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Do you hate modern wearables and just want a dead simple smartwatch for activity-tracking? Garmin’s $150 Vivomove smartwatch gives you the opportunity to be as lazy, or as active, as you want.
The Garmin Vivomove smartwatch barely classifies as smart. Rather than focusing on features, it emphasizes the appearance and function of a traditional watch, with smart features sprinkled on top. Those seeking a feature-rich wearable should look elsewhere. But for those who want simplicity, does the Vivomove meet your needs?
What is the Garmin Vivomove? Aesthetics and Hardware
The hardware of the Vivomove won’t impress those interested in the latest and greatest Android Wear or Apple Watch devices. It doesn’t display much data beyond movement and steps taken. Its greatest achievement in performance is its year-long battery life.
- Battery life: 1-year maximum battery life with standard replaceable watch battery
- Smart features: Pedometer and movement sensors track steps, movement, and sleep statistics
- Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy extension
- Wristband: Replaceable 20mm band
- Waterproofing: 5 ATM (which translates to 50 meters of water depth)
The Vivomove Sport appears identical to a standard wristwatch. Like most sports watches, it employs a silicone-rubber watchstrap with a traditional locking mechanism. It looks and feels like a stylish analog watch. But don’t be fooled. Despite appearances, the Vivomove is its own unique take on the classic watch design.
The biggest departure from convention comes in its watch face. There are two daylight readable gauges to the left and right of the dials. The two gauges also set the Vivomove apart from its mechanical ancestors. The silver gauge on the left of the watch face counts steps – meaning, it’s a pedometer. The red gauge on the right represents the amount of movement the user engages in, which is more or less an accelerometer (or movement sensor).
Configuration and Setup
Unlike most smartwatches, the Vivomove can function without any kind of tethered smart-device. However, in order to squeeze all functionality out of it, users need a smartphone. If you want to forego its higher functions, such as sleep-tracking, you can just strap on the watch and get started. Users only need to twist the crown to adjust the time. After that, you can start exercising (or sitting around eating potato chips). Regardless of what the user does, the Vivomove tracks that activity (or inactivity). But, as mentioned above, the Vivomove sticks to the basics: Steps taken, movement, and sleep statistics. Users can also connect with MyFitnessPal and track their caloric burn — but that requires manually entering food intake.
Tracking caloric burn requires that the user laboriously calculates how many calories they’ve consumed and input that data into the application. From there, the Vivomove can synthesize how many calories a user burns — but in all honesty, this is nothing more than a crude estimation. Other fitness trackers with superior technology tried and failed to precisely calculate caloric burn. Garmin’s approach (like all caloric trackers) just isn’t precise enough to warrant its cost.
Installing and using the Vivomove requires a smart device with Bluetooth. The setup process won’t require more than a few minutes of time. First, users set the time of the watch by pulling the crown (the knob on the right side of the watch) and winding it. After setting the correct time, users need to install the Garmin Connect application, which is available on both Android and iOS systems. From there, the Connect app offers a guided pairing process. Pressing and holding the crown for 7 seconds initiates a Bluetooth pair. From then on users can check their exercise information through the app. If they’ve created a Garmin account, they can also check their information on the Garmin website.
Using the Garmin Vivomove
Similar to the now recalled Basis Peak, the Garmin Vivomove requires zero effort from the user. Unlike the Fitbit Surge, users do not need to interact with their device — at all. Using it requires slapping the wristwatch on and going about your day. The Vivomove automatically determines how much you should move around based on its recordings of your daily activity. The silver (or white) gauge fills up whenever you walk or run. The red gauge depletes based on your optimal estimated activity levels. For example, I walk about a mile every day. By the end of the walk, the gauge shows empty — meaning I hit my recommended activity levels. But several hours later the gauge fills itself back up.
Not everyone may need the Vivomove’s data syncing features. After all, everything you need to know is displayed on the watch face gauges. But those interested in sleep quality or caloric consumption, the Vivomove can sync its data with any Windows, iOS, or Android device. Syncing with a Windows device requires an ANT+ dongle, which sells on Amazon for around $35. However, Android and iOS devices can sync over Bluetooth using a simple pairing process. Unfortunately, my early production version of the Vivomove did not pair properly. Garmin ended up sending me the Windows ANT+ pairing dongle, free of charge.
Pedometer and Movement Meter
As a pedometer, there’s nothing wrong with the Vivomove, other than that it costs $150. Like most smartwatches, it makes for a perfect pedometer, since it stands no chance of falling off your wrist during walks. However, the majority of fitness wearables under $50 possess a greater amount of features, cost less, and can clip onto your clothing. The Jawbone UP3, for example, runs for under $50 and includes a wider range of features than the Vivomove. The feature set possessed by the least expensive wearables in 2016 handily beat a $150 device.
Like most fitness trackers, the Vivomove doubles as a sleep tracker. In general, it seems fairly accurate, although less accurate than the Basis Peak. For example, it shows me asleep when I’m awake and in deep sleep for periods in which I’m probably walking around. The issue only shows up on occasion and, overall, the Vivomove offers solid sleep tracking capabilities. This is especially impressive considering the Vivomove’s long battery life.
Unfortunately, the watch doesn’t possess haptics (vibration) and can’t physically buzz a user as an alarm clock. Garmin likely chose to eliminate haptics in order to preserve battery life. Even so, it would have been a nice touch if the Vivomove could somehow remind the user to sleep or wake up.
Warranty and Battery Replacement
The Vivomove comes with a standard 1-year manufacturer’s warranty (plus your credit card’s additional year). Unfortunately, the battery requires replacement at least every year. On the plus side, it uses a standard CR2025 coin battery which runs for around $2 on Amazon – but Garmin’s official instructions for replacing the battery reads as follows:
Garmin® recommends that you take your device to a professional watch repair person to replace the battery.
Garmin does not provide DIY instructions for replacing the coin cell battery. Fortunately, the Vivomove’s rear housing unscrews and the coin cell battery simply pops out. However, for those uncomfortable with DIY repair jobs, that translates into a much higher per year maintenance cost.
On the Downside
Two major problems plague an otherwise perfect fire-and-forget wearable fitness tracker. First, the Vivomove only tracks movement and steps — it doesn’t record heart rate, cycling, or swimming activities. That means everything the Vivomove can do, your smartphone can also replicate with a fitness app. Second, early production versions of the Garmin shipped without the ability to sync with Android devices over Bluetooth (and it required a lot of troubleshooting to get working properly). I don’t know if later models suffer from this issue, but have been told that they do not.
Should You Buy the Garmin Vivomove?
It’s just not worth $150. We’ve reached a crossroads in wearables. A smartwatch can possess a range of features and suffer terrible battery life; or just a few features, but run for a year. Unfortunately, the technology just isn’t there yet for a smartwatch to offer the kind of features that can improve your life and not require daily, battery-punishing recharging. The Vivomove caters to the crowd that doesn’t expect much from a wearable — and sadly, that market is saturated by better performing, low-cost $50 devices (Jawbone UP VS FitBit Flex).
It’s worth buying only if you want a basic activity tracker and a regular watch in the same package. Even so, it’s overpriced. A $20 wristwatch and a Jawbone UP3 or FitBit Flex gives you about the same thing for almost $100 less.