Move over, Fitbit, there’s a new activity tracker in town. Garmin on Monday introduced the vívofit, its first dedicated fitness band. Though Garmin has long offered a number of fitness-focused watches and other devices, the vívofit is Garmin’s attempt to compete against companies like Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike. The vívofit looks promising, too, with an always-on curved display, personalized goals, and a whopping one year of battery life.
From the outside, the vívofit looks a lot like the Fitbit Force (see disclosure) or the Nike+FuelBand SE. It’s a watch-like band with an LCD that shows the time of day, steps, daily goals, goal countdowns, calories, and distance, which you can flip through using a small button right below the display.
The vívofit differs from most other activity trackers in that it learns your current activity level, then automatically assigns an attainable daily goal. As you meet your daily milestones, the band adjusts your goals for the next day, so you’re constantly being encouraged to try harder.
According to Garmin, taking frequent, short walking breaks throughout the day increases the body’s production of fat-burning enzymes. To help you remember this, the vívofit reminds you to move by displaying a red bar across the display when you haven’t been active for an hour. This bar will grow the longer you remain sedentary. Walking for a couple of minutes will reset the bar, and bring you out of the red.
There’s a sleep mode for monitoring the quality of your rest, like Fitbit and Jawbone offer. And you can wirelessly sync the band with Garmin Connect, Garmin’s free online fitness community, which you can access through your Android or iOS device or online. Garmin has just updated Connect to help track users’ weight, calories and sleep. There you can see a complete picture of your progress — including movement, total hours and quality of sleep — through detailed reports and graphical representations. Unique to vívofit and the new Garmin Connect is a weekly challenge that users can participate in. It automatically assigns vívofit users to a small group of people with similar activity levels in a friendly competition for total steps that week.
The vívofit can sync with your phone via Bluetooth, or with your computer via an included ANT stick, and your results will be uploaded to Garmin Connect from there. The device itself can store at least one month’s worth of data between syncs.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the vívofit is its battery life. Right now, most fitness trackers last for about a week on a single charge. The vívofit, on the other hand, can last for up to a full year. The band uses two user-replaceable type CR1632 coin cell batteries. According to Garmin, extending the battery life was an important consideration throughout the design process, including selection of hardware components as well as power-efficient software algorithms. The display as well as other hardware components use very low power and were tuned in software for additional efficiency. As far as I’m concerned, even if it only lasts for half the quoted amount of time, that’s still a wildly impressive feat.
The vívofit doesn’t have a built-in heart rate monitor, like the Basis B1, but Garmin will be offering one as part of a bundle. The monitor will allow the band to record your heart rate and zone data, which will help it calculate much more accurate calorie burn information. And like most other fitness trackers, the vívofit is water-resistant, so you can wear it in the shower.
The vívofit will start shipping this quarter for $129.99. A $169.99 bundle will include a heart rate monitor. The band will be available in black, purple, teal, blue and slate, with both small and large sizes in the box.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Om Malik, founder of Gigaom, is also a venture partner at True.