Garmin Vivosmart Revisited

Just before Christmas, I posted a review of the Vivosmart.  At the time I was disappointed with a few things, namely step count accuracy.  Over a few software updates, I found that the device became far more accurate and didn’t count as much of my arm movement as steps as it had before.  The picture below is a comparison of the Vivosmart and the Fitbit One after a run today.  (Deduct 1200 from the Fitbit since I put it on earlier in the day)

I can’t say that I ever became a fan of the notifications on my wrist.  It just became more of a hassle than knowing what was going on with my phone at any given minute.  This is one of the reasons that I question whether the Apple Watch will be worth while or not.  I just don’t always need to see what my phone is doing or who is texting me, calling me, or emailing me.

I never quite got used to having a wrist worn tracker and just prefer to have the tracker out of the way in my pocket or on my belt.  It was nice, however, that the device was waterproof and I could keep it on when I went to swim (I didn’t have to remember to switch it to different shorts or take it off when I jumped in the pool) or lose steps when I was going to shower.

I’ll say again that I think any device that gets someone moving is worthwhile and picking the one you like is the most important part of that because if you don’t wear it, it won’t work.

A few pictures of the Vivofit

A few pictures of the Vivofit

Garmin Vivosmart Review

Garmin VivoSmartI have spent the last week wearing two fitness trackers; the Fitbit One (trusty tracker that I have been wearing for years) and the Garmin VivoSmart. When we started this site, my goal was to make my way through some of the fitness trackers out there and review them. I will tell you that I have a bias towards Fitbit and have been using their devices since 2009.

First off, the VivoSmart has some really cool extra features. For one, I had it paired with my phone, which gave me access to updates that were on my phone. When someone called, I could see who it was on my wrist, emails chimed in and text messages. This was really cool and a great feature to play with.
The band was very comfortable most of the time. Before I got the band, I really thought it would be a pain to type or write, but I didn’t find that at all. In fact, I found that the notifications were best when I was typing. I could simply look down and see if someone was calling/texting and decide whether I needed to reply then or if I could get to it later.

When wearing a band on my wrist, opposite the wrist with the watch, it was nice that the display was not constantly lit. This would have been embarrassing for people to see that I had only taken a few steps that day. I have two complaints about the display, though. First, the double tap to display did not always function with one try. I would have to tap over and over sometimes to make it display. Second, the display would buzz and display “MOVE” when I hadn’t been active in a while. This came up during a meeting once and it spurred a lot of questions. In addition to telling me to move at a poor time, it also did so during a nap over the weekend and woke me up. Great feature to get you to realize when you are sedentary, but not necessarily the right implementation.

Accuracy was one of the reasons I wanted to do this test. I feel like a wrist-worn device should provide significantly different results than a device that is worn close to the body (Fitbit One).

Over a 7 day test, I logged 3,219 more steps on my Garmin vs. Fitbit, and I logged an additional 7 miles on the Garmin. That is a 4% difference on steps overall and a 24% difference in mileage.

FitBit Steps FitBit Mileage Garmin Steps Garmin Mileage Delta Steps Delta Mileage % Steps % Mileage
11067 4.55 11904 5.81 837 1.26 8% 28%
9839 4.06 10545 5.15 706 1.09 7% 27%
9090 3.73 10006 4.87 916 1.14 10% 31%
9083 3.73 11175 5.48 2092 1.75 23% 47%
12517 5.14 11243 5.48 -1274 0.34 -10% 7%
9781 4.04 11218 5.48 1437 1.44 15% 36%
12083 4.96 10588 5.19 -1495 0.23 -12% 5%
73460 30.21 76679 37.46 3219 7.25 4% 24%

IMG_1370Walk to Work

So, which do I think is more accurate? I have a bias towards the Fitbit. It seems to me that some days are incredibly inflated on the Garmin in the tune of a full mile.

The iPhone Software:
The software for Garmin and Fitbit both have displays to show how many steps you have taken and how your sleep was, but the similarities on the apps end there. FitBit has a lot more functionality.
On Fitbit’s app, I can: see my steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, floors climbed, sleep, water consumed, and a few other metrics that I have hidden; I can also update goals, set alarms, and log exercise. Overall, it offers anything you want and allows you to hide what you don’t.

On Garmin’s app, I can: see my steps and sleep. It also integrates my GPS watch, which is nice, but certainly not a killer feature.

Both the Fitbit and the Garmin track sleep. I honestly don’t put a lot of faith in either of these as sleep trackers. One night I was split between Garmin telling me that I had an incredibly bad 8 hours and 4 minutes of sleep and the Fitbit, which told me that I had 7 hours and 42 minutes of restful sleep. I just don’t think either of them can really do much to tell me about my sleep other than telling me that I got out of bed and walked around in the middle of the night.

Oddly, I picked out a day where the Fitbit outpaced the Garmin on steps, but not in distance.


I am back to just wearing my trusty Fitbit and glad that I tried something new. I think, at the end of the day, a tracker worn on the wrist is subject to skewed data just because it gets moved more often. If any device gets you moving, it is a good choice. For me I am just a fan of Fitbit as a device and a company.

Update 04/20/2015 – See “Garmin Vivosmart Revisited“.