Garmin Vivomove review

Garmin strikes a good balance between style and keeping you moving
Garmin Vivomove

The Garmin Vivomove is a fitness tracker wrapped up in an analogue watch body. It's the company's first attempt at making a smart analogue watch, pitting it against the likes of the Withings Activité Steel and Fossil's growing collection of watches.

The formula is pretty much the same as we've seen before. You'll be able to track steps, monitor sleep and not feel like you're wearing an ugly piece of plastic around your wrist. The Vivomove can also track running, but only when you've jumped onto a treadmill in the gym.

It's available in Sport ($150), Classic ($200) and Premium ($300) models and we spent some time getting to know the more affordable Sport.

Has Garmin finally come up trumps with a stylish smart analogue watch that delivers on the activity tracking front too? Here's our comprehensive verdict on the Vivomove Sport edition.

Garmin Vivomove: Build and Design

Withings Activité Steel (left) and Garmin Vivomove (right)

If we've criticised Garmin for in the past, it's largely been for its design approach to wearables. Sporty durable running watches are one thing, but it's an entirely different ball game when it comes to fitness trackers. Fortunately Garmin has finally realised this.

Essential reading: How to buy the perfect smartwatch

Step forward the Vivomove, a fitness tracker masquerading as an analogue watch. One that wouldn't look out of place when paired with a smart shirt or suit. The styling definitely has a more male-friendly feel and at 12mm thick, it lacks a slender frame when you put it next to something like the Activité Steel.

The Sport version is the cheapest of the bunch, but that doesn't mean you miss out on the strong build quality. The black metal frame and silver trim around the 42mm watch case gives it a simple, yet elegant feel. It's understated, but if you want something more lavish there's the Classic and Premium models to cast your eye over instead.

It comes with a soft touch 20mm silicon band that's comfortable and snug to wear and also easily clips away from the watch case, letting you swap it out for additional sport or leather bands. That silicon band is handy when you want to go swimming as the Vivomove is 5ATM waterproof, so you can jump in the pool as long as it's no deeper than 50 metres. We took it for a dip and we are happy to say that it survived.

Being an analogue watch, there's no touchscreen to swipe your fingers over but you do get two progress bars built into the display. On the left is the step count and on the right is Garmin's Move bar. They've been integrated in a way that doesn't intrude on that traditional watch look.

The only other feature left is the crown, which doesn't work in any particular smart way like the Apple Watch one, but it does let you set the time and when pressed, makes syncing data to your smartphone effortless and reliable.

Garmin Vivomove: Activity Tracking

The Vivomove keeps activity tracking simple and that's not necessarily a bad thing – or at all surprising. There's a pretty standard accelerometer motion sensor to count steps and monitor sleep automatically in the same way that you'll see on trackers from Fitbit, Jawbone or Misfit. There is an additional use for the accelerometer though, and that's the ability to calculate distance for indoor workouts. I put it up against the TomTom Spark's indoor running tracking and it was surprisingly very consistent for duration and distance data.

As far as step tracking is considered, it also fared well against the Jawbone UP3, with daily totals roughly in the same ballpark as the Jawbone tracker. Where it differs most is that it'll adjust step goals depending on your level of activity. It's a very subtle but gradual way to help you to stay active for longer periods of the day.

Garmin Connect (left), Jawbone UP3 (centre and right)

It was largely a similar story for sleep, although there did appear to be some discrepancies with the data. It will break down deep, light and awake sleep time as well as plot movement during the night on a graph. In comparison to the UP3, data was generally consistent, including the sleep breakdown. The duration of sleep however did on the occasion differ by 30-40 minutes. It also lacks the much richer level of data you get from the UP3, but you could argue that the Jawbone fitness tracker is in the minority here when it comes to delivering a more comprehensive outlook on your bed time.

Garmin Connect (left, centre) and Jawbone UP3 (right)

Where the Vivomove really excels is in the motivation, specifically with the Move bar. It's arguably one of the more effective fitness tracking features at keeping you up and active. It works in the same way as it does on other Garmin trackers, filling up the red bar when you've remained inactive for a large period of time. There's no vibration motor to give you a nudge, but when you look down at your wrist, it's quite evident when you haven't been moving around enough. A couple of minutes of walking will see the red bar disappear – it's a really simple way to keep you on your feet.

Garmin Vivomove: App

If you want to dig deeper beyond the progress bar built into the watch face, all of your data lives in the Garmin Connect app. It's available for iPhones and Android phones and while it's the same software used for Garmin's more feature-packed smartwatches and sports watches, it's a more restricted user experience simply because of the more basic features on offer with the hardware.

You'll get screens dedicated to your day's activity with a snapshot of steps and sleep. It'll also designate an active calorie score, which is based on adding your activity tracking to your resting. I'm not sure how entirely useful that number is though. There's also the option to connect MyFitnessPal, if you want to keep a check on your calorie intake.

In the Garmin Connect app, you'll find screens dedicated to steps and sleep with the addition of a glance back at the past week or month to identify trends. You can also see a breakdown of distance covered for the day, more detailed sleep information and a running section to store indoor treadmill sessions.

Garmin Vivomove
Wareable may get a commission

What's clear is that Connect doesn't feel as inviting a place as Fitbit or Jawbone is at the moment, and that's certainly something Garmin needs to work on. It's nowhere near as user friendly and requires a lot more jumping around screens to find out where everything lives.

While this might be an approach that's perfectly fine for those who have used Garmin wearables in the past, it doesn't quite have the same impact for someone who might be buying a fitness tracker for the first time.

Garmin Vivomove: Battery life

Battery life on the Vivomove is something you won't need to worry about for a while. That's because it uses the same kind of CR2025 coin cell battery that you find powering most analogue watches, which will give you one year's worth of power before it needs to be replaced. That battery is well enclosed inside the watch though so you'll probably need to make a trip to a watch shop to get it replaced when it does run out.

Garmin Vivomove
By Garmin
As a first attempt at making a smart analogue watch, the Garmin Vivomove gets a lot of things right. It looks like a nice watch first and foremost and while it could benefit from a slightly slimmer design, there are very few complaints to be made here. What really impresses in comparison to similarly priced rivals is the fitness tracker integration. The Move bar is well integrated and we like the addition of the indoor run tracking. There's always room for improvement, particularly in the software department, but if you want something that looks like a watch and adds tracking in a subtle and elegant way, the Vivomove is definitely worth considering.

  • Attractive, well built design
  • Great integration of Move bar
  • Reliable syncing
  • Could be slimmer
  • Garmin Connect could be more user friendly
  • No smartphone notification support

1 Comment

  • John_Maas says:

    This nice looking watch also supports the Garmin Connect app for Windows 10 Mobile

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.