Garmin Keeps Fitness Trackers Alive and Well With its New vívosmart 5

Garmin Keeps Fitness Trackers Alive and Well With its New vívosmart 5
Photo: Andrew Liszewski - Gizmodo

Smartwatches continue to dominate the wearables market, but Garmin thinks there’s still enough of a demand for dedicated fitness trackers to update its vívosmart line for the first time in over three years with the new vívosmart 5, which boasts a larger screen and battery life that smartwatches just can’t compete with.

As much as the new vívosmart 5’s wrist band design looks a little dated, it doesn’t mean that Garmin is stuck in the past when it comes to wearables. The company has actually embraced smartwatches wholeheartedly with both compelling fashion-focused options like the Garmin Lily and feature-packed wearables like the $US900 ($1,249) Garmin Epix, which we called the one of the best fitness-focused watches currently on the market.

The vívosmart 5 features a display that's 66% larger than the one used on the vívosmart 4, but it's still monochromatic when similarly priced offerings from companies like Fitbit have full colour displays.The vívosmart 5 features a display that’s 66% larger than the one used on the vívosmart 4, but it’s still monochromatic when similarly priced offerings from companies like Fitbit have full colour displays.

Although Garmin doesn’t offer as many fitness tracker options as it used to, it makes some compelling arguments for why the vívosmart 5 might be a better option for some than a smartwatch. As a sleep tracker, the vívosmart 5’s relatively thin screen and the rounded design of its band, which is now finally swappable and replaceable, make it more comfortable to wear while tossing and turning in bed. Even so, it still features both pulse oximetry and continuous heart rate monitoring, which can help provide insights as to when or why a user isn’t getting a restful slumber.

Those are both features offered by most smartwatches, but with battery lives that sometimes barely last a few days, most smartwatch users would rather keep their wearable on a charger all night than their wrists. The vívosmart 5, by comparison, offers up to 7 days of battery life between charges, making it something you can actually wear all day and all night without battery anxiety.

The vívosmart 5 features optical sensors for measuring heart rate and blood oxygen saturation, but still uses a proprietary charging cable which attaches to a connector on the back.The vívosmart 5 features optical sensors for measuring heart rate and blood oxygen saturation, but still uses a proprietary charging cable which attaches to a connector on the back.

On the fitness tracking side of things, the vívosmart 5 tracks the usual metrics, like steps taken, calories burned, stairs climbed, as well as specific tracking modes for activities like swimming, cycling, cardio, and even yoga. The fitness tracker also includes Garmin’s unique Body Battery feature that takes into account all of your fitness and health metrics and provides an intelligent guess as to your body’s energy level, and whether or not you’re ready for a workout or some rest. Like previous models, the vívosmart 5 doesn’t feature its own GPS hardware, but when paired with a smartphone over Bluetooth, it can access positional data and use it to calculate speeds, distances, and paces.

The vívosmart 5 might be a fitness and health-focused device, but it’s not completely devoid of smartwatch features. When paired with either an iOS or Android smartphone, the wearer will get vibrating notifications for texts, emails, calls, calendar appointments, and important info from other apps, while the vívosmart 5’s 66% larger monochromatic display provides extra notification details at a glance. Pressing the vívosmart 5’s single face button for a few seconds can even trigger an “assistance alert” that sends an emergency text to a predefined contact with the wearer’s location data.

As for pricing, while the vívosmart4 arrived back in 2018 with a $US130 ($180) price tag, the vívosmart 5 is available starting today for $US150 ($208). That is definitely cheaper than most smartphones, but slightly pricier than other fitness tracking solutions like the fashionable Fitbit Luxe, which manages to include a colour screen, or the $US70 ($97) Amazfit Bip S, which does manage to find room for built-in GPS tracking.