Subscriptions are quickly ruining fitness trackers

ECG app on Fitbit Charge 6.
Joe Maring/

Once upon a time, you could buy a fitness tracker like a Fitbit, strap it to your wrist, and go about your life. There will be a companion app that will sync with your tracker, giving you an in-depth look at your daily activity, health stats, and even sleep tracking. All this data was available for free; You just have to buy the tracker itself. Another one is done.

But now things are not so easy. Sure, you have smartwatches like the Apple Watch that can also keep track of your daily activity and health metrics, but there’s also a whole world of dedicated fitness and health trackers. These can usually provide even more in-depth data about your health and wellness, but unfortunately, many of them have moved to a subscription-based model. Although they may have free tiers available, they are almost worthless due to the amount of information you get without paying.

The days of getting a simple device to keep track of your health are becoming a thing of the past, whether you like it or not.

Current status of fitness tracker subscription

Ora Ring, iPhone 13 Pro, and Apple Watch Series 7.
An Ora ring next to the iPhone and Apple Watch Andy Boxall/

When we think of health wearables, we probably first think of the Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy Watch. These are smartwatches that also serve as health and activity trackers and surprisingly, they have no additional hidden fees for health benefits.

Personally, I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch for years, and it’s my main wearable (currently the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra). But I also have a few other devices I use daily: an Ora Ring, a Withings Body+ scale, and a Withings ScanWatch (the Ultra is too heavy to wear to bed).

But what I have is just a small sample of what’s available on the market today. There’s the Whoop Band, a variety of Fitbits, the Google Pixel Watch 2, plenty of watches from Garmin, and more. But one thing most of these wearable devices have in common is that it is strongly recommended to have a premium subscription to get the most out of any of these devices (and in the case of Whoop, the hardware is free with the required subscription). .

Fitbit Inspire 3 on a rock.
Andy Zahn /

Prices for these subscriptions range from $6 (Oora) to $30 (Hoop) per month. When you add that subscription price to the cost of the hardware, it can definitely become a chump. For example, the Oura Ring starts at $300 and goes up to $549 depending on your design and finish. Add 11 months (you get a free month with purchase), and the total can get up to $615.

In a world where everything is moving towards a subscription model (streaming services, apps, etc.), adding a health/fitness subscription requires even more thought and consideration.

It’s not as simple as ‘just don’t subscribe’

A person holding the Ora Ring third generation Horizon model.
ora ring horizon Andy Boxall/

Although none of these wearable devices require a subscription at all (the only exception is Whoop), it’s often the case that the information they provide for free is so limited and basic that it’s essentially useless. Is.

I’ve been wearing the Ora ring for about three years total, from the second generation. I got the third generation Oura when it launched and I’ve been using it for the last two