Why Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus beat Fitbit to be named Fitness Tracker of the Year

Wareable Tech Awards 2016: Garmin's the new fitness champ in town

The Wareable Tech Awards 2016 winners have now all been announced but we felt it was only right that we gave you an insight into how we decided who would walk away with one of the lovely W-shaped trophies.

In the Fitness Tracker of the Year shortlist, we, along with the judges, had to pick between six great contenders. There was the Misfit Ray, Garmin Vivosmart HR+, Samsung Gear Fit2, Bellabeat Leaf Urban, Fitbit Charge 2 and the TomTom Touch. All great trackers in their own way that made the decision all the more difficult.

Read this: The best fitness trackers to own right now

Ultimately, it came down to two, the Charge 2 and the Vivosmart HR+.

On the one hand there was Fitbit's successor to the big selling Charge HR. An upgrade in pretty much every way. Finally, it looked like something we'd proudly wear around our wrist with Fitbit's new fashion-focused and customisable approach to design getting the thumbs up from us. We also got that nice big screen and new features like VO2 Max testing and breathing training signalling that Fitbit wanted its trackers to do more than just count steps.

And the Fitbit Charge 2 raised the bar in many respects for fitness trackers in general ‚Äď but it subsequently failed to match its own heightened expectations. Issues noticed by Wareable and The Verge needed fixing, the notifications were needlessly hobbled (no WhatsApp support) and there's still no GPS built-in.

Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin Vivosmart HR Plus

On the other hand, the Vivosmart HR+ proved that Fitbit should be very wary of its rival. It's also taken some time for Garmin to get to grips with what it takes to make an attractive wearable, and the HR+ was a significant visual upgrade on all of the previous Vivosmarts. It's jam packed with features as well.

Activity tracking gives you the motivating push, while there's built-in GPS for runners, great battery life and smartphone notification support that puts many smartwatches to shame. Like the Charge 2, there's optical heart rate monitoring which puts a focus on resting heart rate, although it's faced with the same struggles when put to the test for high intensity training.

Essential reading: Why Apple Watch Series 2 is Wearable of the Year

The story may have been different had the Fitbit Charge 2 been issue free. Fitbit may well overcome these blips to make the Charge 2 a more reliable tracker ‚Äď but not in time to overthrow the impressive Vivosmart HR+ in the eyes of our judges.

We had high hopes for Fitbit this year, but Garmin stole the show. A company that has a long legacy of making great GPS sports watches but is still learning about what it takes to make a great fitness tracker. It's clearly learning fast, and don't be surprised if Fitbit is fighting with Garmin again for that coveted Fitness Tracker of the Year title next year.

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  • Patso·

    Considering Fitbit have over 90% market share now in Activity Trackers, which has steadily grown over the past 2 years, I doubt very much they care about not winning, or indeed do they care or worry about Garmin. Garmin keep losing market share and clearly still have no idea how to engage with its customers. 

  • Cari·

    Gives me pause to consider other options besides Fitbit.  Any QVC or HSN offers available?

  • frankly·

    I need a new tracker.  The one I want is actually the golf version of the Vivosmart HR+.  But to fit the golf features in, it looks like they had to lose smart tracking which is a shame.  If Garmin figures out how to combine the golf features of the X40 with all the features of the HR+ I'll be done with Fitbit.  But they aren't quite there yet.  I guess I'll need a separate device for golf.