Picking a sport smartwatch – Garmin Vívoactive

Getting a right sports smartwatch could be a challenge especially that we are now overwhelmed with amount of manufacturers that grew out of sudden. I am currently using Garmin Vívoactive and I will show you here why. I did quite a research and I’ve been using few others wearables before I ended up with Garmin.

Previous experience

Pebble (Kickstarter Edition)

synappse - pebble smartwatch
It did served me well along with Nike fuel on the other hand. It was great to quickly read notifications (when almost no one could do it) and because it was one of the first of this kind – it wasn’t a bad thing yet to take a peak on your watch while meeting or during conversation.

synappse - pebble smartwatch back kickstarter
I bought it on the Kickstarter and waited over a year but it was worth it. Moreover, I really like the direction that Pebble is currently going with their simple smart watches, cute firmware design, modern look and week lasting batteries.

Nike Fuel

It did good for over 2 years but eventually it broke down (picture bellow) and soon after it stopped being supported which is a pity since Nike has an awesome platform (nikeplus.com) but it’s slowly dying – first Nike Fuel discontinuation then Apple disables build in support for Nike+ sensor (for those bigger devices, iPhone 6 and larger). Shame. There is a hope in their line of sport watches but competition is huge.

synappse - nike fuel

Apple Watch (38mm)

I used it only for development so I don’t any have day to day experience but I can honestly say that despite everything I don’t like about it they did put a lot of thoughts into designing it for everyone. I do treat it like a beta watch (because it’s ridiculous to charge a watch every day – I know we use to say things like this about our phones) and it’s doing pretty well especially when watchOS 2 allows developers to create more powerful apps it’s gonna get even better (but again, battery will suffer).
If you are thinking about getting AppleWatch and you have bigger hands (which I though I didn’t have) go with the 42mm model because this small thing on my hand make me look like a woman from the 80’. Seriously.

synappse - apple watch

In the box

synappse - garmin box
Garmin comes with usual stuff in the box – some instructions and charging cable.

synappse - garmin vivo active smartwatch
For more demanding users you can buy additional accessory – Heart Rate Monitor (for about $30). It comes with a strap and it can very easily integrated with Garmin smart watch connecting via bluetooth – let’s be honest, those little lights on the back of Apple Watch or Fitbit will never go near as accurate as chest heart rate monitors.

synappse - garmin heart rate

Look & feel

synappse - garmin vivo active smartwatch
Before I went to the store to test it I was afraid that it’s square shape will make it look very odd on the wrist but it turns out that it is small enough and thin enough to fill perfectly my hand. Even more, I have to admit that this is the first watch which I don’t have to take it off while typing on my MacBook Pro keyboard – at home I have wireless keyboard but often I have to use build in one.


At the day I started writting this which is after 250 hours (more than 10 days) my battery was at 7% and I’ve started charging it but keep in mind that it was at 82% when I got it from the store. I am pretty happy with that result. During this time a lot happened, including: 27 minutes run with GPS on and heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, alarm clock (I’ve actually stopped using iPhone alarm), lots and lots of notifications and iPhone connect/disconnect alerts (we are developing social communicator so it’s receives a whole bunch of push messages every day). And to top it all I took it off for only aprox 15 minutes during those 10 days.
It did charged for about 2 hours! I’ll back in 2-3 weeks for next one :>
[UPDATE] Garmin says that it might last up to 3 weeks and I can with all honesty confirm that. I just did 20 days run with no charging. Yey!
[UPDATE] Yep, it’s a regular 19-21 days until I have to charge the battery.

Water resistance

This is the first watch I was comfortable enough to take under the shower with me (probably because of the swim app which reassured me that I will not brake a $270 gadget in 10 minutes). It dries very quickly and it don’t get any watermarks, drops whatsoever.

Garmin Connect App

I am an iOS developer so I know how apps are made and how they work. So I can be sure that there are clearly some issues with the app from Garmin.
Overall it’s an OK app, you see a nice dashboard with all your current activity but it is very hard to navigate through days (easily you can do this while looking at single activity but no way to quickly compare whole dashboards without changing date with a DatePicker).
[UPDATE] Few updates made the app a little better but still it’s not the best one UX wise.


In general I love the watch but there are some things that bug me, not a lot though. I’d be great if this actually would reach any Garmin people 🙂

  • iPhone connect / disconnect notifications – as you might not know Bluetooth is not a rock solid technology (especially BT4.0 which puts pressure on low power consumption) and it could be easily interfered by other BT / Wifi networks, people, etc.. So the connection status changes a lot and each time there is a notification and vibration. I’d be good to just turn it off – waste of the energy.
  • One build-in Watch Face – don’t get me wrong, I like the one there is but I’d be great to have more to choose from. What I would like is the same as default one but without the seconds timer – another battery saver!
  • More build-in apps – there are quite a few new apps that could be made. I need to loose a little (a lot to be honest) weight now so I shouldn’t run too much, I work out on a cross trainer –  and it’s very repetitive so I think it wouldn’t be so huge amount of work to add this, pretty please 😉
  • Garmin Connect app refreshing data – sometimes we see in navigation bar „Today“ but below data from the other day – then you have to click on DatePicker and change that. More annoying is refreshing of the actual values in the dashboard – there is clearly some table view cells issue because often you see old values and sometimes pull to refresh twice or more helps but in most cases you just need to force refresh cell (changing the current view / pulling cells to the top so they stopped being visible, etc).
  • Single alarm clock – you can’t configure anything here, only set a time and enable or disable it [UPDATE] version 3.00 fix this and gives you a possibility to set 3 alarms and configure each of them to be recurring


Garmin Vívoactive is an awesome sport watch that will fulfill all requirements of active people and with it’s battery life it can easily become number one on the market.
Feel free to share your opinions, I’d like to know which one you use and why.

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