Garmin Vivosmart is one of a select few wearables on the market today that attempts to service functions of both a fitness tracker and a smart watch. Comparable products would include the FitBit Surge, the Microsoft Band and Jawbone UP3, although the UP3 lacks a screen.
The device is a successor to the Vivofit 2 and improves on it in every way except for battery life. The OLED screen and smartphone notifications mean that battery life has been reduced drastically – from 1 year to 1 week.
Unsurprisingly, Vivosmart monitors most of the standard metrics – steps, calories, distance and sleep. The device can also pair with a heart rate monitor (not included but is available to purchase separately) for use when you are taking part in fitness activities. These are features that are also available in Vivofit and Vivofit 2.
Vivosmart however goes further than the Swiss company’s previous fitness bands by including:
- smart notifications – which allow the user to view text messages, emails, missed calls and other app notifications, which can all be scrolled through on the screen.
- vibration alerts to tell you when you have calls, texts, emails and meetings or when you need to movea wristband with
- a swipe OLED touchscreen to scroll between screens
Ease of use
Use of information
The Vivosmart is a lightweight and comfortable device. In fact, it weighs only 19 g (0.67 oz) and is so light that you will occasionally find yourself checking if it is still on your wrist. The device comes with a large and small strap in the box and is available in a range of colours. It is water-resistant up to 50 metres, so you can wear it while swimming or in the shower. It is unobtrusive enough to blend in with most outfits.
The device has an OLED display, which only lights up when you double-tap it. The screen is very bright, viewable in all but bright sunlight, although it is far from the quality of a retina display. Screen responsiveness is not amazing – there will probably be times when you will not successfully engage the display on your first or even second try.
Once you have activated the screen, simple swipes to the left will cycle through your various stats such as steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned. Among the icons you see as you’re cycling through is a text bubble. That is actually the hub where you will find all of your smartphone notifications. You can adjust, add or remove notifications in Garmin’s app settings.
The screen is perfectly suited for quickly glancing down at your stats and means you are not tied entirely to your smartphone to keep a check on your progress. The size of the screen allows for reasonably sized icons, and just enough text to allow for basic information regarding smartphone notifications.
The 1 week rechargeable battery is fine compared to the direct competition, although it does pale in comparison to its less sophisticated predecessors which used 2 regular watch batteries and had a battery life of 1 year.
You can pair the Vivosmart with a Garmin heart rate monitor (not included) during fitness activities, such as a run or a cardio class at the gym, to record your heart rate and zone data and get more accurate calorie burn information.
There are also basic music controls that offer access to playlists and the shuffle button.
The Vivosmart can also be used as an alarm, with vibrations and a flashing screen waking you up in the morning or informing you that you you’re about to be late.
Another handy feature is the Find My Phone option which once pressed on the Vivosmart band will cause your phone to beep repeatedly.
In order to use your Vivosmart, you’ll need to register it via the app. which means setting up a Garmin account and entering personal information like height and weight.
Once the device is up and running, you can look at the easy-to-read display to find out how many steps you’ve taken, the distance travelled, calories burned and time of day. There is no need to stop and sync your data to see your progress.
By holding down on the screen of the Vivosmart, you can start tracking a specific activity, as opposed to the all-day tracking. This allows you to get more detailed information on exercise sessions.
The device follows your progress 24/7. Set the sleep mode when you go to bed and Vivosmart will monitor your rest. Handily, you don’t need to tell the fitness band when you’re going to sleep as it can typically work this out by your movements. But it does offer the option for manually entering sleep mode.
Syncing the Vivosmart is done automatically via Bluetooth. This is not without flaws though, and the device has been known to drop connection, which means you’ll probably want to make sure you’re sending over your stats on a regular basis. At times, when Vivosmart loses Bluetooth connection, you may find yourself re-pairing the device with your smartphone.
As mentioned, with Vivosmart, the Swiss company has added text notifications. Each time you receive a text, email or call on your compatible Bluetooth device, Vίvosmart gently vibrates and automatically displays the information. Simply touch and swipe the screen to read more.
General movement is tracked with an accelerometer, giving you a reading of the number of steps you’ve taken so far in your day. Other information that is included is steps, distance walked, calories and sleep. There is no GPS for more precise distance tracking or altimeter for measuring the number of stairs climbed.
When you awake in the morning, the data from your night’s sleep will be displayed in a line graph. The information doesn’t give you a reading of the quality of sleep, instead focusing on movement during bedtime. This means that you will be able to see how long you have slept, and how much movement the band detected throughout the night, on a “low” to “high” scale.
If you are serious about running, cycling, or swimming, and already own a dedicated Garmin device for these activities, you can use Vívofit to track your activity and recovery between training sessions.
For detailed calorie tracking, users can link their Garmin Connect account with MyFitnessPal to compare calories burned to consumed and see their net count for the remainder of the day based on goals set in MyFitnessPal. This enables you to track calories burned and consumed through one of the largest food and nutrition databases in the world.
The Vivosmart has two unique ways to motivate you to keep moving: the Inactivity Bar and personalised Goals.
Research shows that prolonged periods of inactivity such as sitting at a desk decrease your body’s production of fat-burning enzymes. You can reverse this effect by taking frequent, short walk breaks throughout your day. And while you might lose track of time and forget to move, Vívofit knows. A move bar appears on the display and a gentle alert sounds after one hour of inactivity. Additional segments light up for every 15 minutes of inactivity. When you get up and go for a walk, it’ll start to shrink and eventually disappear.
The personalised goals are more effective in giving you motivation. When first setting up the device you can select a target step count goal. As you meet your milestones, the fitness band will adjust your goal for the next day, gradually nudging you toward a healthier lifestyle.
In addition to the device itself, and the app, the information can be viewed online on Garmin Connect, a free on-line fitness community where you can see a complete picture of your progress. At Garmin Connect, you can join online challenges with other Vívofit users or start your own competition with friends to compete for virtual badges and bragging rights.
The Garmin Vivosmart device is comfortable and stylish enough to wear 24/7 so acts as a viable alternative to a watch. The OLED display which can be switched on at any time, water resistancy, personalised step goals, notifications and one week of battery life make this an attractive wristband.
Similar to Garmin’s Vivofit devices, the fitness band does lack an altimeter and GPS, features we feel it would benefit from including. Its sleep tracking information is also very rudimentary when put side by side with other wearables on the market. Syncing difficulties and unstable/unreliable bluetooth connection at times may cause annoyance during use. Similarly, the screen could do with improvements to resolve the occasional unresponsiveness that users may experience.
Nevertheless, Vivosmart is a competent, reliable-when-it-comes-to-tracking, fitness tracker, with a good battery life and unobtrusive design. It is in direct competition with the Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Watch and the UP3 – and certainly holds its own with this competition. The fitness information is good for anyone looking for a tracker that doesn’t get too serious. In a sense, the device is aimed at people with a sedentary lifestyle who need a bit of encouragement to adopt a healthier lifestyle and improve their fitness levels.
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