The VivoActive smartwatch from Garmin is just the pest you need to get healthy, but thankfully stays quiet while watching you sleep
THE LATEST gadget for prodding you down the road (or up the stairs) to fitness is the VivoActive from Garmin, a smartwatch that will keep you going, track your movement and spell out in detail how you’re progressing. The watch has built-in GPS for monitoring your geographical position, can function as a sports watch, and will count every step you take, as well as letting you know about incoming calls and messages on your phone.
Fully waterproof for rainy days and the shower, the VivoActive is designed to be worn round-the-clock, even while you’re sleeping. And, no, you’re not dreaming, because that really is a big colour display at 28.6x20.7mm, with 205x148 pixels. The touch-screen panel makes interacting with the watch a snap.
Once you buy it, you need to partner it up with your smartphone. Download the Garmin Connect app for your phone and register for an online account with Garmin Connect. That’s where your health and fitness records will be stored.
Using the app, put the watch in Bluetooth pairing mode. Then choose the settings you prefer, such as a gentle vibration to alert you to incoming calls, SMS and Facebook messages, email and calendar reminders. You can also use the watch to locate your phone if you misplace it. It will prompt the phone to make a sound. The watch displays its Bluetooth signal strength on the screen, which increases as you get closer to the lost phone. Here it is under this stack of old newspapers!
Next, listen to some music on the phone, using the watch function to launch the phone’s Google Music app and start playing tunes. And, if you own one of Garmin’s VIRB action cameras, you can use the watch as a remote control for it, too.
The VivoActive has few buttons, so it’s perfectly easy to use. The power button also switches on the backlight when needed. The action key starts and stops any activity or app. At the bottom of the screen are two buttons for opening the activity or app menu and for returning to the previous screen. Swipe the touch-screen left or right to scroll through menus, options and settings, and then just touch the item you want to activate.
To use the watch as an activity tracker, you need to customise your profile using the app on your phone – enter gender, age, height and weight. With this information, VivoActive can calculate the calories you’re burning all day. Set a goal for the number of steps you want to take today and the VivoActive will tally them up by detecting any step-like vibrations.
This is a watch, so you also see the current time – alongside estimated calories burned, distance walked, steps taken and relative success in achieving your goals of the day. That success depends on keeping active, so, if you’re horizontal on the couch for an hour, you’ll feel the watch vibrate and see a red bar. Red means go for a walk, at least for a couple of minutes, and that will reset the “move” alert. If you ignore the nagging, you’ll get another alert every 15 minutes. This repeats four times and then the watch gives up on you.
As for sleepy time, the watch monitors your movements and works up a graph you can study on the Garmin Connect app. You might not be getting as much rest as you think you are.
Part of the fun of the VivoActive is that you can personalise it with free downloads, such as widgets that provide stats at a glance and a variety of watch-face designs.
But what’s built-in is pretty cool anyway, like the GPS and sports apps. Swipe the screen for the options menu and choose among GPS-assisted running, golfing and cycling apps, plus swimming and activity tracking, the latter covering walking and running on a treadmill.
If you’re going for a run, for example, tap the run app and the watch searches for the appropriate GPS satellite and cues you to press the start button. It then displays the distance you run and time elapsed, your pace and the calories burned. You can also hook it up to a heart-rate monitoring device so it shows how the old ticker’s doing.
How about a round of golf? Download the golf-course information from Garmin Connect and the watch will display the number of the hole you’re playing, the par and the distance to the green (though not the actual pin location), along with a list of layup and dogleg distances for par 4 and 5 holes.
When swimming, the watch will track your time, distance and number of strokes. When cycling, link it to a speed sensor or cadence sensor. Again, you see distance and time, along with current speed. Even when swimming or biking, every motion counts as a “step” and is added to your daily total.
All of your activity data are saved online for further analysis if you wish, or to share with any friends using Garmin Connect.
In my test run, the VivoActive counted 9,800 steps in a day, including riding my bike for nearly three kilometres to work and walking up the stairs to the office on the 31st floor. That might sound impressive at first, but to really be “active”, I think everyone should be trying for 12,000 steps a day.
Cycling around my neighbourhood I had the correct map on display. The watch took a few moments to connect to a GPS satellite before it could start tracking me.
The watch is sold in a black or white body with straps in seven different colours for Bt9,700.
- Dimensions: 43.8x38.5x8mm
- Display: 28.6x20.7mm
- Display resolution: 205x148 pixels
- Weight: 38g
- Battery: Rechargeable lithium good for up to three weeks (10 hours in GPS mode)
- Water-resistance: 50 metres