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
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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 – 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.

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

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 – 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.

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of T3.com.

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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