(Pocket-lint) - Activity trackers don't have to be bland slabs of plastic and rubber that scream "look at me". A number of analogue smartwatches have dropped over the past couple of years, pairing timeless, classic designs with all the steps and run-tracking credentials you'd expect from a modern fitness tracker.
The Garmin Vivomove is the latest, sleek addition to this sector. Like the Withings Activité Steel and Skagen Connected it looks like a traditional timepiece yet has hidden, fitness-friendly depths to track your steps. There's no GPS or a heart rate sensor, though, but there is a design that you won't want to drop back in your gym bag as soon as you've finished your latest run.
Prices start at a wallet-appealing £140 for the silicone strapped Sport model, while the leather banded Classic watch (as reviewed) will cost you £180. Things continue upward from there too, with a Premium stainless steel body option with supple leather strap edition setting wannabe owners back £240.
The Vivomove might not be the most feature rich wearable in the world, or the most affordable, but it achieves a balance of traditional style that we've rarely seen from Garmin before. Can the fitness giant cut it in the more fashion-focused sector?
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Garmin Vivomove review: Design
- 12mm thick metal body, 48g weight
- Customisable with standard sized watch straps
- Sports, Classic and Premium designs
The Vivomove is a device that's all about design. With limited abilities, it's the watch's look that sets it apart from the mass of wrist-based activity trackers such as the Fitbit Charge 2 or Mio Slice. Fortunately, Garmin has absolutely nailed this look. It's a surprise move away from the company's typically chunky wrist-worn devices.
The Vivomove doesn't just look more stylish and sophisticated than usual activity trackers, it's easier on the eye than pretty much any other smartwatch on the market. Simplistic and minimalist, this wearable is stunning. Its traditional watch styling make the likes of the Samsung Gear S3 and Apple Watch Series 2 look like modern monstrosities (ok, so not quite, but you can't deny it's puurty).
At 12mm thick, the Vivomove is not the slightest wearable out there, nor is it the beefiest. Given the watch's traditional round form it never feels oversized. It's actually one of the most comfortable watch-based activity trackers we've tried, with the traditional watch straps and solid metal buckle ensuring a comfortable fit.
The strap spacings are quite broad, however, meaning securing the perfect fit might not be possible for all, but find a fit that's right for you and you'll quickly forget you're wearing anything on your wrist at all.
There's no touchscreen here, just a perfectly circular glass face above traditional analogue watch hands and the step-tracking notification windows. The metal body is finished with a traditional crown that acts as a sync button.
The watch comes in a choice of black, silver or gold body options. These can be paired with a variety of silicone and leather strap options in a variety of hues. There's a catch with some of the more easy on the eye colour combinations though - cost. Things start off pretty cheap, but quickly ramp up as more premium materials are introduced.
Further boosting the Vivomove's design delights, this isn't a device just for the safety of dry land. The body is waterproof to 50 metres, meaning you can keep it on the next time you take a dip in the pool or jump in the shower after a run (depending on your strap choice, of course).
It's not perfect though. While the black on black model we tested looks effortlessly cool, it's not the easiest to read the time at night. The black hands on a black face make for some wrist contortions! This, however, is the only fault within an otherwise flawless finish.
Garmin Vivomove review: Features & performance
- Steps and sleep tracking
- 'Move bar' prompts activity
- No vibration alerts
Want wrist-based email notifications, incoming call alerts and social media updates? Well then sorry, but this isn't the wearable for you.
That doesn't mean that the Vivomove is lacking on the features front though. Instead, its abilities are simply focussed more on tracking your activity than alerting you to what's going on in the wider world.
Thanks to an integrated accelerometer, the Vivomove will keep tabs on your daily actions, relaying your activity stats both to your phone and directly to your wrist. With no visually impressive panel in sight, the Vivomove has instead adopted a simpler, more understated way to present your fitness efforts: a pair of curved LCD windows.
On the left of the watch hands is an activity tracking scale, which is used to present from zero to 100 per cent of your pre-set fitness goal (you can control this is the app). This charts your progress throughout the day, adding blocks as you rack up the steps count.
You don't get an exact step count figure on your wrist, but that's not really the point here (almost all phones do that these days anyway). Instead of being presented with the intricacies of your movement, the Vivomove is a device designed to get you, well, moving.
As well as being able to see how you're progressing on your daily activity target, the device's encouraging ways are enhanced by the small display window to the right of the hands. This 'Move bar' prompts you if you've been inactive for too long, transitioning from black to red the longer you sit still. It's a simple solution, but one that's effective, guilting you into upping your activity efforts.
The watch's step-tracking abilities are pleasingly accurate too. Like any accelerometer-based tracker it's not faultless - it can be skewed slightly by heavy gesticulation while talking, and underplayed by walking with your hands wedged in your pocket - but it is, for the most part, a solid solution that's ideal for those looking to improve their fitness levels rather than strive for a new half marathon personal best.
While a lack of built-in GPS or integrated heart-rate sensor might be easy to overlook given its positioning, what's harder to ignore is the device's lack of a vibration motor. Unlike rival devices like the Misfit Phase, the Vivomove's missing vibration motor means its phone syncing efforts only work in one direction. Even without a touchscreen to detail the alerts, a vibration motor would have allowed the watch buzz to alert you to incoming calls, messages, alarms and updates. It's a disappointing oversight.
This isn't a one trick step-tracking pony, though. The Vivomove is capable of keeping tabs on your sleep sessions too. When you actually do drift off, the Vivomove is pleasingly accurate, showing not only how long you've slept, but the phases of sleep you've passed through. The trouble, however, is that there are too many false alarms. One occasion we had lazy afternoons watching a film while lounging on the sofa transformed into sleep data and even taking the watch off for a shower classed as sleep. It's annoying, yes, but this is far from the only fitness tracker to suffer such shortcomings.
Garmin Vivomove review: Software & app
- Works with free Garmin Connect app
- No background syncing
Like Garmin's other wrist-based fitness trackers such as the Garmin Forerunner 35 and Garmin Vivosmart HR+, all of the data captured by the Vivomove can be relayed wirelessly to your phone via the free Garmin Connect app. This a solid bit of software, but an app that never truly breaks out of the mould or offers something hugely insightful.
It'll relay your step count, time activate and calories burned, plus graph your progress day to day, but it never really goes above and beyond. Perhaps that's no surprise given the limited incoming data.
There's are a selection of badges and rewards to earn, but no quantifiable coaching to teach you how to get the more out of your efforts beyond simply walking more.
There's no background syncing either. This means unless you've remembered to press the watch's crown-based button ahead of time, you're always going to be left waiting for your data to sync and load.
Once loaded, you can break down your activity and sleep by date or time, seeing how far that quick shuffle through the park actually was. Whether running or walking, however, the data offered is quite shallow.
For all its accurate step tracking, disappointingly, the Vivomove doesn't automatically detect sports sessions. Yes, it will capture every footfall and how long each exercise session lasts, but when all pulled through into the app, everything is given the same weighting. Colour coded charts give an insight into sessions where you moved quicker than others, but you can't pull out individual runs like on other, more advanced wearables.
Garmin Vivomove review: Battery life
- One year battery life
- Standard CR2025 coin cell battery
Most smartwatches still need charging every night. Most activity trackers at least once a week. The Garmin Vivomove though, well, this is something entirely different. According to Garmin, the Vivomove will last a full year before it runs out of charge.
What's more, running off a traditional watch-friendly coin cell battery as opposed to an integrated lithium-ion power supply, there's no need to panic and go hunting for some fiddly proprietary charger when the battery does eventually die. Just nip out to any hardware store, supermarket or corner shop and pop a replacement in, simple as that.
Now, given our time with the device, it's hard to vouch for this year-long staying power. We've been using the Vivomove for three weeks though, and even in that time, the lack of charging needs is a notable step forward for the wearables space.
The Garmin Vivomove is a wearable for those who want tech to infiltrate their lives in a less obvious, attention-seeking manner. It's an activity tracker that carries out its job in an understated manner and, most importantly, is a looker. It shows that Garmin devices needn't be hulking lumps around the wrist.
This isn't a device that's going to appeal to hardened fitness fanatics or tech savvy early adopters, but that's not the point. It's a wearable that will get you moving without looking like you're making an effort, and offer encouragement on the most basic of fitness goals - increased movement.
Even when compared with other simplistic analogue activity trackers such as the Withings Steel HR or Misfit Phase, the Vivomove is in a league of its own when it comes to design. It's a stunning looking piece of kit. If only there was a vibration motor and a more robust app to back it up, this would be the ultimate offering of its type.
Alternatives to consider...
Nokia/Withings Steel HR
Building on the basics, the Withngs Steel HR keeps things easy on the eye while adding heart rate tracking to its analogue form
Read the preview here: Withings Steel HR: Stylish heart-rate monitoring
Fitbit Charge 2
For the same price, you can up for fitness tracking abilities, with an integrated heart rate scanner and multi sport tracking joining the mix. It does come at the cost of style though.
Read the full review here: Fitbit Charge 2 review: Taking charge