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Switching from a Fitbit Charge to a Garmin Vivoactive 4

Change happens

As you may remember, I bought a Fitbit Charge 3 in October 2018. I hadn’t worn a watch, let alone a fitness tracker like this, before that. I soon came to enjoy having it, and the data it gave me.

Unfortunately, the screen stopped working soon after the warranty expired on the device, and I made the decision to switch to a Garmin Vivoactive 4. I’ve had the Vivoactive 4 for a few weeks now, and I’m really enjoying it.

My failing Fitbit Charge 3

My Fitbit worked really well for most of the time that I’ve owned it. I found the data I received from it when I exercised (whether that was running, walking, or something else) to be great motivation to get back out there and do more exercise.

I noticed that the device started becoming a bit sluggish when I swiped the screen while running sometime in November. I would swipe the screen to switch to a different option, and it would take a moment longer to change.

I went for a run after my 5km race, and the device just stopped responding to my gestures, and I basically lost the tracking on the run between trying to get it to respond, and just giving up.

My disabled Fitbit Charge 3

Following the recommended troubleshooting steps helped the first time, and seemed to restore the device to normal functioning. Unfortunately, it failed again, and this time the screen stopped responding altogether.

Troubleshooting steps for the Fitbit Charge 3

These are the troubleshooting steps the Fitbit Support team recommended:

  1. Connect the device to the charging cable.
  2. While the device is plugged into the charging cable, press and hold the button down for 15 seconds.
  3. The device turns on and shows a battery icon. Two vibrations occur: first a short vibration, then a medium vibration.
  4. The device turns off.
  5. The device turns on and shows a progress bar and short vibrations occur. The progress bar completes. Note: A total of 7 short vibrations occur.
  6. Remove the device from the charging cable. The device shuts down.
  7. Important: Plug the device into the charging cable again.

I reached out to the Fitbit Support team on Twitter. They were pretty responsive, and were clearly trying to help me out. Ultimately, though, the device was out of warranty, so they couldn’t really do much more.

They suggested that I purchase a new Fitbit device. I considered going for the Fitbit Versa 2, but I was reluctant to buy another device that could die just outside its warranty period.

Researching alternatives to the Fitbit Charge 3

As you may gather, by this point I wanted something more than a simple tracker, so I started exploring something closer to a smart watch/fitness watch.

In the meantime, the Fitbit was still tracking my biometrics passively, so I still wore the device for step, and sleep tracking until my new device arrived.

I narrowed my options down to the Vivoactive 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. In the reviews I watched, both received great feedback. Here are some of the reviews that I found helpful:

Galaxy Watch Active 2

Vivoactive 4

I made my choice

I ultimately decided to go for the Vivoactive 4 because it seemed like a more robust fitness tracker, with smart watch features. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 seemed to be a smart watch first, with fitness tracking features.

I also liked that the Vivoactive 4 seemed to have better battery life, and offers a lot more data. The data really appealed to me.

So I ordered the device earlier this month from a local reseller, and switched over to it almost right away. For the most part, I really like this device, and I’m glad I chose it.

I won’t go into specs, and details. You can find plenty of that information in the reviews I shared above (and many others). Instead, I’ll share some thoughts and experiences.

Nitpicking the Vivoactive 4

As much as I like the device, there are a couple small issues that detract from the experience a little. To begin with, the sleep tracking doesn’t seem to be as accurate as the Fitbit. I wore both devices one night, and noticed a few differences between the data I received.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 sleep tracking data
Fitbit Charge 3 sleep tracking data

Subjectively, the Fitbit seemed to be more accurate. I’ve noticed that my Garmin seems to regard anything short of actually getting out of bed and walking around to be part of the sleep cycle. If I lie in bed reading, for example, it tends to think I’m still sleeping.

I’ve started manually editing my wake times for a little more accuracy.

I like the Vivoactive’s Stress Tracking and Body Battery features (tracking stress levels, and energy levels, respectively), although I’m not sure how accurate they are. They roughly correspond with how I feel at a given point in time, but they either seem to exaggerate levels, or understate them.

Still, as general indicators, they can be helpful.

What I really like about the Vivoactive 4

In general, I really like this device. It looks great, it’s comfortable to wear, and I find it pretty easy to operate.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

I’ve had some fun switching between watch faces to find a watch face that offers me enough data points. The one above is called Crystal. It’s pretty customisable, and gives me all the data points I want to have at a glance.

I’m currently using Simple TDB that has a cleaner look, and with enough data points to persuade me to stick with it.

Simple TDB watch face

Using the Vivoactive 4 to track my runs is really easy. I push the top button, wait a few seconds for the GPS to start tracking, and then run.

It’s really easy to see a number of data points when running, at a glance, and my watch quickly sends my activity data up to Strava when I finish a run. By contrast, the Fitbit Charge 3 had to connect through my phone for GPS tracking, and that didn’t always work.

If my phone’s Bluetooth wasn’t working well at the time (which happens at times), I’d had to restart my phone to get it to sync correctly. My Garmin still uses the phone to send data to Strava, but it seems to sync more reliably.

I also really like that I have built-in GPS!

Performance

The device’s battery life really depends on what you’re using. If you’re running with music, and GPS, you’ll probably need to charge in a day or two.

On the days when I’m not running (and using GPS), the watch goes for a few days before I need to charge it. The battery life isn’t quite like the Fitbit Charge 3, but it’s ok.

It takes an hour, at most, to charge the Vivoactive 4, and then I’m ready to go again. I’ll often charge it while I’m working, or watching TV.

Is it right for you?

Just based on what I know about Garmin’s fitness trackers/watches in this price range, the Vivoactive 4 seems to be a sort of “general” use device. It handle fitness tracking for a large number of activities pretty well, and it’s a good fit for me.

If you’re a dedicated runner, it will probably be great for you, too. At the same time, I found this comparison between the Vivoactive 4 and the Forerunner 245 to be really interesting from the perspective of additional features that the Forerunner has for, well, runners:

I’m really happy with my purchase, and I’ve been for a few runs with it already. As I had hoped, being able to track my activity is motivating me to get out there more often (which is the point).

By Paul

Enthusiast, writer, Happiness Engineer at Automattic. I take photos too. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

2 replies on “Switching from a Fitbit Charge to a Garmin Vivoactive 4”

Paul Jacobson – Modiin, Israel – Enthusiast, writer, Happiness Engineer at @automattic. I take photos too. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.
Paul says: @ pauljacobson.me

I’ve had my Garmin Vivoactive 4 for just over two months now, and I thought I’d share a couple more thoughts about this device. To begin with, I still really enjoy using this watch. I’m very glad that I bought it, and I find it enormously helpful, day to day. I’ve been running pretty regularly, […]

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