Garmin's sports monitoring efforts have typically resembled bulky wristwatches more than the inconspicuous, new age fitness trackers of the Fitbit mold. It did flag its intentions to trim some fat earlier this year with the release of its vivofit bracelet and the company's new vivosmart, which we came across at IFA last week, retains the form and function of the slender fitness bracelet, while packing real-time notifications and functionality of a smartwatch.
One of the benefits of the vivofit, as touted by Garmin, was the bracelet's ability to keep track of the wearer's movements, prompting them to get up and get moving when they've been inactive for too long. The bracelet's OLED display shows a segmented bar, which starts to fill and deliver vibrations after one hour of inactivity, with a few minutes of walking enough to set it back to zero.
Vivosmart includes this and other fitness tracking functions of its predecessor, displaying metrics such as time, steps taken, distance traveled and calories burned. The bracelet also pairs with a smartphone over Bluetooth LE, sharing information with a companion app to offer a more in-depth look at one's fitness habits. This can involve viewing sleep data, periods of movement, setting and monitoring goals and taking part in online challenges.
What's new is the delivery of smart notifications to the wrist. Texts, calls, email and calendar alerts are displayed on screen, which is activated by a double tap (the vivofit had an always-on display). Users can then swipe the screen to read complete messages and sift through notifications or fitness information.
If your wrist has space enough for only a smartwatch or fitness bracelet, and this dilemma has pointed you in the direction of hybrids such as these, then there are other options available. Being a mobile product, obviously Samsung has thrown one of its many hats into the ring, launching its Samsung Gear Fit earlier this year. With a colored touchscreen display, this one leans more toward the smartwatch than the bracelet end of the spectrum, in terms of aesthetics at least. You can read further on its fitness tracking capabilities in our review.
If the minimalistic Garmin vivofit is more to your liking, then it can be pre-ordered in the US through BestBuy.com. Colors include berry, purple, blue, black and slate, in small and large sizes. Garmin claims it can withstand water pressure equivalent to a depth of 50 m (165 ft) and has a battery life of seven days. The suggested retail price will be US$170, or $200 for a heart rate monitor bundle, with further online and in-store availability slated for November.