Garmin Vivosmart review: ‘just smart enough’

Garmin’s newest fitness tracker, the Garmin Vivosmart, is an activity tracker and smartwatch rolled into one. Like most fitness trackers, Garmin Vivosmart counts steps taken, calories burned and distance walked. But the device also syncs with your smartphone, so you can get notifications on your wrist about incoming calls, texts, Facebook messages and Tweets. At $169.99, vívosmart is pricier than Soleus Go, another fitness tracker that also features some smartwatch capabilities and that retails for about $60. However, Garmin Vivosmart costs less than smartwatches geared toward fitness enthusiasts, such as the Samsung Gear 2, which retails for $299.

Garmin markets its new tracker as a tool that can make your daily routines more healthful. The device automatically sets individualized step goals that challenge you to increase your activity throughout the day. Garmin Vivosmart also keeps track of your downtime, giving you a gentle reminder to get up and move if you’ve been sitting for an hour or more. [Best Fitness Tracker Bands]

Garmin Vivosmart - Black (Large)

SMART NOTIFICATIONS - Monitor calls, texts, meetings, emails and other notifications with vibration alerts so you don't miss a beat; SLEEK TOUCHSCREEN BAND - Double tap to reveal the hidden OLED ...

Made by: Garmin, Available: In stock

I used Garmin Vivosmart for a week to see if the device could get me moving more throughout the day. Here’s what I found:


Overall Rating: 5.7/10

Garmin Vivosmart really did get me to think more about my daily physical activity, and motivated me to work toward a new goal every day. The device’s smartphone features were also useful, allowing me to check a text or see who was calling me while I was running or walking the dog.

However, Garmin Vivosmart wasn’t very user-friendly, and I sometimes got frustrated when trying to tap or swipe the device’s screen.

Garmin Vivosmart – Design/Comfort: 6/10

Garmin Vivosmart is worn on the wrist and comes in five different color options. However, the colorful part of the band is actually hidden underneath the device’s black plastic outer layer, so no one but you will really notice if your tracker has a pink underbelly or a blue one.

Though it’s part smartwatch, Garmin Vivosmart is definitely built more like a fitness band than a timepiece. Since the device weighs just 0.6 ounces, it’s easy to forget you’re even wearing this tracker — that is, until you get a phone call or text. Even though it’s small, the vivosmart’s vibrating notifications are strong — designed to get your attention and spur you to action. The screen of the Garmin Vivosmart is easy to read both indoors and out, and you can control the brightness of the display from the main menu.

The device comes in small and large sizes. I have a medium-size wrist and wore the small version of the tracker, which fit just fine, but I had a little trouble getting the device strapped to my wrist. I finally figured out that it was easiest to put the Garmin Vivosmart on upside down and then flip it around so I could see the display screen. Once it was on my wrist, the device was very comfortable, which was good since I wore it 24 hours a day (it’s water resistant, so I kept it on in the shower and the pool).

Interacting with the device was another story. In order to start tracking your stats, you’re supposed to double-tap the screen. This sounds simple enough, but I found it often took at least a few tries before I got the screen to light up. I had a similar problem when I swiped my finger across the screen to see my stats (such as steps taken, or calories burned). It was frustrating that I had to keep repeating my actions to make the device do what I wanted.

Garmin Vivosmart – User-friendliness: 5/10

Garmin Vivosmart comes with a very small instruction manual, which led me to believe that setting up the device would mostly be self-explanatory. But that wasn’t the case. Unlike with other trackers I’ve reviewed, such as Moov, setting up the Garmin Vivosmart wasn’t intuitive. The device syncs with your smartphone via Bluetooth, but I had to try a few times before I got the tracker to pair with my iPhone. I also had to re-pair the device after a few days because it had stopped syncing with my phone.

There are a few apps you can use with Garmin Vivosmart, including Garmin Connect Mobile and MyFitnessPal, which lets you record information about your meals and workouts. Garmin Connect is supposed to sync with your device automatically after the tracker is paired, but I had to pair my device twice before the app started syncing data automatically.

Once I was all synced up, however, the app worked seamlessly, getting updated info from the fitness tracker periodically throughout the day. The data is displayed in an easy-to-read format on your phone, showing you how many steps you’ve taken and calories you’ve burned, and how many more you have to go to meet your goals.

However, I didn’t understand the calories section of this app. My tracker faithfully showed me, on my wristband, how many calories I had burned throughout the day, but I couldn’t get that data to appear in the app on my phone. Instead, the Garmin mobile app directed me to the MyFitnessPal app, where I was prompted to enter highly detailed information about my meals. At this point, I just gave up, since I wasn’t sure of the serving size of the omelet I had eaten for breakfast. But if you’re really interested in tracking calories, and will take time to enter detailed info, the app seems well-equipped to help you.

Garmin Vivosmart – Value of information: 5/10

Garmin Vivosmart does a great job of tracking steps taken and can also be used to track calories, sleep and distance walked. Unfortunately, once this data is collected, neither the device nor the Garmin Connect app give many hints on how to use the information. I’m not sure how my step goal was calculated every day, or how many steps per day is ideal by Garmin’s standards. The device also tracked my movement while I slept— including total time slept and light versus deep sleep — but I wasn’t sure what to do with this data either

The smartwatch features of the Garmin Vivosmart were useful; when I was running, I could just leave my phone in my pocket and read texts right on my wrist. However, there’s no way to respond to texts or answer calls with the device, so I still had to take my phone out of my pocket to text or call someone back.

Garmin Vivosmart tracks how long you remain inactive and then buzzes you on the wrist to tell you to get moving. While I wasn’t surprised to learn that I spend a lot of time sitting (I’m a writer, after all), it was good for me to see just how long I can go without walking around. The device’s move bar automatically buzzed me after an hour of downtime, and I found that those buzzes were very helpful.

Garmin Vivosmart In the pool

Like most fitness trackers I’ve brought into the pool, the Garmin Vivosmart does an OK job of registering activity in the water. I used the device while swimming laps, jogging in the shallow end, doing kickboard exercises and treading water. It registered some of my movements and recorded them as steps.

The Garmin Vivosmart also lets you keep track of how much time you’ve spent in the pool. However, to do this, you have to press the activity-recording button on the tracker before you jump in the water. I found it almost impossible to manipulate the device’s display screen once it was wet.

Garmin Vivosmart – Enjoyment/Inspiration: 7/10

I liked using Garmin Vivosmart even though I wasn’t always sure what to do with the information it tracked. The device got me to think more about my everyday physical activity. And the “move bar” feature was really good at getting me on my feet every hour or so.

While I’m not a competitive person, I found I really like competing against myself — pushing myself to complete my step goal every day and cover a bit more ground than I had the day before. If I were a competitive person, I probably would have enjoyed Garmin Connect’s community feature, which lets users interact with one another and compare stats. You can also see how your physical accomplishments measure up to those of professional athletes.

Another really enjoyable feature of the Garmin Vivosmart is its super-impressive battery life. I wore the device every day for a week and only had to charge it once.

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Garmin Vivosmart - Black Bundle (Large) (Includes Heart Rate Monitor)


SMART NOTIFICATIONS - Monitor calls, texts, meetings, emails and other notifications with vibration alerts so you don't miss a beat; SLEEK TOUCHSCREEN BAND - Double tap to reveal the hidden OLED ...

amazon Garmin Vivosmart review: just smart enough
Item Weight

0.6 ounces

Product Dimensions

8.6 x 1 x 0.4 inches

Item model number



1 Lithium ion batteries required. (included)

Display Size

1 inches

Battery Life

168 hours

Voice Command

Touch Screen

I got one early from the brick & mortar store that has a temporary exclusive on Vivosmart. HIGHLY recommended. I've had a couple of Smart Watches (the original Sony SmartWatch, the Pebble) and I've had a Jawbone UP (previous model, no Bluetooth). This is every bit as comfortable as the UP. The heart monitor that's bundled is the best bit one I've ever seen, way better (and more comfortable) than an older Polar one I had. I would say the biggest negative on this band is the 7 day battery life, versus the new UP's 14 day, but plugging it in once a week is not that bad, honestly, and is in line with my Pebble, and the original UP band.Now for the Pros.1) Compatible with ANT+ bike sensors (speed only, not cadence, hopefully cadence will be an upgrade). Fitness bands tend to be for all activities except biking, so this is a huge plus.2) Garmin Connect. If that's not your preferred site, it may not be a plus, but for me, it is. I already have a Garmin GPS for my Bike. Having all my other data on one portal is a plus for me.3) Water proof. Wear it swimming or in the shower. Big plus, especially if you have triathlon aspirations. :)4) OLED touch screen. When in range of your smart phone, displays notifications (Android or iPhone, Bluetooth 4 required). Love it. See who is calling, text messages, app notifications, etc. When your smart phone isn't in range, it still tracks your activity.The Cons:1) Wish the bike sensor support worked with cadence, not just speed. Hopeful for an update.2) Battery life on the low side compared to other bands. But again, if you want some "smart watch" type functionality, this is a good trade off for me.Why not a smart watch?Too many trade offs.Read more ›
September 14, 2014
Of all the fitness bands currently on the market, this was the best choice. Tracking fitness and sleep monitoring as well as smartphone notifications, it works seamlessly, and waterproof enough to shower without removing the band. The accompanying heart rate monitor is already paired with the unit, fits well and does the job. Go to Garmin's Vivosmart website for all the capabilities of the band. This band was a great choice over the Microsoft band, which no one currently has in stock anyway, plus the reviews were average at best.I can't find any negatives with the unit, as it works with the Garmin Connect app and MapMyFitness. The heart rate monitor tells me the number of beats and heart rate zone while lifting weights, which was a plus. The band even counts jump rope revolutions as steps taken. Can't speak for the battery life, as it has only been two days with the band, but Garmin marketing speaks of a week between charges. The vibrating alarm works in waking me from a nightly slumber, vibrating enough to wake me without immediately scaring me awake.Pairing the band to my MacBook Pro and iPhone was a very easy experience. The Garmin Express app for the laptop was simple to install. The band stays in place and is unobtrusive during all movements and activities. It is worth the purchase.
November 29, 2014
All I can say is "Wow!" Talk about a company reinventing itself with a big bang!I've carefully researched every band on the market, on multiple tech sites, following them all for a couple years. And I have used the Jawbone up--all options--religiously for the last 18 months. BTW, that includes going through three UP bands for various manufacturing problems, and then watching UP completely blow a decent product with a terrible software upgrade. Or, I could have bought the FitBit that, for about $40 less than the VivoSmart, gave you a rash so bad they took it off the market--and for the first years never synced with any phone except an iPhone. (Android? never head of it.)So...paying about $40 more for a VivoSmart with about 10 times more options than either of the above looked like a no-brainer to me. After three weeks on VivoSmart, both with the band and the software, I'm way ahead of anything my UP ever offered, and still have many, many options to explore as I feel an interest in adding them. One tip: don't overwhelm yourself. Set up the functions that are most important to you first. Get used to them and the way the band ‘thinks.’ Add the other toys as you feel like it, after you the Garmin functions become intuitive.I bought the VivoSmart the minute it hit the market when I saw I could actually use it for swimming (hallelujah!) That’s something only far more limited bands do at this point, never mind the promises of many for maybe sorta possibly January-ish.The possibilities on the VivoSmart are endless. The best thing so far is that it quickly becomes almost part of your body. Shag your watch (no more where does the watch go, where does the band go.Read more ›
October 3, 2014
Garmin Vivosmart review: ‘just smart enough’
7.3 Total Score

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