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Garmin adds a dash of style to its Vivo line of activity trackers

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It's wedding season for fashion + tech

Garmin has just announced updates to its line of Vivo activity trackers, specifically, its Vivofit wristband and Vivoactive smart fitness watch. The tech updates are somewhat incremental, nudging the category forward with features like optical heart rate sensors and automatic tracking of activities, things that other activity trackers already offer. But Garmin has also made significant changes to the designs of the bands, and has even partnered with designer Jonathan Adler. The results are still Garminesque.

The new Vivofit 3 wristband has a backlit display, acts as an all-day activity tracker, and is waterproof up to 50 meters, like the last Vivofit. It still has a super-long battery life (up to one year, using coin cell batteries). But the Vivofit 3 will now automatically track workouts like running, biking, swimming, and elliptical training, and has the ability to track intensity levels during workouts.

garmin-vivofit-3-activity-tracker

Most notably, there are new design options for the Vivofit 3, lumped into two distinct categories: Garmin's own Style collection, and a series of accessory bands designed by Jonathan Adler. The Style collection includes black and white quilted bands, a periwinkle braided band, and even a camo band. The Adler designs are more colorful: purple geometrics, gray and green concentric circles, and a blue Goyard-like chevron pattern.

Like many other wearable makers these days, Garmin is taking a stab at more aesthetically-pleasing trackers. But, there's no mistaking these are still trackers.

Then there's the new Vivoactive HR.

Why the long face?

I have to say that I reacted to the images of the new Vivoactive HR in a visceral way: Oh no, it looks like a Fitbit Surge with a longer face. While the previous Vivoactive certainly wasn't the platonic form of fitness watch design, with its square face and hard edges, there was something, well, edgy about it. It's a capable fitness tracker that you can easily hide under your sleeve during the day, because it's so flat. If it does show, it's at least a little bit nicer-looking — utilitarian, at the least — than some of the toy-like fitness watches that Garmin, Polar, and others are known for.

garmin-vivoactive-HR-fitness-watch

This new Vivoactive HR is more capable than the last one, with optical heart rate sensors, elevation sensors, increased GPS battery life (up to 13 hours), native tracking for more sports, and the ability to record intensity minutes during workouts. Like the previous watch, it offers all-day activity tracking, and also pairs with your smartphone over Bluetooth to show notifications.

But it is oddly-shaped, no doubt. The pretense of it being a "smart" watch, at least in terms of style, is gone. Garmin is clearly betting that its fitness capabilities will draw people in, and not its looks.

The Vivofit 2 ships in the second quarter of this year and will range in price from $100 to $120, depending on the band, with the Jonathan Adler + Garmin accessory bands selling for an additional $40. The Vivoactive HR also ships in the spring, but will cost $250.

Our team on the ground at Mobile World Congress will have the chance to check these out in person next week, so we'll be sure to update with first impressions.