Garmin is a multinational corporation and manufacturer of navigational devices. They are better known as a manufacturer of consumer and professional class GPS receivers. In 1991 the US army became their first client – an important argument serving as proof for the reliability and quality of their products.
The company grew massively as it established and improved over the years, so did the number of satisfied clients they had. Thanks to that, today they are able to bring us a huge variety of gadgets. Over the years of proving its worth and improving its product, the company grew, as did the number of satisfied customers, now up in the millions, so that Garmin are nowadays able to offer a wide variety of gadgets. Their devices help us on the road, on the streets, in water, when training, when we are in motion and when we are in the air. Today though, we will introduce their new personal instructor and office assistant – Garmin Vivosmart activity tracker and smart notifier.
In this review we will try to find out if it’s viable and effective to have a hybrid between a tracker that records steps, distance, burned calories, individual daily goals, training process, sleep quality,date, time and a smart notifier for missed phone calls, massages, e-mails and other notifications from social media. The answer awaits you at the end of the review.
In Garmin Vivosmart’s box you will find a rubber bracelet in your chosen size – small (127-172 mm / 5″-6.7″) or big (155-221 mm / 6.1″-8.1″) that has a built-in device that monitors your activity. In the package you also get a docking station, used for charging the device, that can connect to your MAC/PC device through its USB jack.
Design and construction
Naturally, the design of the bracelet is sports oriented, yet it is simple and unobtrusive. This is precisely why it will not interfere with our work, daily or special occasion outfits. Garmin Vivosmart is available in five colors, which only differ at the back, while the front part is always black. In buttoned position the colorful element of the bracelet is visible only discretely. The color options are red, purple, blue, gray or black.
The 9mm thick rubber bracelet is extremely comfortable and pleasant to wear. Not long after you’ve put it on, you’ll forget it’s even there. Buttoning is easy and the grip is stable, clipping on by using the same principle as Fitbit Flex – protruding rubber elements on one side of the strap and smaller sections on the other. We found that the only downside you have to keep in mind is that the Garmin insignia is easily scratched due to the materials it is made of.
The most impressive feature of the bracelet is the OLED display hidden under the rubber surface. By just touching it a few times you get all the information you want – date, time, number of steps, distance, burned calories, smart notifications, daily goals and many other features that we’ll learn about further in the review.
The tracker uses a Li-ion battery with up to 7 days battery life despite working at full capacity and vibrating on all notifications and wake up alarms. You can wear Vivosmart 24/7 even while you are taking a bath or swimming, since it’s water resistant, marked as5 ATM. The remaining charge of the battery can be seen directly on the tracker’s menu.
|Display||Inner OLED display, 128 x 16 pixels|
|Sensors||Accelerometer (monitors calories burned, distance traveled, steps and sleep quality)|
|Smart notifications||Missed calls, e-mails, massages and other notifications when connected to a compatible mobile device|
|Features||Vibrating motor for silent alarm and reminders, automatic synchronization with a mobile device via Bluetooth, water resistance (up to 50 meters), “Find my phone” function|
|Additional information||PC and Mac requirements:
|Battery||Li-ion (up to 7 days battery life)|
|Weight||18.7 g / 0.66 oz (small) – 19 g / 0.67 oz (big)|
|Thickness||127-172 mm / 5″-6.7″ (small) – 155-221 mm / 6.1″-8.1″ (big)|
|Accessories||Heart rate monitor compatibility / VIRB control|
As we already mentioned, Vivosmart plays the role of a watch, personal trainer and office assistant 24/7 by just being on your hand. The bracelet will monitor the number of steps you’ve taken, how far you’ve traveleda and how many calories you’ve burned. It will also set daily goals for you and after an hour of inactivity, it will remind you to get up and walk around by vibrating gently. Garmin cite studies showing that long periods of inactivity such as sitting while writing this review reduce the production of enzymes required to burn fat. This effect can be reversed by taking frequent short trips – just as we did.
Other features that Vivosmart has are the Sleep and Sport modes, the last of which can be activated when cycling, jogging or training. The bracelet’s options menu contains brightness adjustment, on/off switch for vibration and Bluetooth, synchronizing data, date and time setting as well as the ability to locating a mobile device that is in 3 m range with a stable Bluetooth connection. When you turn this feature on, the tracker starts sending impulses to the phone and it beggins to ring. Looks like we’ve finally found a way to win the smartphone disappearance battle against the dreadful purses. The bracelet starts vibrating if you walk away from your phone thus preventing you form losing it.
The bracelet allows for personal configuration that makes it possible to seamlessly switch between left hand and right hand use.
Through the mobile application we can choose which functions we want visible on the bracelet – Step Goals, Move bar, Calories, Distance, Heart Rate, Bike speed, Notification, Music and VIRB Remote. Time/Date and steps are set automatically.
Alongside the functions that take care of our health and appearance, the tracker keeps us in touch with social events through the notifications we receive on our mobile device. It allows us to check if we have any missed calls, unread massages and e-mails, or if there is any activity on our Facebook and Twitter profiles.
In the next section we will learn more about the capabilities of our personal coach and office assistant.
The fully charged device is ready to use as soon as you pair it with your PC/Mac device through a USB cable, or to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth connection. In order to do so you must first download the required apps for your devices. You can find the software here: https://connect.garmin.com
To date, Garmin’s official list of supported device includes:
Android (version 4.3 or later):
HTC One (M7), LG G Flex, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2.
iOS (version 7 or later):
iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPhone6, iPhone 6 plus, iPad Air, The New iPad (iPad 3), iPad with Retina Display (iPad 4), iPad Mini, iPod touch 5th generation.
For their latest updates you can check Garmin’s official website.
We have to keep in mind that Vivosmart can only be paired with one mobile device at a time. We wouldn’t call that a drawback, because modern life, busy as it is, predisposes us to be efficient. So it would be better to only use the connection between Vivosmart and our mobile device to monitor our activity on the move, as well as be up to date with social media. The smart tracker periodically transfers data to our mobile device at certain times, such as when we reach our daily goal. We can do it manually via the synchronization option in the menu.
Transferring data to a PC/Mac device is convenient when the battery needs to be charged. There is no need to worry whether the information is saved or not if we’ve haven’t been saving it every day. According to Garmin, the device can store up activity history for up to 3 weeks of 24/7 usage, or 2 weeks if a heart rate monitor (bought separately) is used for one hour per day. The device has 959 KB of internal storage.
After a required registration and once we’ve entered the standard information that this type of devices require, we can set a level of difficulty, choosing between low, medium and high. This is necessary in order to lay the foundations on which our smart instructor will determine our daily objectives. In contrast to other devices such as Fitbit, where we ourselves must set the daily goals, Vivosmart allows us to enjoy and accomplish predetermined objectives. The option to manually adjust the level of difficulty is, of course, still present, but having in mind that the device keeps track of our results and very effectively sets new harder to reach goals, perhaps most of us will trust the smart instructor.
We won’t list all the standard features that most trackers have. Our attention will be focused on the bracelet’s various interesting options such as Move bar, which monitors the time of inactivity. This feature will make the bracelet vibrate after an hour of quiescence. This is a good way to stimulate our activity and also serves as a good reminder of why we bought this device. This can be turned on while jogging, cycling or training. After finishing the particular activity we can choose to save or to delete the data. As soon as the information is transferred to any mobile device, we can examine a highly detailed graphic of our movement.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the tracker detected not only our medium speed, but our top speed as well, and also, the time at which we were active. Sadly, the good news was quickly overshadowed after we saw our maximum speed was indicated to be 83.1 km/h, which means that either Usain Bolt has a serious cause for concern (since his record would be broken almost by a factor of two) or Garmin have to work a little more on the accuracy of Vivosmart. We were bold enough to assume the latter. If you are satisfied with your result, you can share it on social networks.
The capabilities of our personal coach end here, but that is not so for our office assistant. Now begins the part that shows what this device can offer beyond what similar units have. Not only does Vivosmart urge us to be more active , but it also keeps us in touch with all the social notifications we receive on our mobile device, such as text massages, e-mails, calls and social network notifications. The symbiosis is quite successful, because it allows us to check if we have important calls or massages incoming on our phone while we are training, without having to look at our phone. Looks like Garmin have taken great care to make things convenient by creating the option from to choose which elements are shown on the screen, or in other words, we can filter the type abd source of the notifications we get. Long massages could be read completely by swiping a finger across the screen.
Another smart option allows us to control music on our mobile device. While running, training or cycling, you can start/stop a song, turn the volume up or down without having to pull out your device. Adding a heart rate monitor or controlling a VIRBAction camera are among the active features that this tracker supports.
Working with the Web based software is easy and fun. We can model its interface to our liking by adding and adjusting different graphic modules.
With the aforementioned modules we can control our daily objectives. If we want to monitor the amount of burned calories (for weight loss purposes), we can create an account in MyFitnessPal which must connect to our existing Garmin Connect account. Unlike Fitbit’s Web based software that also allows us to keep track of burned calories and weight loss, Garmin causes a slight inconvenience prompted by the required additional registration. Still, the options are way more advanced. An example of this is the advice we get from the device to let us know if our prepared meals for the day contain enough calories, fat, protein, sodium and sugar for our healthy weight loss, or if we have exceeded the recommended dosages, leading to weight gain. We also receive information as to wether we are going to lose or gain weight if we continue eating this way.
Similar to other Web apps we use, in Garmin we can join online challenges with other users of Vivosmart or we can create our own with our friends, and compete for virtual badges. We have the option to share our results in social networks. You receive challenges and notifications on your PC/Mac or mobile device about routes which you can join and compete.
We are pleasantly surprised by this small smart gadget. The Move bar function gives great motivation for frequent short walks. We also consider the automatically set daily goals to be very effective, especially for beginner users.
Another feature that we find really useful is the function that monitors activity while training, jogging or cycling, because it lets the users see more details about their progress. Its accuracy is also admirable, except for the aforementioned maximum speed.
The different (and good!) thing about Vivosmart is that it keeps us in touch with all the social updates we find necessary, so that we can safely indulge in the pleasures of sports and in the meantime, be up to date with all our important notifications.
The balance between a personal trainer and office assistant is skillfully achieved, given the low price point of this device. Our only gripe about the bracelet is that it lacks a built-in heart rate monitor, which would have been a wonderful finish to its overall functionality. However, Garmin offers a solution by means of an additional accessory that can be purchased and paired with the device via Bluetooth.
In Garmin Vivosmart we definitely found an excellent coach, who motivates us to get moving and achieve goals, while in the meantime keeps us up to date on all the important notifications without disturbing the pleasure of delving into the world of sports.
- Built-in OLED display
- Smart functions
- High battery endurance
- Effective way of setting daily goals
- Water resistant (5 ATM)
- Light and convenient structure
- Color options
- Lack of built-in heart rate monitor
- Slight inaccuracy in the results