowest number of steps counted and the highest, which is pretty ridiculous. The Misfit Flash recorded the lowest at 15,550 while the Samsung Gear Fit counted the highest at 22,076.
The Withings Pulse Ox counted 16,990, the Withings Activité was 18,211, the Fitbit Charge HR came in at 19,655 and the Huawei TalkBand B2 at 20,686.
The average number of steps taking into account all of these data entries would have been 18,861.
There was a big discrepancy with distance too, with the lowest recorded being 8.05km from the Misfit Flash and the highest recorded sitting at 16.9km from the Samsung Gear Fit. This at least tallies up with the number of steps recorded so there appears to be some level of consistency in the individual devices themselves.
In terms of the others on our wrist, the Fitbit Charge HR measured 13.64km, the Withings Activité 13.8km, the Withings Pulse Ox 14.41km and the Huawei TalkBand B2 recorded 14.61km.
The Garmin Forerunner 610 is GPS-enabled and measured a total distance of 12.84km. This is slightly longer than the distance of the routes we took on Snowdon (Pyg Track ascent, Miners Track descent), but we did a bit of walking around on the summit so this would explain this variance.
Only two of the activity trackers feature an altimeter, so only two of them provided elevation data: the Withings Pulse Ox and the Fitbit Charge HR.
According to the Garmin, we started our climb at 360m and gained 904m, with the highest measured point recorded at 1058m. The measured peak of Snowdon is 1085m.
The Fitbit Charge HR measures elevation in floors and told us we climbed 284 floors. The Fitbit website claims one floor is 10ft, which would mean we climbed around 2840ft according to the Charge HR. The Withings Pulse Ox measured an elevation of 2566ft. These figures converted to metres mean the Charge HR calculated an elevation gain of 866m and the Pulse Ox measured 782m.
Calories burned is always a tricky one to work out the accuracy of and it doesn't help when each tracker calculates a different measurement when it comes to calories. The Withings Activité measures active calories and total calories, while others only measure total.
The lowest total calculated came from the Misfit Flash at 669 calories, while the highest came from the Withings Activité's total calculation, which was 1970 calories, of which 535 were active.
The Huawei TalkBand B2 told us we had burned 687 calories, the Samsung Gear Fit told us 808 calories, the Withings Pulse measured 942 calories and the Fitbit Charge HR suggested 1341 calories.
While the Withings Pulse Ox and the Samsung Gear Fit both measure heart rate, neither are automatic. The Fitbit Charge HR on the other hand, continuously measures heart rate throughout the day so the data it produces at the end is quite interesting.
It told us we had an average heart rate of 119 bpm during the 4 hours and 5 minute climb up and down the mountain. It calculated our resting heart rate as 75 bpm and it also broke the down our time in each heart rate zone. According to the Fitbit Charge HR, we were at our peak for 4 mins, in cardio for 21 mins and in fat burn for 3 hours and 31 mins.
Last but not least is the sleep tracking. The Withings Activité suggests we were asleep for 8 hours and 22 mins in total. It concluded we were awake for 19 minutes, in light sleep for 6 hours and 8 minutes and in deep sleep for 2 hours and 14 mins. The Withings Pulse did not record.
The Misfit Flash calculated a duration of 8 hours and 7 minutes with 4 hours and 32 minutes of light sleep and 3 hours and 35 minutes of restful sleep.
The Samsung Gear Fit gave us a total of 8 hours and 30 minutes, with 88 per cent motionless sleep. As we told the Gear Fit when we were going to sleep and when we woke up, the total time of sleep should be almost correct, give or take a few minutes.
The Huawei TalkBand B2 claimed we slept for 9 hours and 29 minutes, with 7 hours and 51 minutes of light sleep and 2 hours and 24 minutes of deep sleep. The total duration here is impossible, as we would have been late for work the next day if we had slept this long.
Finally, the Fitbit Charge HR calculated that we were asleep from 00.07 to 08.44, which is about right, suggesting we were restless for 302 mins and the graph it presents shows we were in light sleep for the majority of the night.
Analysing the numbers
In the past when reviewing some of these trackers, we considered the Fitbit Charge HR to be the most accurate when measuring our steps, coming within a couple of steps of our physically counted steps. We previously thought the Withings Activité was a little harsh, but both these two devices seem to be pretty close to the mark on this occasion. They are certainly both the closest to the average of all six devices.
When it comes to distance, the Fitbit Charge HR and the Withings Activité were again the two that appeared to be only slightly off the mark compared to the GPS measurement, while the others were a little too generous or completely off in the case of the Misfit Flash.
The measured peak of Snowdon is 1085m so in terms of elevation, the Garmin was 27m off, although spot on for the departure elevation at the start of the trek. There was a big difference between the elevation gain that the Garmin recorded and what the Withings Pulse Ox and Fitbit Charge HR measured. The Pulse Ox measured 122m less elevation gain than the Garmin, while the Charge HR was 38m less.
Calories burned is a tough one to work out the accuracy of but we liked how the Charge HR displays the information best out of all of the devices. There is an "Impact on your day" section showing we burned 1341 calories of the 2910 calories burned that day during exercise. It also shows a graph of how we were burning them and how many calories we burned a minute. Given that the Fitbit Charge HR also calculates heart rate constantly, we would be more inclined to believe the number of calories it thinks we have burned over one that does not.
Plus, we walked up and down the highest mountain in Wales, if that only burned off two and a half Mars Bars then that simply sucks and we might as well give up now.
In terms of sleep, all of the trackers, except the Samsung Gear Fit, show that we were in light sleep for more of the night than in deep sleep. We felt like we had had a good sleep when we had woken up, but given that four of the trackers suggest we didn't, we would be inclined to believe that here.
So which is the most accurate tracker? That's the question we all want answered and yet it is almost impossible to answer.
The Fitbit Charge HR and Withings Activité both seem consistent when it comes to steps and distance and the Fitbit Charge HR was only slightly off when it came to elevation gain compared to the Garmin, while the Activité doesn't provide any elevation or heart rate data at all.
The heart rate data on the Charge HR is great and the way it breaks down the information is fantastic so we would have no qualms in taking it back up the mountains with us. We still aren't convinced by any of the sleep tracking information on any of the trackers, but it's a useful feature to have nonetheless.
The only other thing we would mention is while we aren't sold on Huawei's fitness platform as it is nowhere near as advanced as the Fitbit, Withings or even Misfit offerings, the TalkBand B2 did allow us to take a phone call without having to get our phone out of our bag and it wins some points for that.
The Fitbit Charge HR has won a place on our arm for the next mountain climb, as has the Withings Activité and we will compare them both to some other trackers to see how they compare. Check back soon for some more fitness tracker head-to-head action!