Garmin was long known for being one of the biggest providers of GPS units, but smartphones have done a good job at shrinking its market pretty significantly. At CES, the company announced a new plan to stay relevant — it’ll focus on the booming wearables market with its new Vivofit fitness band. The Vivofit bears a strong resemblance to other options like the Nike+ Fuelband and the Fitbit Force. It’s a wrist-worn fitness tracker with a small screen that logs your steps and activity level, though Garmin is including a few new features that it hopes will help the product stand out in an ever-crowded field.
For starters, Vivofit will start off by learning your activity level — once it figures out a baseline, it’ll automatically assign you what it thinks will be an achievable daily goal. Once you start catching up to that goal and meet milestones, it’ll update your goal for the following day. The Vivofit also capitalizes on the thought that people are healthier when they get out of their chairs and enjoy small bits of activity throughout the day — if a user has been sitting inactive for more than an hour, the Vivofit will show a red bar that builds up as you stay stationary. But if you get up and get moving, you can get yourself "out of the red." Those who want to get more information out of the Vivofit can pair it with a heart-rate monitor and get more accurate calorie burn details for activities and, obviously, a recording of their heart rate.
Unsurprisingly, Garmin’s offering social features as well: users can log into the Garmin Connect community to find other friends using the Vivofit and see all of their physical activity, sleep history, and so forth. You can also start friendly competitions to try and encourage each other to get more exercise. Syncing sounds like a fairly painless process — users can just press a button on the Vivofit and it’ll sync to your online profile.
All in all, it’s a fairly logical move for Garmin to make — the company has experience making wearables, and there’s no doubt that the fitness tracker market is growing fast and doesn’t yet have an undisputed winner. It’s not yet clear whether the few new features the Vivofit brings to the table will be enough to distinguish it from its more entrenched competition — it largely appears to be a step and sleep tracker, two things that Fitbit already does quite well. But if its personalized, continually updating goals can work as well as advertised, the Vivofit might be able to carve out a piece of the market. Garmin says it’ll launch in Q1 and will retail for $129.99, or $169.99 with the heart-rate monitor.