The Vivoactive 4 is more than two years old now. It was released at IFA in Berlin, back in 2019 when virtual events were not a thing. But what about its successor? When is that one likely to land?
The Vivoactive 4 might be the end of the line
The Vivoactive 4 is a popular choice as an all-purpose smartwatch. It does a bit of everything while managing to look great. The device was launched alongside Venu, a classier version of the same. A year later Venu SQ was unveiled, a budget version of the watch. We also saw Venu 2 in 2021 and Venu 2 Plus this January.
Is it a safe bet we will get a Garmin Vivoactive 5? We’re not so sure.
Adding credence to our view is warranty information we stumbled across the other day from an authorised Garmin local distributor. In the range of devices they list are bunch of yet-to-be-released products. Which gives us a hint as to what to expect later this year.
They mention the Forerunner 255, 255s and 955 along with Venu Sq 2 and a few other new Garmin products. But no mention whatsoever of the Vivoactive 5.
So what gives?
When you think about it, the Venu range is established now. Considering the main difference between the Venu and Vivoactive is the display quality, Garmin may have decided there’s no need to keep both lines going.
Let’s not forget. These devices are Garmin’s answer to the likes of the Apple Watch – an all purpose smartwatch. Display quality is an important area if you are competing in this space.
The first generation Venu had one major flaw – battery life. That’s because an AMOLED display is power hungry. However the second generation demonstrated that even such devices can keep going for long. Which increases the chance the company will not release a similar device but with a less power hungry memory-in-pixel display.
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Also, Garmin products are typically on a two year cycle. And we’ve not seen an update in the Vivoactive range since the summer of 2019. If Garmin really has no plans to release a new edition in 2022, there would not be much point in reviving the line in 2023.
But what if we do see the Garmin Vivoactive 5, let’s say at IFA 2022 in September? Here are our expectations.
Garmin Vivoactive 5: Design expectations
Garmin has experimented quite a bit in terms of design with the Vivoactive range. It was not a looker in the early stages. However, in recent years the company settled on a circular form-factor, something that resembles its Forerunner and Fenix devices.
The one big change with the fourth generation was a choice in sizes. Garmin introduced two models, a 45mm stainless steel one and a 40mm model for small wrists (dubbed 4S). Both have a depth of around 12.8mm, 0.8% down on the predecessor device (which has a 43mm diameter)..
We see no reason for Garmin to change the form-factor if there is a fifth generation. A round device with a few size options should once again be on the cards. A possibility could be an X version for large wrists. This is the route the company has taken with its Fenix range – three size choices.
As mentioned, the current generation packs a sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display. One could always see Garmin increasing its resolution and perhaps reducing the bezel. It could also shrink the thickness of the device some more.
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As sensor and battery technology is progressing with each passing year, it is reasonable to expect we should get a larger capacity battery. Vivoactive 4 can go up to 8 days in smartwatch mode and six hours in GPS and music mode. The 4S has room for a smaller battery so keeps going up to seven days in smartwatch mode and five hours in GPS and music mode.
Those figures could be easily improved on. Wouldn’t it be nice if your next Vivoactive had battery life of up to two weeks?
Garmin Vivoactive 5: Features we’d like to see
The SpO2 sensor was an important addition with the fourth generation watch. It keeps tabs on blood oxygen readings and spits out estimated respiration. These are useful stats, particularly when it comes to sleep tracking.
Vivoactive 4 also introduces the Body Battery function, abnormal heart rate alerts thanks to the upgraded heart rate sensor (which also tracks heart rate under water), as well as Yoga workouts, Pilates workouts and on-screen workout animations.
Other features are pretty much the same as the previous generation and include built-in GPS and NFC for Garmin payments on the go.
So let’s look forward to a possible Vivoactive 5. A clue as to what to expect can be found in Garmin devices that recently saw the light of day.
More training metrics
When it comes to standard activity tracking basics, the Vivoactive 4 comes with pretty much everything that Garmin has on offer. There is little scope for improvement there.
Where there is scope for improvement is in performance metrics. Here we mean Firstbeat-type metrics such as Recovery Time, Training Load, Training Effect Real Time Performance Condition and more. You get VO2Max, but that’s pretty much it.
Why not introduce some more metrics? The sensors are already there, this would just be a software-based upgrade. Part of the problem is that Garmin needs something to keep this watch distinct from the Forerunner and Fenix range. But still, a few more performance metrics sprinkled in would be nice.
New sensors (ECG, blood pressure, glucose, thermometer)
We don’t really see the ECG sensor as a natural fit on most Garmin sports watches. But it could be a good fit on the Vivoactive. After all, this is an all-purpose fitness and health watch. We’ve already seen a number of companies implementing ECG technology, including Apple, Samsung and Withings. And Garmin is testing the technology.
A thermometer also seems like a realistic option. Fitbit has introduced it on its recent crop of watches. Rather than measuring your temperature, it establishes your base-line and then tells you if your temperature is above or below this. The Apple Watch 8 will reportedly be getting this feature.
Other sensors might also be introduced. Blood-pressure monitoring is a possibility.
A cellular model?
Finally, cellular connectivity via an additional Vivoactive 5 model is a possibility. Once again, such functionality is a more natural fit on the Vivoactive or Venu range than any of Garmin’s sports watches. We don’t see this introduced across the board, but perhaps models with cellular and without. So far Garmin cellular functions have ended with safety features. A proper LTE-enabled Garmin watch would be nice.
If Garmin does surprise us and release a Vivoactive 5, look for it to land this September. No device by then? You can probably write off the Vivoactive range.
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