Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tech breakup after first date: thoughts on Fitbit Charge HR vs Garmin Vivosmart

Vivosmart: Where's my "2" goig? (barely can see the
degradation of the bottom of the 2 in September 12.
My beloved Vivosmart is getting long in the tooth.  It's starting to lose some visibility on the bottom right line of pixels, I've had it for a year, my tech jones was itching to try something new. There is internet chatter there will be a new Vivosmart updated hardware sometime this year (like with the Vivofit, updated after year one), but Garmin has been silent on the prospects.

Plus: I have a newfound love for heart rate monitoring.  It has made a big difference in my energy level to take a rest when my resting heart rate is much above average, and to keep most of my workouts below 140 beats per minute per the Maffetone Method.  I have not had a day lately where I feel run over by a truck, I am sleeping well, and I seem to have much more energy in the tank at the end of runs.  All good.

The lure of the Fitbit Charge (FBC) HR is 24/7 heart rate monitoring.  But the lure doesn't quite deliver on reality for several reasons, many which have been raised in DC Rainmaker's review.

FBC: fairly accurate HRM
while couch potatoing
1) Its implementation of heart rate monitoring is not very good during exercise.  It does well during rest -- and found my resting heart rate very well.  But even a slow walk on a treadmill had my HR on the watch well into the 100s (120!) even when a manual check had it from 90-96 at the exact time.  Who can deal with inaccurate data? Not me!

2) The device is too big for me.  The beauty of the Vivosmart is the thin band that is unobtrusive.  The FBC HR is pretty slim, but still much wider and less comfortable.  I'm also not wild about the FBC buckle which requires some wrestling with.

3) The FBC HR needs to come off for showers and drains battery faster, requiring more charging frequency, unlike the Vivosmart which is waterproofed and lasts over a week with notifications on.  Who needs another thing to charge and take off more regularly?

4) The Fitbit app and website is now behind Garmin (mobile app and Connect website).  Once upon a time, Fitbit kicked Garmin's ass.  Now, the Garmin app works better (faster to connect, stays connected) and has features that I'd miss (integration with my running GPS watch, social connections nicely displayed and sortable by steps/miles/etc., and better sleep statistics).

5) I missed the "move" bar on the Garmin.  FBC doesn't have it (although it has some nice stats like minutes of activity (auto) and floors that Garmin should implement.

I'd love to have resting HR implemented in a way that wasn't visible - that only gave you a 24 hour average/high/low reading, but didn't pretend to be accurate in real time.  However, that's something that all companies need to focus on.

I do love the Fitbit alarm setup (really, why can't Garmin implement multiple alarms on the Vivosmart?).  And some resting HRM is better than none.  But those advantages are outweighed by some big disadvantages.  I'm sticking with Garmin Vivosmart for now, hoping v2 of the hardware will build on the already strong device.

Link: DC Rainmaker Vivosmart First Look

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