One of the biggest drawbacks of the current available trackers is the length of battery life; ranges from 2-3 days for Basis B1 band to about a week for the Jawbone UP24 band and Polar Loop. The closest contender is Misfit Shine at about 4 to 6 months. Garmin Vivofit is the latest contender in the ring of wearable fitness trackers, promising battery life of 1 year, complete with heart rate monitoring functions. Let’s review this debutant.
LOOK AND FEEL
It comes in a multitude of colours. The core unit fitness tracking unit is black and you can choose from 4 different coloured bands, purple, teal, blue and black. A single button toggles through the various functions. You get 2 bands, a small and a large so Garmin has the sizes all thought out. It’s a clip band, similar to what the recalled Fitbit Force has.
The unit I purchased for review is black in colour and the display wordings are near gold. In watch function, the missus says it doesn’t scream “fitness tracker!” as loudly as the others she has seen me wear. Some of my friends commented that i have a really cool watch. Compliments graciously accepted.
The various functions can get confusing as all that’s displayed are digits. Garmin has included a small indication at the bottom of the tiny screen to aid in this. Check out the pictures for a clearer explanation.
Garmin Vivofit is a sync-on-demand fitness tracker. It must be manually set to sync mode with the app opened on your mobile device to initiate transfer of data. In this age of auto syncing, I found it strange to do this.
Syncing can be done on the computer as well with the USB ANT+ enabled dongle using the Garmin Express software which can be downloaded for free.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
Garmin Connect mobile app (Same for Vivofit and Vivofit 2)
The Garmin Connect app has come a long way since Vivofit was released last year. The mobile app is a central hub for all Garmin fitness tracking devices and the tabs or information tracked is dependent on the device registered.
Step count and sleep data is cleanly presented with additional options to expand and explore the tracked stats in detail. Users can also look at weekly, monthly and even yearly view. That’s assuming you’ve been on the Garmin Connect platform for that long.
Garmin Connect automatically adjusts the step goals based on the users activity level. What started off as a 7.5k step goal was subsequently raised to 9k. My daily step count was in the region of 20k. Users can manually adjust the step goal.
Sleep tracking can be activated manually or automatically. Unlike fitness trackers that offer advanced sleep tracking like Basis Band, Garmin Vivofit treats sleep as a combination of duration and movement through the night. It’s not of much use as the graph presenting movement through the night is like the stock market, ups, downs, spikes, dips.
Garmin Connect also has a feature I particularly like. It can be difficult to find friends or competitors who are as active as you. So Garmin will sieve through the list of users they have and put you in a leader board of sorts with other Garmin users. So friends or no friends, you get some form of benchmarking and also friendly, albeit one sided, competition.
As with most leading fitness tracking platforms, badges also feature in Garmin Connect. Over time, I’ve managed to garner quite a few and at times I wished I could exchange these for a small discount 🙂 Oh well.
The heart rate function on the Activities screen appears only when you’ve had a session with a heart rate monitor chest transmitter. You get to “Like” or “Comment” after the workout, perhaps to list your training programme. The list mode shows the summary of the activity session. HRM graph details your HR trend throughout the workout. Heart rate tracking ceases when the heart rate transmitter strap is removed. You may also manually add your workouts.
I was able to track an activity session involving brisk walking on the treadmill, followed by a 20 minutes core workout, and a 5 minutes warm down walk. You can see from the screen capture above the accelerometer kicks in to track the step count and translates that into distance and pace.
HR data is present as I was wearing the Garmin ANT+ chest strap heart rate monitor.
The Garmin Vivofit will last a year plus on replaceable batteries. There’s no hassle of charging and there’s even a video on the Garmin web site to guide you through the battery changing process.
Users without mobile devices can still purchase and use the Garmin Vivofit. A USB ANT+ stick is provided that allows set up with computers.
Similar to the Fitbit platform, I could log on to the Garmin Connect web platform and go through all the tracked stats in detail. This is also the only method for people without compatible mobile devices to check their tracked stats.
Jawbone UP has a idle vibration alert, Garmin Vivofit has a red band that slowly fills up if you’ve been inactive for a while. It’s a good effort in encouraging people to move. Unfortunately, unless you glance at the band every 10 minutes, it’s likely you’ll miss it. There’s no vibration whatsoever nor are there notifications sent to your mobile device to remind you to get moving.
GARMIN VIVOFIT IN A NUTSHELL
- Superb battery life
- Tracks steps, distance, calories, sleep
- Number of steps to goal
- Water proof
- 2 bands for different sizes
- Real time heart rate monitoring function (with HR monitoring strap)
- Dedicated heart rate display
- Superbly accurate in standard test
- App available for both Android and iOS
- Pit yourself against global users
- Clear display even in bright sunlight
- Watch and date function
- Display can’t be seen in the night, forget about night runs.
- Lack of sound and vibration
- Inactivity red bar not of much use unless you constantly refer to the Vivofit.
- Manual syncing.
- Lack of notices.
- Sleep tracking manually activated.
- No email summary
Garmin Vivofit does have some advantages over similar products in the market like the Polar Loop. It falls short in other departments like the presentation of data. I was initially blown away by the battery life. In the span I reviewed the Garmin Vivofit, I had to charge my UP24 and Fitbit One twice. But alas in trying to conserve battery, the Garmin Vivofit sacrificed auto-sync, visibility in the night and tactile alert in the form of vibration or sound. I’ve gone through days without remembering to sync.
It’s times like this I genuinely appreciated the notices from my other trackers telling me how much more I have to go to hit my target or even a friendly vibration telling me how inactive I’ve been.
Garmin Vivofit is a decent contender and brings some novel features to the wearables tech scene. There are some hits and misses. Had more features been incorporated, it might have been great. Hopefully future updates addresses the misses.
Listed price: $129.99. Bundle with heart rate monitor costs $169.99