I've had the Garmin VivoActive now for about 100 days so I feel I can write a brief post on it a bit further. I've previously written about the watch here when I first got it.

The Garmin VivoActive is a Garmin's smartwatch - it's closest rival in terms of perhaps looks and battery life is the Pebble smartwatch. The Garmin uses an e-ink display, the same as the Pebble, giving it a battery life of up to ten days (in some of my tests!) That's pretty impressive going. However, it's not been all so rosy.

Hardware

The hardware itself seems to be good - I can't fault it. I seem to be able to use the watch successfully and it's able to count my steps and it tracks my rides. It works nicely for GPS tracking when I ask it to - it however, has seemed to increase in the time it takes to locate me and I think that's down to what I consider it's major shortcoming. In general, it seems to remain connected to my phone reasonably but there are times that it doesn't connect and there are times that the watch just wont sync with the phone, even when the two are both connected - again, I think this is more of its major shortcoming than the hardware itself (as it worked fine to start with!)

Major Shortcoming - Software

In my mind, the major shortcoming is the software. The Garmin Connect app is awful. Both the phone and watch are connected currently as I'm getting notifications on my wrist that my phone is going. However, I cannot sync the two devices as much as I "Some of your data could not be loaded - Pull to refresh" on my phone. This is a major flaw and I think affects the watch in a number of ways.

First, I think it's not communicating nicely with the phone - it's now taking much longer to connect to GPS which is potentially because it is getting no information from the phone. I believe that when everything is working nicely, the watch is able to get a basic location from the phone and then find itself a more accurate fix (i.e. it's getting an approximate location from the phones cell mast and then able to look for the correct satellites over head). With this not working, it loses out on a major benefit over Strava which is ease of use. Over the last week, I've actually found myself using Strava for two rides home as Strava was much quicker to get a lock on my location and let me get home (without getting as wet in the rain, waiting for the watch to find my location!)

Secondly, it's not importing data from the watch straight away - I have to rely purely on the automatic sync which occasionally seems to happen at midnight. For example, I completed my ride home the other night with the watch and got in. I stopped the watch at the door and pressed save. Initially, this would then sync automatically to Garmin and would probably be uploaded (and then synced to Strava from the Garmin site) by the time I made it up the stairs with my bike. Now, I cannot even manually force the sync to the server and I'm left waiting to see what happens. It's a pretty big issue when the watch has limited storage space on the device to start with. I would like to think that using the dock (and the Garmin Connect app) on a desktop would allow the device to sync more rapidly. However, as the device doesn't need to be charged nightly and this involved taking the watch off - this adds a significant amount of hassle and isn't something I've actually done since I registered the product.

Updates to the Garmin app don't seem to have solved the issue.

Lastly, it occasionally loses connection to the phone. Well, technically it doesn't as the watch and phone both see each other but the watch wont display the notifications (or receive them) and it wont display any of the other information from the phone itself. This is problematic at best, as one of the perks of having the smart watch was that I could keep my phone on silent/vibrate and have the watch act as a notification system for the phone. If it isn't getting the notifications, I can lose out on phone calls etc.

Conclusions

However, whilst I find the above to be problematic and I occasionally have to reconnect the phone to the watch, I've decided that with it's occasional flaws, it's actually very handy.

I do find myself trying to get the 10,000 steps each day (even if I don't compare the data within the app) and getting notifications on my wrist is extremely handy.

It might be that as a first generation smart watch for Garmin that it's likely to have some teething issues, so I can only hope that they improve in time. In general, it's extremely handy but I have found myself going back to my Casio when I don't want to be distracted (a weekend course for cadets). I toyed with getting rid of it over the course of two days, but I actually found I missed it, so it's back on my wrist. I'm not entirely sure if it is worth the extra money over the Pebble, but when I do use the GPS, once it connects, it works quite nicely so it's not the end of the world. The battery life is actually very good as well. I find myself charging it up every week pretty much. For example, it's currently sat at 83% battery and I charged it on Thursday/Friday night and today is Monday lunchtime.

Overall, it'll remain with me for the time being as I do find it handy. I would like to see Garmin improve the software side of things (though I wonder if any of it is limited by the iOS side of things compared to Android).