There were times when exercising relied on a great deal of discipline and determination. That and an oversoaked t-shirt.
While the latter very much remains the fundamental commodity, the main gist of training seemed to have shifted towards convenience. And if convenience is what we’re here to measure, then a smartwatch makes for a perfect candidate.
I am not a regular user of smartwatches, but as someone who trains as part of their daily routine I can tell when something makes for a good sports utility or an overabundance of clutter.
The Vivosport is part of Garmin’s new vivo-fitness range released last year. It’s a wrist-fitted activity tracker with a built-in GPS and Bluetooth connectivity. The device has a very slim, slick design and is quite an impressive piece of hardware considering what it houses underneath.
One of its main features is the heart rate tracker, which measures not only the beats per minute but also your daily stress levels, which you could bring up anytime by navigating through the widget menu. It’s definitely one of my favourable features and does a pretty good job of indicating your condition at any point of the day.
It’s also got smartphone integration, allowing you to preview emails and text messages from your wrist without the need to pull up your handheld device. The response time is immediate, and in many cases the notifications are pushed directly to the smartwatch so there are no duplicated alerts.
In performance mode
In training the device works extremely well. It is equipped with a set of features that cater to most activity types: running, walking, climbing, cycling and weight lifting.
In order to track your progress, you must enter an activity from the device’s option list. The watch then documents your progress throughout the session and a summary of figures are subsequently made available on the Garmin smartphone app.
There is an Auto Lap feature in the device that records a lap with the GPS tracker every time you return to the start point. The one thing I noticed when testing this feature is that the tracker is quite slow to respond; I was almost two laps in before the device clocked a completed lap.
This could be down to a lack of accuracy in the GPS or the device’s proximity range being too narrow.
One thing worth mentioning is the device’s battery span. Garmin promises up to seven days of battery life in smartwatch mode — which it incontestably delivers. I charged the device out of the box over a week ago and after all the testing and trials it remains powered on as I write this review.
That is impressive performance even by smartwatch standards. Anything that could go over a week without a full battery drain in this day and age deserves a rich round of applause. It is certainly one of the device’s main strongpoints.
But now the downside.
Most of the device’s functions rely on its companion smartphone app, which is used as a central hub for viewing your daily performance and toggling between the device’s many setups. That is absolutely fine – if you can connect to it.
It was not the first time I have encountered such a problem with Garmin but ironically, my biggest complication with the device arose during the primal stage of the process — the set up.
After downloading Garmin Connect Smartphone from the app store, I begun the process of establishing a Bluetooth connection with my iPhone device. It took me roughly 30 minutes of trying before I realised there was a connectivity flaw.
After navigating through the app store reviews, I came upon a trove of dissatisfied comments relating to an identical problem. The app seems to be incompatible with various versions of iOS and my iPhone 8 was one of the unfortunate models.
Eventually I managed to connect through an older iPhone model (5S), but this error had dented my confidence in the device from the crucial get-go. Some of the app store comments relating to the problem date back to February, which indicates a very slow response time from Garmin and certainly doesn’t do any favours for their customer service unit.
Apart from this monumental, or minor, error (depending on your outlook), there seem to be no major flaws and overall the device looks like a solid reliable unit. Nevertheless, the price tag is quite hefty considering many of its features are basic at best.
Personally, I wouldn’t spend €200 on the Vivosport considering some of its features (Auto Lap) could benefit from a bit more development. But for those wanting a second opinion, it’s simply a matter of weighing the pros (accurate heart rate monitor; strong battery life) and the cons (sporadic connectivity; GPS inaccuracy).
For them, it would certainly do no harm to do some more browsing around.