Garmin deserves the kudos it gets for its high-end, smart fitness watches, but sometimes $600 is a lot to ask when companies like Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit are selling solid watches for half that amount.
Which is where the new Vivoactive 3 comes in. Garmin just announced its newest fitness-tracking smartwatch at the IFA trade show in Berlin, and with its long battery life, swipe controls, and more reasonable price point, it’s going head-to-head with the aforementioned watches.
The Vivoactive 3 is a round-faced fitness smartwatch with built-in GPS and heart rate sensors for both continuous monitoring and session-based tracking. It has 15 different custom indoor and outdoor sports apps, stress monitoring and VO2 max calculation features, and support for third-party watch faces and apps like Uber. Really, it has a lot of the same features as other Garmin watches, but packaged into a relatively slim, unembellished watch face, with a multi-color, touchscreen Garmin Chroma display.
With the Vivoactive 3 Garmin is introducing something called Side Swipe. This appears to be a mechanism for controlling the watch function by swiping on its bezel (in addition to swiping on its touchscreen). We haven’t had the chance to use the watch yet, but once we do we’ll report back.
One big differentiator is Garmin Pay, which as of right now is only on the Vivoactive 3. This is Garmin’s brand-new payments feature. Like other wearable payment services, it relies on contactless payment technology: you tap your Garmin-equipped wrist at an NFC payment terminal, and you can buy something without having your credit card or phone with you. Garmin says Garmin Pay is supporting Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards “from major banks” to start, with more to come.
Based on the feature list Garmin has shared so far, I get the sense that the Vivoactive 3 is targeted less at serious outdoor adventurers — I don’t see any advanced mapping features or notes on tracking elevation — and more at people who like working out, with smartphone notifications thrown in, too. And of course, two advantages that Garmin always has over certain competitors: its watches sync to iOS, Android, and desktop software, and have batteries that can last for a week or more.
The new Vivoactive 3 ranges in price from $299.99 to $329.99, depending the build.
In addition to the Vivoactive 3, Garmin also launched two other wearable from IFA: the new Vivosport activity-tracking band, and a new version of the Vivomove watch.
The Vivomove is the Garmin that looks most like a regular, analog watch, but tracks steps, workouts, sleep, and stairs climbed and syncs it all to the Garmin Connect app. With this newest model, the Vivomove HR, Garmin has added heart rate sensors (as the name might suggest), so it now calculates VO2 max, fitness age, and stress levels — all in a pretty nice-looking watch. Garmin claims it has a battery life of up to five days in smartwatch mode and two weeks in standard watch mode. This one costs $199.99 for the Sport model and $299.99 for a premium version, which has a steel body and comes with a leather strap.
Finally, there’s the new $199.99 Vivosport. Garmin has a lot of Vivo’s — there’s also the Vivosmart HR, which is a heart rate sensing wristband, and the basic Vivofit wristband, which was last updated in 2016. The new Vivosport looks to be essentially a replacement of the Vivosmart HR (got all that?). It does all of the basic activity-tracking stuff, and has a seven-day battery life. But also has workout apps, GPS, heart rate sensors, an always-on color display. It calculates VO2 max and stress levels, and it’s water-resistant enough for swimming and showering.
The Vivosport’s stand-out feature is the LiveTrack tool, which lets you share location, via a unique URL, to friends and family while you’re working out. Garmin says this is currently the only wristband to include this feature, which normally comes on Garmin’s Forerunner watches and Edge bicycle monitors.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that the Vivoactive 3 doesn’t have a touchscreen. The article has been updated to correct this.