The battle between Fitbit and Garmin continues as Garmin updates arguably its most valuable Fitbit competitor device. The company announced the Vivosmart 3 today, an update to the Vivosmart HR that came out in 2015. At $139, Garmin slightly undercuts Fitbit on price while taking some notes from Fitbit’s playbook: Garmin has added guided breathing exercises, easy-to-understand fitness level scores, and more to its new device.
The differences between the Vivosmart HR and the Vivosmart 3 are immediately noticeable, but not because they’re garish deviations from Garmin’s design language. The new device is thinner, lighter, and has a Chroma display “hidden” behind the band. “Hidden” here only means that the soft-touch material of the band extends over the display and gives the entire device a universal texture. The display on the Vivosmart HR was exposed and clearly separate from the band, but the new device takes a different approach. The display still responds to taps and swipes for navigation, and it will automatically turn on when it senses your wrist turns upward to check the time. The bands are not interchangeable, so you’re stuck with the color that you choose when you buy the device. But the Vivosmart 3 comes in different colors and in small, medium, and large sizes.
Garmin adds three new features to the Vivosmart 3, and arguably the biggest is automatic rep counting. Now the device can count reps and sets of strength-training exercises like lifting weights. Garmin representatives told me that, when you choose the strength-training workout option on the device, it automatically senses every rep you do. Once that activity is uploaded into the Garmin Connect mobile app, the company’s software divides up your sets and tries to decipher which exercises you did.
Garmin isn’t pushing the automatic exercise recognition feature as much as the rep-counting feature because Garmin Connect currently isn’t perfect at deciphering one exercise from another. Over time, Garmin will improve on this feature, and your specific account should learn from your past exercise history. Say you do mostly dumbbell exercises and not a lot of deadlifts; Garmin Connect will realize this over time and should be better able to recognize each dumbbell exercise you complete in a session, without confusing it for similar moves. Garmin Connect lets you change exercises as well, so if the app incorrectly labels a set, you can choose from a huge list of exercises to correctly label your set.
The remaining two features are similar to features that Fitbit introduced when the Charge 2 came out. First, Garmin has added a “fitness level” score and “fitness age” number, which are both based on your estimated VO2 max level. Instead of just giving you an estimated VO2 max measurement, Garmin takes that metric and translates it for the lay-person into a fitness level (much like Fitbit’s Cardio Fitness Score). That level ranges from “poor” to “superior,” and it tells you how well you’re performing based on your age, gender, and others of the same age and gender.
The fitness age number basically gives you a new “age” based on how fit you are. I haven’t seen this feature in action yet, but I suspect it will jar those who think they’re fit to be told their fitness level actually makes them “older” than they truly are.
Breathe in, breathe out
Second, Garmin added guided breathing exercises and stress-level charts to the Vivosmart 3. Garmin’s guided breathing feature lets you customize a session between one and five minutes long, and the device’s display will tell you when to inhale, exhale, and so forth.
While Fitbit’s Charge 2 has a similar feature, it doesn’t have Garmin’s stress-level feature, which uses the continuous heart-rate monitor to map when your pulse spikes throughout the day. You can see on the display how many hours you’ve been “stressed” (or when you have a higher heart rate than normal). Ideally, that should inform you as to when you should use the guided breathing exercises to calm down. You’ll also be able to see long-term stress information so you can identify any patterns in your heart-rate spikes.
The fitness level score and guided breathing features seem to be Garmin’s way of keeping up with Fitbit, but the long-term stress graphs could prove to be useful over time. I believe most of us can tell when we’re stressed out during the day, but we may not be keen on repetitive stress over weeks and months. Being able to see when you’re stressed over many days could lead you to change lifestyle habits and reduce stress over time.
Automatic rep counting is a great addition as well, particularly on such an affordable device. No Fitbit devices can count reps like this, and it seems to be a feature other companies are starting to take seriously. Google recently updated Android Wear and Google Fit to include automatic rep counting and activity tracking. If Garmin’s version is as good as Google Fit’s, it’ll be a useful addition to the Vivo line and hopefully other Garmin devices in the future.
Aside from those new features, the Vivosmart 3 does all the basic things the Vivosmart HR does: daily activity and sleep monitoring, continuous heart-rate monitoring, various workout tracking, smartphone notification delivery, and more.
The Vivosmart 3 is available to order now for $139.
Powered by WPeMatico