Talking tech since 2003

For years, the Garmin brand was mainly synonymous with GPS navigators that could guide travelers from point A to B. These days, however, Garmin has been making wearable devices that help people navigate themselves in the form of the Vivofit fitness band – and today at CES, the company announced the Vivoactive smartwatch, the latest wearable looking to strike before the Apple Watch is unleashed to enslave all our wrists forever.

garmin-vivoactive-2Priced at $250, the Vivoactive sports a 1.3-inch touchscreen display, and Garmin claims its battery will last up to three weeks (though that battery life is shortened to a mere 10 hours when its built-in GPS sensor is switched on). Like so many other fitness-focused wearables, the Vivoactive measures a wearer’s activities utilizing a suite of sensors and apps, the latter of which include focuses on running, biking, swimming, golfing, walking, and more. It’s also compatible with heart rate sensors, but it doesn’t seem to be capable of measuring heart rate on its own.

The Vivoactive also runs Garmin’s own OS, meaning that if you want to find new apps for the device, you’ll get them from Garmin directly. The company says the device is compatible with most Android and iOS handsets, so long as they’re running iOS 7.0 or Android 4.3 or later, and are Bluetooth 4.0 capable. That’s going to include a lot of devices, so if you’re interested in the affordably priced, multi-functional fitness tracker, you probably won’t have to go shopping for a new phone – as long as you don’t use a Windows Phone. Like most other smartwatches, it shows users notifications and alerts pushed from their smartphones.

However, the Vivoactive probably won’t win any awards for style. It looks a whole lot like the LG G Watch from last summer, one of the first (and not coincidentally worst) Android Wear smartwatches to hit the market. It’s got a square watch face and looks, well, like a watch. It’s good that Garmin designed the device to blend in with other traditional wrist accessories, but the Vivoactive is simply boring-looking. But then again, maybe that’s exactly what the wearable category needs: something traditional and a little boring that still packs a ton of functionality. If nothing else, it looks a bit better than the similarly priced Fitbit Surge superwatch.

Garmin says the Vivoactive is set to ship in the first quarter of this year, and they’re available for pre-order right now. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Vivoactive makes a splash in the world of wearables – or if it’ll be another also-ran that’s crushed under the heel of the almighty Apple Watch later this year.

[Garmin Vivoactive]

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