Garmin’s line of wearables have always included extras such as “Find my phone” or VIRB action cam controls. Honestly I’ve never given much thought to imbuing wearables with extra non-core features; I’m usually impressed if the wearables get the activity tracking right, which is rarely. Yet when I chanced upon the opportunity to use the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link (RRP $259) I found this view of mine wavering.
EZ-link is a cashless payment system prevalent on the Singapore public transport systems that reaches out to a fraction of retail as well. So this collaboration between EZ-link and Garmin is uniquely Singapore!For Garmin South East Asia, this is a first for marrying cashless payment and activity tracking in their line of wearables. The purpose is really to give consumers another reason to adopt Garmin wearables over its competitors.
After using the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link for 2 weeks on my daily commute, here’s what I have to say. This review will discuss the usage of the EZ-link payment features instead of the full suite of activity tracking features of the Vivosmart HR.
This review unit of the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link was provided by Garmin Singapore.
Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link In Short
- 24/7 activity tracker. Measures steps, distance, calories, heart rate, floors climbed, active minutes
- Measures heart rate during trackedworkouts
- Always-on sunlight readable display with adjustable back light
- 4 hours heart rate graph
- Accelerator estimated distance for running
- Smart notifications
- Vibration enabled for alarms and move alerts
- Remote control music on connected mobile device, Garmin VIRB cameras
- Find my phone function
- Waterproof to 5 ATM
- Up to 5 days battery life
- EZ-link enabled payment features
- View EZ-link transactions on wearable
- Non changeable straps
Look and Feel
The Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link features a non changeable wrist band design. You’re pretty much stuck with the colour you purchase and there are only 3 choices: black, blue or purple.The Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link is of wristband design and may not sit well with those who’d prefer a watch-look device. Nevertheless, the wearable features a mildly elastic band that wears comfortably. The optical HR sensors on the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link differs from that of the Garmin Vivosmart HR+, already a newer model compared to the original Vivosmart HR which was released in end 2015.The single identifying feature of the EZ-Link capability lies in the logo inscribed on the side of the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link.
If you’re like me, you probably tuck your EZ-link card in your wallet which means the hassle of removing your wallet from your pockets or satchels every time you need to pay for your bus or the MRT rides.
With the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link, this process is made seamless. Just tap the Garmin wearable on the EZ-link acceptance point and you’re done. Yep you heard me right.I was hesitant to use the Garmin wearable for my bus commutes initially. Thoughts of failed payment, or holding up the passengers during rush hour came to mind and I literally had my EZ-link card from my wallet in hand just in case any of the foreseeable scenarios I conjured up materialises.
All my worries were put to rest with a prompt familiar beep from the EZ-link acceptance point while the bus captain looked at my wearable with novel curiosity.
I was also pleasantly surprised to be able to access the records of the last six EZ-link transactions right on the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link wearable!
The device does take a tad longer than your usual EZ link cards for payments to be processed. Maybe just an extra 0.5 seconds; you’d barely notice it if you did at all.
This proved to be trickier than I thought. The issue lies with the location of the EZ-link acceptance points rather than the usability of the wearable.
I tend to wear the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link on my left wrist but the acceptance point is situated on the right of the MRT gantries. As a result, I have to stretch my left arm across my body to tap to pay, a tad uncomfortable for my liking.
Payment for merchandise
There are a number of merchants that accept EZ-link as a form of contact less payment but that list is not extensive. EZ-link has a strangle hold on the public transport (bus and MRT) cashless payment system but its reach beyond that appears to be muted.
My guess is there are numerous competing forms of cashless payment alternaatives offering better perks or a better cashless paying experience.
Nevertheless I did manage to try a few merchants such as 7-11, Cold Storage and the rare beverage vending machines that accepts EZ-link as a form of payment. I use the word rare because I’ve only ever seen one of these machines and it’s situated in a school.
While the EZ-Link payment process worked seamlessly and is great for small value purchases, I’m doubtful it’ll replace cash or credit cards as a dominant cashless payment system.The issue lies with the fact that in order to pay with EZ-link, I need to go the extra step of topping up value in the wearable or card. Plus I lose out on the potential credit card rebates and rewards and that’s a big no-no in Singapore.
The wearable lasts up to 5 days on a single charge. This is with activity tracking, smart notifications and all day heart rate turned on.Once the battery goes flat, you’d be pleased to know NFC capability will continue running for about 8 hours while all other features, save for screen display, turns off. I was able to continue paying for my bus and MRT rides without issues.
Topping up value
The key to add monetary value to the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link effortlessly lies in the positioning of the wearable on the EZ-link reloading platform.
From my own tests, I found that the process worked like a charm when the wearable is centralized in the middle of the contact reader. Failing which the process would either take a longer duration than necessary or not be successful at all.I’ve tried the topping up feature at POSB ATMs and MRT value reloading machines and it worked perfectly. Usually to the stares of bystanders who are probably curious at the cool device I’m using.
Garmin Singapore has informed me that it is also possible to enable reloading via NFC enabled mobile devices with the EZ-link Activate app. I wasn’t able to test this feature as it requires a compatible NFC enabled phone model with NFC enabled SIM card.
In the event of hardware failure, you may bring the spoilt device to Garmin Service Center for repair with the refund taken care of by EZ-link. Similarly, if you’re thinking of trading up to a fancier wearable, you can extract the remaining value from EZ-link or Garmin.
The Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link can be topped up to a maximum of $500.
All day Activity Tracker
Let’s not forget that the Garmin Vivosmart HR, sans EZ-link, is one of the more competent all day fitness trackers you can get your hands on.
Besides the standard fare of steps, distance, calories, floors climbed and sleep tracking, the entry activity tracker also features Garmin’s Move IQ. It can automatically log recognised activities such as walks or runs so that the user won’t miss out on any active moments throughout the day.The all day wrist based heart rate measurement coupled with smart notifications basically checks all the boxes of what a capable wearable should feature.
The only drawback being the lack of GPS, every second recording and non changeable wrist bands.
Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link In a Nutshell
Today, it is not uncommon to see multiple payment platforms when making your purchases at most brick and mortar shops. There’s NETS, NETS Flashpay, Visa Paywave, Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Mastercard Pay Pass. The list just goes on and on. Yet just a year back, who’d have foresaw the proliferation of cashless payments when purchasing groceries?
The wearable isn’t cheap at $259 SGD but you’re paying for a tried and tested fitness tracking platform and the convenience of EZ-Link payment. If you take public transport (bus and MRT) regularly, you’ll see the benefits of the Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link; the amalgamation of a fitness wearable and contact-less payment. Beyond that, you’re unlikely to be enticed.Frankly, I think it’s great that Garmin Singapore is experimenting with ways to make their wearables more intuitive by focusing on how Singaporeans go about their commute. On a personal note, I wished this EZ-Link function was extended to other Garmin devices but I can understand how challenging that can be. Imagine releasing 2 variations of each model!
The Garmin Vivosmart HR with EZ-Link will available from 4th March 2017 at all Best Denki, Challenger, Courts, Gain City and authorised retailers.