by staff contributor Dan Soleau


Several months ago Garmin debuted it’s first fitness tracker – the vivofit.  The market was already fairly saturated – Nike Fuelband, Polar Loop, Jawbone, an array of FitBits, not to mention the countless apps available for smartphones.


There were a number of things that drew me to the vivofit.  I’ve been a loyal Garmin customer since the days of the bulky and unwieldy Forerunner 205.  Garmin products have always been reliable, easy to use, and generally the more sophisticated option on the market.


And so I became the proud new owner of a vivofit.  And the love affair began…


I have tested several of the other fitness trackers on the market – Fuelband, FitBit, and a couple of the smartphone apps – but I have not purchased any of them.  After testing them, I usually found some sort of fault that I knew would drive me crazy further down the line.  The three faults that seemed to be universal were:  the product was not waterproof, the product needed to be recharged every few days, and the display was either non-existent or very small.  These aren’t necessarily big issues, but I appreciate it when gadgets and gizmos are as hassle-free as possible.


The vivofit is waterproof, and boasts a (non) rechargeable battery life of 1+ year.  It is so convenient that I almost never have to take it off.  In the past 3 months I’ve only taken it off to go through airport security.  Other than that, it has stayed on my wrist through workouts, work, sleeping, showering, running, and every other daily activity.


After downloading Garmin Connect – Garmin’s Fitness Software – to my iPhone, I was able to activate, personalize, and sync my vivofit using Bluetooth.  There are a number of interesting features beyond the traditional counting of steps and calories. 


Vivofit has a component that tracks how restful your sleep is.  You can either set your sleep and wake time in Garmin Connect, or you can manually put the vivofit in and out of sleep mode with the easy to use single operating button on the unit.  You can also adjust your sleep/wake time for a specific day if you had a particularly late night out, woke up early, etc.  The vivofit will sync wirelessly with the app on your smartphone and you can look through the data and see just how restful your night’s sleep was.  I almost always have a spike in movement around 2am – right in the middle of my sleep cycle.


The step counter is bad news if you are OCD.  I obsess over my steps.  OBSESS.  Based on my level of activity, age, gender, height, and weight, Garmin has determined that my daily steps goal should be about 16,000.  When I was training for the Boston Marathon, I would crush that goal every single day and usually end up around 30,000 steps.  Now that I’m not training for anything I usually come in somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 steps a day.  Based on the accelerometer metrics in the vivofit, that’s somewhere between 12 and 17 miles a day – not too shabby, especially considering that the guard in “Orange is the New Black” has a daily goal of 10,000 and will march in place while working to try to hit his goal.


The metrics that Garmin uses to convert steps into mileage seems to be fairly accurate – within about 5%.


There are two different screens that show your steps.  The first is your total for the day – it’s constantly counting up.  The second is how far you are from your daily goal – it’s constantly counting down until you hit your goal, and then it starts counting up to show you how much you’ve crushed the day.  It’s very satisfying to watch the daily goal countdown go the other way.


Another feature that will drive the OCD a bit mad is the “Move Bar”.  The vivofit features a foreboding band of red that pops up at the top of the digital display when you’ve been inactive for an extended period of time – around an hour.  The longer you are inactive, the longer that ominous red bar becomes.  It only goes away when you get up and move around for an amount of time that the vivofit has predetermined is enough to reward you by making the red bar go away.


Vivofit has been durable.  Over the past several months it has logged hundreds of miles of running, hundreds of weight workouts, and hundreds of hours of manual labor while I lifted and hauled boxes.  My vivofit has even been to Dublin, London, and Paris =)  It has popped off my wrist a couple times, but usually because I caught it on something like a car door or jacket sleeve that opened the closure.


What I love:

-       Long battery life

-       Doesn’t need to be recharged

-       Waterproof

-       Step counter/goal counter

-       Sleep metrics

-       Wireless Bluetooth syncing with smartphone

-       Durability

-       Big giant display


Now – here’s the things that I don’t love about vivofit (I feel so unfaithful typing that).


I wish the band were thinner.  The tan line is pretty noticeable.  But – to have a nice big display, you need to have a sturdy bulky-ish band.


I wish the accelerometer (which is pretty accurate throughout the course of a day) didn’t count my showers as steps.  Seriously – I’m not sure if it’s the motion of shampooing or scrubbing, but something about showering tricks the vivofit into thinking you’re walking around and will add steps to your total.


That’s it.  The bulkiness of the band, and the unreliability of the step counter while showering.  Not too shabby considering the list of what I love about the vivofit.


Another great feature, which I haven’t personally used, is that the vivofit is heart rate strap compatible.  If you’re on a long bike ride, the vivofit will not be counting your steps and understand that you just biked 50 miles over the course of 2 or 3 hours.  In fact, the “move bar” would probably pop up despite your level of activity.  If you wear a heart rate strap, it will capture that activity – not in the form of steps, but in heart rate.  This is great for any activity where the hands/arms aren’t used as much – stairmaster, walking with a stroller, spinning, weight-lifting.


Vivofit’s $129.99 price (without HRM strap) falls right in the middle of comparable units from other brands.  Most of the wearable bands will fall into the $100 - $150 range.


At the price point, vivofit is by far the superior product on the market.  Ease of use, wireless syncing, no need to charge, waterproof – it’s time for you to begin your own love affair with vivofit.