Health technology is close to our heart at Kisko and since I didn’t yet have experience with wearable activity trackers I decided to get one for testing.
The goals I set up for the project before starting my trial were:
- Tracking steps and understanding how much I move on average
- Understanding how tracking itself might affect behaviour
- Tracking hours of sleep
- Trying to integrate the device to different services.
I chose the tracking device by checking The Wirecutter’s 2014 review on wearable devices. Garmin Vívofit was recommended as the best choice, so I went with that.
My first impressions of the device after buying it in August 2014 for 130€ were:
- Vívofit is very lightweight.
- The packaging was really simple and didn’t have much package waste.
- The setup of the device was really easy, and the introduction video was good.
- The Garmin Connect web application could be a bit more polished.
- The screen of Vívofit is clear, but it doesn’t read in the dark or with polarized sunglasses.
- The lightness of the device and the no-thrills screen makes it feel more like an analog device than a digital one.
After using the device for 13 months I’m happy with it. Even though the features of Vívofit are very limited compared to more advanced trackers, I found it as a good contender. Following is my user experience feature by feature.
One year battery life
The Vívofit has a remarkable 1+ years of battery life, which means that you don’t have to worry about charging it. Currently I’ve used the device for 13 months without a need to change the battery. This was really important to me, because I already have devices which need to be charged regularly and I didn’t want another one. The long battery life also makes using the device really simple – you just put it on your wrist and you are ready to go.
Durable and waterproof
The bracelet of Vívofit is in plastic and can be replaced. Garmin offers multiple colors to choose from. The device itself which is housed inside the plastic bracelet is very durable and waterproof, so you can wear it 24/7 if you want.
Like with most activity trackers, tracking steps with Vívofit is as simple as putting the bracelet on and going on with your everyday activities. I noticed that in the first few months the presence of the tracker increased my daily steps, so just wearing it had a health benefit.
After the first months, the device becomes invisible and you forget it’s existence, which is a good thing for a passive activity bracelet.
Garmin has a feature called Move Bar, which is a set of red bars at the top of the display. More you stay inactive the longer the bar gets reminding you to move. Even though it is a good idea, it is not very visible and almost completely went unnoticed for me.
Even though one of my initial goals was to use the device for tracking sleep as well, I didn’t manage to do it. I found the idea of wearing the bracelet while sleeping a bit too invasive. To turn on the sleeping mode in the Vívofit you hold the button on it for a while until the screen says SLEEP. In this mode the device tracking algorithm becomes more precise.
I tried the sleep tracking feature for a few nights and it produced a graph of the nightly movement. I still feel some of iPhone sleep tracking applications have been better. Also if you are serious about sleep tracking you should try our client’s product: Beddit.
During the year of usage I integrated Vívofit to sync steps with Apples HealthKit and MyFitnessPal food tracker. With MyFitnessPal the tracker transfers the steps into calories and adds them to your daily calorie amount. Both of these were really easy to set up and MyFitnessPal is a good companion for the Vívofit.
In our Health Hackathon this October we also built a product that integrates with the Garmin Wellness API, you can read more about that project here.
Only bigger downside is the Garmin Connect dashboard, which could be improved to be easier to use.
All in all I recommend the Garmin Vívofit as a simple activity tracker for those who just want a device which tracks steps and stays out of the way. The impressive battery life also makes the device easy to use.
Garmin has now released a next version of the Vívofit which adds a backlight, automatic syncing and inactivity sounds to name a few.